NFL Draft Notebook: Green Bay to win NFC North for a fourth straight year

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 20: Robert Tonyan #85 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images)
GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN - SEPTEMBER 20: Robert Tonyan #85 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a touchdown against the Detroit Lions during the second half at Lambeau Field on September 20, 2021 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Quinn Harris/Getty Images) /

The Green Bay Packers have dominated the NFC North the past couple of years winning the division the past three years. Things will likely not change this season either as the Packers are the odds on favorite to win the division this year and will probably be the only team from this division to make the playoffs.

While the Packers will likely repeat as NFC North champions this season, how long will they hold onto this crown, and can any of the other teams give Green Bay a challenge this season, or will it be clear sailing until the playoffs for the Pack.

Along with previewing the NFC North this week’s NFL Draft Notebook also takes a look at the following

  • five running backs to watch for the 2023 NFL Draft
  • A rookie to watch for each NFC North team
  • Why the Dolphins could be looking at the tight end position in the 2023 NFL Draft
  • And much more

Previewing the NFC North

Green Bay Packers
The biggest reason the Packers have been the king of the NFC North is Aaron Rodgers who was recently named the top quarterback in the NFL by ESPN. While Rodgers did lose his top target in Davante Adams the team did bring in a couple of players to try and replace his production including second-round pick Christian Watson and free-agent signing Sammy Watkins. If the defense and running game can play up to expectations next year Green Bay should be a legitimate Super Bowl contender.

Minnesota Vikings
The Minnesota Vikings hope they can bring in some of the offensive magic we have seen from the Los Angeles Rams the past couple of seasons. They are trying to incorporate the Rams offensive scheme with the hiring of former Los Angeles offensive coordinator Kevin O’Connell as their new head coach. O’Connell will inherit some playmakers on the offensive side of the ball including Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, and Dalvin Cook. While it is very unlikely the Vikings will be a serious threat for the NFC North title they will likely compete for a wild card spot and a 10-7 record is not out of the question.

Detroit Lions
A team who could surprise this year is the Detroit Lions who are currently projected to finish dead last in the NFC North by Las Vegas. The Lions could open up some eyes this year though as second-year head coach Dan Campbell is installing a tough hard-nosed culture. This culture and the fact Detroit brought in some playmakers this offseason should be enough for them to compete with the Minnesota Vikings for the number two spot in the division.

Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears made one of the smartest moves in the NFL this offseason when they finally decided to move on from head coach Matt Nagy. Unfortunately, though the Bears don’t have much talent on their roster as they have concerns on the offensive line, at wide receiver and at numerous positions on the defensive side of the ball. If the Bears don’t have one of the five worst records in the NFL next year it will have to be considered a successful season for new coach Matt Eberflus.

Five Running Backs to Watch for the 2023 NFL Draft

Bijan Robinson, Texas
The best back in this year’s draft by far is Bijan Robinson of Texas. When watching his game several things stand outstarting with his elite power. He routinely breaks arm tackles and shows elite contact balance. Another trait that stands out with the 6-foot 221-pound back is his surprising quickness. He shows good explosion through the line of scrimmage and also has the ability to make a quick cut to evade a tackler. He easily should be a first-round pick come next April.

Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
One of the biggest impact transfers in college football this year will be former Georgia Tech running back Jahmyr Gibbs. Gibbs will be suiting up for the Crimson Tide this season after rushing for 746 yards and hauling in 35 receptions last year for the Ramblin Wreck. Look for Gibbs to give Alabama an explosive back who can break off the explosive run or stretch a defense in the passing game.

Mohamed Ibrahim, Minnesota
Minnesota’s Mohamed Ibrahim is a back to watch this season since he is coming off a season-ending Achilles injury last year. However, when healthy he is one of the more productive runners in college football. In 2002 he set the Minnesota school record for rushing yards per game with an average of 154 yards per game and in his one game last year he accounted for 163 yards on the ground.

Devon Achane, Texas A&M
While Devon Achane might lack the size to be an every-down back a creative coach should be able to find plenty of ways to get him the ball. Some of these ways are to use him as a change of pace running back where he can use his 20.20 200-meter time to gash defenses. He can also be used in the passing game and has the ability to catch out of the backfield or line up as a slot receiver. In addition to helping out on offense, he can improve a special team’s unit as a return man. Last season, Achane was one of the top return men in college football averaging 33.4 yards per kickoff return last season for the Aggies.

Isaiah Ifanse, Montana State
According to Hero Sports, the top small school running back is Isaiah Ifanse, and he is someone scouts surely have an eye on. Last season, Ifanse rushed for 1,623 yards which set the school record for yards in a season. While he is a little undersized and lacks blazing speed he should get serious looks on day three due to his elite production and good contact balance.

NFC North Rookies to Watch

Chicago Bears
While it took time for Velus Jones Jr. to develop as a wide receiver at Tennesse he should make an impact from day one with the Chicago Bears. A couple of the ways the Bears will use Jones and his 4.31 speed are as a deep threat in the passing game, on special teams returning punts, and even finding ways to hand him the ball.

Detroit Lions
Another speedy wide receiver to watch in the NFC North year is Jameson Williams of the Detroit Lions. The main reason to watch Williams this season is to see how he recovers from his torn ACL. If he regains his health he should be one of the more dynamic players on the Lions and if not Detroit could have some serious questions at the wide out spot.

Green Bay Packers
One of the more intergiuning rookies in Green Bay is defensive tackle Devonte Wyatt. Wyatt is a player who has the speed to play defensive end in the Packers 3-4 defense and also the strength to move to defensive tackle in pass rushing situations.

Minnesota Vikings
One of the trends in the NFL is to use more three safety sets and the Minnesota Vikings will likely that trend after drafting Lewis Cine in the first round. He is a physical hard hitter who has the ability to roll down in the box and also can play a two-high safety look due to his speed and overall range.

Scouting Notes

— A rookie who is already impressing his team is Dallas Cowboy wide receiver, Jalen Tolbert. He has been seeing reps with the first-team offense since Michael Gallup is still recovering from his torn ACL and will compete with James Washington to be the number two receiver for Dallas until Gallup is healthy. In addition to seeing time with the first team offense, he has played an important role on special teams as well and could be the team’s top punt returner.

— With all of the talk about it being the smart move to take a running back late in the draft, it was interesting to see where the top running backs are actually drafted. Last week, ESPN came out with NFL rankings for the top running backs in the league according to NFL personnel. Of the top ten running backs, eight of the top ten running backs were drafted in the first two rounds. The sweet spot to grab a back according to these rankings was the second round with six of the top ten players on this list being selected in that round.

— One team who could be looking at the tight end position in the 2023 NFL Draft is the Miami Dolphins. While Miami is set at this position this season there is a strong chance Mike Gesicki leaves next offseason as a free agent. This is a possibility since he is currently on the franchise tag and the Dolphins did not sign him on a long-term deal, If he does leave look for Miami to add more of a well-rounded tight end who can both block and catch at a high level.

— A small school player to watch is Titus Leo of Wagner. Leo has won back-to-back NEC Defensive Player of the Year awards and could be the first player in conference history to win it three years in a row. Leo is a good-sized pass rusher who recorded 7 sacks last season. While he might not put up the testing numbers some of the more athletic pass rushers in the 2023 NFL Draft will look for him to be at least signed as an undrafted free agent.

Stat of the Week

UCLA RB Zach Charbonnet rushed for over 100 yards in seven of the nine-game he started last season.