Around the NFC North: 2019 NFL Draft Edition

The Packers failed to win the NFC North for the second year in a row.  Instead of the Vikings coming out on top, the Bears put together a 12-4 season.  Chicago failed to register a playoff win on behalf of the Black and Blue division, however.  The Kirk Cousins experiment largely blew up in Minnesota, resulting in a tight salary cap and an eight-win season.  The Lions, despite sweeping the Packers, went 4-10 against everyone else. What did each of these teams add in the draft? Let's take a look.

Chicago Bears

3 (73) - David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State

4 (126) - Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia

6 (205) - Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State

7 (222) - Kerrith White, RB, Florida

7 (238) - Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State

Ryan Pace had the anti-Gute draft.  First, he barely had any capital because he spent most of it acquiring veterans.  The Bears are wisely trying to maximize the window that they have with Trubisky playing on a rookie deal. Once they have to pay a quarterback with Trubisky's limitations a market deal, all bets are off.  

The second part that made it an anti-Gute draft was the lack of a focus on athleticism.  Montgomery and Ridley are poor athletes for their position.  There's no way around that.  They have, though, found a way to get passed that and become high level college football players.  Whether or not they can keep that going in the pros is another question altogether.  Shelley is undersized, White's a camp body and Denmark is a long term project, having played just one year of Division II cornerback after moving over from receiver.

Best pick: Shelley. It was close between he and Montgomery, as I don't see much of a path to playing time for Riley Ridley.  Shelley, though, is a potential replacement for the weakest spot on their defensive roster.  He's a better cover guy that Buster Skrine is right now.  He was the leader of that Kansas State secondary and lined up against bigger, stronger receivers week after week. He had PFF's highest coverage grade amongst Big 12 cornerbacks.

Potential Sleeper: Shelley

Detroit Lions

1 (8) - TJ Hockenson, TE, Iowa

2 (43) - Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii

3 (81) - Will Harris, DB, Boston College

4 (117) - Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson

5 (146) - Amani Orruwariye, CB, Penn State

6 (184) - Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion

6 (186) - Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland

7 (224) - Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia

7 (229) - PJ Johnson, DT, Arizona

The Lions did what a lot of folks hoped (and some feared) the Packers would do, and that was maybe the safest thing in this draft: take TJ Hockenson.  Hockenson is a high floor, high-celing prospect, and those are the bestest kind.  With that said, he's as close to it gets to a can't-miss prospect at a non-premier position.  That's always been the difficult conversation with Hockenson.  How early is too early to take any tight end? 

Detroit then came in from left field completely, taking Jahlani Tavai with the 43rd pick.  It was a striking misunderstanding of value.  Tavai could turn out as the best LB of all time, but that doesn't mean the Lions couldn't have traded down 10 (40?) spots and still selected Tavai.  Will Harris is an intriguing safety prospect and Bryant isn't flashy, but he'll definitely make the team.  

Best pick: Hockenson.  I've been wrong before, certainly.  It will eventually happen again, too.  With that said, I really don't think that there is a way that Hock can bust.  He's such a skilled blocker and such a top flight receiver that he's going to do one of those well enough (if not both) in the NFL to make a real difference.  I think he's going to be at the very least a Pro Bowler and an appearance on the All Pro team would not surprise me in the least. 

Potential sleeper: Oruwariye.  I was more upset when the Lions took Amani O than maybe any other prospect.  I may never know what happened to Oruwariye's draft stock, but from my own evaluations he was this draft's 17th best player. The Lions got a ridiculous value unless there is a medical red flag or a character red flag that I don't know about or understand. He can be a legitimate plus outside starting cornerback. Those are worth their weight in gold.

Minnesota Vikings

1 (18) - Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State

2 (50) - Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama

3 (102) - Alexander Mattiosn, RB, Boise State

4 (114) - Dru Samia, OG, Olkahoma

5 (162) - Cameron Smith, ILB, USC

6 (190) - Armon Watts, IDL, Arkansas

6 (191) - Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming

6 (193) - Oli Udoh, OT, Elon

7 (217) - Kris Boyd, CB, Texas

7 (239) - Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon

7 (247) - Bisi Johnson, WR, Colorado

7 (250) - Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force

Minnesota entered the draft with a clear understanding of the (gaping) weakness of their roster, the offensive line.  Even if Garrett Bradbudry wasn't a tremendous value (40th best player taken at pick 18), he is an excellent fit.  He makes a ton of sense in the Kubiak zone run system and is as athletic as any offensive lineman in this draft.  Vikings GM Rick Spielman has always struggled a bit with understanding value. He could have traded down when he still selected Christian Ponder and didn't.  He traded up aggressively to select Cordarelle Patterson and Dalvin Cook.  Positional importance has always kind of been lost on him, except for cornerback of course.  

Smith is a shorter H-back type TE that seems like a really excellent complement to Kyle Rudolph, but a strange choice to replace him.  Then we get to a misunderstanding of value violently colliding with a misunderstanding of positional importance.  Spielman selected Alexander Mattison, a running back in the third round. Mattison was my 228th ranked player in this class.  I'd argue that the next six picks, Hakeem Butler, Ryan Finley, CGJ, Maxx Crosby, Anthony Nelson and Julian Love, would've made more sense at more important positions.  Dru Samia is a nice guard prospect, but struggled during Senior Bowl week.

