GREEN BAY, Wis. — It will be several years before a measured ranking of the 2013 NFL Draft can be done, as many players will either flourish or fail in that time period. However, it doesn’t take more than a few hours to assess whether a team addressed its biggest needs and found value in the draft.
With seven rounds and 254 picks completed, the four teams of the NFC North all got better. But which teams within the division did the best job over the three-day draft weekend in finding good players at good spots while avoiding potential troublesome selections?
1. GREEN BAY PACKERS
Best value: Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama, Round 2 (61st overall). Lacy was the top-rated running back by nearly every draft expert and was projected to go late in the first round. In fact, Lacy would have been a decent value pick for the Packers with their first-round pick at No. 26. But at No. 61, it was perhaps the biggest steal of the entire draft league-wide. Running back was a need position for Green Bay, and the team somehow managed to land a potential game-changer. The Packers later drafted UCLA running back Johnathan Franklin in the fourth round, which was another of the best value selections in the draft. General manager Ted Thompson should be thrilled with how his running back position stands now heading into the 2013 season.
Head-scratcher: Micah Hyde, CB, Iowa, Round 5 (159th overall). Cornerback is one of the Packers’ best, deepest positions on the roster. There’s a veteran in Tramon Williams and behind him are three really high-quality younger players in Casey Hayward, Sam Shields and Davon House. With all four of them, it’s already difficult to even find enough snaps to go around. Considering Green Bay’s need at safety, it seemed possible that the Packers viewed Hyde in that way, but the team confirmed that wasn’t the case and intends to play him at cornerback.
Overall: The Packers had one of the best drafts in the entire NFL. Green Bay addressed a need position in the first round with defensive lineman Datone Jones, a player who is very likely to contribute immediately given that he played in the exact same system at UCLA. Lacy and Franklin change the entire dynamic of the Packers’ running game and could give quarterback Aaron Rodgers exactly what he needs to take the pressure off of him. Green Bay added two offensive linemen — another need spot — in the mid-rounds and also took a chance on two high-potential wide receivers in the seventh round, both of whom have a chance to excel with Rodgers throwing them the ball.
2. MINNESOTA VIKINGS
Best value: Sharrif Floyd, DL, Florida, Round 1 (23rd overall). Floyd was projected to go as high as third overall in mock drafts from many national media outlets. But, on Day 1 of the draft, Floyd continued to freefall before eventually landing in a perfect spot with Minnesota. The Vikings will certainly use Floyd as a rookie in 2013, but he’ll become even more important in the years to come after 32-year-old defensive lineman Kevin Williams is gone.
Head-scratcher: Jeff Locke, P, UCLA, Round 5 (155th overall). Taking punters in the fifth round is always a bit odd. The Vikings have been dealing with the unique circumstance of handling their outspoken activist punter Chris Kluwe, and it appears they’ve now found his replacement in Locke. To add to the head-scratching nature of Minnesota drafting Locke is that one of his best skills is in kickoffs, but the Vikings already have Blair Walsh doing a nice job in handling those responsibilities.
Overall: Any time that a team has three first-round picks, it obviously becomes a much better roster instantly. That is what happened with the Vikings in this draft. Floyd went first, then cornerback Xavier Rhodes and finally a trade up to select wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson. The rest of Minnesota’s draft was a bit suspect, however. But, with the addition of three terrific prospects, the Vikings made a big push to improving their roster after a surprising playoff appearance last season.
3. DETROIT LIONS
Best value: Ezekiel Ansah, DE, BYU, Round 1 (5th overall). When a team is coming off a poor season like Detroit is, game-changing — perhaps even franchise-changing — players are needed. Ansah is an absolute athletic freak and could be that player to help the Lions recover from a bad year. It’s possible that Ansah’s limited football experience causes him to be a bust, but it was a risk very much worth taking for Detroit. Ansah has the ability to quickly become one of the best pass-rushers in the NFL and was well worth his draft spot at No. 5.
Head-scratcher: Devin Taylor, DE, South Carolina, Round 4 (132nd overall). This was a reach for Detroit. Taylor could perhaps be a good NFL player, but his production declined in each of his past two college seasons. If the Lions really liked him, they could have traded back at least one full round and acquired extra draft picks in the process. Instead, Detroit’s need for defensive ends (even after drafting Ansah) meant selecting Taylor about 50 picks before he was projected to go.
Overall: Ansah could be the real deal and gives the Lions a potential star to put next to Ndamukong Suh. It was also a need spot for Detroit after not re-signing Cliff Avril and Kyle Vanden Bosch. However, the Lions missed out on adding any quality offensive tackles after losing both of their 2012 starters. That leaves quarterback Matthew Stafford without much assured protection, perhaps making it more difficult for him to get time in the pocket to find star receiver Calvin Johnson. After the horrible disappointment — and release — of 2011 second-round pick Titus Young, Detroit needed another receiver to pair with Johnson, but the team didn’t do so until the sixth round.
4. CHICAGO BEARS
Best value: Khaseem Greene, LB, Rutgers, Round 4 (117th overall). Greene could have been a third-round pick. He is already 24 years old, but had it not been for his age, Greene has the talent and production to have been a much higher selection. He’s not big but Greene’s playmaking skills should translate immediately, allowing the Bears to add an impact rookie to a defense that will be adjusting to life without Brian Urlacher.
Head-scratcher: Kyle Long, OL, Oregon, Round 1 (20th overall). There were so many issues with the Bears drafting Long. First off, Long should not have been a first-round pick, much less going as high as No. 20. If Chicago really wanted Long, trading back 25 spots and adding other picks in the process would have been the wise value move. Lang is a 24-year-old offensive guard who picked baseball over football when he first went to college. However, academic issues and an arrest forced him off of the Florida State baseball team. After finally deciding to play football again a couple years later, Long started only four games at Oregon. All of that risk for an offensive guard makes no sense.
Overall: The selection of Long at No. 20 almost single-handedly makes Chicago’s draft the worst of the division. Add to it that the Bears only had six selections and it appears that, while the rest of the NFC North got much better, Chicago fell a step behind.