Apr 17, 2012
The 2012 NFL Draft is nearly upon us, and this edition is much clearer than last year, at least in terms of team needs, because free agency has already taken place. Here on the staff blog, I’m breaking down each team’s top needs and fantasy outlook for the draft, going division by division. Today we head to the NFC North, and, if you missed them, check out the AFC East, AFC North, AFC South, AFC West, and NFC East. Got a player you want your team to target? Let me know in the comments.
Also, be sure to take a look at our massive 2012 Pre-Draft Rookie Report, which takes an in-depth look at all the top fantasy prospects.
Picks: 19, 50, 79, 111, 150, 184, 220
1. Offensive Tackle – The Bears addressed the offensive line in the 1st round of last year’s draft by taking Wisconsin OT Gabe Carimi, but this unit remains a big issue. Carimi started just two games and had knee surgery, while starting LT J’Marcus Webb has struggled in pass protection. The Bears will have to think hard about drafting someone like Ohio State’s Mike Adams or Stanford’s Jonathan Martin in the 1st round. Yes, that would mean taking an OT early in back-to-back years, but the unit continued to struggle last year by allowing a 5th-most 49 sacks. They need to keep Jay Cutler on his feet.
2. Defensive End – In a division with Aaron Rodgers and Matthew Stafford, you can never have enough pass rushers. The Bears look good with Julius Peppers and Israel Idonije, along with a developmental player in Corey Wootton, but they could still use another athletic pass rusher to go with Peppers. Illinois’ Whitney Mercilus and USC’s Nick Perry are possibilities at #19.
3. Cornerback – In a division with Rodgers and Stafford, you can never have enough cornerbacks either. Charles Tillman is entrenched in one starting spot, while Tim Jennings could use some competition at the other spot. The Bears did sign Kelvin Hayden, but, again, taking a CB is never a bad idea, especially in this division. They could target South Carolina’s Stephon Gilmore or Alabama’s Dre Kirkpatrick if they decide to go that route in the 1st round.
Fantasy Outlook: The most likely fantasy position the Bears will target is probably TE. Outgoing OC Mike Martz ignored the position, but Mike Tice could get it more involved. The Bears re-signed Kellen Davis as the starter with Matt Spaeth behind him, but an upgrade would be a good idea. Clemson’s Dwayne Allen, Georgia’s Orson Charles, and UL Lafayette’s Ladarius Green are all worth targeting on Day Two. Elsewhere, the Bears could still look to add a WR, even after the addition of Brandon Marshall, because of the questionable health of Johnny Knox.
Picks: 23, 54, 85, 117, 158, 219, 230
1. Cornerback – The Lions addressed this area last year by signing Eric Wright, but he’s already gone to Tampa Bay. That leaves Chris Houston, who’s in the final year of his contract, along with Aaron Berry and Alphonso Smith, who also will be free agents next year. The Lions finished 22nd against the pass last year, and cornerback is a glaring need at this point. With the 23rd overall pick, the hope is that either Stephon Gilmore of South Carolina or Dre Kirkpatrick of Alabama is still on the board, although they could also take a risk on the talented but troubled Janoris Jenkins.
2. Offensive Tackle – Jeff Backus has been entrenched as a starter for the last decade, and he re-signed on a two-year deal. However, he’ll be 35 years old this season, so it’s time to look for a replacement. If the Lions don’t go for a CB, especially if Gilmore and Kirkpatrick are off the board, Ohio State’s Mike Adams and Stanford’s Jonathan Martin are possibilities at OT. The Lions desperately need to keep QB Matthew Stafford healthy.
3. Defensive End – This certainly isn’t as big of a need as CB and OT, but the Lions rely heavily on their front four. They’re set in the middle with Ndamukong Suh, Corey Williams, and Nick Fairley, and the starters at DE are also very good with Kyle Vanden Bosch and Cliff Avril. However, you can never have enough quality pass rushers, and given that Vanden Bosch is in his 30s and Avril is currently under the franchise tag, it may be wise to add someone now.
