Around the NFC North: Defensive Position Group Rankings

Let's make Lions fans even angrier. 

Last time, we ranked the NFC North's offensive position groups in response to a hoard of delusional Lions fans on Twitter. This week we'll go over the defense from the d-line up. 

Defensive Line

  1. Packers
  2. Lions
  3. Bears
  4. Vikings

D-Line is probably the only spot where the Packers have the clear advantage in the division. Rashan Gary is always among the league leaders in pressures when healthy. Kenny Clark is a multi-time pro bowler and one of the two best pass rushing nose tackles in the league. Preston Smith is the best second edge in the division. And every one of the rotating cast of Lukas Van Ness, Devonte Wyatt, Karl Brooks, and JJ Enagbare has the potential to take the next step to stardom in Jeff Hafley's scheme. 

The Lions are the obvious next team and you could maybe say they're first if all you care about is run defense. Aidan Hutchinson and Rashan Gary are pretty close. Alim McNeil's ceiling is something like Kenny Clark. And then the next best guy is ... another nose tackle. DJ Reader is probably the most impactful run defender in the NFC right now, but he plays the same spot as Alim McNeil and brings not much against the pass. The Packers guys after the top two give them the victory here. 

The Bears and Vikings are close and they're pretty similar. The Vikings have a higher ceiling, but the Bears were so good after trading for Montez Sweat last year that I just can't put them at fourth in the division. If that's at the expense of the Vikings whose top interior guy is Harrison Phillips, then, too bad. 

Linebackers

  1. Bears
  2. Vikings
  3. Lions
  4. Packers

I don't think you can even really homer an argument for the Packers to be anything but last in linebacker rankings. Quay Walker is arguably the worst starting off-ball linebacker in the division right now and Edgerrin Cooper is a rookie who played in a weird spread stopper defense in college. 

The real argument is whether you take the Vikings or Bears for best. Per PFF, the Vikings have the 16th best (Ivan Pace Jr.) and 8th best (Blake Cashman) linebackers in the NFL. I don't buy it. Most of Pace's (who was a UDFA last year) grade is from blitzing and Cashman is a college safety who could barely garner a $7mm per year contract for his third team. Both of those two benefited a lot from the system they played in last year. Which is fine, they're still far better than anyone the Packers or Lions are trotting out, but I'll take the Bears' Badgers duo plus whatever they can get out of Tremaine Edmunds over them any Sunday, Monday, Thursday and even some Wednesdays and Saturdays.  

  Corners

  1. Packers
  2. Bears
  3. Lions
  4. Vikings

I know the Lions fans are seething right now, but, really, this is an easy one. Let's start with corner 1, Jaire vs. Carlton Davis. Not even an argument. Corner 2, you have Eric Stokes or Carrington Valentine vs. Terrion Arnold. You may think that's easy too, Arnold was some people's top corner in the draft, but a bird in the hand is better than a bird in the bush. Stokes actually has plus NFL tape, is a better athlete than Arnold, and has reportedly fixed his hamstring issues. Valentine also had a lot of really impressive tape last year. I think you have to hand it to the Packers here, at least because of the depth with Valentine. As far as slot corner goes, Brian Branch will likely be moving to safety and Ennis Rakestraw (rookie/bad athlete) will be manning the slot. That's at best a draw with Nixon who is the best kick returner in the league. 

The Bears may even have a better argument than the Lions. Jaylon Johnson was the best or one of the best corners in the league last season in a contract year and Kyler Gordon had some good tape once the Bears' D turned around last year. 

The Vikings best corner, in 2024, is Shaquill Griffin. 

Safeties

  1. Lions
  2. Packers
  3. Bears/Vikings

Gotta throw them a bone at some point. Brian Branch was close to defensive rookie of the year last year before he got hurt, Ifeatu Melifonwu was a top-10 safety per PFF, and Kerby Joseph, even though he had a down year on the field and Twitter alike, is still a plus run defender and strong hitter. I would consider the Packers here, after signing Xavier McKinney, if they had anyone else with good NFL tape. Just not cutting it with Anthony Johnson Jr., a rookie who played in the slot in college, a rookie half linebacker, and a rookie box safety. 

As far as the Bears and Vikings go, they both have a an ancient safety who has either already fallen off (Kevin Byard) or almost certinaly will this season (Harrison Smith) and a promising young guy who's basically average right now next to him (Cam Bynum/Jaquan Brisker). 

   

   

 

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Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan who recently moved form Utah to Stoughton (a Madison suberb). You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.

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Comments (3)

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T7Steve's picture

May 31, 2024 at 07:40 am

Thanks for the refresher. As much as I'd like to, I'm not ranking the Packers on any lists till I see a play or two in the preseason with the new alinement. Only prediction I'll stick with is that they'll be better than the previous versions.

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HawkPacker's picture

May 31, 2024 at 08:44 am

This article is really based on your opinion and I was surprised at some of the rankings you made and quite frankly don't agree with your line of thinking in most cases in your article. I guess everyone is entitled to their opinion.

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WorseWisconsin's picture

June 01, 2024 at 03:06 pm

1: Kudos for the efforts at being (mostly) objective. I know this is a GB Fan site, but trying to be objective doesn't hurt :) I found I agreed more than disagreed, and I'm not a GB fan. That said...

2: Safety: I won't dispute your rankings, but I will say that I think you underestimate Brisker. Overall though, the NFC North has talent at safety, so Brisker can be a top-10 safety and still be 3rd or 4th in the division. Time will tell.

3: You're way off base at Corner. Bears not only have the best CB room in the division, it's one of the best in the league. It's not close.

* They run 4-deep at starting-caliber CBs with Johnson, Stevenson, Gordon, Smith.
* Their backups, Stroman and Jones got significant snaps during injuries and played well.
* Johnson was one of the best CBs in the entire league last year.

The Bears have both a high-end player (Johnson) and depth at that position. Everyone else in the division is fighting for a distant 2nd place in that position group.

But I otherwise thought you made fair points in the other DEF groups.

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