We finish the rankings article with secondary rankings for the NFC North.
The Vikings have good cornerbacks starting with Xavier Rhodes. Rhodes is a number 1 CB that can press, cover and play run defense. Terrence Newman is 38 but had a top 10 grade in 2016. He returns on a one year deal to Mike Zimmer’s defense.
Trae Waynes is now in his third year and will try and finally replace Newman. The Vikings took a hit losing Captain Munnerlyn in the slot but hope 2nd round pick from 2106 Mackensie Alexander will be a good slot CB. Jabari Price has some potential as the 5th CB and Jack Tocho was drafted in Round 7 out of NC State.
The Lions have a shut-down corner in Darius Slay. Slay has great speed and can cover any receiver. Slay made some big time plays last year to close out games (Eagles and Vikings) and was sorely missed when he hurt his hamstring late in the season. The Lions have a good player in Slay and locked him in long term last offseason.
Nevin Lawson is criminally underrated. Lawson is a solid number 2 corner and has graded that way in 2015 and 2016. Lawson is in the final year of his deal and gets big time competition in 2nd round pick Teez Tabor. Tabor may be the future opposite Lawson. Tabor has great ball skills and instincts.
The Lions revamped their nickel by adding DJ Hayden from the Raiders and drafting Jamal Agnew in Round 5. Quandre Diggs returns from an injury (pec) and hopes to get back to 2015 form when he was a good slot corner. Diggs struggled in 2016 in his second season in the slot before a Week 13 injury.
Hayden, Tabor and Bademosi provide good depth on the outside if Lawson wins the job. Lawson could slide to nickel as well if Tabor wins the job. The Lions are stacked at cornerback.
3 Green Bay
Green Bay revamped their secondary this offseason after playing terrible in 2016. Kevin King was drafted in Round 2 and Davon House was brought back after struggling with Jacksonville. Ladarius Gunter (undrafted 2015) and Quentin Rollins (2nd round pick 2015) really struggled in 2016 in their second seasons. Gunter and Rollins will battle House and King for the starting spots.
Damarius Randall struggled in 2016 and had a major injury missing 50 percent of the snaps. Randall moves to the slot and hopefully the change helps the former 1st round pick.
If Rollins can return to 2015 form, King/House play solid and Randall likes the position change, Green Bay could actually have a decent pass defense and force many turnovers. However, there are a lot of “ifs” right now for Green Bay and they were torched in 2016. Solid pass rush will help but Green Bay must answer questions at corner this season. It will be do or die for Rollins, Gunter, House and Randall. King has a lot of talent and size. King will get time to develop but a rookie could get torched without experience if he plays too early.
Kyle Fuller returns from injury but was not a good number 1 corner in 2014 or 2015. Prince Amukamara was average for Jacksonville and has some good solid seasons with the Giants. Marcus Cooper got a decent sized contract but struggled in the slot for the Chiefs. Deiondre Hall was a 4th round pick from 2015 and Bryce Callahan was average for the Bears in 2016. They have some potential to develop and some experience. Sherrick McManis has struggled for the Bears. Chicago lacks a true number 1 corner but Fuller, Prince and Cooper might be enough considering the Bears are strong in the front 7 and safety now.
1 Green Bay
Ha Ha Clinton Dix and Morgan Burnett are both good safeties in the league. Josh Jones was added in Round 2 and could play some ILB at times too. Kentrell Brice has some experience as the 4th safety for the Packers. They lost Hyde in free agency but still have the best safeties in the division by adding Jones.
Glover Quin has been a good free safety for the Lions since 2013. He is a team leader on defense and keeps the secondary in the right spot. Quin is a pretty good ball hawk with plenty of picks in four years with Detroit and rarely gets beat deep (Detroit 5th least in league last year). The Lions should try to extend Quin in a contract year.
Tavon Wilson was solid in 2016 with strong run defense and average cover skills in his first year starting in 2016. Miles Killebrew showed good flashes as a 4th round rookie making big third down stops but only played 100+ snaps. Killebrew must step up in year 2 and play the snaps that Rafael Bush leaves behind (returned to Saints).
Don Carey is experienced safety depth and a good special team player. Alex Carter switches to FS after being a CB for the first two years in Detroit. Carter was a 3rd round pick in 2015 by Mayhew but oft-injured.
Harrison Smith is a stud safety and the best safety in the division. Andrew Sendejo had an average grade at strong safety. Anthony Harris, Jayron Kearse and Antone Exum are decent developmental depth at safety for the Vikings with some playing time experience despite their age.
The Bears have a good free safety in Adrian Amos. Chicago sneakily added veteran Quentin Demps at strong safety who was the 12th ranked safety in 2016. Deon Bush and Edwin Jackson are both 4th round picks as backups for the Bears. Harold Jones- Quartey or Chris Prosiniski also each have plenty of experience too as the 5th safety. The Bears vastly improved their safety situation for 2017 by adding Demps and Jackson.
Chicago earned number one at interior offensive line, running back and linebacker (3). Chicago was tied second at defensive line/pass rush (OLB) and safety (2) but third at offensive tackle (1). Finally, Chicago was fourth at cornerback, wide receiver, tight end, nose tackle/interior defenders and quarterback (5) due to inexperience. The Bears have more talent than previous seasons and even their fourth place votes have more talent than before. Chicago could still be decent at corner, wide receiver, tight end and nose tackle. Quarterback we shall see.
The Vikings were first at defensive end and defensive tackle and cornerback (3). Minnesota was tied second at running back and safety (2) but third at quarterback, tight end, wide receivers, linebacker and offensive tackle (5). The Vikings nabbed fourth at interior offensive line (1). Minnesota has some offensive weaknesses but should have a great defense again. The Vikings improved on the offensive line and running back this offseason, however.
The Packers were tied first at QB, offensive tackle and tight end and also earned top safety and wide receivers by themselves (5). Packers were second in pass rush/OLB (1) and third at interior defenders/NT, cornerback and interior offensive line (3). Packers were last at linebacker and running back (2). Green Bay is has the most number ones including Rodgers but have four weaknesses for the 2017 season at interior defender, cornerback, running back and interior offensive line. Green Bay could be decent in those weaknesses still much like Chicago.
The Lions were tied first at QB, tight end, and offensive tackle (3). Detroit nabbed second at cornerback, linebacker, defensive tackle, interior offensive line, wide receiver and tied second at safety, running back, and defensive end/pass rush.(8). Detroit was not third or fourth in any category because they have a good deep roster with some depth across the board. The Lions must execute and stay healthy to win their first North title.
We’ll see which team has the best roster on the field this season. There is a lot of talent in the division and all four teams can be competitive in 2017. I hope this sparked some good offseason debate. Up next month will be the KNOW YOUR ENEMY series including the NFC South and AFC North. The season is getting closer.