The NFC North has had all of their teams in the postseason since 2016, and has had three different division winners in the last three years. Aside from the Minnesota Vikings, the other three franchises have also undergone changes at Head Coach in the last two seasons.
In a division that is so competitive and turbulent, offseason moves are critical to success. Here is what each team is looking to add in preparation for 2019.
The Bears have just 5 picks in the 2019 Draft. They have drafted well in the last few years, but they may be lacking enough picks to sustain their recent success. In his third year, Mitchell Trubisky needs to take another step forward, or this team could be back to square one in another year. For many players on the Bears’ roster, they need to prove their worth this year.
The different groups on Offense spent 2018 finding their feet, and in 2019 should see leaders emerge. Having traded Running Back Jordan Howard to the Philadelphia Eagles, Tarik Cohen looks to be the feature back in Chicago, with Mike Davis likely to be the vertical runner. Adding another RB is a possibility, and most likely a dynamic one who can be a pass catcher out of the backfield.
Although it was brief, the past three years were truly an amazing experience… a great city, fan base and team. I’d like to thank the entire organization for giving me the opportunity to launch my NFL career and make lifelong memories as a member of the storied Chicago Bears. pic.twitter.com/MnqvOUzs5F— Jordan Howard (@JHowardx24) March 29, 2019
Likewise, the Wide Receivers and Tight Ends should see the playmakers emerge in 2019. WRs Allen Robinson, Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller each flashed at times, but their role in the Offense is to be determined. Similarly, the TE group has shown potential but needs to figure out how each will be used.
Any picks on Offense are most likely to go to the Offensive Line. While sturdy, they need depth at Center and could do with upgrades at Tackle. But with just 5 picks, it’s unlikely that both of these positions are addressed.
Defensively, the Bears might have the best Linebacker group in the league. Their Defensive Backs are also in a strong state, but they might look at drafting a Safety in case Free Agent addition Haha Clinton-Dix doesn’t work out. By far their biggest need on Defense is on the Line, where they need a backup at both the Nose Tackle and Defensive End positions.
2018 began the Matt Patricia era in Detroit, and they are still going through the process of rebuilding the roster to fit his image. They have begun acquiring pieces, but it is still a work in progress. The Defense especially needs some upgrades, particularly at LB and Safety.
One of the hallmarks of Patricia’s defensive system when he was the New England Defensive Coordinator was the LBs. MLB Jarrad Davis had a strong rookie season in 2017, but he needs help, particularly in pass coverage. Finding quick and strong tacklers is a huge need for the Lions. Expect them to target edge rushers and another MLB that is strong in coverage early in the draft. Likewise, while in New England Patricia enjoyed stability at the Safety positions. Both of these spots will also dominate the Lions’ draft strategy.
The DL, on the other hand, is nearly complete after DE Trey Flowers was added in Free Agency. It wouldn’t be a surprise if the team ignored the DL until late in the draft. They may not even address it, and could just look to find another DE when roster cuts happen later this year.
Offensively, the Lions have strength at every position, but need to add to them all. The OL just lost a Guard in TJ Lang, and this spot will most likely be filled in the middle or late rounds of the draft. RB is equally settled, and any picks used would be for depth only.
The TE position is lacking a clear-cut starter as a receiver, and in a strong year for TEs the Lions will add one in the draft to fill that role. Kenny Golladay has shown potential at WR, but after two years Detroit needs to decide if he can the WR1. If not, they should go after one of the top WRs early in the draft. If they trust Golladay, adding a WR late still needs to happen, despite bring in Amendola as a FA.
While not a need, QB could be another position the Lions address in the draft. Current QB Matthew Stafford has shown himself to be talented, but he has had limited success. Although he recently signed an extension, bringing in a rookie QB to sit behind him for a few years is a distinct possibility. While unlikely to happen, it isn’t out of the question.
Green Bay Packers
There is little doubt the Packers are going to give QB Aaron Rodgers the weapons he has been missing the last few years. They primarily need to keep him protected, and adding Guards as upgrades over the current starters, along with depth at Tackle needs to be addressed. Similarly, bringing in a young TE is another need, especially one that can block as well as catch.
To take the pressure off Rodgers, adding a RB that can attract attention from opponents is another must. This could be done on day 2 of the draft by adding a strong and shifty runner such as Miles Sanders or Darrell Henderson. Alternatively, WR isn’t a need for the Packers, with a few young WRs on the roster already, but finding a counterpart to Davante Adams could be a wish Rodgers wants filled.
However, the Defense needs to find starters at multiple spots, and could be where they spend the early picks. DE, ILB and an OLB or edge rusher are all needed. Long-term LB Clay Matthews is no longer with the team, and finding a new leader in the middle of the field should be a priority. If Devin White or Devin Bush is there when the Packers pick at 12, one of them could be the selection.
"This is a rough spot for Green Bay. I wouldn't have put Green Bay in Chicago against that team. This just feels like 0-1 to start the season. New coach, new staff, new players, new free agents."@ColinCowherd on NFL scheduling Packers-Bears in Week 1 pic.twitter.com/qHVqfVBga4— Herd w/Colin Cowherd (@TheHerd) March 26, 2019
The CBs are perhaps the Packers’ strongest position group on Defense, but they still need depth. FA Strong Safety Adrian Amos has filled their need there, but a Free Safety is still a need. However, given the other needs, the Packers probably won’t be able to target this spot early on, and will likely be a day 3 pick.
The Vikings have one of the more complete rosters in the NFL. All levels of the Defense are strong, and any picks spent on this side of the ball would be for depth only. The spots on Defense that could be added to are DT, Safety, and MLB.
Instead, the Vikings should be focusing on rebuilding the OL in the draft. QB Kirk Cousins was sacked 40 times in 2018, which was the tenth most in the league. All positions on the line should addressed. With no other substantial needs, this should be where at least 3 of their 8 picks are used, if not more.
Elsewhere on Offense, the Vikings could stand to add backups at QB, RB and TE. While they have one of the best WR duos in the league, they need more players at the position. Adding a third dynamic WR would make this Vikings team one of the most potent in the league.