Draft Decisions: NFC North

Josh Norris
Rotoworld

I love producing this series every year. It takes time, but digging into the reasons behind each and every selection, straight from the decision makers, is very valuable. Sure, head coaches and general managers might not reveal every piece of information, but immediately following the draft is as open and honest as they will be. These notes come directly from post-draft press conferences and any extra videos team sites pump out. Some quotes are verbatim, others are paraphrased.

Chicago Bears

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Speaking: Ryan Pace after round three, Pace and Matt Nagy after Day 3

Traded to Patriots

2019 third round pick (87)
2019 fifth round pick (162)
2020 fourth round pick

Received

2019 third round pick (73)
2019 sixth round pick (205)

3.9 (73). RB David Montgomery, Iowa State - Moved up 14 spots. Outstanding production, vision, instincts, contact balance, elusive in the hole, unbelievable makeup and character… His magnet stuck out. We operate on a no regrets mindset, so we decided to move up… Everything you look for in a back. Good hands. Watched him live at his bowl game… Numerous stories of his professionalism, how he treats the staff, desire to be great… Vision with Matt Nagy was aligned very long ago watching film together… He’s extremely driven. Combine numbers are different than what he showed. Non-issue. His ability to make things happen when it’s dirty. When it’s not blocked perfectly… We expect all of the backs to contribute in different areas. We are really happy with that room now… This was “take the best player” (how? You traded up for him)... Would go to the facility late at night. Bring teammates with him to watch tape. Was infectious to the rest of the team… Feel like his route running can be expanded more. Comfortable hands… “A lot of guys can break tackles but then lose their balance. He breaks tackles then picks up positive yards”...  No regrets when we make a consensus decision on dealing future picks. We were working the phones in that area of the draft. We’ve dealt with the Patriots before. No intelligence where they needed to get to secure him. Thought this was the sweet spot for Montgomery… “For sure” he can be a contributor from Day 1… Natural hands means he can work in the passing game. Hashes difference in college and NFL changes the routes asked to run. Identifying which route that is for each running back is important. Motioning into empty, is it a vertical route? Is it a shallow cross?  

4.24 (126). WR Riley Ridley, Georgia - Best player on the board. Size, hands, catching radius, can win contested battles, route running… Was surprising he was still available. We all had high grades on him… When he visited he said “I’m not a 50-50 guy, I win all of them” That’s his mindset. Very athletic like his brother, and route running is comparable… Always mindful that adding more weapons around the QB and for the coaches, the better… Savviness to set corners up. Drops weight in and out of breaks. Defined and crisp. Probably start him on the outside… Very real and authentic person. Nagu likes to meet with prospects 1 on 1 during visits. Everything he said had passion behind it. Nothing was scripted.     

6.32 (205). CB Duke Shelley, Kansas State - We’ve been talking about him internally for a long time. A bit undersized, but he’s athletic, twitchy. Four-year starter. Competitiveness jumps off. Scrappy, everything is earned. Slot is his ideal spot.

7.8 (222). WR/RB Kerrith Whyte, FAU - Speed is the first trait. Standout speed. Brings value to special teams… He and Singletary jump out in different ways

7.24 (238). CB Stephen Denmark, Valdosta State - Ridiculous measurables. We worked him out privately. One year at the position after switching from receiver. Upside, defense coaches, scouts and special teams coaches were really excited about… Deshea and Champ Kelly traveled to work him out… Stays calm on deep passes. Poised, then tracks the ball.   

