NFC North: Javid Best

NFC North draft analysis

April, 28, 2012
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The 2012 NFL draft is in the books. Our silly little arguments on left tackles and injured receivers seem so long ago. Oh, the memories….

In a few years, we'll be able to evaluate this draft with a measure of accuracy. For now, let's just consider some immediate highlights and lowlights.


The Green Bay Packers fielded arguably the best offense in franchise history last season. Their defense, on the other hand, allowed more passing yards (4,796) than any NFL team that has ever played. So let's award the "Best Move" title to the Packers' decision to deeply supplement their defensive personnel in this draft.

The Packers selected six consecutive defensive players to open this affair, the result of unprecedented maneuvering by general manager Ted Thompson -- who traded up as many times in this draft (three) as he had in his six previous drafts combined. Speaking to reporters in Green Bay, Thompson joked that he is "ashamed" and it was "pathetic" to have given up three of his 11 picks in those trade-ups, but to me that spoke to how seriously the Packers took their defensive slide last season.

Thompson insisted that there was "no intent to do it that way," but that would make for one heck of a coincidence, wouldn't it? Regardless of why it happened, the Packers came away with a pair of pass-rushers/disruptors in linebacker Nick Perry (No. 28 overall) and defensive lineman Jerel Worthy (No. 51) and two defensive backs -- cornerback Casey Hayward (No. 62) and safety Jerron McMillian (No. 133) -- who will have opportunities to compete for immediate playing time.

Worthy, Hayward and linebacker Terrell Manning (No. 163) were the three players Thompson traded up for, giving you an idea of how strongly he must have felt about them. Will this group stabilize the Packers' defense in 2012? It's impossible to predict individual performances, but generally speaking I'll go with this theory: The more the merrier.


[+] EnlargeRyan Broyles
AP Photo/Alonzo J. AdamsDespite depth at the position and an injury history, the Detroit Lions drafted Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles.
The Detroit Lions had already used their first-round pick on a future need, Iowa tackle Riley Reiff, when they grabbed Oklahoma receiver Ryan Broyles in the second round. Not only did the Lions already have a deep set of pass catchers, but Broyles is still recovering from a torn ACL suffered last November.

So yes, it was initially surprising to see a match between the Lions and Broyles, even though it was easy to understand how the Lions made the decision. As we discussed at the time, the Lions follow their board in as tightly wrapped-up of a vacuum as any team in the NFL. Although they had significant need at cornerback and safety, they had Broyles rated higher and that was that.

Hopefully, those of you who were angry and didn't buy that explanation were assuaged by the latter stages of the Lions' draft. They chose three cornerbacks -- Louisiana-Lafayette's Dwight Bentley at No. 85, Albion's Chris Greenwood at No. 148 and New Mexico State's Jonte Green at No. 196 -- over their next five selections and finished with six consecutive defensive picks overall.


The riskiest move in this draft was one that actually didn't happen. The Chicago Bears did nothing to address their personnel along the offensive line, first in free agency and now the draft.

It's true that a pair of 2011 starters who suffered season-ending injuries, tackle Gabe Carimi and guard Chris Williams, will return in 2012. And the promotion of Mike Tice to offensive coordinator should provide linemen with more help and less one-on-one responsibility than they had in the previous two seasons.

But the bottom line is the Bears have been forced to undergo multiple rounds of midseason patchwork in each of the past two seasons to lessen the punishment on quarterback Jay Cutler. When coach Lovie Smith said last month that he was confident in his current lineup, many of us wondered if he was just covering the Bears' draft plans.

He wasn't, which means the Bears are setting themselves up for another choppy season of personnel changes if their confidence proves unfounded.


We noted before the draft that the NFC North stood on the precipice of transition from the Black and Blue to the Air and Space division. You could make an argument that all four NFC North teams had a need at running back, especially the Packers and Lions. But as the NFL continues to move toward the passing game, it was reasonable to wonder whether anyone would act on those needs.

They did not. In fact, not a single running back was drafted in this division through the first six rounds. The Packers declined to take one in spite of a thin backfield led by injury-prone James Starks. The Lions, meanwhile, didn't deem it necessary despite the questionable health histories of Jahvid Best, Mikel Leshoure and Kevin Smith.

