Defense should be the highest priority for at least two of the Vikings’ NFC North opponents on Day 1 of the NFL draft.
In Chicago, the Bears have ranked 31st in scoring defense in each of the past two seasons. Yeah, they need a receiver to replace Brandon Marshall, but the defense is a mess at all three levels. So look for new General Manager Ryan Pace and new coach John Fox to not overthink the Bears’ biggest problem. Pace came from New Orleans, which took a defender in the first round of six of the past seven drafts.
In Green Bay, GM Ted Thompson needs an inside linebacker, which he’ll likely find at No. 30, before turning his attention to cornerback, which once was a strength but now is undermanned.
Meanwhile, in Detroit, the trade for defensive tackle Haloti Ngata probably will shift the focus back to the offensive line. The Lions have issues along the line and no starter at left guard.
Here’s a closer look at the Vikings’ NFC North opponents heading into the draft:
Picks: Six. One in each of the first six rounds (7, 39, 71, 106, 142, 182).
Needs: Every level on defense, receiver, developmental quarterback.
Will the Bears trade at No. 7? Not in our scenario, which has Southern Cal defensive tackle Leonard Williams falling into Chicago’s lap. But the Bears are tied with six other teams for fewest picks. So don’t rule out a trade down.
What are they thinking? They’re thinking the receiver class is deep enough that they can get one in the second round while using the first round to make a much-needed upgrade to a defense that ranked 31st in scoring defense (27.6 points allowed per game) a year ago.
The pick: Leonard Williams, DT, Southern Cal.
Picks: Six. One each in Rounds 1-3 and 5-7. (23, 54, 88, 168, 200, 240).
Needs: Offensive line. Defensive tackle later, receiver, cornerback.
Will the Lions trade at No. 23? They won’t go up, but, like a lot of teams outside the top 20, they’re interested in moving down.
What are they thinking? If they don’t conjure up a trade partner and they stay at No. 23, offensive line is GM Martin Mayhew’s direction. The team will go only as far as Matthew Stafford can throw it, so he needs protection. Florida State’s Cameron Erving is the rare lineman with the size, quickness and skill to play all five spots on the line.
The pick: Cameron Erving, OL, Florida State.
Picks: Nine, including two sixth-round compensatory picks. (30, 62, 94, 129, 166, 206, 210, 213, 247).
Needs: Even with Clay Matthews switching to inside linebacker, the Packers were and still are thin there. Cornerback, once a deep spot for Green Bay, needs to be replenished. Tight end, defensive line.
Will the Packers trade at No. 30? They won’t go up, but they could move down and catch the second-round wave of corners and linebackers while adding more picks.
What are they thinking? Three years after drafting heavily for defensive need and whiffing multiple times (see: Jerel Worthy, Jerron McMillian, Terrell Manning), GM Ted Thompson might be more inclined to stick with the best players available. Thompson, like most GMs, talks about evaluating a draft three years out. Well, it’s been three years for those picks. If the Packers stay at No. 30 and UCLA’s Eric Kendricks is there, his speed, quickness and toughness would be welcome inside.
The pick: Eric Kendricks, ILB, UCLA.