Around the NFC North: NFL Draft Edition

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Teddy Bridgewater
Is Teddy Bridgewater the quarterback the Minnesota Vikings are desperate for?

The 2014 NFL draft is over and the Packers have a slew of new players to work with as they try to win another Super Bowl.

Unfortunately, the Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions also drafted a bunch of talented new players as they try to wrestle away control of the NFC North from the Packers.

Let’s take a quick stroll around the NFC North and look closer at how the Vikings, Lions and Bears stack up after the draft.

Minnesota Vikings

1 (9) Anthony Barr, lb, UCLA.
1 (32) Teddy Bridgewater, qb, Louisville.
3 (72) Scott Crichton, de, Oregon State.
3 (96) Jerick McKinnon, rb, Georgia Southern.
5 (145) David Yankey, ot, Stanford.
6 (182) Antone Exum, db, Virginia Tech.
6 (184) Kendall James, db, Maine.
7 (220) Shamar Stephen, nt, UConn.
7 (223) Brandon Watts, lb, Georgia Tech.
7 (225) Jabari Price, db, North Carolina.

Bridgewater….uh oh
Without a doubt, the NFC North team that worries me most after the draft is the Vikings. Watch 10 minutes of tape on Teddy Bridgewater and you’ll see a quarterback who always looks downfield when moving around and out of the pocket. You’ll also see a highly intelligent quarterback who is asked to set protection pre-snap and progress through multiple reads on passing plays. Finally, you’ll also see a helluva competitor. Bridgewater seems like the type of who will run into a brick wall over and over again if it means winning a football game.

As you can see, I’m high on Bridgewater and was hoping he didn’t end up with the Vikings. He probably won’t start right away, but Bridgewater to Cordarrelle Patterson and Kyle Rudolph could end up being a deadly combination down the road.

With the exception of 2009 when the Vikings had Brett Favre, the Packers and Aaron Rodgers have owned Minnesota, thanks mostly to the Vikings’ incompetence at quarterback. That could be changing with Bridgewater now in the division.

A 5th round steal
Keep an eye on Stanford guard David Yankey, who somehow fell to the fifth round and was snatched up by the Vikings. He’s a mauler, and if he cleans up his technique to fix some balance issues, he’ll be road-grating paths for Adrian Peterson in no time.

Reaching for Barr?
Anthony Barr seemed like a bit of a reach at No. 9 overall, but who am I to argue with defensive genius turned Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer? Barr is raw and, like Bridgewater, might need a year or so of seasoning. But if anyone can take Barr’s pure athleticism and turn it into on-field production, it’ll be Zimmer.

5 1st round picks
Under Zimmer, it’s a new regime in Minnesota. That new regime set out on draft day to solidify arguably the two most important positions on the field: quarterback and pass rusher. Time will tell if they accomplished what they set out to do, but I like the vision and love the Bridgewater pick.

Minnesota has had five first-round picks the last two drafts. Sure, they may have sacrificed some depth, but if three of those first-rounders turn into blue-chippers — especially Bridgewater — and the others competent starters, it will pay off.

Chicago Bears

1 (14) Kyle Fuller, db, Virginia Tech.
2 (51) Ego Ferguson, dt, LSU.
3 (82) Will Sutton, dt, Arizona State.
4 (117) Ka’Deem Carey, rb, Arizona.
4 (131) Brock Vereen, db, Minnesota.
6 (183) David Fales, qb, San Jose State.
6 (191) Patrick O’Donnell, p, Miami.
7 (246) Charles Leno, ot, Boise State

Thank you, St. Louis
I was crossing my fingers that the Vikings didn’t end up with Bridgewater. I was praying to St. Vince that the Bears didn’t wind up with defensive tackle Aaron Donald. Thankfully, St. Louis picked Donald at No. 13 and the Bears took cornerback Kyle Fuller with the next pick.

If you’re in the NFC North, you can never have enough defensive backs to chase around the likes of Jordy Nelson and Calvin Johnson. Fuller was a very fundamentally sound corner at Virginia Tech. He was also a solid tackler, which will come in handy against Adrian Peterson, Eddie Lacy and Matt Forte.

I’m still happy that Donald was gone before Chicago picked, but that doesn’t mean Fuller won’t give the Packers fits down the road. He should be an adequate replacement for Peanut Tillman.

Another Micah Hyde?
Staying in the defensive backfield, the Bears picked Minnesota safety/cornerback Brock Vereen in the fourth round. Like the Packers’ Micah Hyde, Vereen is a player who can hold up well against slot receivers and slip back to play safety or shadow a tight end, if needed.

Aaron Donald…didn’t need him
Sure, the Bears might have been mad about getting so close to landing Donald, but that doesn’t mean they left the draft empty-handed at defensive tackle. Ego Ferguson out of LSU and Will Sutton from Arizona St. both need a lot of coaching, but have high ceilings. Ferguson, especially, appears to have the tools necessary to play multiple positions along the line and perhaps one day fill the shoes of the departed Julius Peppers, at least in terms of his versatility.