Detroit Lions

Speaking: Bob Quinn all three days

1.8 (8). TE T.J. Hockenson, Iowa - Targeted this player early on. 3 or 4 down player. Checked every box in evaluations: Third down to special teams to red area to culture to intelligence and work ethic… There’s a transition for every position. Tight end is a bit unique, as it is involved in both the run and pass. That is one of TJ’s strengths as he’s very smart. Knows football… Had a couple conversations about potential trades… He’s the Iowa tight end who is always on the field. He is the one who gets the ball in critical situations. Spoke to Ferentz at length about him during the process. He’s earned everything he’s received… Only real surprise was the Giants selecting a quarterback so early… Put TJ and Jesse James on the field together. We will work a lot of 12 personnel. Switch easily to 11 personnel… TJ is a natural catcher. Smooth in how he gets into position for those adjustment catches. Has good top of the route technique. He steps up to pressure… Will not bring up a possible comparison to Ebron. “Two totally different players”. Quinn wasn’t even a part of the Ebron draft...  At times we will play a possession game. Other times we will go tempo. TJ is well rounded in both areas. 

2.11 (43). LB Jahlani Tavai, Hawaii - Versatile player. Four-year starter, two-time captain. Can play the run, cover the pass, rush the passer. Unique player. Body type, playing strength. Playing in Hawaii might keep him off radars. Interesting to evaluate players from Hawaii, a scout doesn’t go there for a week. Our staff gets access in the week leading up their games stateside… A little nervous four or five picks ahead of the selection hoping he would be there. Visited the Lions HQ. Was invited to the Senior Bowl but did not play due to injury… All of our linebackers can do a lot of different things. On film you see him play the edge, set the edge, then rush the passer. Then two snaps later he’s playing MIKE bubble linebacker coming downhill and smashing a guard. A lot of guys you have to project that type of transition and versatility. Don’t have to with him… We do weigh how we think other people view him. But we also weigh what the rest of the position board looks like. There are only a couple every year that are very good natural linebacker fits in the defense. This was a player we had targeted as early as October… We like thick, built linebackers. Then they can play on the edge with arm length against tight ends. Those are hard to find… Had a group of four players in mind at the start of Day 2… Did not play a lot of special teams because he was a 4-year starter.   

Traded to Vikings

2019 third round pick (88)
2019 sixth round pick (204)

Received

2019 third round pick (81)

3.17 (81). S Will Harris, Boston College - 3-year starter, team captain. Versatile guy. One of the better players at the Senior Bowl. Quinn went up to visit BC’s practice and watch the game. Coach Pasqueloni helped as well… Our pro scouting department does a great job of identifying other team’s needs. Who they visit. Who teams work out. “The power of Twitter is pretty incredible. You can just type in a player” and see who he visited or worked out with. We make a book by team and a book by player… Will’s leadership and passion for football really stood out. Called by staffers as the heartbeat of the team.  

Traded to Falcons

2019 fourth round pick (111)

Received

2019 fourth round pick (117)
2019 sixth round pick (186)

4.15 (117). EDGE Austin Bryant, Clemson - Quinn feels more comfortable grading and evaluating for this defensive system because he’s been doing it for so much longer, learned in the Patriots organization… Quinn visited Clemson in October. When you watch him against the best teams, he steps up his game. Played through injury, showed toughness.  

5.8 (146). CB Amani Oruwariye, Penn State - Considered drafting him in round 4. 

6.11 (184). WR Travis Fulgham, Old Dominion - 

6.13 (186). RB Ty Johnson, Maryland

7.10 (224). TE Isaac Nauta, Georgia - Highest graded guy, by far, still on the board. That’s why we took a second tight end. He gets open in the passing game. Just did not test as well as we thought. Could be an H-back

7.15 (229). iDL P.J. Johnson, Arizona - Was included in the spring book from scouts. He burst onto the scene in September. First grade was in late September. Another one in October. Brought him in for a 30 visit because he wasn't at the Combine. Mainly to get a physical. Big guy, athletic, you’ll see him all over the place.

Green Bay Packers

Speaking: Brian Gutekunst all three days. Matt LaFleur final day. Area scouts after each pick in the top 5 rounds.

