Green Bay Packers 10--6
This is an article from the Feb. 15, 2016 issue
TOP PRIORITY: WIDE RECEIVER
Even if Jordy Nelson recovers fully from a torn right ACL, the Pack still needs help at receiver. James Jones has no quickness in and out of breaks, so he can't separate. It would be premature to give up on Davante Adams, a 2014 second-rounder, but he was too awful in '15 to be considered a building block. The jury is out on last year's third-rounder, Ty Montgomery. Green Bay's West Coast spread system features isolation routes; receivers must get open on their own, with little help from the play design. The more who can do this, the better.
ALSO: DEFENSIVE LINE. GM Ted Thompson always treats this as a need. If he doesn't re-sign B.J. Raji and/or Letroy Guion, it becomes a much more serious void.
MINNESOTA VIKINGS 11--5
TOP PRIORITY: OFFENSIVE TACKLE
The Vikings exercised their fifth-year option on LT Matt Kalil's rookie deal, giving him one more season. After that, they must decide whether to award him an expensive second contract (if they don't, a more desperate team will) or draft a replacement. Kalil, overall, has underachieved. So here's an idea: Draft his replacement now. Maybe that ignites Kalil. If it doesn't, at least the pick will have an extra year to develop. Or the draftee can move to right tackle, allowing T.J. Clemmings to play guard, his more natural position.
ALSO: SAFETY. FS Harrison Smith will get a big contract this year or next, making it tough to re-sign vastly improved SS Andrew Sendejo.
CHICAGO BEARS 6--10
TOP PRIORITY: INSIDE LINEBACKER
A first-rounder in 2012, Shea McClellin struggles to read and react, and he's not worth bringing back. Flanking McClellin are backup-caliber options. Defensive coordinator Vic Fangio is a deft blitz designer, but he much prefers to rush four and keep seven in coverage. He did this during the best stretch of his career, running the 49ers' defense when it had Patrick Willis and NaVorro Bowman. Give Fangio inside 'backers who can not only attack downhill but also handle tight ends and running backs in man coverage; the rest of his well-coached D will fall into place.
ALSO: GUARD. The fact that Vladimir Ducasse found his way into the starting lineup in '15 tells you everything. (Safety is another issue to address; it's nearly as problematic as inside linebacker.)
DETROIT LIONS 7--9
TOP PRIORITY: OFFENSIVE LINE
The previous front office addressed this between 2012 and '15, drafting LT Riley Reiff and LG Laken Tomlinson in round 1, plus C Travis Swanson and RG Larry Warford in round 3. But except for Reiff (maybe), all look like misses. New GM Bob Quinn must find linemen who can at least run-block. A solid ground game would allow QB Matthew Stafford and his receivers to fix the passing woes on their own, assuming Detroit finds a decent fill-in for Calvin Johnson.
ALSO: WIDE RECEIVER. Johnson's '16 cap number was huge ($24 million), so it's possible the Lions were preparing to cut him and save about half of the hit. His retirement would carry the same financial impact. Some of the savings must go to his heir.