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NFC North Rookie Ceiling Grades

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NFL Scouting


The 2017 NFL rookie class is now complete.  Both the draft and undrafted free agency are over.  Join me as we look at the NFC North rookie classes through the lens of analytics.  While you may not believe in the numbers, I have explained why they are important to me here.

NFC North

Minnesota Vikings

The Case For Nelson Over Fitzgerald

StatJordy NelsonLarry Fitzgerald
Team W-L Record8-65-8-1
Rec. Yards1,037949
Rec TD125
20+ Yard Plays157

The Minnesota Vikings exited the draft with 11 players and an overall grade of 4.11. The theme for this draft seems to have been take good football players, not necessarily great athletes.  The highest grade in their draft belongs to tight end Bucky Hodges from Virginia Tech.  He is an elite athlete at tight end who can probably be used in as a wide receiver.  Linebacker Ben Gedeon is a good athlete who will probably take Chad Greenway‘s role.  They boosted the interior of their defensive line with a great athlete in Danny Isidora and a great football player (while not a great athlete) in Pat Elflein.  This class excites me.  I love the pickup of Dalvin Cook.  Despite what the numbers say, Cook’s tape shows he can be a great NFL running back.

While the Vikings focused on drafting good football players, their undrafted free agent class is teeming with athletes.  Cincinnati linebacker Eric Wilson is a tremendous athlete with starter potential.  He is a tremendous sleeper who is undersized but makes up for it with instincts and athleticism for days.  His composite 4.47 includes his lack of size; when excluding size, his score goes up to 6.02.  Coastal Carolina free safety Richie Sampson graded out with a 4.14 and covers all the thresholds for an NFL free safety.  I haven’t seen much of him but if the Vikings can coach him up, they’ll have a good pickup on their hands.  The last UDFA to grade out at 4.00 or above was offensive tackle Aviante Collins from TCU. He will provide good depth at the tackle position.

Detroit Lions

 GamesCompAttComp %YardsTDINT

From a numbers standpoint, the Lions had the second weakest draft class in the division.  That being said, I really love what they did.  Linebacker Jarrad Davis (5.49) is the athletic, instinctive leader that they need in the middle of their defense.  Defensive end Jeremiah Ledbetter graded out with a 4.62 mainly due to his explosiveness.  The last player to grade out above 4.00 was wide receiver Kenny Golladay from Northern Illinois with a 4.56.  The rest of their draft, however, is oozing ability, if not athleticism.  Despite all grading out below 4.00, cornerback Jamal Agnew can be an NFL slot corner, Teez Tabor has the size and instincts to be a zone corner despite his poor testing, and Reeves-Maybin is a disruptive playmaker in the linebacking corps when healthy.  I am a big fan of this class, even if the numbers say I shouldn’t be.

Three players in the Lions UDFA class stand out.  Former Stanford wide receiver Michael Rector graded out with a 4.32.  He covers the thresholds to be a good NFL wide receiver with upside.  Defensive tackle Nick James has good agility and great size; I see him making the roster and starting in the future.  Finally, cornerback Josh Thornton covers the thresholds for an NFL slot cornerback with very good speed and good agility.

Chicago Bears

Elliott vs Howard

StatEzekiel ElliottJordan Howard
YAC Average2.843.06
Total TD136
Elusive Rating35.356.1
Run Block Rank1st11th

This Bears draft class will always be remembered as “the Mitch Trubisky class.”  According to my analytics, that may not be a bad thing.  Trubisky graded out with a 5.48.  He has NFL size and athleticism but needs time to develop. If they give him time, Trubisky can be an NFL starter.  The addition of tight end Adam Shaheen (4.02) was a bit perplexing considering there were better options still available. I believe offensive guard Jordan Morgan can start some day despite having limited athletic ability.  The big wild card here is defensive back Eddie Jackson.  Jackson didn’t work out this offseason due to injury but was a good football player on the field.

The only two players of note in the Bears UDFA class are fullback Freddie Stevenson and running back Joseph Bouganon.  Stevenson was arguably the best fullback in the class.  His athletic testing numbers were superb as well. With a grade of 4.75, I think he’ll immediately take over as the team’s fullback.  I haven’t seen Bouganon on tape but his athletic testing numbers suggest he could have a role in the NFL as a big back.

Green Bay Packers

Opposing QB's During Packers 4-Game Losing Streak

PlayerComp/AttPass YardsPass TDQBRQB Rating
11 87.25 124.78
Matt Ryan 28/35 288 3 84.6 129.5
Andrew Luck 23/36 281 1 72.5 74.0
Marcus Mariota 19/26 295 4 96.2 149.8
Kirk Cousins 21/30 375 3 95.7 145.8
All Statistics via

The Green Bay Packers blew this draft out of the water.  Only two of their ten picks graded below a 4.00 and their lowest grade was a 3.90.  Let’s just say I’m an enormous fan of this class.  Their best pick was their first pick: cornerback Kevin King has the length and athleticism to be a number one corner.  With running back arguably being their biggest need going into the draft, the Packers took two high ceiling guys in Aaron Jones (4.91) and Jamaal Williams (4.59).  Both can play different roles: Jones as the third down back and Williams as the back on first and second down.  Devante Mays is another high ceiling running back who can find a role.  Linebacker Vince Biegel is a good pass rusher with starting potential. Safety Josh Jones is a physical presence who can play a Keanu Neal-esque role for the Packers.

The Packers picked up three intriguing UDFAs.  Quarterback Taysom Hill is incredibly athletic and maybe had the second best arm in the class after Chiefs quarterback Pat Mahomes.  Unfortunately Hill got injured numerous times at BYU and that limited his development.  Linebacker Cody Heiman (4.40) from Washburn looks to be an undersized coverage linebacker with great athleticism.  He will be a welcome addition to a defense and special teams unit with lackluster speed.  Lastly, former Richmond guard Thomas Evans is extremely athletic, if a little stout.  He will provide quality depth on the interior of their offensive line and have starting potential down the road.

The NFC North rookie class, while lacking in “star power,” looks to be solid.  Each team addressed their top needs and picked up quality depth through both the draft and undrafted free agency.