Do The Green Bay Packers Have a Connection To RAS?

Welcome back, its been a long time. When I wrote an article connecting the Green Bay Packers and RAS at Pack To The Future (here’s part 2, part 3, and part 4). I got a lot of push back. Oddly enough from Packers content creators. I was told things like “Its just a coincidence” or “The Packers don’t look players up on Kent’s website”. (Which I never said anyway). Even things like “Gutekunst doesn’t even know what RAS is”.

What is RAS?

First, let’s address what it is to those who may not know. RAS stands for Relative Athletic Score and was created by Kent Lee Platte. This quote is directly from his website

“For the past half decade, I have been working to provide a metric that can easily and intuitively gauge a player’s athletic abilities relative to the position they play and provide tools to contrast and compare based on known measurables”.

Kent Lee Platte, Creator of RAS

Basically he takes any athletic testing a player does from either the combine or their pro day and assigns a numerical value — a value which changes depending on the position they play. He totals it all up and divides it and it gives you a number from 0 – 10. It also rates that player historically to other at his position. You can also assign a percentage to it.

Rashan Gary for example had an RAS score of 9.95. If you turn that into a percentage it gives you 99.5% meaning historically he is a better athlete than 99.5% of all edge rushers who had participated in athletic testing. Now on to the article at hand.

Is It A Coincidence?

At this point, the correlation between the Packers NFL draft choices and RAS is strong enough to go beyond mere coincidence. We have enough data going back to Ted Thompson — and to a lesser extent Ron Wolf — showing the Packers value highly athletic players. Gutekunst has continued that trend. In fact, he has leaned even more into it. 27 of Gutekust’s 39 draft picks that have RAS scores scored 8.0 or higher on the scale.

Do Brian Gutekunst and the Packers Use The RAS Website?

No, of course not. I don’t think anyone ever claimed that. The Packers, like every other team in the league, has their own thresholds or guardrails that they follow. With that being said, no one can deny that the similarities between Kent’s RAS and whatever the Packers use in determining their athletic thresholds for draft picks.

Credit: Justin Casterline/Getty Images

Do Brian Gutekunst and the Packers know what RAS is?

While I don’t have direct knowledge, everything I know and have heard tells me yes. In direct conversations with Kent, he has told me that he has had NFL scouts contact him asking him about his metric and how it works. If you know anything about the NFL scouting community, it’s that it is small and pretty much everyone knows everyone. Which tells me if he has had a few scouts contact him about it and its a small community by now they all must know about it. It just makes sense.

Also scouts don’t do anything, especially contacting a fan, without their GM knowing about and approving it. NFL front offices are in the business about knowing everything about a player. They can tell you who his 3rd grade teacher was and what kind of grades he got. If they know that, they have to know what RAS is.

In my next article I will be updating their thresholds based off of just Brian Gutekunst draft picks. You can also find anything else I have written about the Packers, RAS, or anything else for ATB here.

Packers Offseason: What Would I Do If I Was Brian Gutekunst?

The offseason is here; we are all disappointed in the Packers performance. Changes will have to be made, like any other offseason. This article will explore what I would do with this offseason if I was Packers GM Brian Gutekunst?

There is a lot to do for him and the front office. There will be a lot of moving parts that affect one another. Beyond the usual free agency and NFL draft that has to be dealt with, there is of course the cap. At this point they are over by 5.36 million per OverTheCap. There is also the Aaron Rodgers ‘will he or wont he retire’ issue. That one will be the most important one that needs dealt with, and should be dealt with first. So, let’s get to it.

Will Packers QB Aaron Rodgers retire in the offseason?
Credit: Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

What to do with Aaron Rodgers?

This is obviously a complicated situation. The Packers kind of married themselves to him last offseason with the contract extension they gave him. It does not make it easy for them to get out of. With his massive cap hit, there isn’t a lot of maneuvering to be done other than restructures — and the Packers have borrowed from the future three off-season’s in a row. Eventually you have to pay the man, so to speak.

As we all know, there is the old saying of about the definition of insanity… Well they would be doing this offseason what they did the previous three; and it has not worked out. What makes them think it magically will this time? I would rip off the band-aid. If he wants to come back, I would trade him after June 1. The Packers get a net gain of about one million in cap space in that scenario.

Packers Offseason Free Agents

Gutekunst has a number of free agents he will have to figure out what the Packers want to do with in the offseason — and not much cap space to work with. The unrestricted free agents are Allen Lazard, Eric Wilson, Justin Hollins, Rudy Ford, Keisean Nixon, Corey Ballentine and Dallin Leavitt.

I would attempt to re-sign Hollins to a 1-year 1.80 million deal with a 500k signing bonus. With Nixon, I would offer him a two-year, 2 million dollar deal with a 1 million dollar bonus. I would also offer Rudy Ford a vet minimum deal with a small signing bonus, but he probably gets more on the open market.

Adrian Amos, Randall Cobb, Dean Lowry, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan, Jarran Reed, and Mason Crosby all have voids in their contracts. In this scenario, I let them walk and thank them for their service.

The Packers have just four restricted free agents in Yosh Nijman, Krys Barnes, Tyler Davis, and Jake Hanson. I would give Nijman the 2nd-round tender and Barnes that right of first refusal. I would let Hanson and Davis walk.

