Dec 7, 2013; Indianapolis, IN, USA; Michigan State Spartans cornerback Darqueze Dennard (31) breaks up a pass intended for Ohio State Buckeyes wide receiver Devin Smith (9) during the Big Ten Championship game at Lucas Oil Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Brian Spurlock-USA TODAY Sports

Updated 2014 NFL Draft Strategies: NFC North

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The NFC North is a division in transition and expectations are in the 2014 NFL draft that much of the focus will center on improving on defense.

Green Bay Packers – Calvin Pryor and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix clear targets

Retaining Sam Shields and signing Julius Peppers took care of two key issues on the defensive side for the Green Bay Packers, at least in the short term.  However, the fluid situation at safety remains unchanged.  They still lack a serious playmaker at the position, a primary reason why their defense has struggled in coverage the past few seasons.  That could mean they have their sights set on getting one in the 2014 NFL draft.  The two best options available are Calvin Pryor out of Louisville and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama.  Pryor is more the physical tackler though he is also good in coverage while Ha Ha makes his money playing the ball in the air and reading the quarterback.  One thing to note for Green Bay is neither should make it to the 20s, so if they want one, they might have to move up.

Minnesota Vikings – Derek Carr and Blake Bortles must fill QB void

Every single free agent signing in 2014 for the Minnesota Vikings has been directed at the defensive side of the ball include a tackle (Linval Joseph), linebacker (Jasper Brinkley) and two cornerbacks (Captain Munnerlyn and Derek Cox).  Though there may still be a need for more pass rush help, it’s hard to argue that the only position still with a glaring hole in it is quarterback.  Yes, the team re-signed Matt Cassel but that is merely a stopgap at best.  They have to find an upgrade at that position if they’re going to compete in the NFC North.  With the #8 pick they have a real chance to get that player.  Two names that should drop to them include Blake Bortles of UCF and Derek Carr of Fresno State.  Bortles is the more prototypical player with the big 6’5″ frame, good mobility and coolness under pressure.  Carr is the more pure gunslinger with a great arm, good height, athleticism and total confidence in his ability.

Detroit Lions – Justin Gilbert or Darqueze Dennard can solve corner problem

The off-season was really about filling two primary needs on the roster for the Detroit Lions.  One was a wide receiver to compliment Calvin Johnson and another was a cornerback to improve their still struggling secondary.  Their signing of Golden Tate in free agency solves the receiver dilemma, which basically means the team should be on the hunt for a corner in the 2014 NFL draft barring a major change in philosophy.  Sitting at #10 on the board, the Lions have a very real shot at taking one of the two best options available in Justin Gilbert of Oklahoma State and Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State.  Gilbert is the better athlete of the two.  He’s fast, long, agile, excels in press coverage and has very good instincts to play the football.  Dennard is slightly shorter and less nimble but he’s a tireless worker who uses intelligence and toughness to make up for whatever small deficiencies he has in the athleticism department.  That is why he was nicknamed the “No Fly Zone” at Michigan State.

Chicago Bears – Aaron Donald and Calvin Pryor among real options

Remodeling the defense was a clear priority for the Chicago Bears as they entered the off-season and knew it was going to take free agency and the draft to pull it off.  Early outlooks say they’re on the right track.  Adding Lamarr Houston and Willie Young at defensive end, Ryan Mundy at safety and Charles Tillman back at corner has eased any notions of them have a huge need at a specific position.  They are very much able to take the best defender available but it stands within reason that such a player will come either at safety or defensive tackle.  Those two areas still have the most question due to varying reason be they age, injury or ineffectiveness.  Many fans are clamoring for the Bears to take Pitt defensive tackle Aaron Donald.  Indeed despite being undersized the kid has established himself as the best interior pass rusher in the 2014 class.  He uses natural leverage and elite level explosion and quickness to beat blockers on his way to the quarterback.  Then there is Louisville safety Calvin Pryor who embodies the new doctrine for the Bears on defense of size, athleticism and toughness.  He would bring a huge upgrade to their back end.

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Tags: 2014 Nfl Draft Aaron Donald Blake Bortles Calvin Pryor Chicago Bears Derek Carr Detroit Lions Green Bay Packers Justin Gilbert Minnesota Vikings

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