NFC North Division Draft Recap

April 27, 2009

With the completion of this year's NFL Draft, hope once again springs eternal in the league. Of course, that will all come crashing to a halt in the next few months, when some of these picks get injured, holdout, or just plain don't pan out. Until then, each franchise probably walked away from the draft feeling that they at least addressed some of their off-season needs.

Here is our team-by-team draft evaluation of the NFC North:

Chicago Bears

The Bears undoubtedly had one of the most productive off-seasons in the league, not only by trading for QB Jay Cutler and signing left tackle Orlando Pace, but also by making several solid draft selections.

With their first pick, the Bears nabbed San Jose State defensive end JaRonn Gilbert. Gilbert has a good motor, athleticism, and the necessary mean streak to play on the Bears defense.

With their next pick the Bears grabbed Oklahoma wideout Juaquin Iglesias of Oklahoma. With good size and a willingness to go across the middle and make the tough catches, Iglesias should definitely be a welcome addition to the Bears receiving corps. He could also contribute on special teams.

Chicago followed this pick by grabbing two more solid athletes in rounds 4 and 5, in cover corner DJ Moore from Vanderbilt, and fifth round speedster Johnny Knox, a wide receiver out of Abilene Christian.

Also in Round 5, the Bears selected Ohio State linebacker Marcus Freeman, a versatile 'backer with decent coverage skills, who may need to shed a few pounds in order to better fit their cover 2 scheme.

The Bears finished off one of their better drafts in recent memory by picking up Oregon free safety and special teams maven Al Afalava, as well as workout wonder Derek Kinder of Pitt.

Overall, it was an excellent draft for the Bears.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings made an instant splash and left themselves open to second-guessing by drafting Florida's Percy Harvin with their first round pick (#22 overall). However, when one judges this guy solely by how well he plays football, any criticism of his talent sounds foolish. By putting Harvin into an offense that already features the game's best running back in Adrian Petersen, and then pairing him with the speedy Bernard Berrian on the perimeter, this selection will probably pay instant dividends. Look for Harvin to have a rookie year much like the one produced by DeSean Jackson in Philadelphia last year.

With their second pick, the Vikings made another sound decision, selecting the aptly-named Phil Loadholt from Oklahoma. A true road-grader and likely first year starter at right tackle, the addition of Loadholt should help the Vikes' power rushing attack. However, Loadholt will have to improve his balance in pass protection against the league's speedy pass rushers.

The Vikes also picked corner Asher Allen from Georgia, who should be able to contribute right away in Minnesota's cover 2 scheme. The team then added another physical intimidator to the roster in Jasper Brinkley out of South Carolina. Brinkley will bring depth to a young and developing group of linebackers.

Green Bay Packers

The Pack instantly filled a pressing need in their new 3-4 defensive scheme by drafting imposing nose tackle B.J. Raji out of Boston College. In picking the massive Raji, the Packers have got themselves a player who has the ability to be a potentially dominate force for the next 10 years in the mold of a Jerry Ball or Chester McGlockton. More importantly, Raji's ability to demand a double-team will let loose tackle machines A.J. Hawk and Nick Barnett, and also could free up his mates along the defensive line.

The Packers made another solid selection by drafting USC outside linebacker Clay Matthews Jr. with their second pick of the first round. Although Matthews started his career at Southern Cal as a walk-on, by his senior year he had become one of the top performers on an elite defense. Matthews will be an excellent complement to Hawk, Barnett, and Aaron Kampman, in the Pack's already solid linebacking corps. He is the son of NFL veteran 'backer Clay Matthews Sr., and nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.

The Pack again chose to bolster their crew of linebackers with the addition of Brad Jones from Colorado. Jones has exceptional speed, and could definitely help on third down and special teams.

Green Bay also managed to improve their depth on the offensive line by drafting tackles T.J. Lang and Jamon Meredith from Eastern Michigan and South Carolina, respectively.

Sixth round draft pick Brandon Underwood from Cincinnati was picked to provide some added depth and increased competition in the defensive backfield, and rounded out the Pack's impressive draft.

Detroit Lions

After becoming the first team in history to go 0-16, the Lions had numerous holes to fill. They wisely closed out negotiations with quarterback Matthew Stafford prior to the Draft, securing him as the #1 overall pick, future starter, and face of the franchise. Typically classified as a classic pocket passer, Stafford possesses a strong arm, good toughness, and underrated mobility.

The Lions passing attack, already featuring one of the game's best young receivers in Calvin Johnson, will be bolstered by the addition of tight end Brandon Pettigrew, as well as off-season acquisitions Ronald Curry and Bryant Johnson. Pettigrew was likely the best prospect at his position in this year's draft class. Equally adept at blocking and receiving, the 6'5" Pettigrew is an instant upgrade, and should be an immediate starter and big-time contributor on offense.

However, it remains to be seen whether the Lions have an offensive line capable of protecting quarterbacks Stafford and Daunte Culpepper, especially considering the fact that they did next to nothing to improve a unit that allowed the most sacks in the NFL last year.

The Lions also spent some picks on much-needed help for the defensive unit, nabbing hard-hitting safety Louis Delmas of nearby Western Michigan. With the selection of Delmas the Lions have likely got themselves a first-rate intimidator in the secondary.

Detroit's two third round picks were spent on receiver/kick returner Derrick Williams from Penn State, and little-known, yet immensely talented defensive tackle Sammie Lee Hill out of Stillman.

With one of their three picks in Round 7, the Lions picked their lone offensive lineman in Lydon Murtha from Nebraska. The Lions then completed their draft by selecting hard-working (yet injury prone) Cal linebacker Zack Follet, and Dan Gronkowski, a blocking tight end from Maryland.

By Kweku Turkson
Staff Reporter for


  1. Finally a star QB to go with our D. This draft is icing on the cake. Go Bears!

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