Fresno State Bulldogs wide receiver Davante Adams (15) is tackled by Wyoming Cowboys safety Chad Reese (7) and nose guard Patrick Mertens (95) during the first quarter at War Memorial Stadium. Troy Babbitt-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Experts: Packers draft at top of NFC North Division

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is the newest first round selection by the Green Bay Packers and is the head of a Packers draft class considered one of the best in the league.

Across the Internet one will find hundreds of NFL Draft experts who have spent all of last night and today evaluating the drafts by all 32 teams in the NFL.

The Green Bay Packers have scored near the top of the list among most evaluators – two of which I have provided here: walterfootball.com and Mel Kiper.

Walterfootball.com gave the Packers and Minnesota Vikings the highest team grades among the four teams in the NFC North. Both teams earned a B+, while the Detroit Lions and Chicago Bears finished with a B- each.

Walterfootball.com also rated each team for their first round selection. The Packers were tops among the NFC North teams with a grade of A-. The Bears’ selection of cornerback Kyle Fuller earned a B+, the Vikings pick of linebacker Anthony Barr earned a B, and the Lions’ selection of Eric Ebron earned a C+.

The reasons for the grades are interesting in themselves … check them out below.

As for Kiper, he used two criteria for his evaluations – need (B-) and value (B+) – giving the Packers a solid B for an overall grade.

You can read more about the Packers’ grades below.

 

Here’s how walterfootball.com scored the Green Bay Packers team draft …

 

 

 Green Bay Packers: B+ Grade 
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Packers’ primary objective is to get faster on defense. They are tired of losing to Colin Kaepernick, so they have to be able to defend scrambling quarterbacks. Look for them to use multiple selections on quick defenders. They also have to give Aaron Rodgers some help in terms of a new center and a replacement for Jermichael Finley at tight end. 

2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: This was a pretty solid draft for the Packers. I wrote that their primary objective was to find speedy defenders to help against mobile quarterbacks, and they obtained three such players in the first four rounds. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was the headliner, and he was a minor steal at No. 21. Carl Bradford, who can play either linebacker position, provided even more value in the fourth frame. He should have been chosen two rounds earlier. 

Ted Thompson also addressed the offense. Davante Adams was a good value selection in the second round, as he could eventually be an upgrade over James Jones. Richard Rodgers may improve the tight end position, though I feel like the Packers reached for him a bit. Corey Linsley was also taken slightly early, but he fills a huge need. 

A couple of reaches will keep the Packers out of the A/A- range, but they still deserve a high mark for their class. 

 Minnesota Vikings: B+ Grade 
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Vikings would love for either Blake Bortles or Khalil Mack to fall to them. There’s no chance the latter will be available, but Bortles could be. If not, they’ll probably have to decide between Anthony Barr and Derek Carr. An ideal situation would be for Minnesota to move down and snag Carr in the mid- or late-teens. After that, they’d have to find some upgrades for their lackluster back seven. 

2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I don’t understand how Anthony Barr can be perceived as a reach for Minnesota. He was linked to them this entire time, and if Jake Matthews hadn’t been on the board at No. 6, the Falcons probably would have chosen him at that juncture. Barr fit the range and filled one of Minnesota’s top needs – and the team was able to obtain an extra pick in a trade with Cleveland before snagging him. 

Barr is one of many solid selections the Vikings made throughout the weekend. In fact, excluding the seventh round, I gave just one of their selections lower than a B, which was the “C” I posted for Jerick McKinnon (there were better running backs available). Minnesota may have found its franchise quarterback in Teddy Bridgewater at No. 32. I’m not as crazy about Bridgewater as DraftTwitter is, but he should at least be a decent starter. Scott Crichton, meanwhile, was a steal in the third frame. He and Barr will help compensate for the loss of Jared Allen. 

I liked the Vikings’ draft overall. I would’ve done a couple of things differently, but there’s no doubt that Rick Spielman improved his roster. 


 Detroit Lions: B- Grade 
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: The Lions added Golden Tate through free agency, but they still need to obtain a couple of weapons around Matthew Stafford. This can be done via Eric Ebron or Odell Beckham at No. 10 (or trading up for Sammy Watkins or Mike Evans). Detroit also needs to work on its secondary and finding depth for its defensive line. A pass-rushing linebacker is needed as well. 

2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: Excluding the seventh round, I graded only one of Detroit’s selections higher than a “B,” which was the B+ I posted for fifth-round pick Caraun Reid. Conversely, the Lions had just one pick worse than a C+, so I’d say they had an average draft. 

There were two puzzling things about the Lions’ haul, one more so than the other. The minor concern was the first-round pick. Ebron makes sense as a potent intermediate weapon for Matthew Stafford, but with all of the second-round talent at the position, why not wait on a tight end? I get that Anthony Barr and Justin Gilbert were gone, but couldn’t Detroit have traded back? It’s not like any team in the 11-14 range was going to consider Ebron. 

The bigger issue is the lack of secondary improvement. The Lions didn’t address the defensive backfield until the end of the fourth round with Nevin Lawson. As a result, they’ll look as helpless as ever while trying to defend Aaron Rodgers and Jay Cutler. 