Defensive upgrades
The Bears allowed 30 or more points seven times last season, including a combined 77 points in the final two games to miss the playoffs. Second-year head coach Marc Trestman, known as an offensive innovator, now has some defensive toys to complement his two big receivers, versatile running back and enigmatic quarterback.

Will it be enough to finally unseat the Packers atop the NFC North? If Aaron Rodgers gets injured again, it could be. Otherwise, I’ll still take the Packers.

Detroit Lions

1 (10) Eric Ebron, te, North Carolina.
2 (40) Kyle Van Noy, lb, BYU.
3 (76) Travis Swanson, c, Arkansas.
4 (133) Nevon Lawson, db, Utah St.
4 (136) Larry Webster, de, Bloomsburg.
5 (158) Caraun Reid, dt, Princeton.
6 (189) T.J. Jones, wr, Notre Dame.
7 (229) Nate Freese, k, Boston College.

A shiny new toy
Doesn’t first-round pick Eric Ebron seem like another one of those shiny new toys the Lions pick up every year? These shiny new toys look impressive and get everyone talking, but rarely lead to additional wins.

Don’t get me wrong, Ebron seems like a heck of a player, but he also seems like a typical Lion: flashy, super-talented, a bit of a headcase, frustrating.

Detroit desperately needed help in the secondary, so we’ll see if they’ll end up regretting taking Ebron so high with plenty of good defensive backs still on the board.

Stealing Van Noy
The Lions did upgrade the defense by adding Penn St. linebacker Kyle Van Noy in the second round. I was hoping Van Noy, who can rush from the outside and cover the middle from the inside, would fall to the Packers to provide some long overdue competition for A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones.

Sleeper of the draft?
One of the most intriguing players coming into the draft was “tight end” Larry Webster out of Bloomsburg. Webster is 6-foot-6, 252 pounds and played defensive end at Bloomsburg. He began playing football in 2012 after four years on the basketball team.

It sounds like Webster is going to play tight end in Detroit. If he ever figures out how to harness all that size, strength, speed and leaping ability, who knows what he could turn into.

Another new regime
Like the Vikings, Detroit also has a new coach. Jim Caldwell rarely blinked while coaching the Colts and Peyton Manning. Will he show more emotion watching Matthew Stafford try and get the Lions back into the playoffs?

I know this is a post about the 2014 NFL draft, but doesn’t the fate of the Lions still mostly rest on Stafford? If Caldwell can help Stafford become more than just a quarterback who puts up gaudy numbers, the Lions might have something.

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Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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  • http://www.lyrictrumpet.com Bearmeat

    Your keyline was at the end of the paragraph on the Bears. If Aaron Rodgers is hurt it’s anyone’s game, but if not the Packers will still walk away with the division.

    I have made my feelings on the mid rounds of this draft known, but that doesn’t change the fact that the Packers still have the best overall roster in the NFC North. With as hammered as we were by injuries in 2012 and 2013, we still came way with two division titles. So it should be fairly obvious to the Bears Lions and Vikings trolls that GB is once again the team to beat.

    What concerns me is advancing the playoffs and Super Bowl trophies. Aaron Rodgers is a great player in our wide receivers are great and the offense of line is great and Eddie Lacy is great. But if the defense can’t at least be adequate or not going to win the Super Bowl.

    • jh9

      Ever since the draft, I have this empty feeling. I know it’s because we didn’t upgraded at ILB.

      It doesn’t matter how healthy we are at other positions. Until we have great play at ILB, we will have a mediocre defense and will not beat the 49ers or the Seahawks when the playoffs come around.

      • packett

        Agree 100%. Also, didn’t upgrade at TE.

        • Dobber

          I don’t see TE as being so much of an issue as ILB. Given how many sub packages are played these days, the Packers can hide some of those deficiencies…and improved pass rush can make some difference, too.

          I think there has to be some kind of a plan in place at ILB. But it’s sure not clear to me what it is.

          • Ed Schoenfeld

            Agree TE is less of an issue, but one reason thats true is they picked up a serious possession receiver with Adams at WR in the second.

            If they had to miss filling needs, TE and ILB were the ones to miss. They were both thin classes this year, and after Borland and Niklas got picked the rest of the class wasn’t that much better than the UDFAs And it was not worth the cost to trade up to make sure of Borland or Niklas (not with Adams still on the board).

  • Big T

    Just having Rodgers is not enough to win this division anymore. We will need some coaching and management too. Can MM get creative with the playcalling or should he hire an offensive coordinator? Will TT finally show some emotion and maybe light a fire under some butts? Will this be the year we look at getting strength and conditioning coaches that can limit hamstring/groin issues? And last but not least, I wouldn’t mind seeing MM kicking some azz on the sidelines when needed…

  • Tmoneey

    Same thing here. I was clapping when Rams took Donald in front of Bears!
    Did the Saints think GB loved WR Brandin Cooks or did they just think they couldn’t get a deal done with GB? Love to know the answers or what happened there.