Fantasy Outlook: The RB situation in Detroit is weird right now, as, if everyone was healthy, this unit could be stacked with Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure, and Kevin Smith. However, Best is dealing with a concussion issue, Leshoure missed his entire rookie season and is dealing with legal issues, and Smith also has durability questions. Adding depth later in the draft is a possibility. Depth at WR also isn’t out of the question, as the Lions have very little behind Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson, and Titus Young.
Green Bay Packers
Picks: 28, 59, 90, 123, 132, 133, 163, 197, 224, 235, 241, 243
1. Outside Linebacker – Perhaps the biggest weakness for the Packers last year was the pass rush, even with 2010 Defensive Player of the Year Clay Matthews. Matthews ended up with only 6 sacks, and as a team the Packers finished 27th in the league with only 29. They have very little off the edge aside from Matthews, and the lack of a pass rush was a big reason why the Packers ranked dead last in the league against the pass, giving up 300 yards per game. Clemson’s Andre Branch and Boise State’s Shea McClellin would both be fine choices at the end of the 1st round.
2. Defensive Back – The pass rush is the biggest concern for the league’s worst pass defense, but the Packers have some issues on the back end. Charles Woodson is 35 years old, and he could shift to the inside more if safety Nick Collins can’t return from his neck injury. The Packers would probably benefit from adding help at both corner and safety, so look for them to address the secondary on Day Two.
3. Center – In one of their few free agency moves, the Packers signed veteran C Jeff Saturday to replace the departed Scott Wells. However, Saturday is 36, so the Packers may also look to add a developmental player behind him.
Fantasy Outlook: The Packers boast arguably the best passing game in the league, with QB Aaron Rodgers throwing to a ridiculously deep WR corps. They don’t have a great running game, but James Starks isn’t bad for what they do, and second-year back Alex Green has potential. Still, if the Packers don’t feel comfortable – Starks and Green both have durability issues – it’s possible they could spend a fairly early pick on a back. Also, with Matt Flynn gone, they’ll have to think about drafting a developmental backup like San Diego State’s Ryan Lindley to compete with Graham Harrell behind Rodgers.
Picks: 3, 35, 66, 98, 128, 134, 138, 175, 210, 223
1. Offensive Tackle – The Vikings are in an interesting position in the draft, as they could fill any of their needs with an elite prospect with the 3rd overall pick. Of course, they could also be in position to trade back with a team targeting QB Ryan Tannehill. If they stay put, the smart move is drafting USC OT Matt Kalil, who could really help solidify the line in front of young QB Christian Ponder. The Vikings gave up 49 sacks last year, and Kalil would offer an immediate upgrade at LT. He should be able to start right away.
2. Cornerback – The Vikings ranked 26th against the pass last season, and they’re playing in a division that features Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, and Jay Cutler. They struggled with injuries last year, and given that Antoine Winfield is 35 years old, they need to look for an upgrade, even after signing Chris Carr and Zackary Bowman. They’ll almost certainly take Kalil with the 3rd overall pick, but CB Morris Claiborne is the second best option. They could also take a corner if they trade down.
3. Wide Receiver – The Vikings aren’t going to spend the #3 overall pick on Justin Blackmon with Kalil and Claiborne on the board, and even if they trade down they’re more likely to go for an OT or CB, although Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd is a possibility. Either way, WR is definitely a need, as they need another weapon for Ponder. They’re solid at TE, and Percy Harvin is a fantastic weapon at WR. However, the mediocre duo of Michael Jenkins and Devin Aromashodu needs competition, and a legitimate threat on the outside would really help Harvin, who’s best as a movable piece. On Day Two, they could target guys like Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins and South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffery.
Fantasy Outlook: Receiver is the only obvious need for the Vikings for fantasy. They drafted Ponder and TE Kyle Rudolph last year, in addition to signing TE John Carlson this year, and while he’s coming back from injury, RB Adrian Peterson remains arguably the most talented runner in the league. Maybe they could spend a later pick on someone to compete for a role as a receiving back, but it’s certainly not a glaring need.