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2023 NFL Draft Wish List: NFC North

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Things are quickly changing in the NFC North. The Lions and Bears are on the rise, while the Packers appear to be on the way out. And the two former teams are two of the more intriguing teams in this year’s NFL Draft, making this a very fun division to break down.

 

By the time the NFL Draft starts April 27, we’ll have touched on every team around the league. Here’s the schedule for our Draft Wish List series:

2023 NFL Draft Wish List: NFC North

Minnesota Vikings

  • First pick: 1st round, 23rd overall
  • Total first-rounders: 1
  • Total selections: 5

Despite winning 13 games this past season, the Vikings have plenty of positions to address on their roster. It will be a sweat to see if it happens, but if one of the top wide receivers makes it to them at 23, I think they have to go that route with Adam Thielen now in Carolina. T.J. Hockenson was the second-best tight end in the league once joining Minnesota, but this team still needs to add more alongside Justin Jefferson. Sure, Jefferson is arguably the top wideout in the league but opposing defenses know that, too. Per FTN Data, Jefferson saw double coverage in man defense 20 times last season, the most in the league. He saw a lot of bracket coverage and Minnesota could use someone opposite Jefferson who can torch single coverage. With Seattle, Los Angeles and Baltimore right in front of them, the Vikings might miss out but if Zay Flowers is on the board, they should sprint to the podium. Flowers plays with all of the confidence in the world and moved all over the formation at Boston College. He would be a fantastic complement to Jefferson in Minnesota. If Flowers is gone, Jordan Addison would be a great selection, too.

If the top wideouts are off the board, the Vikings could go interior defensive line or defensive back. I like Deonte Banks, but I think he might be off the board after his stellar combine where he ran a 4.35 40-yard dash and posted an 11-foot-4 broad jump. Cam Smith, meanwhile, is getting more buzz as a first-round selection and I get it. At 6-foot-1 with 4.4 speed and tremendous ball-tracking skills, Smith would immediately be the top defensive back in this Vikings roster. 

 

Green Bay Packers

  • First pick: 1st round, 15th overall
  • Total first-rounders: 1
  • Total selections: 10
Jordan Love Fantasy Football NFL Draft Wish List NFC North

As of now, Green Bay has 10 selections in this draft, but things will look a bit different if and when Aaron Rodgers is traded. Regardless, they will have the 15th overall selection, which puts them in consideration to be the first team to select a tight end in this draft. Robert Tonyan is in Chicago, while veteran Marcedes Lewis is a free agent, leaving Josiah Deguara as Green Bay’s top tight end. Both Dalton Kincaid and Michael Mayer should be on this team’s radar. Mayer doesn’t have the athleticism or upside that Kincaid does but is good at almost everything, especially run-blocking. Kincaid, though, gives this team versatility they haven’t had at the tight end position in years, while also giving Jordan Love someone who can work the middle of the field, which is crucial considering both Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs are both perimeter, vertical receivers. At 6-foot-3 and 254 pounds, he moves like a wide receiver and can make plays deep down the field. This past season at Utah, Kincaid had the third-most deep receptions among all tight ends, while his 187 deep yards ranked sixth. He is also strong after the catch, ranking third in the nation in missed tackles forced with 16. 

We know the Packers have avoided drafting pass-catchers early for a while now, but with Rodgers seemingly gone, it is even more important for this team to add more talent at receiver because you can’t just expect Love to make players great like Rodgers has. Having said that, I’d at least consider Jaxon Smith-Njigba because this team really lacks a separator that can win, especially on crucial downs. 

If the Packers elect to go defense, edge rusher makes sense. Nolan Smith or Lukas Van Ness should be there in Round 1, while they could also look to Will McDonald IV at 42nd overall. McDonald didn’t get to fully showcase his pass rushing skills because of how he was utilized at Iowa State. Let him stand up and get after the quarterback and you’ll see a really talented player with tons of athleticism and a devastating spin move. 

Detroit Lions

  • First pick: 1st round, 6th overall
  • Total first-rounders: 2
  • Total selections: 8

Arguably no team is on the rise more than the Lions, who are coming off an impressive 2022 season and now have plenty of draft picks to add to this bright future. Detroit made some terrific signings in free agency to address their secondary, adding C.J. Gardner-Johnson, Emmanuel Moseley and Cameron Sutton. However, I still think I’d have a difficult time passing on Devon Witherspoon or Christian Gonzalez at six overall. Gonzalez has more size and athleticism, but Witherspoon is unbelievably physical and is probably the better overall defensive back at the moment. He allowed a 34% completion rate and zero touchdowns in coverage this past season.

At 18th overall (barring any trades), the Lions could go multiple directions. Interior defensive line or linebacker are in play, as well as tight end. There has been some talk about potentially Bijan Robinson, but I don’t envision that happening, especially after the team just signed David Montgomery to a three-year, $18 million contract. I like the idea of Calijah Kancey to the Lions. They can add to that interior and while the Aaron Donald comparisons are a bit much, Kancey has an awesome first step and recorded 17 sacks over his final two seasons at Pittsburgh. 

With their two second-round selections, this is where Detroit could look to add a tight end. After the T.J. Hockenson trade last season, the Lions were rolling out Brock Wright, Shane Zylstra and James Mitchell at the position. This could be a dream spot for Darnell Washington, a 6-foot-7, 265-pound tight end with tremendous upside in both the run-blocking game and receiving game. At Georgia, Washington was used a lot in the play-action passing game, which would make him a perfect fit in Detroit. At their core, the Lions want to run the football behind their top-five offensive line and then set up play-action. Quarterback Jared Goff ranked third in the league in play-action pass attempts last season (163) and if you add Washington to this offense, it would just make all of the sense in the world. The Lions could also draft Luke Musgrave, who presents more upside as a pass-catcher (especially down the field) but he is incredibly raw.

 

Chicago Bears

  • First pick: 1st round, 9th overall
  • Total first-rounders: 1
  • Total selections: 10
Justin Fields Fantasy Football NFL Draft Wish List NFC North

After their trade with the Carolina Panthers, Chicago moved from the first overall selection to ninth overall. They also got San Francisco’s second-round pick from Carolina in the deal. The Bears are an absolute wild card in this draft, as they could legitimately target five or six different positions with their first selection. Offensive tackle, center, defensive line, defensive back and running back are all in play. Chicago clearly believes in Justin Fields as the franchise quarterback and although they did add DJ Moore, they should continue putting the right pieces around Fields. Perhaps Jalen Carter falls to them at ninth overall but if he doesn’t, Paris Johnson would be a rock-solid selection. He’d start at left tackle right away and in around 900 pass-blocking snaps over the last two years, Johnson allowed just two sacks. And among qualified signal callers in 2022, Fields sported the league’s second-highest pressure rate at 45.7%. Given that alarming statistic, I’d draft Johnson or Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski in the first round if I were the Bears.

And yes, the thought of Bijan Robinson in this offense is exciting. I do believe this is legitimately possible, but the Bears simply have too many holes in their roster right now.

Only the Atlanta Falcons posted a lower pressure rate than the Bears this past season (15.9%). Chicago made improvements to the defense during free agency but the defensive line could still use some work. With one of their two second-round picks, Chicago should be looking for players who can rush the passer. 53rd overall is right around where I’d expect Northwestern’s Adetomiwa Adebawore to come off the board. Adebawore had a freaky combine, running an insane 4.49 40-yard dash at over 280 pounds to go along with a 37.5-inch vertical (third) and 1.61 10-yard split. 

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