 

 Chicago Bears: B- Grade 
Goals Entering the 2014 NFL Draft: Defense, defense, defense. The Bears have to bolster every single level of their stop unit with multiple upgrades. They may take a running back or tight end late in the draft, but they have to focus on fixing their pathetic defense. 

2014 NFL Draft Accomplishments: I only really disliked two of Chicago’s selections: Second-rounder Ego Ferguson was a reach, while Pat O’Donnell in the sixth frame was a bit silly because he’s a punter. Yes, Rich Eisen, punters are people too, but that doesn’t mean they should be chosen in the sixth round. 

The Bears otherwise made three quality selections in the first four rounds to improve their defense. Phil Emery loves picking players who can be used at multiple positions, so Kyle Fuller made a ton of sense because he can start at cornerback and safety. Will Sutton should be able to improve the interior of the defensive front, while Brock Vereen provided great value at the end of the fourth frame. 

Chicago had somewhat of a decent haul overall, but I just wish it used its second-rounder on a better prospect to improve its stop unit. 

 

Here’s how walterfootball.com scored the NFC North Division teams’ first round selections …

 Green Bay Packers: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S, Alabama: A- Grade 
The talented prospects just have a knack of falling to the smart teams. That’s what happened here, as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was projected to go as high as No. 10 to Detroit or No. 13 to St. Louis. Clinton-Dix was one of the better players available, and he will undoubtedly improve an abysmal secondary that gave up giant passing performances to nearly every team they battled this past year. 

 

 Chicago Bears: Kyle Fuller, CB/S, Virginia Tech: B+ Grade 
Everyone on ESPN is saying that the Bears landed a talented cornerback, but I’m not so sure Kyle Fuller plays corner. I’ve heard they like him as a safety. He does fit what Phil Emery looks for in defenders, and that’s why I had him selecting Fuller in my mock. There’s no doubt that he fills a big need, and he was undoubtedly one of the better players on the board. 

 

 Minnesota Vikings: Anthony Barr, DE/OLB, UCLA: B Grade 
This is a pretty decent pick. The Vikings needed someone to replace Jared Allen, and Anthony Barr is the top pass-rusher available. Some even considered Barr to be superior to Khalil Mack. If you’re wondering about Barr’s fit in a 4-3 defense, Mike Zimmer’s scheme calls for a pass-rushing linebacker. Minnesota will use Barr like Von Miller. I don’t have as big of a problem for Minnesota passing on Johnny Manziel because he doesn’t really fit Norv Turner’s offense. The Vikings can get Derek Carr later. 

 

 Detroit Lions: Eric Ebron, TE, North Carolina: C+ Grade 
I can’t say I’m crazy about this pick. There’s a reason tight ends have fallen in recent years, and Eric Ebron is viewed as a slightly overrated prospect. Talented tight ends can be acquired later, especially with Jace Amaro, Austin Seferian-Jenkins and Troy Niklas available in Round 2. I don’t hate this selection though because Matthew Stafford needs more weapons, and Ebron is definitely an upgrade over the disappointing Brandon Pettigrew. 

 

Mel Kiper’s evaluations … as reported by Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com

The story of the draft is the acquisition of talent, but the story of NFL success is talent development. I know I can’t grade a draft class regarding performance for at least a few years, which is a reason why I audit old drafts. But what I do here is assess three main things:

” How much overall talent did a team add based on board position?

” How effectively did they address key personnel needs?

” How efficient were they in maneuvering on the draft board?

And remember: I have to use my player grades as the prism. I’m well aware all NFL teams see players differently — I have many debates with GMs throughout the year about players. I might have a high grade on a linebacker many teams see as a late-round pick. That’s the reality of player evaluations.

Kiper further broke down his grades into two parts: needs and value.

Here’s how he graded the Packers on both:

Need: B-minus

Value: B-plus

Now, let’s dig further into what Kiper thought of the some of the Packers’ nine selections.

On first-round pick safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: “An easy call at No. 21. I thought he’d be off the board by then, potentially to Dallas or Baltimore, so Green Bay got a good value there, and he addresses a need at free safety, where the Packers didn’t have much.”

On drafting three receivers: “Davante Adams isn’t explosive, but he catches everything and will flourish with Aaron Rodgers (This tends to happen with good receivers catching passes in Green Bay lately.) I really thought they needed a WR or two in this draft, and I loved the additions of Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis. If you saw Abbrederis simply steal Bradley Roby‘s lunch money in Columbus, you know he can battle NFL-level athletes, and Janis is a major physical talent for a seventh-rounder. He dropped on hand size and competition level coming out of D-II.”

On outside linebacker Carl Bradford: “Carl Bradford is a player I really like, and I’ll be interested to see if they move him around a little bit. I thought inside linebacker was a big need even though that’s typically something you can address later, but they didn’t touch it.”

On the Packers’ draft overall: “There’s not a point where you feel like the Packers flat out got a steal, but aside from the question at ILB, there’s not much not to like.”

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