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2023 NFL Draft Recap: NFC North Draft Grades

With the NFL draft behind us, @timbmartens takes a look at how every team in the NFC North did with their selections and the impact they will have in fantasy.

We had all sorts of anticipation the last few months for the NFL Draft. After a whirlwind weekend, the draft came and went in three short days. Now we are left digging through all of the different destinations that 259 players went to, as well as undrafted free-agent signings.  

The NFC North contains several of the oldest franchises in NFL history and some of the oldest and most bitter rivalries. Any true fan of an NFC North team always finds themselves excited for their team’s draft haul, while trying to find holes and faults in their divisional opponents.  

And this draft season feels a little different with the news just days before the first pick that Aaron Rodgers will no longer be a member of the NFC North for the first time in 18 years.  With the division in flux, how well did every team do in their draft? And what fantasy impact players did we see land with these teams? Let’s dig in. 

Chicago Bears 

The team that originally held the number one pick in the draft was busy this draft season. The Bears will have to be graded with the addition of the extra draft capital and veteran wide receiver D.J. Moore as part of the haul. In fact, Timo Riske of PFF tweeted a chart showing the Bears gained the most trade net value in any trades in the 2023 NFL draft: 

But we have known about the trade with the Panthers for a month and a half. How did the Bears do with their picks? 

The Bears initially traded back from nine to ten with the Eagles on Thursday night. They picked up a 2024 fourth-round pick in the process. The Eagles were moving up for DT Jalen Carter, while the Bears had their eyes on the other side of the ball. They added Tennessee RT Darnell Wright at ten. Wright was a five-star recruit out of high school and showed great tape. He specifically kept third-overall pick Will Anderson at bay in the Volunteer’s game against the Crimson Tide in 2022.  

Wright was a huge upgrade to keep Justin Fields protected in the pocket and to help open holes in the running game. But all of the Bears’ day two picks went to the other side of the ball. Picks 53, 56, and 64 went to DT Gervon Dexter, CB Tyrique Stevenson, and DT Zacch Pickens. The Bears were awful on both sides of the ball last year, and an infusion of help and youth was definitely needed for the defense. 

From a fantasy perspective, things got very interesting at the start of day three for the Bears. The team brought in Texas running back Roschon Johnson at pick 115 and Cincinnati wide receiver Tyler Scott at 133. Johnson looks to be a back that will be able to fight for playing time with the Bears, with only D’Onta Foreman and Khalil Herbert rostered ahead of him currently in the depth chart. Scott becomes a possible deep threat for Justin Fields in the passing game.  

With their final three picks, the Bears went back to the defensive side of the ball. They brought in Minnesota CB Terell Smith, Kennesaw St’s first-ever draft pick in DT Travis Bell, and the penultimate pick of the draft was Stanford CB, Kendall Williamson. These players factor in as depth options, as well as possible special teams contributors in Smith and Williamson. 

The Bears’ draft was a very nice mix of offensive and defensive talent. Maybe most noteworthy was the number of athletes added to the team. According to @MathBomb’s RAS ratings, all ten of the Bears draft picks had a high athletic score: 

From a fantasy perspective, the Bears gave owners a bit to look at. Wright anchoring the Bears’ offensive line should be a big help to Justin Fields. And by helping Fields, D.J. Moore, Chase Claypool, Darnell Mooney, and Cole Kmet get a boost.  

Additionally, Johnson and Scott become very interesting fantasy options in rookie drafts. Roschon, in particular, is a name I expect to move up boards in the next few weeks. He is a talented back with low tread on the tires and joins an open backfield. Foreman looks like the lead man in Chicago currently, but he joined the team on a one-year deal. This could be Roschon’s backfield going forward. 

Some of the picks felt like the Bears were reaching on players due to athletic score instead of overall college production. This is a well-balanced group that should help this young team continue to build into the future. And don’t forget they will have two first-round picks come next year.  

Grade: B+ 

Detroit Lions 

If there was one team talked about the most on night one, it was probably the Detroit Lions. And for many, they were being talked about for all the wrong reasons.  

