After free agency, teams turn their full attentions to solidifying their draft plans. The players signed, and more so, the players unsigned will significantly help to shape their strategies.
The most savvy NFL personnel departments will mix smart acquisition practices in the off-season with clutch evaluating come draft season.
Both can combine to create championship rosters and make each almost equally important.
Most teams build through the draft, however, as simply signing free agents will prove to be overly expensive and ineffective.
The Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers, and Minnesota Vikings have all been players to this point. With a few smart additions in April will help each take another step forward in dominating the NFC North.
Let’s take a look at who each team has added, lost, and which areas of their rosters still need tending too.
CHICAGO BEARS (2016 Results: 3-13 / 4th in NFC North)
The Bears have been a team on a downward spiral for some time now, but a well-executed draft could help this team mend its errors.
On one side, the team was able to finally move away from quarterback Jay Cutler.
On the other, Glennon is mostly unproven and there are no guarantees he brings success in 2017 or beyond.
With many other questions on the roster, the free-agent signing also allows Chicago to build around the quarterback position. Even if Glennon doesn’t pan out, they’ll have talent around whomever they put under center.
Bringing in former Steelers wide receiver Markus Wheaton should help matters a bit. He’s not necessarily a one or a two receiver, but he’ll get a shot to make an impact here.
The Bears have young talent in their receiving corps, and Glennon will need to gel with at least one of them to see early productivity.
Moving into the draft, Chicago needs to make moves in the offensive line and could use more depth in the secondary.
Jamal Adams is a name which immediately comes to mind when anticipating where the Bears could go first round.
In the middle rounds, don’t be surprised to see Zay Jones or Josh Reynolds come off the board as Chicago looks for even more receiver depth.
Offensive line will be in play throughout the draft as the team needs some more pieces in front of their new quarterback.
DETROIT LIONS (2016 Results: 9-7 / 2nd in NFC North)
The Lions had a shot at clinching the NFC North in 2016, and will need a strong draft class to keep up with the defending champs in 2017.
None of the signings Detroit has made this offseason jump off the page immediately. However, if you look closely, each could prove to be crucial in the coming year.
Paul Worrilow should also crack the starting rotation, and defensive tackle Akeem Spence is an underrated depth piece.
The team needs edge players to pass rush, linebackers, secondary help and could certainly go for a receiver or two.
For the Lions, they could go to any of these positions at any point, so the best player available in these positions figure to be the likely choices.
This is a team with an outside shot at continuing to add talent between now and the draft, so don’t be surprised if they end up in the running for an Adrian Peterson or Jamal Charles among others.
GREEN BAY PACKERS (2016 Results: 10-6 / 1st in NFC North)
What do you give the team already on the cusp of greatness before they enter the draft?
Well, in this case, a Super Bowl winning tight end from the New England Patriots.
If Rodgers was dangerous before, imagine what would happen if the Packers re-established their running attack?
Defense should be the tone of the draft for the Packers as they’ll be looking to raise their defensive talent closer to the level of their offense.
Fortunately for them, there’s a good amount of defensive talent in this year’s class.
Bringing linebacker Nick Perry back was a nice move, but he’ll need help to get things done in 2017.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS (2016 Results: 8-8 / 3rd in NFC North)
The Vikings were on a pretty good swing towards legitimacy before they lost Teddy Bridgewater. Now, as the franchise quarterback comes closer to returning, this draft may be the key to getting back on track.
A pair of offensive tackles have been added to the line in Mike Remmers and Riley Reiff.
The most dramatic offseason development has been the situation with running back Adrian Peterson who is currently seeking out a new home.
Minnesota doesn’t have a first round pick currently, but there’s talent present in the later rounds.
It’s unlikely this franchise will be the one to give former Oklahoma Sooner Joe Mixon his shot at the NFL as they likely won’t want to dive back into the public eye for an issue like domestic violence.
Despite adding two offensive tackles already, don’t count the team out in the draft as they look for depth along the line.
Defense is always in demand, and getting deeper in the trenches is never a bad idea either.
Cornerback and safety should be middle and late round targets as well.
The NFC North is one of the most contested divisions in the league.
Green Bay is largely considered the top team, but all have the talent necessary to make a push.
While a couple of these teams are in less than desirable quarterback situations, the other two are in need of some defensive upgrades.
There really isn’t a prospect on the board who couldn’t find themselves in the NFC North via the draft this season.
It’s one of the most physical divisions in the NFL. They’ll be looking for some physical-type players at the end of April.
Who do you like for your team? Let me know on Twitter, and share your thoughts on your team’s needs.