1.12 (12). EDGE Rashan Gary, Michigan - We don’t anticipate any surgery initially. Played through it this season and feels good… Production is how you look at it. Stats that aren’t typical, he really impacted the passer.  At times he wrecked the passer. Premiere athlete, exceptional motor on the field, and we locked in on him since February… Disagree on effort questions. “People haven’t done their homework… He plays with his hair on fire. A lot of things get floated in the media longer than they should”... Really versatile, just like Preston Smith and Zadarius Smith. Can play on the edge and kick inside. You can never have enough of those guys. You have to impact the quarterback. We have a number of guys that can move around and win one on one. We need to impact the passer on third downs… Not a coincidence all three are similar in size… Area scout believes he commanded a lot of attention at Michigan in the former of double and triple teams, plus taking on the tight ends. Freed up others… There is nothing harder on an offense than sending fresh pass rushers through.   

Traded to Seahawks

2019 first round pick (30)
2019 fourth round pick (114)
2019 fourth round pick (118)

Received

2019 first round pick (21)

1.21 (21). S Darnell Savage, Maryland - Premiere athlete. Impact player for Maryland for multiple years. Football character stood out to us. Closes the gap from center field, able to take the ball away. He fits what we want to do in the backend… Ability to close gaps and take the ball away was really important for us. All around safety and has played some nickel as well. Versatile piece in our secondary… We were still excited about him after taking Gary at 12. Wanted to see what it would take for us to move up to get him. Started calling right away. Wanted to keep the second and third rounders because this is a good draft at the top… Think Savage is an absolute difference maker. Didn’t think there was a real deep group there. Didn’t think we could sit at 30… Athleticism to cover ground and take the ball away, we think it is “rare”... Our height standard at corner goes way back. Standard at safety is more flexible. I know for a fact we would not have gotten him if we stayed at 30.   

2.12 (44). iOL Elgton Jenkins, Miss State - Versatility is exceptional. Big, long with excellent power. Ability to play all 5 spots in the SEC drew him to us. A lot of times college teams put their best player at center because they run the show… His ability to move big men and the Senior Bowl sold me… Have a traits list for each position that dates back to Ron Wolf. Wolf and Ted were very big on the history of the NFL and “what plays.” We look for those things… We took him as a guard. Size and athleticism in this scheme is a premium. Unique at getting to the second level. 

3.11 (75). TE Jace Sternberger, Texas A&M - Started at Kansas as a WR, then moved to JUCO. Didn’t spend much time at A&M. Wasn’t on the radar until he started putting up numbers… A&M is now a pro system… Coaches kid. Jace fits the TE mold that can be a matchup problem. Can create separation from linebackers and safeties… Was the best player on the board. Thought it was a pretty decent TE class. Didn’t have to add one this year… We didn’t stay away from RB and WR on purpose, just wasn’t BPA. But we do like those rooms very much… A few tight ends at the top have a real chance of being difference makers… An ascending player. 

5.12 (150). iDL Kingsley Keke, Texas A&M - Thought we needed pieces that can move around. Has a lot of twitch as a pass rusher. Inside 3-tech. He’s polished, works half a man and gains leverage. You could see it at the Senior Bowl. 

6.12 (185). CB Ka’dar Hollman, Toledo - 6-foot guy who ran 4.3 for us. His story is determination and grit. We like that he can press and turn and run. Fits what we want to do.

6.21 (194). RB Dexter Williams, Notre Dame - Skill set fits what LaFleur wants in the running game. We take suspensions and arrests seriously, and we feel good about the person… Thought he can press the edge, put his foot in the dirt and get north and south. Best football is ahead of him. Decisive… We are looking for one cut runners. 

7.12 (226). LB Ty Summers, TCU

Minnesota Vikings

Speaking: Rick Spielman and Mike Zimmer on Day 1, separately. Spielman on Day 2 and 3.

