The 2018 NFL season prevailed as disastrous for the NFC North franchises. The Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings proved everyone wrong from the outset of the season, failing to live up to their enormous hype. Despite possessing franchise starters and relatively good squads, they both missed out on the postseason. As for the Detroit Lions, well, they continued their tradition of being the loser up north. But for the Chicago Bears, dominance was on the cards. They concluded the year with a 12-4 win/loss record on their way to winning the divisional crown for the first time in a decade. They too however, had their season ruined unceremoniously, after Cody Parkey nailed a ‘double doink’ off the uprights, and thus their season was over.
The time for feeling sorry for themselves is over however. As the draft inches ever closer, the time is now to search for the next franchise player. But who exactly will that be? Find out below.
Detroit Lions – Devin White, ILB, LSU
The only positive of the Lions’ season is that they get a high selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. They struggled immensely on both sides of the ball last year, but for me their defence needs help immediately.
The Lions’ linebacking core appeared dumbfounded for the majority of the season last year. Personally, I like Jarrad Davis’ production and his playing style, however, apart from him their remains very little talent at the core of one of the most important positions in football.
Devin White of Louisiana State University could be the exact addition they need to bolster their struggling unit. White’s collegiate career was one of legends, within which he won numerous awards. In his senior year, he notched 123 tackles, 12 tackles for a loss and 3 sacks. He was also disruptive in pass coverage, evidenced by his contribution of 6 pass deflections. In addition, he also forced 3 fumbles and recovered 2. For his efforts, White was subsequently awarded the Butkas Award, given annually to the best linebacker at collegiate level. Moreover, he was named a Consensus All-American and was named as First Team All-SEC in 2017 and 2018.
Through 3 years at the school, he contributed 286 combined tackles. He was also effective in getting in behind the line of scrimmage, adding 28.5 TFL and 8.5 sacks. His production is thoroughly game-changing, considering he also produced 1 interception, 9 pass deflections, 3 fumble recoveries and 4 forced fumbles. White remains the only player in SEC history to be named the Defensive Player of the Week 4 times in the same season.
GB Packers – Montez Sweat, EDGE, Mississippi State
The Packers possess both the 12th and 30th overall pick in the 2019 NFL Draft, thus they need to make the right selections this year more than any other. Simply put, they aren’t all that talented on offence or defence.
That said, the steady decline of Clay Matthews is becoming increasingly evident, which means the Packers could look to bolster their strength in pass rushing. Thus, I think the Green Bay Packers will go all out for edge rusher, Montez Sweat. I get it, I do, this is a hugely bold take. But here me out. Firstly, I’ll admit there remains holes in Sweat’s game as we stand right now. Often throughout last season if he lost the strength battle, then he could be handled. In addition, at times he appears to have stiff hips in transition, but these are both improve-able weaknesses.
On the other hand, he possesses all the right attributes to be successful in the league. At 6”6’ and 252lbs, Sweat is a freak of nature at the position. Furthermore, he is relentless in his pursuit of the quarterback and has exquisite speed coupled with solid strength. At the Senior Bowl this past week, Sweat impressed heavily in practice, often getting the better of his opponent.
In just two years at Mississippi State, he notched 101 combined tackles. He also found himself behind enemy lines, accumulating 29.5 TFL and 22.5 sacks. Moreover, Sweat forced and recovered 1 fumble through those seasons.
Conclusively, I don’t think selecting Sweat with the 12th overall pick is a good idea. However, the hype surrounding him, and his Senior Bowl performances, may just jolt him into a first round selection.
GB Packers – Noah Fant, TE, Iowa
Noah Fant is one of three first-round calibre tight ends available in the draft this year. He was exceptional in his collegiate career and could be an even greater player than Jimmy Graham ever was in Wisconsin. Honestly, that’s not all that hard to beat.
Fant featured in 30 games over a three-year career as an Iowa Hawkeye. There, he amassed 1082 yards and 19 touchdowns, averaging 13.9 yards per catch.
In terms of physicality, Fant weighs in at approximately 241lbs and stands at 6”5’. He possesses good hands and can catch in traffic. As well as that, he boasts solid burst at the line and can go toe-to-toe with most defensive backs. Finally, he can also do what Graham failed to do effectively in the last couple of seasons – block successfully. For me, he could be one of the best selections in the draft, whilst falling under the radar of most franchises.
Minnesota Vikings – Jawaan Taylor, OT, Florida
The Vikings were predicted as being one of the best teams in the nation at the inception of the season. That, of course, became an awful prediction as Kirk Cousins and co. finished the season 8-7-1, failing to reach the playoffs in the process. With Cousins at the helm, the Vikings simply need to seal the gaps on the offensive line this year. He was the tied 10th most sacked QB last season, being sacked 40 times.
Jawaan Taylor of the University of Florida could be an exquisite acquisition to the team. Despite having only concluded his Junior year at college, Taylor elected to declare his eligibility for the forthcoming NFL Draft. He weighs in at 328lbs and stands at 6”5’, evidently he is a monster of a man. He possesses three-years of starting experience and has been touted as both agile and strong in pass/run protection. As you can see below, Taylor can go toe-to-toe with anyone, even Montez Sweat.
Chicago Bears – Andy Isabella, WR, UMass
The Chicago Bears ultimately gave everything up in order to garner the talents of perennial Pro Bowler Khalil Mack last season. As everyone knows, the Bears are without their first and second round picks after trading for the aforementioned Mack. So who do I have them selecting in the upcoming draft?
Andy Isabella, UMass. For me, the Bears are excellent on defence, despite the fact that they may lose Adrian Amos in the offseason. I feel that they need to piece together as much talent as possible around Mitchell Trubisky in order to elevate that unit to the same heights as the D. That’s where Andy Isabella comes in.
In Isabella’s senior year, he posted 1698 yards and 13 touchdowns on 102 receptions. He also averaged 16.6 yards per catch that season, and for his efforts was named a Consensus All-American. In terms of talent, Isabella has a high ceiling despite his smaller stature. He boasts electric burst, solid speed and can catch in traffic. Furthermore, he is exquisite at route running, often using his nimbleness to evade the defender.
He balled out in this years Senior Bowl, scoring a touchdown on this screen play where he breaks two tackles to run it into the end zone.
That’s it for the NFC North’s first round draft projections, agree or disagree? Let us know over on Twitter, @NinetynineYards.
Image Credits – NFL.