The NFL Draft has concluded, now it’s time to sort through the rosters and take a look at who came out a winner, and on the flipside, a loser.
I’ll look at the NFC North.
Jonathan Bullard, DE CHI
Chicago landed some solid defenders in this year’s draft. The Bears upgraded their defensive line with the addition of Bullard and he should line up on opposite Akiem Hicks. He played on the inside at Florida, but has the talent to shift to five-tech. He can disrupt the run and can apply pressure. As a defensive tackle, Bullard notched nine sacks and 18 QB hurries in 2014 and 2015. Bullard has been ticketed for base and sub-package roles, so it’s quite possible Bullard appears in more than 70-percent of the snaps this season. Bullard should be a top DL in rookie drafts this spring/summer.
Blake Martinez, ILB GB
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The Packers nabbed Martinez in the fourth round and immediately signed him to a four-year deal. Martinez was a tackle machine at Stanford, and Dom Capers finds himself with a smart linebacker that’s solid against the run, plays with ferocity and can get himself downhill to make tackles. He has laser focus on whoever has the ball and plays with balance. His bulk should allow him to get into the mix, not only for snaps, but for a starting gig as ILB. I could also argue that Clay Matthews is a winner in Green Bay, since Martinez’s arrival, will allow him to kick back outside and focus on getting to the QB. Keep an eye on Martinez throughout training camp.
Deon Bush, SS CHI
Chicago has struggled with safety play over the last few seasons and they are hoping Bush can come in and make a difference in the defensive backfield. With Antrel Rolle gone, Bush is going to be in the mix for the starting strong safety job. Bush was a 32 game starter at Miami and should have a leg up, talent-wise, over Harold Jones-Quarterly, Omar Bolden and DeAndre Houston-Carson. His size should give him an advantage, and he is physical and won’t shy away from contact. He’s going to make plays on the ball thanks to his jumping ability. He’s also opportunistic around the ball, producing five forced fumbles in 2014 and six defended passes in 2015. It won’t surprise me to see Bush announced as starter over the summer.
A’Shawn Robinson, DT DET
If you’re looking for a target in DT-required leagues, Robinson is going to be a nice target in rookie drafts. I’m expecting Robinson to carve out a role right away with Detroit nabbing him 46th overall. Robinson is coming off a 2015 season where he notched 3.5 sacks, 10 QB hurries and 7.5 tackles for loss. Robinson is pro-ready and should play on early downs. Tyrunn Walker is coming off an ankle injury and Haloti Ngata is 32. Robinson should be in line for snaps this season.
Sam Barrington, ILB GB
Barrington has been a ‘meh’ linebacker and is coming off a foot injury that landed him on IR after just one game in 2015. He does have age on side, as he’ll be 26 come October, but with the addition of Martinez and second-year linebacker Jake Ryan on the precipice for more playing time, Barrington could be ticketed for a reserve role. Barrington is also earning the injury prone moniker, playing in just 22 games in his first three seasons.
Tyrunn Walker, DT DET
Walker could be in a rotational role with Robinson this season. Walker is another player that has been hampered by injuries, appearing in 27 games in three seasons. Detroit re-signed him to a one-year deal, so Detroit has told you what they think of Walker. You can cut bait on him if you’re holding in a DT-required league.
Christian Jones, ILB CHI
The Bears didn’t have many losers this off-season, but Christian Jones is on the outside looking in at the inside linebacker position. The Bears added Danny Trevathan and Jerrell Freeman in free agency, while also adding Nick Kwiatkioski in the draft. Jones produced a solid 2.6:1 solo-to-assist tackle ratio in route to 86 tackles, but he looks headed to the bench in 2016 and beyond.
Kentrell Brothers, ILB MIN
Brothers landed in a crowded linebacking corps in Minnesota. Brothers looks to be buried on the depth chart at the middle behind Audie Cole and Eric Kendricks. The Vikings are still holding on to Chad Greenway and Anthony Barr is entrenched at the SAM. Brothers is coming off a 152 tackle campaign for Missouri, I don’t see him making contributions anytime soon. He’s a longer-term dynasty chip unfortunately.