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NFC North draft grades: Vikings hit run game; same old Lions?

Why provide instant grades on the selections of prospects who have yet to take an NFL snap? Well, you're reading this, aren't you? Considering the makeup of every roster and the factors surrounding each pick, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr attempt a division-by-division assessment of the 2019 NFL Draft. Below is Gennaro's review of the NFC North.


BEST PICK: Darnell Savage, S, Maryland.
Green Bay Packers, Round 1, No. 21 overall

Full disclosure: Darnell Savage was my favorite player to study throughout this pre-draft process. Not favorite safety. Not favorite defender. Favorite player. The insane closing speed, the dynamic ballhawking, the way he tracks down ball carriers like a heat-seeking missile -- I adore the total package. I mean, the guy's name is Darnell Savage, for Christ's sake. So I was always going to wax poetic about him in this series, regardless of which team he landed on. That said, this really does feel like a match made in draft heaven. Yes, the Packers handed safety Adrian Amos a four-year, $37 million deal in free agency, but he's at his best playing as an enforcer closer to the line of scrimmage. Considering how often Mike Pettine likes to deploy single-high looks, the Packers defensive coordinator needs a true center fielder with range and ball skills. Savage is that guy! The 4.36 40-yard dash he ran at the NFL Scouting Combine shows up in his game tape -- dude's a blur closing on the football. So, while it might've caught some by surprise last Thursday night, when Brian Gutekunst traded up nine spots to make Savage the first defensive back selected in the 2019 draft, it actually makes perfect sense. The only thing that doesn't make sense is Savage's continual avoidance of the obvious jersey number: 21. Come on -- it's called marketing, people!

MOST SURPRISING PICK: Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii
Detroit Lions, Round 2, No. 43 overall

For anyone familiar with this draft class, Friday night's proceedings began in predictable fashion, with a bunch of known commodities flying off the board at the outset of Round 2. Byron Murphy ... Rock Ya-Sin ... Jawaan Taylor ... Deebo Samuel ... Greg Little ... Cody Ford ... All highly recognizable names to your local draft junkie. At pick No. 42, Denver selected the last top-tier quarterback, Drew Lock. Yep, this was playing out like a garden-variety second round. But then, Billy Sims strolled up to the podium with his usual effervescence, thanked Nashville for the hospitality, unleashed a spirited "GO LIOOOOONS!" and ... set draft Twitter ablaze. Detroit's selection of Tavai was the second-round version of Oakland taking Clelin Ferrell -- except nobody knew who the Hawaii linebacker was. OK, Daniel Jeremiah was well-versed on Tavai, and he immediately noted on the NFL Network airwaves, "I was told that the Patriots love this player." Of course. GM Bob Quinn and coach Matt Patricia habitually draw on their Flying Elvis roots. The question is, how much did the Patriots love the player? Enough to take him early in the second round? And what about the rest of the league? For what it's worth, Quinn strongly believes Tavai would have been taken in short order if the Lions hadn't pounced. And in the days since, some intel has emerged that Tavai might have been more highly coveted than most people thought. But this was a stunning selection in the moment nonetheless.

BIGGEST SLEEPER: Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State
Detroit Lions, Round 5, No. 146 overall

Detroit has been seeking a corner to stick opposite Darius Slay for years. Nevin Lawson filled the role by default in recent seasons, and now veteran signee Rashaan Melvin could serve as a one-year Band-Aid at CB2. (While Detroit handed Justin Coleman a four-year, $36 million deal, he has played his best football as a nickel corner.) Could Oruwariye develop into a long-term answer? Widely projected as a Day 2 pick and ranked as Pro Football Focus' No. 36 overall prospect, Oruwariye fell to the Lions in the fifth round, one pick after the first kicker was taken. Why did he last so long? That's beyond me. The two-time All-Big Ten honoree had great ball production at Penn State with seven interceptions over the last two seasons. He offers enticing size (6-foot-2, 205 pounds), speed (4.47 40-yard dash) and agility (6.82 three-cone drill). Sometimes the draft's just weird. Oruwariye seems to have the right (highly motivated) outlook, though. "I'm not going to sit there and dwell on what didn't happen and what should've happened," Oruwariye said on a conference call with local reporters. "I'm just going to make the other 31 teams that didn't draft me pay when my opportunity comes."


NOTE: Draft classes are ranked from best to worst within the division.

1 - B+
Minnesota Vikings

» Round 1: (No. 18 overall) Garrett Bradbury, C, N.C. State.

» Round 2: (No. 50) Irv Smith Jr., TE, Alabama.

» Round 3: (No. 102) Alexander Mattison, RB, Boise State.

» Round 4: (No. 114) Dru Samia, OG, Oklahoma.

» Round 5: (No. 162) Cameron Smith, LB, USC.

» Round 6: (No. 190) Armon Watts, DT, Arkansas; (No. 191) Marcus Epps, S, Wyoming; (No. 193) Olisaemeka Udoh, OT, Elon.

» Round 7: (No. 217) Kris Boyd, CB, Texas; (No. 239) Dillon Mitchell, WR, Oregon; (No. 247) Olabisi Johnson, WR, Colorado State; (No. 250) Austin Cutting, LS, Air Force.

