The final part of the NFC North grades and need series will focus on safeties. The North had good safety play in 2016.
Green Bay Packers A
Green Bay stayed healthy at safety and got good play from Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton Dix. Burnett had an 84 grade (15th) and Dix earned an 83.2 grade. They are a great safety combination. The Packers will probably exercise the fifth year option on Dix to keep him for the 2018 season. Michah Hyde was the top backup but played mostly slot CB due to injuries. Kentrell Brice earned some CB snaps as well.
Detroit Lions: A
Detroit had very good and underrated safety play in 2016. Glove Quin earned an 82.1 grade and Tavon Wilson notched an 82.6 grade. Detroit’s starting safeties were right there with Dix and Burnett. The Lions safeties led the league with 7 interceptions as well despite a lack of pass rush by Detroit.
Rafael Bush played 511 snaps but was average with a 73.3 grade. Bush had two big interceptions against the Rams (game winner) and Jaguars (pick 6) this season. Bush is a free agent this offseason after a one year deal.
Miles Killebrew earned some playing time as a rookie 4th round pick and played well. Killebrew had many stops on third down of opposing WRs/TEs short of the sticks. Killebrew looks like a good player and Detroit uses the big nickel package well. Don Carey is great on special teams and the 5th safety.
Minnesota Vikings: B
Harrison Smith is a top 10 safety but Andrew Sendejo was average at strong safety after an extension prior to 2016. Anthony Harris and rookie Jayron Kearse struggled in 235 and 78 snaps respectively. Smith and Sendejo are signed long term and Kearse can develop in year 2. The Vikings could upgrade over Harris.
Chicago Bears: C
Adrian Amos had a good second year to match his first season with an 81.7. Harold Jones- Quartey improved to average with a 72.6 grade in 732 snaps. Deon Bush struggled as a rookie in 333 snaps. Chris Prosinski was average playing 174 snaps. Finally, Demontre Hurst was a little below average in 224 snaps. The Bears have some young developing safeties and Amos is a good player. They could use a veteran but really probably stand pat at safety with Bush, Hurst and Jones-Quartey developing. Prosinski is a free agent.
Tony Jefferson is a top 10 safety and the best on the market. TJ McDonald, Jarius Byrd, John Crypien, Jahleel Addae, Chris Conte, Barry Church, Mike Adams and Nate Allen are the other top safeties available.
JJ Wilcox, Duron Harmon, Rashad Johnson, Rafael Bush, DJ Swearing, Quentin Demps and Donte Whitner are the next tier of safeties.
Malik Hooker, Budda Baker and Marcus Williams are the top free safeties in the draft.
Jamal Adams and Jabrill Peppers are the cream of the strong safety crop.
Nobody really needs a safety for 2017. The Lions, Packers, Vikings, Bears could add to their depth though. The Lions need to think about the future with Glover Quin and Tavon Wilson in the last year of their deals.
This ends the NFC North grades and needs. We now have a better picture of all the teams’ performance and needs for 2017 and beyond. Next week we’ll get into specific players each team could target in free agency. Free agency negotiations begin March 7th and March 9th begins the new football year. We will have plenty of scooped articles to talk about the actual transactions and signings. After that, we’ll focus on the draft prospects with the draft set for April 27th-April 29th in Philadelphia.