Once upon a time (back in the NFC Central days) it was known as the black and blue division. While some of the teams were a little bit slower to join the trend, the NFC North has finally joined the rest of the NFL in being a passing division. All four teams now have quarterbacks in place they feel will lead their team for many years to come. As we look back on the NFL Draft results as a whole, this division had a very boring draft in terms of offense only fantasy leagues. The majority of the teams spent a lot of draft capital upgrading their lines or defensive sides of the ball, in part to stop the other offenses in the division. However, there are still a few notable selections to keep track of for the back part of the first round and definitely as late round fliers. I also included any offensive linemen who were drafted, because a better line typically means good things for all other offensive pieces. Lets take a look at the aftermath of the 2018 NFL Draft in relation to the NFC North.
James Daniels, C Iowa. (Round 2, 39th overall)
Anthony Miller, WR Memphis. (Round 2, 51st overall)
Javon Wims, WR Georgia. (Round 7, 224th overall)
I’m of course a little bit bias being a Chicago fan, but I think the Bears had the best draft of the division. They not only addressed a lot of their biggest needs, but they managed to do so with talented players who were often great values where they were drafted. Unfortunately for fantasy fans, a lot of these selections went into shoring up the defense. The first round selection of Roquan Smith (who should be the first IDP off the board in almost all formats) couldn’t have made me happier as a Bears fan. He should be a stud for years to come and is the frontrunner for defensive rookie of the year. I look forward to him continuing the tradition of dominating linebackers for the Bears.
Back to the offensive side of the ball, the headliner for most fantasy owners is Anthony Miller. The offseason signing of Allen Robinson definitely made some waves, but behind Robinson the Bears had one of the worst receiving groups in the entire NFL – this was made worse when the Saints signed away Cameron Meredith. Outside of Kevin White, who has been disappointing Bears fans since 2015, there isn’t a single player who is even worth discussing on the wide receiver depth chart. I think Tarik Cohen will actually see quite a few snaps as a slot receiver this year due to the lack of depth and talent at the position – this means Miller walks into a fantastic situation. It wouldn’t surprise me at all if he is the number two target in the passing game by the middle of the season. He is polished and pro ready, meaning the transition for him to the NFL should be fairly smooth. Those who are a little less optimistic about Miller will point to his older age (for a rookie), slightly lower level of competition, and the fact he isn’t overly athletic. However, the more I watch him play and the more I learn about him, the more I like him. If the Bears offense evolves as expected, Miller should turn into a high end WR3 or low end WR2 within a few years.
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Miller wasn’t the only receiver the Bears drafted. Very late in the draft, they took a chance on Javon Wims as well. With the Bears depth chart, it was a no brainer. Wims is very different from Miller. He is a bigger body at 6’3” and 215 pounds. A converted basketball player, Wims is still trying to learn how to play receiver. What he does possess is very natural hands and good body control, a combo which has lead to numerous highlight reel catches. He isn’t a great athlete, but he is good enough he could turn into a quality possession receiver if he keeps working on it. He isn’t a fantasy target outside of really large leagues but is certainly a player to keep tabs on this off-season.
Frank Ragnow, C Arkansas. (Round 1, 20th overall)
Kerryon Johnson, RB Auburn. (Round 2, 43rd overall)
Tyrell Crosby, OT Oregon. (Round 5, 153rd overall)
By now, I think we have all heard about the issues Detroit has had running the ball for the last five years, give or take a decade. Easily one of the worst at running the ball in that time, the lack of production can blamed on the game plan, running back usage, and just getting behind early in a lot of games (even when they ended up winning). The Lions seem to be tired of hearing about it as well, because they invested a pair of picks (including their first rounder) on upgrading their offensive line. Then they also drafted Kerryon Johnson out of Auburn to be their next leading rusher.
Opinions on Johnson are definitely torn. I’ve seen him go as high 1.06 in rookie drafts, and I’ve also seem him slip to the very early parts of the second round (pick 14). Most of the time he seems to be going in the 1.08-1.10 range for rookie drafts. The debate around him seems to be two-fold. First, how good is the situation? Second, how good is Johnson? Let me address the situation piece first. Yes, Ameer Abdullah, LeGarrette Blount, and Theo Riddick are all on the roster. Don’t you think the Lions already knew that? They looked at what they had and how those pieces have performed, and they still spent an early second round pick on Johnson. They clearly think he is an upgrade over what they have, and believe he has the ability to improve the running game. In short, he wasn’t drafted to be depth. Riddick will likely siphon a lot of receptions, but Abdullah still had 25 receptions last year as well.
