In the world of the NFL a win/win scenerio is pretty rare; and so it is often the case that for every winner there is a loser. When we talk about the draft this typically an older veteran having to watch at home as the kid who is going to push to replace him gets drafted and celebrates being in the NFL.
In the last post we took at look at the players and coaches who benefited from the draft. Now the attention gets turned to the guys who have an uphill battle after the draft. They are the losers. For this particular analysis I am going to limit t to two guys for each teams. This is done for two reasons: 1) right now the signs point to the NFC North teams all having a generally good draft and so there aren't many losers out of the bunch; and 2) most of the biggest losers of the draft are guys who are sitting at the bottom of the 53 and don't have the talent to compete with the shiny new first round picks....the Frank Zombos and Erik Waldens of the world. I don't really find noting all these players very interesting to write about for the Packers let alone our division rivals. Instead I am going to focus on some notable players who will still make the team but may be looking at a tough year due to the decisions made. We start with....
The Green Bay Packers.
Tom Clemments. There is an old saying that seems to be used by coaches at every level: "If you aren't getting better, then you are getting worse." After the Packers had one of the best, and historic, offenses last year and little to no reinforcements sent to the offense through the draft I don't see how they are going to get much better. The quote suggests that they would probably end up being a bit worse than last year. Who is the guy who gets blamed (especially if it gets really bad)? I'll tell you this, it's not going to be Aaron Rodgers or Mike McCarthy.
Sam Shields. This is a career at a crossroads. His rookie year he was a sensation who shocked Packer nation with his speed, solid performance and making some key plays. Last year his raw cover skills showed and he suffered through a sophomore slump. Now he's getting a full offseason to hone his craft and improve, but he also has to compete with two young guys at the same spot in Davon House and Casey Hayward. Shields is still the starter and will have plenty of fans pulling for him, but if he can't have 2012 look more like 2010 than 2011, then his position is going to be in trouble.
The Detroit Lions.
Kyle Vanden Bosch. This may be surprising, but stick with me for a moment. The Lions definately spent a large chunk of the their draft addressing their defense like the Packers, but unlike the Packers it wasn't the front half...rather it was the back half. There was a collection of linebackers and secondary help added (and boy did they need it), but nothing along the front line. If the Giants taught us anything about the key to a defense is that you need a strong up front rush and keep that rush coming in waves. The Lions have a pretty good front four, but they don't really have pass rushers in waves. This means more snaps and more wear and tear on his body.
Nate Burleson. My advice to Burleson...look at Donald Driver, right now this is going to be you in the near future. No, I don't mean the accolades and historic numbers. I mean you are soon to be the old man at a young man's positions with a bunch of young men all surrounding you. The Lions need Burleson this year since Ryan Broyles is going to take a year to get right physically and up to the speed of the NFL, but when he's ready Burleson is much more expendable.
The Chicago Bears.
Jay Cutler. There are always seems to be two extreme views on Jay Cutler, people either love him or hate him. The Bears moves this offseason could be viewed in the same way for their support of Cutler. On one hand they got him some real talent on the outside with Alshon Jeffery and Brandon Marshall. On the other hand, the Bears didn't upgrade their offensive line at all. Wait, that's underselling that....they didn't even try to upgrade their line. This was an offensive line that struck a nice balance between awful and putrid. Jay Cutler is the guy who gets to look at all the good to great pass rushers in the division and be protected by a line that is composed of guys who would have a tough time making any other team in the division.
Matt Forte. It's tough for this guy. He was basically the Bears offense last year. The Bears thanked him for that by ignoring his legit requests for a contract and franchise tagged him instead. They then followed this up by bringing in a possible replacement for him in free agency (again) and reaching for a defensive end instead of drafting getting more talent for the guys who would open up holes for him. A real shame for a pretty good player.
The Minnesota Vikings.
Kevin Williams. I feel bad for all the older Viking players. These are the guys who really suffer by some the stupid decisions made by the Vikings front office made over the last couple years. Whether it was bringing in Brett Favre for a one year push, or living in denial of the state of their roster for the next two thinking the team was something it simply wasn't, it's the older players that pay the harshest price. They basically live in Limbo while the roster gets remade around them, waiting to win for a time when they won't be there. Williams is a guy who still had some good years left, but will have to spend them on a defense that just doesn't match the talent of the offenses of the Vikings division rivals.
Phil Loadholt. Last year the Vikings offensive line was awful and with one pick their line came a long way. Matt Kalil should hold down the LT position and allow Charlie Johnson to be a solid LG. Why does this make Loadholt a loser of the draft? Well, it's because with the left end settled and under control it's going to cause the eyes of the NFL to focus on the right side....and this should highlight the fact that Loadholt just isn't that good. This is going to be especially the case in pass protection where Loadholt struggles.
The NFC North had a pretty good series of drafts this year. It would be hard to say that the division just got a little tougher and it will be interesting to see how this year plays out for both the winners and the losers.