As Chris Berman would say, the “NFC Norse” Division should be pretty predictable at the top and the bottom this upcoming season. The obvious, Green Bay, led by the reigning league MVP Aaron Rodgers should and likely will win the division once again. The bottom, Chicago, is in the middle of a rebuilding process under new Head Coach John Fox and new GM Adam Pace. The middle of the division is perhaps the most perplexing. The Detroit Lions made the playoffs last season for the first time in quite a long time, and despite the losses of Ndamukong Suh and Nick Fairley, the Lions are optimistic and will look to return to the postseason. The Vikings, in their 2nd season with Coach Mike Zimmer will be looking to make the jump to the playoffs.
Impact Rookie: Hronnis Grasu, C Oregon
This wasn’t a sexy pick back in April, and it still isn’t now, but this pick was the most sure thing that the Bears made. Grasu was a stud at Oregon, and uses his intelligence to make the calls on the line from the pivot. The Bears were at their best with Olin Kreutz at Center, and Grasu could develop into an upper echelon Center in the NFL. I really liked this pick then, and still do now.
Delayed Impact: Kevin White, WR West Virginia
This probably isn’t what Bears fans want to hear, but White’s transition from West Virginia’s Air Raid scheme could be a little longer than they would like. He’ll be running a much more diverse route tree and will be facing more press coverage than he did for the Mountaineers, who commonly face pretty soft coverage due to their Air Raid offense. White’s elite physical attributes will help shorten this development and he can carve out a specialized role in the mean time, but White won’t be a true No. 1 Wide Receiver for a year or longer.
Diamond in the Rough: Jeremy Langford, RB Michigan State
There may not have been a more consistent runner in the Big Ten over the past three seasons than Langford, who also was probably as unheralded as any, as he wasn’t Melvin Gordon, Ameer Abdullah or Tevin Coleman. Langford may not be a high upside prospect, but he should beat out Kadeem Carey for the #2 spot and should be a nice balanced compliment for Matt Forte.
Impact Rookie: Eric Kendricks, LB UCLA
Whether it was due to his size or scheme fit concerns, Kendricks fell to Minnesota in the 2nd round, and should be a Day 1 starter at Will Linebacker. Now paired up with his UCLA teammate Anthony Barr, the Vikings have two of the most exciting young Linebackers in the NFL. Kendricks is a nice fit in Zimmer’s scheme, and I wouldn’t be surprised if he contends to be NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year.
Delayed Impact: Trae Waynes, CB Michigan State
I had a hard time deciding which pick to put here, because honestly nearly all of Minnesota’s picks were nice value picks and should either find their role, or be cut at little risk. Ultimately I decided on Waynes, who I don’t think will have a delayed impact, rather he may struggle to live up to his #11 draft slot immediately. Luckily, he’ll start across from Xavier Rhodes, and the Vikings can roll coverages towards Waynes.
Diamond in the Rough: Austin Shepherd, OL Alabama
Last season, the Vikings selected Teddy Bridgewater at the end of the 1st round, and by the end of the year, that proved to be fruitful. The Vikings have a QB for the first time since Daunte Culpepper. Now, with A.P. coming back, the Offensive Line is the beginning and the end for the Vikings offense. Shepherd won’t wow you athletically in any way, but he was a two-year starter at Alabama and simply blocks people. He could start or at least contribute this season.
Impact Rookie: Laken Tomlinson, OG Duke
The Lions traded back with the Broncos and ended up taking the hometown boy at the Draft in Chicago. Tomlinson was one of the more surefire transitions from college to the NFL. He plays with a nasty disposition and should help open lanes for Joique Bell and Ameer Abdullah. Tomlinson will learn the NFL game in pass protection, but his transition to the run game will be where he makes his mark immediately.
Delayed Impact: Alex Carter, CB Stanford
This is nothing against Carter, as he’s a nice long Corner who should have a nice career. He was well coached at Stanford, but it seems that most Cornerbacks struggle initially dealing with the size and speed of NFL wide outs, especially with how the rules are now geared towards offenses.
Diamond in the Rough: Corey Robinson, OT South Carolina
Somehow, Robinson fell to the 7th round, but he could easily start for the Lions. In Detroit, Robinson will be able to be protected and play Right Tackle. The mammoth lineman should have been picked somewhere between rounds 3 and 5, so he’ll be playing with a chip on his shoulder. I expect him to turn into a nice, solid starting Tackle for the Lions.
Green Bay Packers
Impact Rookie: Jake Ryan, LB Michigan
With longtime starter AJ Hawk gone, look for another Big Ten Linebacker to take his spot. This will be Ryan’s first experience in an odd front, but with the Packers playing much more of a hybrid front, with more 4-3 looks, Ryan should prove to be versatile and be a steadying presence on a Defense that’s lacked playmakers on the inside for quite some time.
Delayed Impact: Ty Montgomery
While he’s received rave reviews during OTAs, Montgomery ultimately is looking at being the #4 Wide Receiver for the Packers. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis are all competent competitors for these spots, and Montgomery, as of right now, only holds a marked advantage over his competition as a return specialist. In time, with Free Agency and injuries, Montgomery could contribute elsewhere, but until then, Returning will be his role.
Diamond in the Rough: Brett Hundley, QB UCLA
Nearly forgotten due to his surprising fall in the draft, the former Bruin is in the perfect situation. He’ll be learning from both Aaron Rodgers, and Scott Tolzien, who should be a good role model for getting the most out of the mental side of the game. Hundley has a talented arm and should be able to couple that with his athleticism to showcase his skills, and likely get Green Bay a high draft pick as compensation for Hundley.