If you want to know what kind of surprise it was to see the Lions take Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs at 12 overall, just check out Dan Toomey and my reactions to the pick on night one of the Dynasty Nerds live stream.

The wild ride didn’t end there as the Lions went on to select Iowa LB Jack Campbell at pick 18. While a very good player, Campbell was seen by many as a second-round draft pick that now went in the top 20.  

Detroit was able to add draft stock by trading down with the Cardinals from six to 12. The general talk was adding a running back and interior linebacker with two premier picks was maybe not the best use of assets for the Lions. However, as Dan and I discussed on night two of the draft, the Lions’ total haul starts to feel different as you see their day two picks. 

Adding TE Sam LaPorta, S Brian Branch, and QB Hendon Hooker with their next three picks, the Lions found good value on day two. As mentioned on the draft show, things feel a lot different when you don’t look at the pick the players were taken, but the haul in total. Many experts had Branch as a mid-first-round pick. And Hendon Hooker was a QB that could have sneaked into the first round. And right before the draft, LaPorta started seeing late-first mock landing spots as well.  

Detroit is going to be ridiculed by many for having spent very high capital on Gibbs and Campbell. This might be true, but they are not getting enough credit for the actual group of players they added. While it seems there may have been something in the coffee for the Lions brass when they went to Alabama and Iowa’s pro days in particular, the group is undoubtedly a talented set of rookies.  

From a fantasy perspective, Gibbs is obviously the biggest name. And with the Lions moving running back D’Andre Swift to the Eagles on day three, Gibbs looks to be a player the team certainly wants to build around. Free agent signee David Montgomery may start the year as the lead back, but you don’t draft a running back with the 12th overall pick and not use him in your offense. 

Hooker is the other name that really fascinates me here in Detroit. Jared Goff is still QB1 in Motor City, but Hooker is a talented QB prospect that will get time to heal from an ACL injury and learn the offense at his speed in Detroit. In Superflex leagues, Hooker starts getting really interesting as a pick in the early-to-mid second round. 

Some experts may hate the Lions class, but I do think the overall set of players is a really solid group. They do have to be knocked in their overall grade. It doesn’t feel like they did their best to maximize the value of the premier picks they had in this draft. 

Grade: C+ 

Green Bay Packers 

After moving Aaron Rodgers just days before the draft, the Packers had given themselves four selections in the top 78 picks of the 2023 NFL draft. And having moved on from Rodgers, the team used three of those picks to boost their pass catchers for new starting quarterback Jordan Love. 

Picks 42, 50, and 78 were used on two tight ends and a wide receiver: Luke Musgrave, Jayden Reed, and Tucker Kraft. While all talented players, pairing the picks of Musgrave and Kraft felt a bit confusing. Or at least redundant.  

NFL teams will run offenses in 12 personnel with two tight ends on the field at once. Typically, you have a blocking tight end and a pass-catching tight end during those situations. But Musgrave and Kraft both fit the pass-catching profile.  

Musgrave came in at 6’6” and 253 lbs at the combine. Kraft was 6’5” and 254 lbs. Musgrave ran a 4.61 40-yard dash, jumped a 36” vertical, and had a 10’5” broad jump. Kraft ran 4.69 and jumped 34” and 10’2”. For all intents and purposes, they are the same profile and prospect from a measurements and combine numbers standpoint.  

This isn’t unheard of out of Green Bay. We have seen them do something similar in the past when they drafted running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams in the same draft class. As far as fantasy stock, it is hard to know who will become the young tight end worth rostering in Green Bay.  

The Packers loaded up with late-depth pieces, with six picks in the sixth and seventh rounds. The meat of their draft came earlier. In the fifth round, they did add quarterback Sean Clifford out of Penn St. and wide receiver Dontayvion Wicks out of Virginia. Clifford was a head-scratcher for me as I didn’t feel like he would be drafted, let alone picked in the fifth round. Wicks, meanwhile, is a bigger-bodied receiver for the Packers, but he struggled with drops and poor route running last year.  