When it comes to Johnson’s talent level, I see him as a jack-of-all-trades but master of none. He is good, but not great at a lot of things. I don’t know if he can be a 25-carry per game, wear the defenses down kind of rusher, but he won’t need to be that in Detroit. He has the ability to run inside and outside with decent hands and has a little bit of wiggle to him combined with a bit more power. He is a solid pass protector and he does a nice job of finishing runs as well. While I don’t think he has the talent to be a RB1 in fantasy leagues, I think he is more than good enough to break the current drought of 100-yard rushers in Detroit and to make their offense a little more two dimensional.
Green Bay Packers
J’Mon Moore, WR Missouri. (Round 4, 133rd overall)
Cole Madison, OT Washington State. (Round 5, 138th overall)
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR South Florida. (Round 5, 174th overall)
Equanimeous St. Brown, WR Notre Dame. (Round 6, 207th overall)
The Packers shook up their wide receiver ranks a little bit this year. They paid Davante Adams, cut Jordy Nelson, and seemed to have made no significant attempts to re-sign Randall Cobb as he heads into the final year of his current deal. Instead, they have been connected to a lot of free agents, including Dez Bryant, but seem content for the time being to see how their mass of young receivers develop. The young group currently seems to be led by 2016 undrafted free agent Geronimo Allison, but also includes the likes of 2017 fifth round pick DeAngelo Yancey, 2016 fifth round pick Trevor Davis, and four other receivers who spent time on their practice squad last year. When you add in a fourth, fifth, and sixth round pick on receivers this year, it is beyond a mess. Whoever emerges gets the chance to play a role in one of the best offenses in the league, but it will take some time to figure out.
J’Mon Moore was the first of the 2018 receivers to be drafted and he is my pick for a player who could push Yancey or Allison down the depth chart. At 6’3” and 207 pounds, Moore is a bigger receiver. He didn’t have a great showing at the combine with a 4.6 second time in the 40-yard dash, but he showed significant improvement at his pro day, which more closely resembled what he showed on the field. He is definitely a prospect who is very raw, though. He needs to improve his routes a lot, get a better feel for the position and mature as a player. However, the upside is definitely there.
Marquez Valdez-Scantling was the fifth round selection for the green and gold. At 6’4” and 206 pounds, MVS, as some of the Green Bay media refer to him, is another big and very fast receiver. He runs a sub 4.4 second 40 yard dash. Unfortunately, that is about all he can do. His route tree is extremely limited and his hands at time are a little bit suspect. He also had times where he struggled to track the ball when it was in the air. The height with that kind of speed is definitely intriguing, but I think he is a bit like the bright, shiny toy that breaks as soon as you take it out of the box. He is my least favorite of the three.
Equanimeous St. Brown’s draft day slide was one of the stories of the draft. A huge favorite of many in the dynasty community, he didn’t seem to have nearly as many fans in NFL front offices. He tumbled all the way down to the sixth round of the NFL Draft where the Packers took a chance on him. At 6’5” and 214 points, he completes the trend for the 2018 Packers receivers. He might be the best athlete of the three, but I have major questions about his desire to be a great football player. He just doesn’t seem to have that chip on his shoulder that makes a lot of NFL players great. He also seems to lack the work ethic to get the most out of his natural talent. While the ceiling is probably the highest for him, there is a reason he was available in the sixth round.
No one knows for sure what will happen with the Packers’ wide receivers. For all we know, they could decide they don’t like any of them in OTAs and go sign Bryant. One of them could also turn into the next Jordy Nelson – best of luck to us all in figuring out who that may be at the moment.
Brian O’Neill, OT Pittsburgh. (Round 2, 62nd overall)
Tyler Conklin, TE Central Michigan. (Round 5, 157th overall)
Daniel Carlson, PK Auburn. (Round 5, 167th overall)
Colby Gossett, OG Appalachian State. (Round 6, 213rd overall)
From a fantasy perspective, the Vikings were by far the least interesting team of the division when it comes to the NFL Draft. With almost every skill position locked in before the draft, there was almost no chance the Vikings would draft anyone who would be on the fantasy radar and that’s what happened on draft weekend. Instead, they invested a little bit in their offensive line, drafted a kicker in the fifth round (and I sure hope you are not using kickers in your dynasty leagues), and they added another tight end in the fifth as well.
If you are someone who is hoping to get a piece of the Vikings’ offense, you won’t be able to do it in your rookie draft. The only chance is Tyler Conklin. While he is a converted basketball player, he isn’t a supremely gifted athlete. I think his upside is as more of the second tight end in a two tight end set. He has enough skill in the passing game that you can’t assume he’ll just be there to block; however, he also has enough blocking skills that he could be used as an extra blocker as well. His versatility should give him a chance to make the roster, but his lack of athleticism could limit him to being the second tight end on an NFL roster.
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- Final 2021 Pre-Draft Rookie Mock: Round One - April 25, 2021