Optimist/Pessimist takes a look at the bright and not so bright side of each team's draft haul, division by division. Today, the NFC North.
We’ve been over this before: Identity as need revolves around getting great at what you do well, not becoming mediocre at what you don’t do well. To that end, TE Brandon Pettigrew, and to a lesser extent QB Matthew Stafford, represent a positive step toward a cohesive identity as a high power offense. The fact of the matter is that OT Gosder Cherilius needs time to develop at the position, so an early round OT didn’t make sense. At this point, everything needs to revolve around making Megatron more effective, and a QB with an undeniably great arm and a versatile TE who forces defenses to remain honest in the middle of the field take a lot of pressure off of the third year receiver. Meanwhile, the defense picked up players built to play the sort of grinding ball that Jim Schwartz mastered in Tennessee, with Louis Delmas looking like a smarter Roy Williams, and Sammie Lee Hill drawing comparisons to Cortland Finnegan. In a draft where everyone expected the Lions to fail, it’s hard to argue that they didn’t get better, maybe even a lot beter.
I mean, any time you have the chance to pay $41 million to a marginally successful quarterback and make him the richest rookie ever, you have to pull that trigger, right? I don’t know why any of us were wondering whether or not the Lions would make the easy, flashy, and ultimate foolish move of using the #1 overall pick on Matt Stafford; it was obvious from the beginning that everyone wanted them to make this move. Never mind that one of the most incredible physical talents at the LB position was available to make an already talented LB corps one of the most dangerous in the league. At the end of the day, identity is an important thing, but until this team addresses the glaring holes in their defense, they’ll be stuck in shootouts that they’ll lose more often than they win.
First, before we get to the main event, don’t sleep on the selection of OT Phil Loadholt in the second round. A massive lineman, he can step in opposite Bryant McKinnie and give Adrian Peterson all the running room he’ll need to dominate again. That said, the focus has to be on WR Percy Harvin. The positives are obvious: Harvin is fast, elusive, can attack defenses from various points in the offense, and hits top speed quicker than any other skill player in the draft. In short, he is one of the scariest offensive weapons taken this year, if not the scariest.
“Scary” is a good word for a player who has demonstrated discipline issues and is too small to get away with the route running he’s shown up to this point. Yes, I know DeSean Jackson proved me wrong last year, but that was in Andy Reid’s pass wacky offense. Here, Harvin will need to either learn to work the middle of the field or be the next Steve Smith in order to find scoring opportunities in an offense built primarily around a run game. Oh, and unless Harvin is fast enough to throw the ball to himself, that quarterback situation might be a problem too.
Green Bay Packers:
Perhaps no team took steps toward reclaiming a lost identity more brazenly than Green Bay with the pickup of DT B.J. Raji and OLB Clay Mathews. Matthews the hard hitting speed that Green Bay has always valued in their LB corps, and should be able to contribute immediately. More importantly, Raji restores the defensive line to the stuff of QB nightmares, putting a massive body in the middle of a defense transitioning to the 3-4 and showing signs of being the new Kris Jenkins in terms of quickness. Anyone who watched Jenkins’s influence on the Jets defense should know that a strong NT makes all the difference in a 3-4 scheme. The monstrous defense that carried this team to the NFC Championship game in 2007 is officially back.
To say that I’m not sold on Ryan Grant as a starter at the RB position would be an understatement. In one year, Grant went from being a wonderful between the tackles threat to Ron Dayne. For all the talk of the defense losing steam, maybe last year really taught us that Grant never had any to begin with, and relying on a first year starter to anchor a one dimensional offense was a bad idea. The fact that the team saw fit to avoid drafting a much needed replacement is the sort of stubbornness that gets coaches whose teams fell from the sky after losing a beloved icon fired.
Look, we all know I didn’t like the Cutler trade, but it’s hard to argue that the Bears didn’t get a lot better at a position of need with the move. Considering the haul they gave up for him, Cutler needs to be the focus of every move this team makes, and in drafting three wideouts, the Bears showed admirable commitment to finding the tools their new quarterback will need in order to succeed.
Two slow-footed pass catchers and a mediocre, undersized speedster does nothing to revive a pass attack whose best targets both play TE. Devin Hester belongs as a #2 receiver at best, and is unfortunately forced to fill the #1 spot for another year. If you’re wondering why Cutler’s getting hammered in public every night since the trade, it’s because the thought of chucking passes to this bunch will drive any man to drink. Hell, look at what it did to Kyle Orton.