Michael Amato is going to study team-by-team each squad's NEEDS over the next few weeks. Enjoy the ongoing series of articles as we explore the upcoming NFL draft.
The Lions regressed heavily last year and despite adding Reggie Bush this off-season to help the running game, there are still plenty of holes to fill on both sides of the ball. Receiver Calvin Johnson shattered several records in 2012 and yet Detroit still finished 4-12, so the Lions need more talent around him.
The first area to address would be the offensive line. It’s not that Detroit was horrible in pass protection last season, but the sudden retirement of Jeff Backus and the departure of Gosder Cherilus have left a void at tackle. Eric Fisher, who played in the state with Central Michigan, would be a perfect fit if he is still available when the Lions pick fifth overall. If not, Detroit would be foolish to pass up on Lane Johnson from Oklahoma who plays the same position. For how often the Lions throw the ball, having someone to protect Matthew Stafford is crucial.
Detroit has lost Cliff Avril to Seattle, so adding another pass rusher in the draft would be smart. The Lions only had 34 sacks last year with Avril and Ndamukong Suh, so if they hope to return to the playoffs their defense must get better.
Once these needs are taken care of they could also look at a depth receiver to help take some of the pressure off of Johnson. Stafford often gets tunnel vision when it comes to his elite pass catcher and having another target he can count on would be beneficial.
The Bears have only five selections in this draft and no third rounder, so new coach Marc Trestman will have his work cut out for him. The roster does have some talent, although Chicago is still thin in many areas.
Long-time face of the franchise Brian Urlacher was cut and D.J. Williams was brought in from Denver to replace him. Williams has the ability to do the job, but with some off field issues in the past and only Blake Costanzo as his backup, it might force Chicago to look at another middle linebacker for insurance. Manti Te’o from Notre Dame should be an option at pick 20 or they could always reach for Kevin Minter of LSU at that spot as well.
The Bears offensive line is inconsistent on a good day and despite bringing in Jermon Bushrod to play left tackle from New Orleans, that probably isn’t going to cut it. Jay Cutler was running for his life much of last season and if they hope to keep him healthy Chicago could stand to add another pass protector.
Much like Detroit, the Bears rely on one receiver heavily in the passing game. It seemed like Cutler targeted Brandon Marshall on almost every play last year, so bringing in Martellus Bennett gives them a much needed threat at tight end. However, they could still use another receiver as Alshon Jeffery struggled to stay healthy in his rookie year. If they are not sold on a linebacker in the first round then Chicago could snag Cordarrelle Patterson from Tennessee if he slides to 20. Patterson is a good route runner who uses his size to overmatch defensive backs physically.
The Vikings made an improbable trip to the playoffs last year thanks to Adrian Peterson’s 2,000 yard campaign. With 11 picks and two coming in the first the round, Minnesota needs to stock up on talent so they don’t have to lean on Peterson as much in 2013.
It’s interesting to note that the Bears have similar needs to the Vikings, and because Chicago picks three spots before them, they could easily steal someone who Minnesota is targeting. However, since the Vikes own picks 23 and 25 they have some versatility. After dealing Percy Harvin to the Seahawks, Minnesota would surely love to get their hands on the aforementioned Patterson to play alongside Greg Jennings.
The Vikes could also use some help down the middle of their defense so Te’o is an option as well as defensive tackle Sylvester Williams from North Carolina. If they want to make sure they get their man then using some of the later round picks they own to trade up is a possibility.
One final thing to keep an eye on is the quarterback position. Christian Ponder has developed slowly in his first two seasons and bringing in Matt Cassel during free agency was hardly a solution. Taking a chance on a pivot with one of their fourth round picks could be a low risk high reward situation. Landry Jones from Oklahoma would fall into that category and has a lot of upside.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers was sacked a whopping 51 times in 2012 and that was the most in the NFL. If the Packers were to lose him to an injury, like most teams who are without their starting quarterback, things would go south fairly quickly for an otherwise strong squad.
With that being said, the Pack could go with an offensive lineman with the 26th overall pick. It would be a stretch to think Menelik Watson from Florida State would still be available by the time it gets to their selection, so considering tackle Justin Pugh from Syracuse would be another way to go. Pugh is a great athlete who started every game during his three collegiate seasons, but scouts view him as more of a second rounder. It all depends just how much Green Bay values pass protection over other needs.
Those needs include the running game which could use a major shot in the arm. The punishing style of Alabama running back Eddie Lacy would mesh well on the frozen tundra of Lambeau Field come December. Not to mention that improving the 20th ranked rushing attack could alleviate some stress from Rodgers.
The Packers strong safety spot is a little thin and that might be another way to go in the first round. Either Matt Elam or John Cyprien from Florida and Florida International respectively, would be solid additions.
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