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2013 NFL DRAFT NEEDS: NFC NORTH

GREEN BAY PACKERS (11-5)

2013 Draft Picks: 26 (1st), 55 (2nd), 88 (3rd), 122 (4th), 159 (5th), 167 (5th), 193 (6th), 232 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: OLB Nick Perry, USC (28, 1st), DT Jerel Worthy, MSU (51, 2nd), CB Casey Hayward, VAND (62, 2nd)

Decision Makers: GM Ted Thompson, Head Coach Mike McCarthy

The Packers year ended in disappointment again when they bowed out in the divisional round of the playoffs for a second straight season after winning it all in 2010. However, it was their fifth double-digit win season in the last six years and they remain one of the NFL’s most consistent powerhouses on the arm of Aaron Rodgers. Landing a couple more good players in the draft should help keep them among the top teams.

1.   Running Back – This has been a problem area for a few years now, although it hasn’t hindered the Packers offense too much as Aaron Rodgers is just that good at finding his receivers. Veterans Cedric Benson and Ryan Grant are out, while DuJuan Harris provided a little spark late in the year. Drafting a young potential workhorse back could take this offense to an even higher level. They may never be stopped.

2.   Safety – Veteran Charles Woodson was cut and has yet to be replaced. Morgan Burnett is a fantastic strong safety especially in run support, while youngster M.D. Jennings made solid strides in his second pro season and is currently set to start at free safety.  There is literally nothing behind them so depth is sorely needed.

3.   Offensive Line – Aaron Rodgers is about to be handed probably the largest contract in NFL history so providing him with the best protection possible is needed, something the Packers can’t say they currently employ. Marshall Newhouse needs to be upgraded at left tackle in the starting lineup and right tackle Don Barclay should not be on the field let alone starting. Evan Dietrich-Smith played well at center after taking over for the now retired Jeff Saturday, but should be moved back to his natural guard position where he’s at his best leaving an opening in the middle. Meanwhile offensive tackle Derek Sherrod has been to slow to recover from a broken leg suffered as a rookie in 2011, while former 2010 first round pick Bryan Bulaga has missed multiple games the past two seasons as well. A new starting center needs to be added for sure along with just some more talent in general.

CHICAGO BEARS (10-6)

2013 Draft Picks: 20 (1st), 50 (2nd), 117 (4th), 153 (5th), 188 (6th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: LB Shea McClellin, BSST (19, 1st), WR Alshon Jeffrey, SCAR (45, 2nd), S Brandon Hardin, OSU (79, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Phil Emery, Head Coach Marc Trestman

The Bears are another team in the NFL entering a new era after they waved good bye to their long time Head Coach Lovie Smith despite a 10-6 season that saw them miss the playoffs by the smallest of margins. In for Smith is Marc Trestman, who returns to the NFL ranks following a fantastic run as the Head Coach of the CFL’s Montreal Alouettes that included a pair of Grey Cup Championships. This is a very talented squad that only fell out of contention after suffering numerous injuries to key players throughout the roster and still won ten games. The new era has started off well as Phil Emery filled quite a few of their biggest holes in free agency by landing left tackle Jermon Bushrod and tight end Martellus Bennett along with some good depth at linebacker and on the offensive line. It truly is a new era because legendary middle linebacker Brian Urlacher’s career in Chicago appears to be over as well. The Bears are still very close to being a contender and a great draft could put them over the edge in Trestman’s first season.

1.   Linebacker – The Great Brian Urlacher’s time in Chicago appears to be over as he and the Bears couldn’t come to terms on a new contract. They signed his potential replacement in former Bronco D.J. Williams, although he’s 31 and has battled injuries and suspensions over the past couple of years. A young, middle linebacker to install as the new leader of this defense is needed. Outside linebackers Geno Hayes and Nick Roach both departed in free agency, while Lance Briggs is still a fantastic player, but isn’t getting any younger as he’ll turn 33 during the season. Former Panther James Anderson was signed as a free agent and should be solid as a starter opposite Briggs if he can stay healthy. He’ll enter his thirties during the season as well so adding young guy to bring up behind them would be a good idea.

2.   Offensive Guard/Center – The Bears have done a good job in rebuilding their offensive line this off-season by adding Jermon Bushrod at left tackle and bringing in Matt Slauson and Eben Britton to help on the interior, while the new coaching staff appears to prefer 2011 first round pick Gabe Carimi at right guard instead of right tackle. Roberto Garza is solid at center, but just turned 34 years old. Guards Lance Louis and Chilo Rachal were allowed to sign elsewhere and backup center Chris Spencer remains a free agent. Continuing to add more talent to this unit to better protect Cutler is still needed.

