Skip to main content

NFC North rookie grades: Jordan Howard boosts Bears

The 2016 NFL season just ended -- but the 2017 NFL season is coming. As the NFL Scouting Combine nears, looks forward by looking backward, grading the 2016 rookie class for each team and identifying what the front office should focus on this offseason. Click below to scroll through each divisional rundown.

Chicago Bears

» Round 1: (No. 9 overall) Leonard Floyd, OLB, 12 games/12 starts.
» Round 2: (56) Cody Whitehair, C, 16 games/16 starts.
» Round 3: (72) Jonathan Bullard, DE, 14 games/1 start.
» Round 4: (113) Nick Kwiatkoski, ILB, 14 games/7 starts; (124) Deon Bush, S, 11 games/6 starts; (127) Deiondre' Hall, CB, 8 games/0 starts.
» Round 5: (150) Jordan Howard, RB, 15 games/13 starts.
» Round 6: (185) DeAndre Houston-Carson, S, 8 games/0 starts.
» Round 7: (230) Daniel Braverman, WR, 3 games/0 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Ben Braunecker, TE, 13 games/2 starts; Cre'von LeBlanc, CB, 13 games/9 starts.

Don't let the Bears' 3-13 record detract from the outstanding performance of their emerging young nucleus. Fueled by the surprising play of Jordan Howard as the team's RB1, Chicago's offense started to make strides as a smashmouth unit. The hard-charging runner churned out 1,313 rushing yards and six touchdowns as a surprise starter. Howard also added 29 receptions for 298 yards and another score. Cody Whitehair played a role in the running back's success as a rugged blocker at the point of attack. On defense, Leonard Floyd showed promise as a dynamic pass rusher off the edge. If he can avoid injuries and stay on the field, he could be a difference maker on a defense that's beginning to make strides. GRADE: A-

Combine/free agency focus: The potential loss of Alshon Jeffery as a possible free-agent departure could prompt the Bears to search for a WR1 in the draft. Sure, Kevin White could fill that role, but after getting minimal contributions from the ex-West Virginia standout, the team could take a look at Mike Williams, Corey Davis or John Ross. If Chicago elects to wait a little bit before pulling the trigger, Cooper Kupp and Zay Jones could be Day 2 candidates.

Detroit Lions

» Round 1: (No. 16 overall) Taylor Decker, OT, 17 games/17 starts.
» Round 2: (46) A'Shawn Robinson, DT, 17 games/6 starts.
» Round 3: (95) Graham Glasgow, C/OG, 16 games/12 starts.
» Round 4: (111) Miles Killebrew, S, 17 games/0 starts.
» Round 5: (151) Joe Dahl, OG, 7 games/0 starts; (169) Antwione Williams, LB, 14 games/3 starts.
» Round 6: (191) Jake Rudock, QB, 0 games; (202) Anthony Zettel, DE, 14 games/0 starts; (210) Jimmy Landes, LS, 0 games.
» Round 7: (236) Dwayne Washington, RB, 13 games/2 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Adairius Barnes, CB, 8 games/1 start.

Bob Quinn didn't acquire a lot of star power to the roster during his first draft, but he added a handful of blue-collar players who should help the Lions remain in playoff contention for the next few years. Taylor Decker shored up Detroit's biggest offensive weakness with his rock-solid play on the edge. Graham Glasgow also played a key role in solidifying the offensive line as the pivot. Defensively, A'Shawn Robinson quickly emerged as an anchor in the middle of the Lions' front line. Not to be outdone, Miles Killebrew carved out a role as a sub-package defender. The ultra-athletic "banger" made his mark as a solid tackle between the hashes while also flashing on special teams. GRADE: B+

Combine/free agency focus: The Lions need to find a franchise back capable of alleviating some of the pressure on Matthew Stafford to carry the offense. Dalvin Cook, Leonard Fournette, Christian McCaffrey and Alvin Kamara could be intriguing options on Day 1, or the team could kick the tires on Marlon Mack, Samaje Perine and Jeremy McNichols as mid-round possibilities.

Green Bay Packers

» Round 1: (No. 27 overall) Kenny Clark, DL, 19 games/2 starts.
» Round 2: (48) Jason Spriggs, OT, 19 games/2 starts.
» Round 3: (88) Kyler Fackrell, OLB, 16 games/0 starts.
» Round 4: (131) Blake Martinez, MLB, 16 games/10 starts; (137) Dean Lowry, DE, 18 games/0 starts.
» Round 5: (163) Trevor Davis, WR, 13 games/0 starts.
» Round 6: (200) Kyle Murphy, OT, 3 games/0 starts.
» Notable undrafted FAs:Geronimo Allison, WR, 13 games/3 starts; Kentrell Brice, S, 19 games/1 start; Marwin Evans, S, 19 games/0 starts; Josh Hawkins, CB, 14 games/0 starts; Joe Kerridge, FB, 9 games/0 starts.

The Packers' rookie class failed to make a significant impact on the roster despite the presence of several promising players. Kenny Clark played as part of the rotation, but failed to deliver many splash plays from his defensive end position. The same can be said for Kyler Fackrell after he only mustered two sacks and a forced fumble in limited action. Dean Lowry flashed a little bit as a rotational pass rusher on the way to notching a pair of sacks near the end of the season. Offensively, Jason Spriggs showed promise as a key reserve capable of playing tackle or guard in the starting lineup. Geronimo Allison climbed the ladder from practice squad member to key contributor in the playoffs. GRADE: C+

Combine/free agency focus: The potential loss of Eddie Lacy will prompt the Packers to research the running back market despite the emergence of Ty Montgomery as a viable option in the backfield. Thus, the team could look to add a versatile RB candidate like Christian McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara into the mix. The Packers could also look to bring in a heavy duty runner like Samaje Perine, D'onta Foreman or Brian Hill to balance out the offensive approach.

Minnesota Vikings

» Round 1: (No. 23 overall) Laquon Treadwell, WR, 9 games/1 start.
» Round 2: (54) Mackensie Alexander, CB, 13 games/0 starts.
» Round 4: (121) Willie Beavers, OG, 2 games/0 starts.
» Round 5: (160) Kentrell Brothers, LB, 10 games/0 starts.
» Round 6: (180) Moritz Boehringer, WR, 0 games; (188) David Morgan, TE, 12 games/0 starts.
» Round 7: (227) Stephen Weatherly, DE, 2 games/0 starts; (244) Jayron Kearse, S, 16 games/1 start.

The Vikings didn't get a lot out of their rookie class this season. Laquon Treadwell failed to crack the starting lineup despite his first-round status and mustered only one catch for 15 yards. Mackensie Alexander is in the same boat after spending most of his first season on the sidelines. Sure, he is playing behind a solid set of corners, but early selections are expected to get into the mix as young players. Kentrell Brothers and David Morgan flashed potential as blue-collar players with intriguing skills. GRADE: D

Combine/free agency focus:Adrian Peterson has likely played his final down for the Vikings after an illustrious career. With that mind, the team has to find a running back to build the offense around. Leonard Fournette would be a natural fit based on his rugged running style, but the team could look for a versatile weapon like Dalvin Cook, Christian McCaffrey or Alvin Kamara to fill a role in the backfield.

This article has been reproduced in a new format and may be missing content or contain faulty links. Please use the Contact Us link in our site footer to report an issue.

Related Content