How NFC North teams fared in the NFL draft: With Aaron Rodgers gone, the division looks wide open

After three decades of being able to lean on Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers at quarterback, the Green Bay Packers are moving on to a new era with Jordan Love, their first-round pick in 2020, dramatically changing the outlook for the NFC North.

With the NFL draft concluded, the Detroit Lions are the favorite to win the division on the basis of their 9-8 season in 2022, when they won five of their final six games to finish with a winning record for the first time since 2017.

The Lions are +135 at Westgate SuperBook in Las Vegas to capture the NFC North, ahead of the defending champion Minnesota Vikings (+325), Chicago Bears (+325) and Packers (+420). It projects to be a wide-open race.

The Packers used five of their first seven picks and seven of 13 overall on offensive players in an effort to surround Love with talent. They drafted tight ends Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft and wide receiver Jayden Reed on Day 2.

The Vikings chose the fourth wide receiver in Round 1 in USC’s Jordan Addison to pair with Justin Jefferson and give Kirk Cousins an opportunity for continued success. The Lions surprised some onlookers in terms of positional value by going with Alabama running back Jahmyr Gibbs and Iowa inside linebacker Jack Campbell in the first round.

All four NFC North teams leaned heavily into major college programs to select talent. Lions defensive tackle Brodric Martin (Western Kentucky, Round 3) and Packers tight end Kraft (South Dakota State, Round 3) were the only players in the division selected in the first four rounds who did not play for Power Five programs.

Here’s a look at how the Bears’ competition in the NFC North fared in the draft.

Detroit Lions

  • 1-12: Jahmyr Gibbs, RB, Alabama

  • 1-18: Jack Campbell, LB, Iowa

  • 2-34: Sam LaPorta, TE, Iowa

  • 2-45: Brian Branch, DB, Alabama

  • 3-68: Hendon Hooker, QB, Tennessee

  • 3-96: Brodric Martin, DT, Western Kentucky

  • 6-152: Corey Sorsdal, OT, William & Mary

  • 7-219: Antoine Green, WR, North Carolina

One of the most unexpected selections Thursday night was the Lions choosing Gibbs with their first of two first-round picks. His selection greased the skids for D’Andre Swift to be traded to the Philadelphia Eagles, and Gibbs figures to share the load with ex-Bear David Montgomery.

Gibbs’ versatility as a pass catcher was a motivating factor for general manager Brad Holmes, but many figured the Lions would double down in Round 1 on help for a defense that struggled in 2022. They grabbed Campbell at No. 18, another mildly surprising selection because of positional value. But one of the Lions’ biggest weaknesses a year ago was through the middle of the defense and they allowed 5.2 yards per carry, third-worst in the NFL.

Reviews were much stronger for what Holmes accomplished Friday. Branch, who can play safety or nickel cornerback, will help with the defense’s struggles up the middle. The Lions chose LaPorta as the replacement for T.J. Hockenson, then got a developmental quarterback in Hooker to consider down the line.

Notable: It’s perhaps an ideal landing spot for Hooker because the roster has really improved over the last two years and there’s no pressure to get him on the field quickly with Jared Goff in place. … With wide receivers Jameson Williams and Stanley Berryhill suspended for the first six games for violating the NFL’s gambling policy, the Lions added depth at the position by drafting Green in Round 7.

Green Bay Packers

  • 1-13: Lukas Van Ness, Edge, Iowa

  • 2-42: Luke Musgrave, TE, Oregon State

  • 2-50: Jayden Reed, WR, Michigan State

  • 3-78: Tucker Kraft, TE, South Dakota State

  • 4-116: Colby Wooden, DE, Auburn

  • 5-149: Sean Clifford, QB, Penn State

  • 5-159: Dontayvion Wicks, WR, Virginia

  • 6-179: Karl Brooks, DT, Bowling Green

  • 6-207: Anders Carlson, K, Auburn

  • 7-232: Carrington Valentine, CB, Kentucky

  • 7-235: Lew Nichols III, RB, Central Michigan

  • 7-242: Anthony Johnson Jr., S, Iowa State

  • 7-256: Grant DuBose, WR, Charlotte

GM Brian Gutekunst seemingly always resisted drafting a wide receiver in Round 1 for Rodgers. He didn’t change his approach for Love, though it would have been understandable if the Packers had gone in that direction with the 13th pick. Instead they added Barrington’s Van Ness to fortify a pass rush that took a big hit last season after Rashan Gary went down with a torn ACL.

The Packers used their next three selections to aid Love, though, sandwiching Reed between tight ends Musgrave and Kraft. No team has done better the last two decades picking wide receivers in Round 2, where the Packers found Christian Watson a year ago plus Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and Greg Jennings.

Reed, from Naperville, will have to get rolling quickly to assist Love, and help at tight end was mandatory after Robert Tonyan left via free agency for the Bears. It’s the first time in the common draft era (since 1967) the Packers drafted two tight ends in the first three rounds. Gutekunst chose two more wide receivers — Wicks and DuBose — in a 13-man class.

Notable: The Packers lost a couple of productive defensive linemen in free agency in Dean Lowry and Jarran Reed. The hope is Wooden and Brooks will help fill the void. Brooks had a solid week at the Senior Bowl and was a surprising combine snub. … The addition of Carlson in the sixth round could spell the end of the Mason Crosby era. Crosby is the franchise’s all-time leading scorer and the last kicker the Packers drafted back in 2007. Carslon’s brother Daniel is the Las Vegas Raiders kicker.

Minnesota Vikings

  • 1-23: Jordan Addison, WR, USC

  • 3-102: Mekhi Blackmon, CB, USC

  • 4-134: Jay Ward, DB, LSU

  • 5-141: Jaquelin Roy, DT, LSU

  • 5-164: Jaren Hall, QB, BYU

  • 7-222: DeWayne McBride, RB, UAB

With needs at cornerback and on the defensive line, the Vikings chose Addison, the fourth consecutive wide receiver to go in the second half of Round 1. Some wondered if they would use the pick on an eventual replacement for Cousins, but GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah passed on Will Levis and Hendon Hooker to maintain a strength with Addison. Even with the presence of K.J. Osborn, who is entering the final year of his contract, Addison projects to be the replacement for Adam Thielen as the No. 2 receiver alongside Jefferson.

The Vikings tabbed Blackmon with their next selection, and he joins an interesting mix of young players. Five of the team’s cornerbacks from last season have signed elsewhere or remain unsigned, and Blackmon is one of five cornerbacks who will be entering their first or second season. That means Minnesota, at least initially, will lean on second-year pros Andrew Booth Jr. and Akayleb Evans. This group could struggle if the Vikings cannot mount a consistent pass rush.

Notable: With Dalvin Cook’s future uncertain, the Vikings added a potential replacement in McBride. He led all FBS rushers with 1,713 yards last season and scored 19 touchdowns, so it could be a combination of the rookie and Alexander Mattison. … Cousins enters the final year of his contract, and Hall is a developmental quarterback. Injuries interrupted his career at BYU and he’s a little undersized at 6 feet, 207 pounds. A best-case scenario might be seeing if he can develop as a reliable No. 2.