But the top prospect the Pack brought in was DE Lukas Van Ness out of Iowa. I personally did not have nearly as high of a grade on Van Ness as others did. While I think Van Ness is a strong athlete and has great power and bend, he is very inexperienced and never started a game at Iowa. I am not quite ready to believe that Van Ness will be a consistent disruptor. I think he could stand to struggle to adjust to the pro game. 

Overall, the Packers have a nice set of prospects. They did double down on similar tight ends on day two. The high investment in Van Ness has me a little down than others may be on this class. The Packers certainly added talent, but I am not certain it was the optimum use of their draft capital. 


Minnesota Vikings 

With the least amount of draft capital in the NFC North, the 2022 division champions certainly still had some areas of need coming into this offseason. The Vikings were in a spot in the later first where they needed to decide what to do. Do they improve their poor defense, the main reason for their playoff loss, or invest in solidifying their offense. 

Ultimately, the Vikings chose to give themselves another offensive weapon with USC wide receiver Jordan Addison. With Adam Thielen leaving in free agency, the Vikings needed a good WR2 to help keep some of the heat off their superstar, Justin Jefferson. Addison, the Biletnikoff Award winner in 2021 for the nation’s top receiver, is certainly a strong addition to be that WR2. 

Just like the Lions, who loved Alabama and Iowa players early, the Vikings scouts apparently had exciting days at the USC and LSU pro days. Taking two Trojans and two Tigers with their first four picks, the Vikings’ mid-round focus was on defense. 

And for good reason. This team surrendered 431 total yards to the Giants in their playoff loss in January. The Vikings brought in Brian Flores to be their defensive coordinator in 2023. His work is cut out for him. And, personally, I wasn’t an enormous fan of the defensive picks they made. 

Mekhi Blackmon, their third-round selection, was a player commonly mocked in the fifth or sixth round leading up to the draft. Two reasons for this: he has a smaller build (5’11” and 178 lbs), and coming out as a sixth-year senior, he is already 24 years old.  

Jay Ward, their fourth-round pick, was commonly mocked in the fifth round leading up to the draft. And while he could still be a help to a depleted Vikings secondary, I wouldn’t expect a huge impact from Ward. I foresee seeing more of him on special teams than in the Vikings’ starting defense early in his career. 

From a fantasy perspective, Addison lands in a very interesting spot. With Kevin O’Connell as the head coach, Addison will hopefully get plenty of opportunity in an offense that seems to want to pass first. And with Jefferson taking the main heat from any defense, Addison will have a good opportunity to excel with the second defensive options covering him. I’d expect him to be a top-5 pick in every 1QB league and top-8 in every Superflex league.   

Overall, this draft is pretty lackluster. While Addison is a nice addition, I feel like the Vikings’ main focus early should have been on the defensive side of the ball. Once they spent their high capital on a wide receiver, they didn’t leave themselves a ton of options to get impact players to help their defense with the few remaining picks they had. I love the landing spot for Addison and think he will have an impact on the Vikings. But I think the team is in a tough spot defensively and didn’t do much to help themselves.  

Grade: D+ 

Am I way off-base? Or is this an accurate draft pick analysis? Be sure to follow me on Twitter at @timbmartens and let me know how you graded the NFC North. And stay tuned to Dynasty Nerds for more draft grades. 

If you want even more tools to have a leg-up in your league, join the NerdHerd today for access to our film room! View film from this rookie, as well as all of the rookies in this class! Join today and use code “martens” for a 15% discount on your subscription! 

One Response

  1. Disclaimer: Total Packers homer here.

    Great article but you triggered me with th “LVN didn’t start at Iowa” rhetoric.

    It’s well known and has been overly reported at this point that Iowa starts upperclassmen over talent. Go take a look at snap counts and who played in the most important moments.

    That said, i think most of us were really disappointed they passed on JSN. Total packers move haha.

    Where are you targeting Johnson and Addison in rookie drafts?

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