Best pick: Bradbury.  Garrett's actually a lot like Hockenson.  I'm going to be completely blown away if he busts.  It allows Minnesota to move or move on from the disappointing Pat Elflein and re-rorm their offensive line in the Kubiak image.  One of my favorite fits for player and scheme in this draft.

Potential sleeper: Bisi Johnson.  I think he's going to make the team and honestly if he plays like he can I think he might make Laquon Treadwell expendable (he might be already).  Johnson is a stone cold technician in the way that he runs his routes.

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Ross Uglem is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter @RossUglem 

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Comments (22)

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MarkinMadison's picture

April 30, 2019 at 10:58 pm

I feel like the Packers won the off-season v. the rest of the division in every way. The Bears gave up a lot to get Mack last off-season, both in picks and cap space. Now they have to make it work. I almost feel like last year was their best shot. Add this year depending on how well the MFL train gets on track. If they don't make it work this year then I don't see another Super Bowl coming anytime soon for the Bears.

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albert999's picture

April 30, 2019 at 11:01 pm

Am i wrong?

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Cubbygold's picture

May 01, 2019 at 02:18 pm

Agree, though I would say this year and next year are favorable to them while Trubisky and Eddie Jackson are still on rookie deals. After that, its back to tough decisions and the lack of high picks this year could start to show in a lack of depth.

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albert999's picture

April 30, 2019 at 10:59 pm

I think y’all are retired
y’all have to much time on ur hands
Nothing wrong with that
but to much bullshit

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CAG123's picture

May 01, 2019 at 12:19 am

What? Well since you’re not talking about football you should definitely spend more time knowing when “to” use “too” and “to” because you made that mistake “two” times and that’s clearly a habit.

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comeonman's picture

April 30, 2019 at 11:29 pm

What are the Bears gonna due when the very limited Trubisky gets to paid Market Price QB money? The Bears better win now because when they have to pay Trubisky 28 million a year they are in big trouble

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RickInCali's picture

May 01, 2019 at 02:00 am

The Vikings have a good coach, a poor GM and a QB with a low ceiling compared to his cap number. They did nothing in the offseason to make me think they’ll be anything above average.

Detroit still has multiple holes. Hock was a safe pick but he isn’t going to abuse anyone we throw at him. They picked a couple nice DB’s, but I’ll take our guy vs rookie corners any day.

Chicago overachieved and I feel like they may have peaked. They pose a legitimate challenge but i think we are going to fight them for the North title if we are relatively lucky health-wise and our youngsters improve from last year.

I think we did well this offseason especially with the change in coaching staff. Gutey is going to be a very good GM.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

May 01, 2019 at 08:56 am

I like Nauta quite a bit even though Detroit also selected Hock.

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Cubbygold's picture

May 01, 2019 at 02:25 pm

So much to like about what Gute did this offseason, down to the little details like improving the secondary with Amos and simultaneously making the Bears defense worse.

Obviously there's a big unknown in MLF, but letting the vets go and replacing them with this group of rookies and free agents sets up well for Pettine to work his magic. I can't imagine what it would be like to watch Rodgers work, knowing he has a top 10 defense to support him.

In years past I feel like Rodgers threw the ball away too often, but that could have been a symptom of his knowing that the defense wasn't capable of holding going out and making a stop. I want to see him take more risks this year and play with more confidence.

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Nick Perry's picture

May 01, 2019 at 05:01 am

So many people on ESPN or NFL Network just loved the Bears draft but I'm with Ross. I listen to their comments and look at the picks and go HUH? The "Experts" LOVE Montgomery but like Ross pointed out, not a great athlete. The Bears were unbelievably lucky on the injury front last season. I'd be shocked if they are that lucky again this season. Plus they have HHCD who these "Experts" are claiming to be a GREAT FA value. Did they NEVER watch HHCD in Green Bay? WTF! The Bears will be 9-7 even if they stay relatively healthy.

The Lions got Hock and not much else. The Lions will stay the Lions except this little winning streak against GB will end this year.

The Vikings first 2 picks were nice picks but they still need a lot to go right on the O-Line to have success. Spielman did a Ted Thompson and acquired a ton of 6th and 7th rounders he probably could have signed as UDFA. Irv Smith Jr. will be a nice compliment to Diggs and Thielin BUT he's still a 6'2" TE. Savage should be able to lock him up for YEARS to come. I'm also excited to see the Packers new D-Line in action against that O-Line of the Vikings. HUGE advantage to GB. Cousins ain't gonna like that.

