NFC North NFL Combine Outlook
The NFL combine began yesterday in Indianapolis, and NFC North teams will look to build off a solid 2012 season as three teams had winning records and two of them made the playoffs.
Green Bay Packers:
The Packers were the NFC North champions for a second consecutive year, but fell short again in the Divisional Playoffs for a second time since winning the Super Bowl two years ago.
The Packers have made some offseason moves already, releasing veterans Charles Woodson and Jeff Saturday to clear cap space. Their biggest offseason task may be deciding what to do with free agent wide receiver Greg Jennings.
In the combine, the Packers will shift their focus to finding the next great member of the Green and Gold for future seasons. They have multiple needs, and a few positions to look at may be inside linebacker, defensive line, safety, running back and offensive line.
Their biggest task may be finding a running back, as they have not had a back since Brandon Jackson in 2010 rush for over 100 yards.
The Packers own the 26th draft pick in the first round in April.
The Vikings made it to the playoffs, but fell short to the Green Bay Packers in the Wild Card round. The Vikings were led by Most Valuable Player, Adrian Peterson.
The most surprising player for the Vikings may have been Christian Ponder toward the end of the season, including the last game of the season against the Packers. Ponder threw for 234 yards, three touchdowns, no interceptions, and completed 57.1 percent of his passes in Week 17.
Harrison Smith was also a bright spot for the team. The young rookie had 103 total tackles, a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, three interceptions, and 11 passes defended.
The Vikings still have some draft needs, and none may be bigger than the wide receiver position, especially after trade rumors involving Percy Harvin.
Other needs may a be a back-up quarterback, safety (opposite Smith), offensive line (the Vikings had a 2,000 yard rusher, but also allowed 49 sacks), and defensive tackle (Kevin Williams is aging).
The Vikings have the 23rd pick.
The Chicago Bears started 2012 with a 7-1 record, but finished slow and with a 10-6 record to miss the playoffs. They also fired Lovie Smith, and have a new head coach, Marc Trestman.
The Bears have a few glaring draft needs heading into Indianapolis. First, a left tackle may be their biggest need, and then help in the linebacking corp as Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs aren’t getting any younger.
A few more offensive playmakers, like a tight end or a wide receiver Brandon Marshall might not be a bad idea either. Drafting Stanford’s tight end Zach Ertz or Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert may be the best draft picks at number 20 since a majority of the top offensive lineman will be gone.
The Lions made the playoffs in 2011, but didn’t look the best in 2012 despite Calvin Johnson’s “mega” year. The Lions finished 4-12 and will own the fifth draft pick in April’s draft.
The Lions released defensive lineman Kyle Vanden Bosch, and Cliff Avril is a free agent. The Lions also released Titus Young.
A pass rusher may be their biggest need, and with a top-five draft pick, the Lions are in prime position to do so. The Lions could potentially draft Bjoern Werner, Damontre Moore, or Barkevious Mingo.
Secondary help is also a must need for the Lions, and Alabama’s cornerback Dee Milner would fit the mold, but it’s being reported he needs surgery to recover from a torn labrum after the Combine.
Other needs include a running back (Jahvid Best has a cloudy future), another wide receiver (opposite Calvin Johnson), and safety.
The NFL Combine runs until next Tuesday, February 26th.