Was there a more obvious first-round fit than Bradbury to the Vikings? The uber-athletic center was born to play in Gary Kubiak's zone-blocking scheme. Reach-blocking savvy? Check! Second-level road-grading chops? Check-plus! Some question how the former tight end's anchor will hold up at the NFL level, but he fared just fine in multiple games against Clemson's dynamic DT duo of Christian Wilkins and Dexter Lawrence (the 13th and 17th overall picks of this draft). And given all of Mike Zimmer's griping about the run game last season, it came as no surprise that GM Rick Spielman wasn't done on this front, spending his third- and fourth-round picks on a running back and an offensive guard. Meanwhile, the second-round pick was interesting. Was Smith drafted to complement Kyle Rudolph or replace him? The veteran tight end is heading into the final year of his contract and trade rumors have been swirling. Smith lined up all over the field at Alabama, from inline to H-back to split out wide. But at 6-2 and 242 pounds, with a 4.63 40 to his name, Smith projects as a move tight end in the NFL. So it's not hard to imagine the Vikes keeping their 29-year-old "Y" for another season. Lastly, seventh-round picks are undoubtedly low-yield lottery tickets, but keep an eye on Boyd and Mitchell, two talented guys who could have staying power.

2 - B
Green Bay Packers

» Round 1: (No. 12 overall) Rashan Gary, DE, Michigan; (No. 21) Darnell Savage, S, Maryland.

» Round 2: (No. 44) Elgton Jenkins, C/OG, Mississippi State.

» Round 3: (No. 75) Jace Sternberger, TE, Texas A&M.

» Round 5: (No. 150) Kingsley Keke, DE, Texas A&M.

» Round 6: (No. 185) Ka'Dar Hollman, CB, Toledo; (No. 194) Dexter Williams, RB, Notre Dame.

» Round 7: (No. 226) Ty Summers, LB, TCU.

Gary was one of the most polarizing prospects in this class. Some people saw a 277-pounder who ran a 4.58 40-yard dash, oozing elite traits and untapped potential. Others saw an edge rusher who logged 10 sacks in three college seasons and was consistently overshadowed on the Michigan defense by Devin Bush and Chase Winovich. Count this draft grader among those in the latter group. But alas, the report card got a major boost from the next four picks! Savage, a hyper-rangy playmaker who flies to the football and through the ball carrier, is the perfect complement at safety to the more box-friendly Adrian Amos. Jenkins played all across the offensive line at Mississippi State, but his professional home will be on the interior -- an area where Green Bay definitely needed some help. Sternberger, who led all FBS tight ends with 10 touchdowns last season while averaging a whopping 17.3 yards per catch, looks like the mismatch weapon the Pack thought they were getting in Jimmy Graham. And Keke, who showed flashes as a versatile D-lineman in College Station, is exactly the kind of raw, traitsy project that makes sense in Round 5.

3 - C+
Chicago Bears

» Round 3: (No. 73 overall) David Montgomery, RB, Iowa State.

» Round 4: (No. 126) Riley Ridley, WR, Georgia.

» Round 6: (No. 205) Duke Shelley, CB, Kansas State.

» Round 7: (No. 222) Kerrith Whyte, RB, Florida Atlantic; (No. 238) Stephen Denmark, CB, Valdosta State.

Tied for the lowest number of picks in this year's draft (five), Chicago didn't get on the clock until Round 3 because of last year's blockbuster trade for Khalil Mack and a 2018 draft-day move for Anthony Miller. (By the way, those two players aren't factored into this grade, as this feels like an exercise in exploring the new talent joining the fray. I'm sure Bears fans are just fine with Khalil Mack, as opposed to a first-round pick that could've boosted this wildly subjective grade.) Having traded Jordan Howard in March, Bears GM Ryan Pace got a promising replacement by moving up 14 spots for Montgomery, the No. 2 running back in the class according to both Daniel Jeremiah and Bucky Brooks. A rock-solid rusher with a well-rounded game, Montgomery led college football last season in forced missed tackles, per PFF. The Bears' only other pick in the top five rounds was another weapon for third-year QB Mitch Trubisky. Like his older brother, Calvin, Riley Ridley is known for precise route running. Unlike his older brother, Riley didn't rack up premium college production and didn't post a 40-yard dash in the 4.4s.

4 - C
Detroit Lions

» Round 1: (No. 8 overall) T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa.

» Round 2: (No. 43) Jahlani Tavai, LB, Hawaii.

» Round 3: (No. 81) Will Harris, S, Boston College.

» Round 4: (No. 117) Austin Bryant, DE, Clemson.

» Round 5: (No. 146) Amani Oruwariye, CB, Penn State.

» Round 6: (No. 184) Travis Fulgham, WR, Old Dominion; (No. 186) Ty Johnson, RB, Maryland.

» Round 7: (No. 224) Isaac Nauta, TE, Georgia; (No. 229) P.J. Johnson, DT, Arizona.

Over the past 11 NFL drafts, 10 tight ends have been selected in the first round, including three by Detroit: Brandon Pettigrew (No. 20 overall in 2009), Eric Ebron (No. 10 in 2014) and now Hockenson (No. 8). Pettigrew and Ebron didn't quite work out as planned. (Not sure if you're aware of this, Lions fans, but Ebron was taken three picks before Aaron Donald and two before Odell Beckham Jr. Wild, right??!) So you can understand why a healthy dose of Detroiters appear diametrically opposed to hitting the position again in Round 1, particularly in the top 10. They don't want to hear about how the reigning Mackey Award winner's all-around game can boost the Lions' offense via the pass and run. They don't want to be told that Daniel Jeremiah had Hockenson as the fourth-best prospect in the entire draft class, with Gil Brandt ranking him sixth. They just want to instinctively shout those three pejorative words: Same. Old. Lions. And when the franchise follows up a first-round tight end with a second-round linebacker NOBODY saw coming, the SOLs fly fast and furious. Look, Lions fans are wounded animals, following a franchise that's logged one playoff win since 1957. Give them some space. Or throw them a bone, like ... I think getting Oruwariye in the fifth round could end up being one of the steals of this draft.

Follow Gennaro Filice on Twitter @GennaroFilice.

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