NFC NORTH DRAFT GRADES
Considering how badly this division underperformed in 2021, the teams did pretty well on draft day. Only the Chicago Bears were without a first round pick and while you can be critical of the strategies some of the teams used (we’re looking at you Green Bay), you can’t find much fault with the players they added.
Before we get to the grades, let’s go over the ground rules.
1. If a team doesn’t own at least one first round pick, it can’t get an “A.” I can recognize steals as much as the next over-imaginative NFL scout, but guys are ranked as first rounders for a reason.
2. The Draft Grade I enter into the permanent record will be based on the performances each of these men displayed in college. I will not base it on my imagination (what scouts, general managers and pundits call a “ceiling”) or how well he exercised at the combine.
Selections: No. 2: Aidan Hutchinson, DE, Michigan — No. 12: Jameson Williams, WR, Alabama — No. 46: Joshua Paschal, DE, Kentucky — No. 97: Kerby Joseph, Safety, Illinois — No. 177: James Mitchell, TE, Virginia Tech — No. 188: Malcolm Rodriguez, LB, Oklahoma State — No. 217: James Houston, Edge, Jackson State University — No. 237: Chase Lucas, CB, Arizona State
While the Los Angeles Rams might have put together a star-studded pre-draft hype video saying they would “steal the draft,” the Lions might have actually done it. Capitalizing on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ perplexing selection of Travon Walker at No. 1, Detroit couldn’t turn in its Aidan Hutchinson card fast enough. Trading up to make sure they’d nab the best wide receiver in the draft (even though he won’t be ready to play until November) was exactly the kind of bold move that can change the fortunes of a franchise.
Paschal will enter the D-line rotation immediately and Kerby Joseph is a starting caliber player at a position that was incredibly deep in this draft. They took some projects late, which keeps them from getting the A+ rating, but Brad Holmes made a career out of finding guys like that when he was with the Rams. He probably knows more about it than I do.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
Selections: No. 22: Quay Walker, LB, Georgia — No. 28: Devonte Wyatt, DT, Georgia — No. 34: Christian Watson, WR, North Dakota State — No. 92: Sean Rhyan, OL, UCLA — No. 132: Romeo Doubs, WR, Nevada — No. 140: Zach Tom, OL, Wake Forest — No. 179: Kingsley Enagbare, LB, South Carolina — No. 228: Tariq Carpenter, Safety, Georgia Tech — No. 234: Jonathan Ford, DT, Miami — No. 249: Rasheed Walker, OT, Penn State — No. 258: Samori Toure, WR, Nebraska
While the Lions weren’t content to sit at No. 32 and take whatever scrapheap wideout that fell to them, Green Bay showed no urgency at all. They took one of the picks they nabbed for Devante Adams and took a linebacker. Granted, Walker is a starter but quality linebackers, safeties and running backs were piled up all through this draft. Unless he’s the next Bobby Wagner or Micah Parsons, they probably should have been a little more aggressive. Wyatt too would be a day one starter on most teams, but that’s another problem with these picks. The Pack was already loaded on defense.
Watson is an interesting prospect, but this reeks of desperation after whiffing on a receiver in the first round. He’s huge, 6-5, and produced at North Dakota State, but I’m guessing he rarely ever lined up across a future NFL defensive back. Rhyan might be the best pick out of the bunch. Pro Football Focus gave him an 83.7 grade last season.
Selections: No. 32: Lewis Cine, Safety, Georgia — No. 42: Andrew Booth, CB, Clemson — No. 59: Ed Ingram, OG, LSU — No. 66: Brian Asamoah, LB, Oklahoma — No. 118: Akaylan Evans, CB, Missouri — No. 165: Esezi Otemewo, DE, Minnesota — No. 169: Ty Chander, RB, North Carolina — No. 184: Vaderian Lowe, OT, Illinois — No. 191: Jalen Nailor, WR, Michigan State — No. 227: Nick Muse, TE, South Carolina
When the Vikes added Cine with the final pick of the first round, they ensured Georgia would set a new record with the most players drafted from a single school in the first round. Makes you wonder how they managed to win a national title last season… Cine immediately plugs in as a starter opposite Harrison Smith. Booth will open up as the No. 3 corner, but will probably take Cameron Dantzler’s job before the year’s over. A third corner is a starter in today’s game anyway.
PFF gave Inrgam an 82.6 grade, but he’ll be a rotational guy for now since Minnesota already has a good offensive line. You can never have enough linemen, so that’s not a critique. Asamoah was a tackling machine for Oklahoma and taken at a good value spot. The B- comes from the fact that while these are all solid picks, none look like impact players. They did stay smart by taking guys from bigger schools the rest of the way.
Selections: No. 39: Kyler Gordon, CB, Washington — No. 48: Jaquan Brisker, Safety, Penn State — No. 71: Velus Jones, WR, Tennessee — No. 168: Braxton Jones, OT, Southern Utah State — No. 174: Dominique Robinson, Edge, Miami (Ohio) — No. 186: Zach Thomas, OG, San Diego State — No. 203: Trestan Ebner, RB, Baylor — No. 207: Center, Illinois — No. 226: Ja’Tyre Carter, OG, Southern — No. 254: Elijah Hicks, DB, California — No. 255: Trenton Gill, Punter, NC State
Thanks to their Justin Fields trade a season ago, the Bears were without a first round pick. They needed a lot, but did not have the ammunition to get much. Gordon and Brisker are day one starters as is Velus Jones Jr., mostly by necessity. Jones is a good pick and the third round is where he should have gone, but Chicago has one of the weakest wide receiver rooms in the country.
The Bears stuck with defense and offensive line for the rest of their draft, which was a solid strategy. This is a team in year one of a complete rebuild and putting a decent D and O-line together could pay off in a year or two.
Follow Adam Greene on Twitter @TheFirstMan.