September 21, 2023


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Re-Grading the North: 2018 NFL Draft

Minnesota Vikings offensive tackle Brian O’Neill (75) readies at the line of scrimmage in the third quarter during an NFL football game against the Chicago Bears, Sunday, Dec. 20, 2020, in Minneapolis. The Bears defeated the Vikings 33-27. (AP Photo/David Berding)

The 2018 NFL Draft was one that had a number of questions surrounding it, much like the 2022 draft we are about to go through. The QB class seemed like a weak one at the time, and outside of Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson, that has largely proven to be the case. As for the NFC North, there were picks from all four franchises that have made a lasting impact on their teams even into 2022. Here are the grades for the NFC North’s 2018 draft classes four years removed from the selections being made.

Chicago Bears: B+

During Mitchell Trubisky’s rookie season, the Chicago Bears defense was a very strong unit, but the offense desperately needed some help. They did find a weapon for him to throw to in second-round pick Anthony Miller. However, their biggest pick of this draft class came at No. 8 overall in LB Roquan Smith. It was an interesting pick for a team that ranked ninth in points allowed and 10th in yards allowed.

It worked out, though. In the 2018 season Chicago went 12-4, largely behind the best scoring defense in the NFL. An unconventional Smith pick in a bit of a poor offensive class paid off. The Anthony Miller pick didn’t quite pan out, but he scored seven touchdowns in his rookie season. They also found a four-year starting RG in James Daniels and defensive tackle Bilai Nichols before both players ultimately left this offseason during free agency.

Overall, Chicago could have done better with the WR choices out there (Michael Gallup went in round three), but they found three excellent starters in this class that helped lead to two playoff appearances in the past four seasons.

Detroit Lions: B-

The Detroit Lions own one of the few NFL success stories from drafting a center in the first round. Frank Ragnow has been a superstar at the position ever since he joined Detroit after being picked No. 20 overall. Other than that selection though, this draft was largely another flop for Detroit.

Their second-round pick was used on RB Kerryon Johnson, who had a lot of potential coming into the NFL, but he just couldn’t ever shake the injury bug. Johnson played just 34 games over three years with Detroit and started only 16 of them.

It is worth mentioning that they do have a rising star in S Tracy Walker who started 15 games in 2021 and played quality football. Walker was selected in the third round and has had a growing impact on the team in every year that he’s been a pro. Like Chicago, they found a couple quality starters, and even four years later, this grade could rise if Walker continues to provide a starting-caliber impact.

Green Bay Packers: B

This grade is carried heavily by the fact that Green Bay traded down in the first round, got a future first-round pick, and still landed arguably the best CB in the NFL in Jaire Alexander. Other than that, this draft is very underwhelming. Their second-rounder was Joshua Jackson, and he never found any consistent playing time in Green Bay.

The Packers have had a number of questions around their WR2 position behind DeVante Adams, and while Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been the main player in that role as a 2018 fifth-round pick, the questions surrounding the position have mainly been because of his inconsistent play over his four years in Green Bay.

Then, the only other pick of note in this class was…punter JK Scott. While he was a good punter for three years with the Packers, it’s certainly not ideal that a punter is the third-best pick of a class. This is a bad class overall, but Green Bay had such a big win in the first round that it erases much of it.

Minnesota Vikings: C+

As is the theme of the 2018 draft for the teams residing in the NFC North, the Minnesota Vikings found a star, a serviceable starter, and that was about it. However, their first-round pick is the only one of the group that flopped (Mike Hughes), so that lowers their grade below the rest of the division.

Looking at the positives of this draft; however, Minnesota got one of the very best right tackles, Brian O’Neill, in the league at terrific value with pick No. 62. They also got TE Tyler Conklin in the fifth round, who proved extremely valuable in 2021 following the Irv Smith Jr. injury.

Other than those two players, the Vikings didn’t have a single player of impact. Hughes never caught on in Minnesota. Jalyn Holmes was given a starting role for nine games in the wake of the Danielle Hunter injury during 2020, and he never recorded a single sack. Kicker Daniel Carlson was off the team two games into the 2018 season. Despite the win with O’Neill, there were a number of big losses as well.

Final Thoughts

It’s very curious to see all of these draft classes side-by-side, and the results being as similar as they are four years later. Each team was in a very different spot in terms of a competitive stand-point, but the NFC North teams each got a star, one or two solid starters, and then the rest of the class was just a wash. Will the trend continue in the 2019 class? It will be interesting to find out.

Dalvin Cook