The Green Bay Packers and NFC North Division foes Detroit Lions, Minnesota Vikings and Chicago Bears all took steps to improve their lot in the NFL with solid first round selections that should increase each team’s stock and the competition in the division overall.
The Packers stayed put with their #21 pick and addressed their biggest need in drafting Alabama safety Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix. It was a selection that about 90 percent of Packers fans feel is a good one, according to a poll on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.
That said, the other three teams in the division also used their picks wisely on the first night of the NFL Draft.
Detroit increased its offensive firepower by selecting North Carolina tight end Eric Ebron – a weapon that will be added to the already prolific duo in Calvin Johnson and Golden Tate, as well as quarterback Matthew Stafford. Ebron brings a huge presence to the line – a player much in the ilk of a Jermichael Finley or Vernon Davis. He has the speed to split the seam and make life miserable for defensive backs.
Here is what Lions GM Martin Mayhew said about the decision to draft Ebron:
"“Defense is a need. Offense is a need. Playmakers are a need,” Mayhew said at his news conference after the pick. “On defense we were right in the middle of the pack last year in points allowed. The perception is there is this huge gap between our offense and our defense. We have some good players on defense who can make some plays for us.”"
That might be one of the reasons the Chicago Bears and Packers went defense with their first round selections.
The Bears, who wanted defensive lineman Aaron Donald, ended up taking Virginia Tech cornerback Kyle Fuller – not a slouch by any means. He’s one of the top cornerbacks in the draft, a player who will bring an attitude and physical presence to the Bears’ defensive backfield.
Virginia Tech defensive backs coach Torrian Gray said:
"“He’s not just out there trying to cover guys. He’ll mix it up. Versatile, if I had to describe him in one word … Kyle’s versatile enough to where he can play anywhere back there.”"
The Minnesota Vikings selected UCLA linebacker Anthony Barr, a player with incredible athletic talent and a high upside. But the Vikings weren’t done – they traded with the Seattle Seahawks for the final pick of the first round to select quarterback Teddy Bridgewater. Given that it was clear the Vikings wanted Bridgewater badly, the trade back into the first round was a good one because Bridgewater would have most likely been selected very early in the second round.
The clear understatement here is that the NFC North teams did a lot to improve through their first round picks. And if things continue the way they went in the first round, the rest of this draft should go a long way in making all of the teams in the NFC North even more competitive.
Change is good and the draft competition is resulting in cause and effect when these teams pick.
The GMs for all of these teams will be paying close attention to their biggest rivals … as fans, we should be, too.
All I can say at this point is that the next couple of days are going to be fun and should lead to some great banter among pundits and fans of Green Bay, Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota.
Stay tuned …