1.18 (18). iOL Garrett Bradbury, NC State - Has been on the radar for quite a while. Gary Kubiak had all fall to evaluate a lot of college football players, and this was one of his favorites. One day Andre Patterson was watching a lot of the talented DL and asked “who is this center from NC State? This guy is really good.” Tough, physical and has great balance… We are just trying to line up the best players along our offensive line. He has the athletic skill set we want. Everybody on staff loved this kid… With these athletic blockers, if you can get them to get one guy our of a gap, the one cut downhill run game can really work… Once he figured out what scheme we were going to run, outside zone, he was the perfect fit. He was a target based on coaches traits. Spielman saw him against Wake Forest live… “He was by far our target”  

2.18 (50). TE Irv Smith, Alabama - Mismatch player on our offense. We were hoping we could get him. Holding our breath a little bit. Had a lot of trade activity when we were on the clock. We were not going to trade out of picking him… Two different styles compared to Rudolph… Knocked out his formal interview at the Combine. Didn't need to have communication after that. Haven’t had this type of tight end. It’s a big part of Kubiak’s offense. Has a lot of Jordan Reed type traits… Once they check all of the boxes, we don’t need to tip our hand with interest. Utilize top 30 to recruit, to answer questions and for smokescreens.

Traded to Lions

2019 third round pick (81)

Received

2019 third round pick (88)
2019 sixth round pick (204)

Traded to Seahawks

2019 third round pick (88)
2019 sixth round pick (209)

Received

2019 third round pick (92)
2019 fifth round pick (159)

Traded to Jets

2019 third round pick (92)

Received

2019 third round pick (93)
2019 seventh round pick (217)

Traded to Ravens 

2019 third round pick (93)

Received

2019 third round pick (102)
2019 sixth round pick (191)
2019 sixth round pick (193)

3.38 (102). RB Alexander Mattison, Boise State - Needed a different type of runner since we lost Latavius Murray. Can catch the ball very well. Scouts and coaches felt very strongly about him… He wins on contact. Has ability catching and in pass protection. We have to have multiple backs in the offense. We wanted someone similar to a Murray type… The more carries he gets, the more he gets lathered up… There are players still on the board we have targeted, and with our pick currency we are going to be able to move up and down… Unique back, he can be a workhorse… We are good at taking young players, putting them with coaches and letting them develop.

Traded to Seahawks

2019 fourth round pick (120)
2019 sixth round pick (204)

Received

2019 fourth round pick (114)

4.12 (114). G Dru Samia, Oklahoma - Fits what we do offensively. Felt there would be a run at guard. Met with him at the Combine. Ideal fit… Traded up for him because he was a target. Tried to do that with one more player but it didn’t work out. 

Traded to Patriots

2019 fifth round pick (159)

Received

2019 fifth round pick (162)
2019 seventh round pick (239)

5.24 (162). LB Cameron Smith, USC - Played well at the Senior Bowl. Multi-positional. Very good on special teams. Intelligence, passion for the game, character off the field. Don’t think you can go wrong here. 

6.17 (190). iDL Armon Watts, Arkansas - Our coaches at the East-West worked with these guys, including Udoh. See how they worked in meetings and practices. They were very excited. 

6.18 (191). DB Marcus Epps, Wyoming - Very instinctive. Probably special teams player.

6.20 (193). OL Oli Udoh, Elon - Ran near a 5.00. Our coaches liked getting their hands on him in practice. Coaches being at the game is a huge competitive advantage. Only bright spot in missing the playoffs. We had coaches on both teams.

7.3 (217). CB Kris Boyd, Texas - Trying to look for as much value as we can. Very gifted athlete, physical in the run game, has technical stuff to clean up. 

7.25 (239). WR Dillon Mitchell, Oregon - These guys really stood out as athletes. We look at athletes in the later rounds. Look for the guys with tremendous upside. 

7.33 (247). WR Olabisi Johnson, Colorado State - Goal is to figure out and identify why they play the game.

7.36 (250). LS Austin Cutting, Air Force - We’ve been in contact with Air Force. He’s obligated to serve and excited about it. Talking about ways he can serve his commitment and serve here as a football player. Began those conversations over the last week. 

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