Looking ahead to the start of the 2018 NFL season the NFC North has reestablished itself as the NFL’s premier division. Every team takes the offseason to improve their roster through the draft and free agency, but simply the NFC North did it best. All four teams look ready to make the playoffs and hopefully make a Super Bowl run.
The Vikings had a taste of that Super Bowl dream last year and fell just short. The Packers are always seemingly in the conversation when Aaron Rodgers is healthy. The Bears have had a loud offseason improving every part of their game, and the Lions have quietly built a well-rounded team. Recapping this offseason each team made some big moves, but some smaller moves could have a bigger influence on their wins. Let’s take a look at each team’s most underrated move that could have the biggest impact.
Green Bay Packers:
CB Josh Jackson
The Packers absolutely love Iowa football players and for a good reason. For example; DB Micah Hyde, DT Mike Daniels, and OT Brian Bulaga, all studs that they hope Jackson can emulate. The Packers finally were active in the offseason signing big name guys like Jimmy Graham and defensive end Muhammad Wilkerson. The front office finally decided not to waste the most talented quarterback of all time’s career, and start giving him some more help. Took them long enough. Josh Jackson should have the biggest impact of them all. A surprising fall in the draft turned out to be a match made in heaven for Green Bay. 2 first round talent corners in their pocket will help a dismal Packers secondary. Jackson being selected second to Jaire Alexander will still prove to be more productive in the long run.
Josh Jackson had the best tape regarding coverage of any corner in college football of the last 5 years. He was the most targeted cornerback in all of last season. That should mean he allowed a lot of yards and receptions right? Wrong. He allowed a passer rating of 31.9 which is incredible for how often the ball was thrown his way. A 31.9 passer rating is lower than if the quarterback threw the ball in the dirt. You can not say that about any cornerback in this recent draft class and like the other successful Hawkeyes turned Packers Jackson will 100000% be right behind them. With Jackson’s great coverage ability he should be able to help the Packers secondary in a big way. Hopefully Green Bay has put enough pieces around Rodgers for another Super Bowl Championship.
CB Mike Hughes
A reoccurring theme with cornerbacks making an impact in the NFC North here, but for a good reason. Cousins, Rodgers and Trubisky are all talented gunslingers that do not shy away from a shootout. Minnesota has constantly rotated corners opposite of Xavier Rhodes for the past couple of years, and Terrance Newman can only defy the laws of physics and nature for so long. Selecting Mike Hughes solves that problem. Hughes should step in as a great number two corner and put Minnesota’s defense over the top. He will be enough to bring the Purple People Eaters back and meaner than ever.
Hughes was relatively lock-down for the (National Champion) UCF Knights. He didn’t allow a Catch longer than 21 yards last season. With shut down ability like that and Harrison Smith over the top of his routes next year, you may want to rethink throwing the ball farther than five yards downfielThere’sres a good chance one of them will come down with the ball. The Vikings not allowing anyone to score is gonna be very hard to beat. The addition of Mike Hughes hopefully makes the Vikings Super Bowl champions because anything less is a failure.
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OT Tyrell Crosby
A deep dive here to find the biggest impact player for the Lions this offseason in the fifth round of the draft; Oregon Offensive Tackle Tyrell Crosby. The Lions have made huge strides to improve their offensive line this year by drafting Frank Ragnow, a center from Arkansas. Although Tyrell Crosby could have the bigger impact. Protecting Stafford should be the Lions first priority for the next decade and Crosby will surely help accomplish that. Playing the most important position on the O-line he will protect Stafford’s blind side and keep him out of harm’s way.
Tyrell Crosby was a brick wall for the Oregon Ducks. In college, he didn’t allow a sack going all the way back to 2015 when they played Utah and it was a single sack. No ones perfect but Tyrell is damn close. Crosby was the 4th ranked tackle in the draft according to PFF.com and the Lions stole him in the fifth round. We will have to wait for him to beat out Taylor Decker for the starting job but it’s inevitable that he will start. Stafford might just have his best year yet which also means so will the Lions.
WR Taylor Gabriel
Chicago’s biggest moves of the offseason came from signing star receiver Allen Robinson, tight end Trey Burton, and receiver Taylor Gabriel. While singing Gabriel wasn’t an under the radar move, it definitely didn’t get the hype it deserved. The 27-year-old should be an instant impact player for the Bears next season in what should be his prime years of production. Taylor should be a sure-handed receiver able to bail out Trubisky in tough situations. Gabriel can bring easy 5-6 yard gains, which Chicago was missing all of last year. Also bringing blinding speed and agility to stretch the field from the slot position and keep opposing safeties honest.
While Robinson and Burton bring big-play potential, Gabriel brings the safe every down grinder that Chicago desperately needs. He should be Nagy’s favorite acquisition because his play style resembles Receiver Tyreek Hill who had a career year under Nagy in Kansas City. Hauling over 1,000 yards receiving on 75 catches Hill was the double-edged sword that defenses just can’t handle. If Gabriel’s impact is anything like Hill’s the Bears should expect the same results, a playoff season. Fans should be on the edge of their seat to see how Chicago uses the speedy Taylor Gabriel.