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NFL Draft First Round: Lions, Vikings counter Packers’ defensive picks by going offense

Let’s look at the first-round draft picks of the NFC North rivals to the Packers.

NFL: NFL Draft Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the draft came and went for the NFL on Thursday night, and boy was it a doozy. There was a lot of movement with teams (including the Packers) moving up for their picks and a bunch of teams marred with question marks by draft pundits.

Of course, the Chicago Bears already swapped out their first-round draft pick for Khalil Mack in a trade with the Raiders last season (and he’s pretty good), so I’m sure they’re not too worried about missing out.

But the Detroit Lions picked at the eighth spot, the Packers at 12 and again after moving up to 21 at the expense of two fourth-round picks, and the Minnesota Vikings made their first-round selection at pick 18. We’re about to take a look at the draft picks the NFC North teams not located in Green Bay made.

Detroit Lions: T.J. Hockenson, TE, Iowa // Pick 8

Hockenson had been mocked quite frequently to the Packers at 12, but the Lions decided to grab him up, assuring that he had no chance to find himself in green and gold. Another weapon for Matthew Stafford, Hockenson fills a void that was left last year when Eric Ebron was having a career year in Indianapolis.

Hockenson has the chance to be the next great tight end in the NFL – if the Lions use him correctly. He’s a big tight end who has great pass catching skills, but is still an able and willing blocker. He draws comparisons to Travis Kelce, but it’s tough to tell now if he’ll hit that ceiling.

Should the Packers be worried about the move? Probably a little. The Lions don’t have Golden Tate anymore, but Kenny Golladay is also a big target to go along with their new 6-foot-5 tight end. Head coach Matt Patricia does have experience being on the same coaching staff that worked with Rob Gronkowski, so they might be continuing to think along the lines of being the Patriots of the NFC.

Minnesota Vikings: Garrett Bradbury, C, NC State // Pick 18

The suggestion here on Draft Twitter was that Bradbury could slide in at center for the Vikings and push Pat Elflein out to a guard position. This is a draft pick that brings some much-needed help on the offensive line for the Vikings to keep would-be pass rushers out of Kirk Cousins’ face and open some inside lanes for Dalvin Cook to exploit.

Bradbury has great balance in pass protection, but he’s not the quickest off the line-of-scrimmage and is slightly undersized. He can, of course, put on more size at the NFL level, but that might require him sacrificing some more burst. And Kenny Clark is one of the quickest defensive tackles in the league getting off the snap.

The good news for Vikings fans is that Bradbury is relatively new to the center position and has been getting better and better. He was a tight end when he initially came to NC State, but converted to line. In his final two seasons, he improved as a blocker in both the run and the pass, per Pro Football Focus. They also have him graded highly as a pass protector for not giving up too many pressures in pass protection (just 10 in 2018).

Should the Packers be worried here? Again, maybe slightly. It’s not the move that turns a franchise into an instant winner, but getting the pieces to put together a solid offensive line allows the team to build a foundation that reaches across the rest of the offense. As stated before, keeping Cousins upright is a priority and a lack of offensive line depth made that prospect much bleaker before this pick. The Pack will have to get a little more creative with their pass rush schemes now that Bradbury is in the fold.