Re-Grading the North: 2019 NFL Draft

Bradbury, Lynch Practice in Full on Thursday
Minnesota Vikings center Garrett Bradbury. (John Autey / Pioneer Press).

The 2022 NFL Draft is already just four days away, and we will soon see the latest batch of athletes living out their dreams of being selected to play in the NFL. Before we do that though, let’s take a look back on drafts past. We’ve already gone through both the 2017 and 2018 drafts in recent weeks, and now we are officially approaching the borderline of when it is “appropriate” to go through and re-grade a draft class. Here’s how the NFC North did in 2019.

Chicago Bears: B+

The 2019 draft was a rather quiet one for the Chicago Bears. They traded away both their first and second round selections to the Las Vegas Raiders and New England Patriots. These picks helped them land both Khalil Mack and the pick in 2018 draft that they used to select Anthony Miller. Any time you can exchange a draft pick for a fearsome defender, you have to do it. The Miller selection didn’t quite pan out as well as the Bears had hoped, but Mack certainly filled the bill for Chicago’s defense.

With their actual picks though, Chicago landed their current RB1 in David Montgomery with their third-round selection. Other than that though, there is little of note in this class. Three of their four Day Three selections never really turned into anything, but sixth-rounder Duke Shelley started four games at CB for the Bears in 2021.

Overall, a Day Two pick that landed one of the more productive running backs in the league on top of a trade to get a top pass-rusher carry this grade. The class itself is a bit underwhelming as a whole, but there is some serious star power.

Detroit Lions: B-

Similarly to the Chicago Bears class, the Detroit Lions are seriously carried by star power in an overall underwhelming class. Unlike Chicago, the Lions actually held onto their first-rounder in order to draft what is now one of the best tight ends in the NFL, T.J. Hockenson. On top of that, they also got Amani Oruwariye, who had a breakout season in 2021 at corner, including a season-high seven tackles in Detroit’s win over Minnesota.

Other than that, this was another class in 2019 that did not produce at a very high level. Sure, Will Harris started all 17 games at safety for Detroit during 2021, but that really seems like it was done out of necessity rather than Harris actually being an overly productive player. Pro Football Focus seems to agree as they gave him a grade of 42.6 for his efforts. However, Hockenson has consistently been a terrific weapon for the Lions, making this a slightly above average grade.

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Green Bay Packers: A

The Packers had three selections in the first two rounds of the draft, and they absolutely nailed each and every one of them. Rashan Gary emerged as a terrific pass-rush threat in the absence of Za’Darius Smith during 2021. Darnell Savage has started every single game he’s played at safety for Green Bay. And finally, Elgton Jenkins is one of the best guards in the NFL while also showcasing an ability to bump out to the left tackle position.

Staying with the theme, Green Bay found star talent in their 2019 draft class. They also found a starter at defensvie tackle in Kingsley Keke. Overall, the emergence of this class in recent years is in no small part connected to the Packers re-emergence as a Super Bowl contender. They get an A for 2019.

Minnesota Vikings: D+

The Minnesota Vikings seemed to not get the memo as the result of their 2019 draft picks were easily the worst group of any in the division. They did not find any stars in this class, and the players that have had potential seem to fizzle out at the worst possible times. Garrett Bradbury being the first-round choice has proven to be a disaster, especially given that the Packers got Jenkins in the second round.

The one player left that really seems capable of turning this class around is Irv Smith Jr., who missed the entire 2021 season with injury. Armon Watts could be a dark horse candidate for this role as well given his production following all the missed time along Minnesota’s defensive front. A tight end and defensive tackle probably aren’t where you’d be hoping for your best players to come from, especially when the Vikings are notorious for their struggles on the interior offensive line since Bradbury’s arrival. The Vikings barely get a passing grade because of the later round production from a few prospects.