3.   Wide Receiver – In 2012 it seemed like every time Jay Cutler threw a pass it was to Brandon Marshall. Now throwing the ball to Marshall is not the problem as he’s one of the game’s best, but in some games Cutler was seemingly only targeting him. Marshall and Cutler need some more help. When he did get the ball thrown his way, Alshon Jeffrey showed some solid development as a deep threat and legit no.2 wide out. Earl Bennett has not provided much over the last two seasons, while the new coaching staff is planning on using Devin Hester exclusively as a returner. Adding a dynamic, reliable slot receiver could take this offense to another level. Don’t forget that Trestman most recently coached in the CFL, where they use 4-WR sets and a lot of creativity on almost every down.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS (10-6)

2013 Draft Picks: 23 (1st), 25 (1st), 52 (2nd), 83 (3rd), 102 (4th), 120 (4th), 155 (5th), 189 (6th), 213 (7th), 229 (7th) 

2012 Early Draft Selections: LT Matt Kalil, USC (4, 1st), S Harrison Smith, ND (29, 1st), CB Josh Robinson, UCF (66, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Rick Spielman, Head Coach Leslie Frazier

The Vikings went on a surprising run to the playoffs last year mostly on the back of Adrian Peterson, who rushed his way to an MVP. The crazy thing about their run and Peterson’s season for the ages is that he did it with very little help. The defense was just okay and the passing game contributed very little when Percy Harvin went down for the year with an injury. Speaking of Harvin, he was traded to the Seahawks this offseason landing the Vikings a bevy of picks to work with in this draft. They currently have six selections in the top four rounds, including a pair of first-rounders and could certainly use them to provide Peterson with some more help on both sides of the ball.

1.   Wide Receiver – The Vikings finished the season ranked 31st in the league in passing offense last year. A lot of that had to do with the ups and downs of young quarterback Christian Ponder, but it also had to with their lousy receiver corps. Their one superstar Percy Harvin couldn’t stay healthy and then got his way this off-season when they traded him to Seattle. They replaced him with former Packers star Greg Jennings, who has also battled his share of injuries over the years. They resigned Jerome Simpson, while Michael Jenkins signed with the Pats. This unit needs at least two promising receivers added to it with one of them ready to step in and contribute right away.

2.   Middle Linebacker – This may be the biggest hole on the roster at the moment as veteran backup Tyrone McKenzie is currently slated to be their starter right now. Jasper Brinkley was allowed to leave in free agency as the Vikings were planning on replacing him anyways, while seventh round pick Audie Cole hasn’t played very much. The front office and coaching staff has made it known they are looking to land a new starting middle linebacker with one of their early picks. They could use some better depth as well.

3.   Cornerback – Veteran Antoine Winfield was the team’s best corner, but that didn’t stop the Vikings from releasing him this offseason, only to see him be quickly scooped up by the Seahawks. They’ve yet to replace him and the rest of this unit is just average and could stand to be upgraded. They were highly interested in Morris Claiborne in last year’s draft before deciding to go with left tackle Matt Kalil.

DETROIT LIONS (4-12)

2013 Draft Picks: 5 (1st), 36 (2nd), 65 (3rd), 132 (4th), 137 (5th), 171 (6th), 211 (7th), 245 (7th)

2012 Early Draft Selections: OT Riley Reiff, IOW (23, 1st), WR Ryan Broyles, OKLA (54, 2nd), CB Bill Bentley, LALF (85, 3rd)

Decision Makers: GM Martin Mayhew, Head Coach Jim Schwartz

The Lions finally broke through in 2011 making the playoffs to end an eleven-year drought, but reverted back to their usual selves by winning just four games last year. The current regime is probably under the hot seat if they can’t get back into the postseason in 2013. There are major holes on this roster specifically at offensive tackle and defensive end that need to be filled in the draft and they may not have enough picks to add the right talent to get them back into the playoffs.

1.   Offensive Tackle – The Lions saw both of their starting offensive tackles depart this off-season as long time left tackle Jeff Backus finally called it career following the season and right tackle Gosder Cherlius headed for the Colts as a free agent. They drafted Riley Reiff in the first round last year and he could fill the spot left by Cherilus on the right side, although there has been talk of moving him inside to guard to improve their interior. At the moment they need him to play right tackle. Backup Corey Hilliard was resigned as well. One of their main goals for the 2013 NFL Draft should be to land a new franchise left tackle that can play immediately to protect Matthew Stafford, who is set to receive a very big pay day in the near future.

2.   Defensive End – Detroit will also need two new starters at defensive end after they cut the declining Kyle Vanden Bosch and were unable to keep Cliff Avril, who left for Seattle as a free agency. Backup Willie Young was resigned, while Lawrence Jackson is still available in free agency. At least one pass-rusher that can start immediately must to be added, but the Lions should really spend two early draft picks on the position.

3.   Cornerback – When they don’t have an offensive lineman or pass-rusher prospect lined up that matches the value with one of their draft picks then they should think about spending it on a cornerback. This position has been neglected for years in the draft by Detroit. They resigned Chris Houston, but lost veteran Drayton Florence to the Panthers in free agency and nickelback Jacob Lacey is still on the market. This unit desperately needs more talent. ousHhhhhhhh

Written By: Mark Scott

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