In a division with no lack of headlines this offseason, the teams of the NFC North had their fair share of shake-ups leading up to the draft:
- Chicago swaps its number 1 pick with Carolina in exchange for WR D.J. Moore and other draft capital (March 2023)
- Aaron Rodgers is officially traded to the New York Jets (April 2023)
- The Lions have a handful of suspensions due to gambling (April 2023)
I’d like to recap some banner draft moves made by each team and how it affects their 2023 outlook.
NFC North 2023 Draft Recap
While there are differing opinions on taking OT Darnell Wright at pick 10 overall (when isn’t there?), I think the pick may pan out to be a good-even great pick. Should Wright aid that line and give Fields even decent protection, I think this helps catapult this potentially proficient offense featuring DJ Moore, Chase Claypool, and Cole Kmet.
Day two saw the Bears address an atrocious defense at both the Cornerback and Defensive Line -Tyrique Stevenson and Gervon Dexter Sr., respectively.
Running Back Roschon Johnson, who backed up Bijan Robinson at Texas, is an intriguing pick as he can compete for a starting job with Herbert and Foreman. Being that he sat behind Robinson, we don’t have the largest body of work from which to judge, but Johnson did post an absurd 49% missed tackle number in 2022! I am going to predict that Johnson gets that starting spot in Chicago and finishes as a top-10 rusher.
Via previous trades and day-of trade-ups, the Lions came out swinging with four picks in the first two rounds. They sure covered their bases on both sides of the ball with the following picks:
- 1(12) – Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama
- 1(18) –Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa
- 2(34) – Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa
- 2(45) – Brian Branch, S, Alabama
After courting players from both the University of Alabama and the University of Iowa, they did begin to branch out a bit (see what I did there?). In Round 3, they went out and took QB Hendon Hooker from Tennessee. This is a great value and insurance behind a maybe-not-so-long-term guy like Jared Goff running their offense.
After Detroit’s big mid-season turnaround with a younger team, their successful draft should only help them move through the division even more smoothly.
Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay front office sure drafted with Jordan Love top of their mind as FIVE total pass-catchers were taken– loading up around Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs. Welcome to the Packers Luke Musgrave, Jayden Reed, Tucker Craft, Dontayvion Wicks, and Grant Dubose. These picks were certainly a nod to the new era.
Of course, our first-round (13th overall) pick was Lukas Van Ness out of Iowa which is very on-brand for the Pack. They love snatching these high-value defensive guys out of the Midwest. This will be a fun addition to the interior D-line.
Something of note: GM Brian Gutekunst tends to stay in that elite RAS zone yet again. All drafted players sans two had scores above nine.
My expectations for the 2023 season are staying tempered at best as we have an extremely young offensive unit that could gel together and be deadly or completely fail.
Wide Receiver Jordan Addison, taken with their first overall pick (23), adds firepower to this offense and should bolster Justin Jefferson even more. This Vikings team ranked 7th in total offense in 2022 and I expect this Addison addition to only help.
New Defensive Coordinator Brian Flores should be excited about the middle draft picks as they were all defensive-oriented but more specifically versatile. Whether playing inside or outside the D-line or CB/Safety hybrid, their picks of CB Mekhi Blackmon, S/CB Jay Ward, and DT Jaquelin Roy will all compete for starting positions.
Though they are committed to Cousins at least through this next season when his contract expires, Minnesota did take a Quarterback in the fifth round: Jaren Hall out of BYU. The upside looks to be there and he can develop behind the veteran this year.
However you slice it, the NFC North was not a wildly strong division in 2022; however, I do think there will be improvement among most of these teams based on free agency and draft pickups.