Pinpointing exactly where teams will pick in the 2014 NFL draft is too difficult to gauge because it’s so early in the season. However, that shouldn’t negate identifying which players teams might go after on draft day if given the chance. As far as the NFC North division, which names link the best with which teams?
Minnesota Vikings – Teddy Bridgewater – QB – Louisville
Experience is the biggest issue at present for the Minnesota Vikings defense, but there is a real crisis of identity on offense. While Adrian Peterson remains their best player, it seems like the team wants to turn it over to a more pass-heavy offense but can’t because of their deficiencies at quarterback. Neither Christian Ponder nor Matt Cassel have shown the ability to carry an offense on their shoulders. That is not the hallmark of a franchise quarterback. So if the Vikings, who are 1-3 were to end up in the top ten they might make a serious play for Louisville star Teddy Bridgewater. He has all the tools needed from arm strength, accuracy, pocket poise, mobility, intelligence and maturity to an NFL body. He represents the missing link to what the Vikings have built over the past few years.
Green Bay Packers – Anthony Barr – OLB – UCLA
For years the running question was could the Green Bay Packers ever find a pass rusher to compliment Clay Matthews? The short answer up to now is they cannot. While the Packers find clever ways to keep their pass rush humming, the fact is whenever Matthews is down for any stretch like he was in Cincinnati, Green Bay has a hard time putting heat on the quarterback. Though a franchise left tackle might sound wonderful for Aaron Rodgers, putting UCLA outside linebacker Anthony Barr across from Matthews would be nothing short of unfair. Barr is an active, versatile defender who can strip the ball from opponents every bit as well as he can sack the quarterback in the pocket. The Packers are 1-2, but the chances of them getting near Barr with Rodgers are quarterback is next to impossible.
Chicago Bears – Jadeveon Clowney – DE – South Carolina
It really is a tossup for the Chicago Bears as far as where they want to go in the 2014 NFL draft. On the one hand fans would like to see them take a quarterback early because of the ongoing frustrations with Jay Cutler. On the other the defense is aging quickly and in need of a new generation of star power. That is why Jadeveon Clowney must top their list of wants (and needs). It makes sense on many levels. He is arguably the most talented defensive prospect in the past decade. In a league and division dominated by quarterbacks having a great pass rusher is all important. Never mind that Julius Peppers turns 34 before next season and Henry Melton will come off a torn ACL. Getting Clowney would give Chicago a potential superstar to carry on their defensive tradition for the next ten years while still affording them a chance to get a quarterback later in a deep draft.
Detroit Lions – Sammy Watkins – WR – Clemson
Things may look great on the surface for the Detroit Lions. They have talent on both sides of the ball and balance on offense thanks to Reggie Bush. That said they are not without their deficiencies. Still the most notable among them is the lacking of a consistent second receiver next to Calvin Johnson. Nate Burleson can fill that role but can’t stay healthy and Titus Young went crazy, leaving Matthew Stafford to rely on a committee approach using the tight ends and Bush more in the passing game. It has sufficed so far but can show up as a real issue in the playoffs. That is why Sammy Watkins of Clemson would make a perfect addition. Where Johnson brings the size and leaping ability, Watkins has a solid build coupled with great speed that makes him excellent after the catch. Picking him up in the 2014 NFL draft would be a coup for the Lions, and perhaps the final piece to their puzzle.