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Saturday, April 28, 2012
NFC North draft analysis

By Kevin Seifert

NFC draft analysis: East | West | North | South AFC: East | West | North | South

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.

BEST MOVE

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.

MOST SURPRISING MOVE

Ryan Broyles
Despite 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.

RISKIEST MOVE

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.

FILE IT AWAY

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?