Message sent, huh?
Let's catch up on the all-important Week 3 of the preseason:

Arizona Cardinals 14, Chicago Bears 9
Preseason record: 0-3
Of interest:
The Bears look off. I don't know how else to describe it. Quarterback Jay Cutler threw two interceptions, took four sacks and seemed hesitant on too many throws. In three preseason games, Mike Martz's offense has scored 36 points. Quite simply, it's not ready for the season to start. "I think we came out and put a lot of pressure on Game 3," Cutler said. "And sometimes it doesn't work out like that." I'll say. Meanwhile, the defense spent most of the night on the ropes against a Cardinals offense that has had its own struggles this summer. Late Saturday night, safety Chris Harris tweeted that it "might have been my worst game ever." Among other things, Harris took a poor angle on Stephen Williams' 27-yard touchdown reception. It didn't help that linebacker Lance Briggs left early with an ankle injury.
Local coverage: David Haugh of the Chicago Tribune: "If you're the Colts or another model of NFL consistency, you can dismiss chronic preseason problems as an aberration. If you're the Bears you have no such luxury and likely fear a trend. You certainly sense a familiar doom." The Bears continue to be plagued by uncharacteristic special teams miscues, writes Jeff Dickerson of Saturday night, it was a blocked field goal. And the normally-reliable Robbie Gould hit the left upright from 48 yards. Dan Pompei of the Chicago Tribune offers this balance: "It's true the Bears were without Brian Urlacher and Nick Roach, and then Lance Briggs for most of the game. That's like a baseball team without its starting outfield. So we should not be jumping off any skyscrapers today."
Next: Thursday at Cleveland Browns

Detroit Lions 35, Cleveland Browns 27
Preseason record: 2-1
Of interest: The Lions were trailing 27-21 when starters departed midway through the third quarter, the result of some shoddy defense but an offense that continued to display explosive potential. Running back Jahvid Best sprinted 51 yards on his only carry, and quarterback Matthew Stafford connected for a nice 7-yard touchdown pass to Bryant Johnson. But the defense allowed Browns quarterback Jake Delhomme to complete 20 of 25 passes. Other than a couple of big hits from defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh, along with cornerback Chris Houston's 12-yard fumble return for a touchdown, it was an alarming outing for the defense. Middle linebacker DeAndre Levy's early groin injury surely didn't help matters.
Local coverage: Stafford said the offense has "done a good job in preseason as a unit, executing and playing fast," according to Tom Kowalski of Best only had one carry because he felt "tight," after the first drive, according to coach Jim Schwartz via Chris McCosky of the Detroit News. Bob Wojnowski of the Detroit News on the defense: "Unless the line can rush the passer, tackle runners and occasionally destroy an opposing offense, the defense will have a hard time avoiding less-pleasant crowd noise, the kind that rhymes with "'Suuuh.'"
Next: Thursday vs. Buffalo Bills

Minnesota Vikings 24, Seattle Seahawks 13
Preseason record: 2-1
Of interest:
Receiver Percy Harvin played only after passing a final medical test Friday night. He said doctors believe they have pinpointed the causes of his migraine headaches and have given him a better plan to deal with them. He gamely pushed through 14 plays and took two hard hits that had him twisting his neck on the sideline. Meanwhile, the Vikings started rookie Chris Cook at right cornerback and my amateur eyes saw nothing to suggest he isn't ready to be their Week 1 starter. It was notable that Asher Allen served in the nickel and veteran Lito Sheppard was playing with the third team late in the fourth quarter.
Local coverage: Quarterback Brett Favre was thrilled to see once-and-current teammate Javon Walker's 25-yard touchdown reception in the fourth quarter, notes Jeremy Fowler of the St. Paul Pioneer Press. Phil Mackey of suggests that Tyrell Johnson will win the competition with Jamarca Sanford for the starting strong safety job. Coach Brad Childress was planning to watch tape of the game before deciding whether starters will play in Thursday's preseason finale, according to Judd Zulgad of the Star Tribune.
Next: Thursday versus Denver Broncos

Earlier: Our review of the Green Bay Packers' 59-24 victory against the Indianapolis Colts.