We are only one day into the draft, but a lot has already happened and the NFC North has already gotten more interesting. Let us take a look at and evaluate the division’s four selections from round one of the draft.
Chicago Bears select LB Roquan Smith, Georgia: A+
The Bears were thin at inside linebacker outside of Danny Trevathan and they got the surest thing as far as defensive players go in the draft. The only question about Smith is size, though he figures to play at about 6-foot-1, 240, which should be enough to thrive in the league. Smith has elite speed and instincts for the position who should be a tackling machine immediately. He also has the athleticism to shadow virtually any running back in pass coverage. Simply put, Ryan Pace and the Bears hit a home run with this one.
Detroit Lions select C/G Frank Ragnow, Arkansas: B-
As far as centers go, I felt Ragnow was the second-best on the board at 20. Among any interior linemen available, I had him fourth. Will Hernandez, Isaiah Wynn and Billy Price were all valued higher by many projections. That being said, Ragnow is a highly-regarded talent who graded well in most advanced metrics in both 2016 and 2017. Plus, he fills a position of need for the Lions. Assuming he takes over the starting center role, it is a solid pick. As a guard, however, I see too many better names still on the board to grade it any higher than a B-minus.
Green Bay Packers select CB Jaire Alexander, Louisville: A
The Packers made two trades on the night, moving back from 14 to 27, then up to 18. With that pick, they got a guy who may have been the pick at 14 anyway and was the best defensive back on the board. Green Bay is desperately in need of secondary help, and Alexander provides one-on-one cover talent and other-worldly athleticism. He could also potentially get some run as a kick-returner. Though a little undersized, Green Bay now has a player who has proven he can stand up to top-flight receivers.
Minnesota Vikings select CB Mike Hughes, UCF: B
Drafting for need in the first round is a dangerous game unless it is a quarterback. It is bound to lead to reaching on inferior talent. The Vikings did not do that. While everyone and their mother was clamoring for them to go offensive line, Rick Spielman got his perceived best player, someone who brings toughness and versatility. Hughes is a supreme athlete who plays a physical style, jams receivers hard and gets his hands dirty in run defense. On top of that, he was one of the nation’s best return men.
The issue I have with the pick is the level of offensive line talent left on the board. Both Hernandez and Connor Williams could have realistically been called best player available at 30 and they filled a position of greater need than corner. However, as I said earlier, the strategy should always be talent over need. And Hughes has ringing endorsements from Mike Zimmer.
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