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MarkinMadison's picture

May 01, 2019 at 08:01 am

"So many people on ESPN or NFL Network just loved the Bears draft but I'm with Ross. I listen to their comments and look at the picks and go HUH? The "Experts" LOVE Montgomery but like Ross pointed out, not a great athlete. "

Everyone is just getting on board the bandwagon because they believe the Bears as the team that will win the North this year. Vegas has it even for the North between GB, CH and MN. They have the Bears with slightly better odds for the NFC and the Super Bowl wins. To me, this is all about the Packers putting it together. If this team is what we think they are they will be in the playoffs. If they gell quickly they will win the North.

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Coldworld's picture

May 01, 2019 at 08:33 am

Pundits generally go with the status quo. So no surprise in the odds at this point.

The Bears draft puzzled me too. A slow receiver and a pounding running back that resembles Howard, so recently a great hope, whom they moved on from. Essentially they got a less proven player but one with better catching pedigree.

Given the GB draft, I’d say we gained on them defensively in matchup terms and that their O didn’t improve noticeably generally. My caveat is that HHCD might be less of a liability there simply because of who he is partnered with (credit going to the partner). That said, I think their safety strength is down on last year nevertheless.

The Vikings seem to have gone the TT route of numbers over quality with an overlay of need. I wonder how long even a good coach can survive that kind of drafting.

The Lions will need their new TE to be a consensus hall of famer from the get go if they are to turn themselves around. He is likely to be good and I love his willingness to block, but it will be interesting to see how that holds up at the NFL level and whether they have enough around him to prevent defenses from minimizing his impact in the passing game. Their run game might be improved this year, but I don’t see their D being good enough to allow that to consistently make a difference.

If we can click in an effective scheme offensively and Pettine used his new players to revitalize our D scheme, I think the Packers are well positioned in the North at this point. We certainly have better depth as well. Hopefully that will be reinforced by better luck on the injury front.

As far as further success goes, we will need to see how much of a jump last year’s newcomers make and just how much the new playbooks and schemes improve upon their predecessors.

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Handsback's picture

May 01, 2019 at 07:36 am

I think the Viking did the best job of the three in improving a team weakness. I'm sorry, then again not really, to say that the Bears draft almost seems like a bust. This year the depth of player were on the defense side of the ball. The Lions took advantage of that but not sure how much they improved their team. The running back Johnson from MD may be a real score.
Bottom line...we'll find out in a few years.

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LeotisHarris's picture

May 01, 2019 at 08:36 am

Does a high-floor high-ceiling guy have to crouch when he stretches the field? I'd worry about legroom for him on road trips, too.

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RCPackerFan's picture

May 01, 2019 at 09:00 am

2 years ago the Vikings go deep in the playoffs and are the team of the decade. The team to beat and no one will compete with them. 1 year later the Bears make the playoffs (don't win a playoff game) and are all of sudden the champs and won't be beat.
Didn't people just watch what happened last year to the Vikings?
I actually like that people forget that the Packers have the best player in the division who was not the same, played on a broken leg, in an outdated offense and still put up respectable numbers.
Oh and the talent we brought in isn't matched by the other 3 teams this offseason.

In the draft the Bears added 1-2 players that my contribute. They won't have much help from the draft.

The Lions added some really good players. Hockenson could be in conversation for OROY.

The Vikings added a lot of players in the draft. 12 total. 5 through the first 5 rounds and then 7 in the last 2 rounds. Looking at their draft they tried to build their OL adding 3 OL. And adding a lot of picks late they may have found a hidden gem but not guaranteed.

I take the Packers to win the division this year!

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Cubbygold's picture

May 01, 2019 at 02:35 pm

over/under in vegas is 9 wins. Seems like an easy over

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zeroluv's picture

May 01, 2019 at 09:13 am

I believe the Packers won the draft in the division easily, the Vikings did well too with all the compensatory picks they recurved for losing their key players but they did well drafting a few years ago and were able to replace them. I see a Greenbay winning the division again with the Vikings taking second. The Bears will finish 8-8 at best. They lost some difference makers in FA and they did t replace them.

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ILPackerBacker's picture

May 01, 2019 at 12:59 pm

Draft genius in chicago? most of the nfl is still laughing at trading UP for mitchy when they could have traded DOWN, kept picks and recieved some premium picks and have the fans in KC weeping giant tears.

Who else could the bears have taken with extra picks?

Enough so that they really would be the team to beat, and that is without either of the two better qbs they passed on

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Bert's picture

May 01, 2019 at 07:32 pm

Ross. No offense but Alexander Mattison is a pretty good RB. Tough inside, quick enough for the outside and a good receiver. I think the Vikings got themselves a nice player.

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mrtundra's picture

May 02, 2019 at 08:15 am

Now, if only the O Line can get out of his way.

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Ross Uglem's picture

May 02, 2019 at 06:14 pm

Me - 228th ranked player
Matt Miller - 148th ranked player
Arif Hasan Composite Big Board - 202nd ranked player
Thor Nystrom - 137th ranked player
Pro Football Focus - 174th ranked player
CBS Sports - 294th ranked player.

so no, it was a bad pick because it was bad value, period.

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jannes bjornson's picture

May 05, 2019 at 04:57 pm

Mattison with a mid-to-late fifth round grade. He's not there to replace Latavious Murray, he's the scat back to cover for Cook.

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