  • Tmoneey

    I was shocked that DET took Ebron and a little angry, I mean geez they already have Pettigrew(former 1st rnd pick) and the kid last year was pretty good Fauria. Also very glad Chicago didn’t get Donald, I was cheering that pick by Rams. Anthony Barr will probably end up being a stud but might be a year away. I’m not scared of Teddy Bathwater, he has a noodle for an arm and now they are playing outside in the elements, I’m glad they didn’t get Manziel, think he could have been a handful with players they have on offense and GB’s struggle against mobile QB’s, I know I might be in the minority that think Manziel can be a good NFL player.

  • http://jersyal.com tim

    Zimmer and norv turner with Pederson, Bridgewater, Jennings and other weapons is scary to me.

  • barutanseijin

    I dislike college ball, but I did see Bilgewater play. Wasn’t impressed. Maybe he’ll grow into an nfl qb, but here’s guessing he won’t.

  • Bag o donuts 52

    Defense was the glaring need with the middle manned by the fat, lazy and unmotivated Raji, pile circler Hawk, WTF was Teddy thinking B Jones and 140 ish qb rated Morgan Fairchild. Guess what, they’re baaaaaack! Worst underbelly in the NFL and Ted’s answer is rookies and MM’s year two step up. Can’t put up 35 against everybody!

    • Anonymous

      Raji will not make the final 53 unless some DT’s get hurt. TT has to be careful with the money – Cobb & Nelson need to be paid.

  • WKUPackFan

    Adam, I agree with you 100% about Teddy. Your description of him is spot on. Whoever said Bridgewater has a noodle arn probably never saw U of L play. I did, a lot. Teddy can drive the ball just fine. He’s got all the throws. I was so mad when that trade was announced because I just knew the Vikings were going to take Bridgewater. Two guaranteed wins a year just got tougher.

    • Dobber

      Whether people believe Bridgewater can make all the throws or not, Russell Wilson showed that you don’t have to have a cannon or prototype measurables to make a big difference under center.

  • packett

    Vikings have had two very good drafts and have built a very talented team. Vikes and Lions both generally have stronger rosters than the packers except for the qb position. Without consistent quarterbacking in the past, they just haven’t been able to take the division.
    But this year, Vikes have all the pieces, including a good game manager qb. Even Stafford has been able to beat packers D. Failure to address packers ILB will be the weakness in GB defense all year. This was not a great draft for GB simply for one reason that they didn’t invest enough in ILB. Bradford was not enough.

    • Anonymous

      And if Ha Ha or Burnett gets hurt – they are still screwed.

  • http://allgbp.com Thegreatreynoldo

    Since Detroit, Minn, and Chicago all picked 8 to 12 spots in front of us, we should expect them to have somewhat stronger drafts. I am not sure that they did, though. Of the first round picks, I would have taken only Barr ahead of Dix, with Fuller being a close call in terms of talent as opposed to need. Barr is raw, and might need a year, but he will probably flash, hopefully not against GB. Bridgewater is a wild card, but if he and Barr become players in year two, that could make Minn pretty good. Adams will make GB better on offense this year, and Dix makes us better on D this year. Some of our other picks have a chance to help, and we have some 1st round talents returning from injury that will help.

    • Anonymous

      1st year WR’s rarely do much their rookie year – unless you are Randy Moss.

      • Dobber

        An interesting piece I found online recently speculated that WRs are becoming more and more polished due to playing more and more sophisticated offenses at the college level. As a result, the acclimation period to the pro game is shortening…meaning we’ll see more and more Keenan Allens, Cordarelle Pattersons, Kenny Stills, and others, making an impact before year one is out.

  • GBPDAN

    Watched NFL live today. They rated all the divisions Draft choices. Mel Kipper and the crew gave the Packers the best Draft of the division. Additionally, i have seen a lot of strong grades for the Packers around the wed, including quite a few A’s. So to say our division rivals came out better may not be true. Add in the fact that the Packers were better than our division rivals last year and that we had a lot of injured players last year, who will be coming back, I see the Packers winning the division again.

    I’m more worried about the Lions losing Gym shorts as their coach more than anything.

    • Dobber

      I think it’s more accurate to say that every team in the division plugged some holes…but not that they necessarily did any better than the Packers in the draft.

      …and you’re right: the biggest addition for the Lions won’t play a single snap in 2014.

  • ted, of bill and ted

    @dobber just wanted to make a mostly irrelevant comment on one of your earlier comments…Russell Wilson most definitely has a cannon. That dude can chuck the pigskin.