Chicago, Detroit and Green Bay head into Thursday’s first round of the NFL draft needing help for defenses that ranked 19th or worse against the run and offenses that ranked 20th or worse overall.
Green Bay, which went 10-6 and finished second behind the Vikings in the NFC North, presumably is targeting an inside linebacker at No. 27. That would enable the Packers to move Clay Matthews back outside, improving the pass rush as well.
Detroit, which finished third at 7-9, has a new general manager in Bob Quinn. He’s looking to add starters on both lines but might be tempted to go for a receiver at No. 16 since the franchise is still reeling a bit from Calvin Johnson’s unexpected retirement.
And Chicago, which finished last at 6-10, is hoping second-year GM Ryan Pace can string together some consistently solid drafts, starting with the No. 11 pick, during a rebuilding process that could take a couple more offseasons after the mess former GM Phil Emery left behind.
Here is a closer look at the Vikings’ NFC North opponents:
Offseason upgrades: Pace moved quickly to fill two big holes in the middle of his defense. He signed former Bronco Danny Trevathan and former Colt Jerrell Freeman, inside linebackers he can trust. Re-signing cornerback Tracy Porter and adding Akiem Hicks up front also helps a defense that forced only 17 turnovers all last season.
Needs: There are so many spots to replenish on the roster, the Bears could go in any direction. A 3-4 edge rusher would be nice. Safety, cornerback and depth at receiver and on the offensive line also could come into play.
First-round targets at No. 11: Georgia OLB Leonard Floyd would fit the kind of athletic edge rusher the team needs. Notre Dame OT Ronnie Stanley appears to be a solid option. On the D-line, DTs Sheldon Rankins of Louisville and A’Shawn Robinson of Alabama would help a leaky defense up front.
Total picks: Nine. Two in the fourth, two in the sixth.
Offseason upgrades: Quinn addressed some depth issues by signing experienced veterans such as offensive lineman Geoff Schwartz, defensive tackle Stefan Charles, cornerback Johnson Bademosi, receiver Jeremy Kerley, cornerback Darrin Walls and safety Tavon Wilson. He also signed Marvin Jones, the best receiver in a weak free-agent market.
Needs: Defensive end, right offensive tackle and defensive tackle, where Haloti Ngata is 32 and Charles is on a one-year deal.
First-round targets at No. 16: With only two defensive ends on the roster, Oklahoma State’s Emmanuel Ogbah and Clemson’s Shaq Lawson and Kevin Dodd are possibilities. If a shake-up on the shaky offensive line is the direction, tackles Stanley of Notre Dame, Jack Conklin (Michigan State), Taylor Decker (Ohio State) or maybe Jason Spriggs (Indiana) are possible. At defensive tackle, Rankins, Robinson, Jarran Reed (Alabama) or Robert Nkemdiche (Ole Miss) would fit.
Total picks: Ten. Six are in rounds 5-7.
Green Bay Packers
Offseason upgrades: Never a fan of free agency, GM Ted Thompson did reach in to pluck tight end Jared Cook. That gives the Packers a tall target with some speed to improve what was the weakest part of the offense.
Needs: Inside linebacker, outside linebacker, defensive line and another tight end.
First-round targets at No. 27: Alabama ILB Reggie Ragland, the SEC Defensive Player of the Year, would appear to be the natural fit and value if he’s still on the board. Boise State OLB Kamalei Correa might be a reach at this point. Arkansas tight end Hunter Henry also is intriguing as a late first-round, early second-round selection. And the defensive line pool might be deep enough for the Packers to replace retired B.J. Raji.
Total picks: Nine. Three in the fourth round, including two compensatory.