Cuts

Since we are ripping off band-aids here, we will be also cutting any vets who don’t fit in the long term with the roster. I will cut David Bahktiari, Preston Smith, Aaron Jones, Vernon Scott, Luke Tenuta, and Jonathan Garvin.

Where does that leave us?

All these moves leave the Packers with 8.4 million in cap space. That is not enough for the draft class, UDFAs, and in-season space. Per Ken Ingalls, the Packers will need about 11 million for their draft class, 3.45 for the practice squad, and about 5 million in season. Which means they need to create almost another 20 million in space.

Restructures

This obviously means restructures need to be made. It was going to have to be done regardless of what happens with Rodgers this offseason. With a simple restructure of Kenny Clark’s contract they can create $10.37 million in space, which gets us half way there.

Restructuring Jaire Alexander’s contract gets the Packers another $8.86 million which gets them to 19.23 million. Then we get a simple restructure of De’Vondre Campbell to get the Packers another 2.46 million. We are done. This would leave the Packers with almost $22 million in space so they could also sign a couple vet minimum guys. They could also redo Douglas’ deal and clear up another $1.5 million. The Packers could do that this offseason, but we don’t need to here.

Extentions?

Rashan Gary is an obvious first thought for a contract extension, but coming off the ACL I would want to see him play in-season just to make sure he gets back to his previous self. It might cost more in the long run, but its safer. AJ Dillon is another player you could think about extending, but I don’t think he has done enough to warrant one. Yet.

Where does this leave the Packers in 2023?

It actually leaves them with a competitive roster. They won’t get in the playoffs, but they won’t be competing for at top five pick in April either. They’d have to bite the cap bullet in 2023, but would get some relief in 2024 with $62 million in cap space and are pretty much in the clear beyond that.

Packers Offseason Roster

QB: Jordan Love/rookie or cheap vet

RB: Dillon/rookie

WR: Watson/Doubs/Toure or rookie or Melton

TE: Deguara/Austin Allen/rookie/rookie and or cheap vet

OT: Tom/Nijman

OG: Jenkins/Runyan

C: Myers

or my favorite

OT: rookie/Nijman

OG: Jenkins/Runyan or Myers

C: Tom

ED: Enagbare/rookie or Hollins (until Gary is back)

DL: Clark/Slaton/Wyatt

LB: Campbell/Walker

CB: Stokes/jaire

Nickel/Safety: Rasul

S: Savage/rookie

Final thoughts on the Packers Offseason Plans

The Packers could start to build through the draft and augment any holes with free agents starting in 2024. If Jordan Love isn’t the guy, there is going to be a pretty good quarterback class that year. With picks from a Rodgers trade, they could move up to take one. Also note the numbers in this article are all ball park figures. I’m not the best “numbers” guy.

If you have enjoyed reading the article you can check out my other stuff. I will also be doing a second part on what I think Gutekenst will do, so be on the look out for that.

2023 NFL Draft: Early Look At Potential Packers — Defense

On Wednesday, we took an early look at some potential 2023 NFL Draft prospects for the Packers offense. Today, it’s time for the defense! Of course, there’s still a lot of information to be gathered, especially since the Packers rely on athletic testing, but these will be players on defense to familiarize yourselves with who could be on Packers NFL draft board.

Since it is highly unlikely that the Packers will pick in the top five, I will not be including players who are expected to go that high — Jalen Carter or Will Anderson, for example. I will also be going off players that fit what the Packers look for with the information we have. So, for example, no Siaki Ika.

Now that we’ve got all that out of the way, let’s take a look at some 2023 NFL Draft prospects on defense who should be on the Packers radar come this April

DL:
Photo Credit: John Byrum/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This is probably the best defensive line class in three or four years. Like a lot of the rest of the roster, the Packers prefer very athletic defensive linemen. Agility testing is important to them. Usually between 6’2-6’5 and 300-330 pounds. They also like guys that can have some impact on the passing game.

  • Bryan Bresee, Clemson
  • Gervon Dexter, Florida
  • Keeanu Benton, Wisconsin
  • Brandon Dorlus, Oregon
  • Jaquelin Roy, LSU
  • Zacch Pickens, South Carolina
  • Ruke Orhorhoro, Clemson
  • Keion White, Georgia Tech
  • Kobie Turner, Wake Forest
  • Zi’Yon Hill-Green, Louisiana-Layfayette
  • Cory Durden, NC State
  • Tuli Tuipulotu, USC
  • Mazi Smith, Michigan
  • Jowon Briggs, Cincinnati
  • Karl Brooks, Bowling Green
Edge:
Photo Credit:  Michael McCammon, 247Sports

This is another really good class. Strong at the top, with a lot of depth. This is another position the Packers tend to be very specific in. They like highly athletic as in 8+ RAS scores. Guys with long arms and guys who can play the run. Usually 6’3-6’5 and 260-275 pounds.

  • Isaiah Foskey, Notre Dame
  • Myles Murphy, Clemson
  • Andre Carter, Army
  • Zach Harrison, OSU
  • Habakkuk Baldonado, Pittsburgh
  • Felix Anudike-Uzomah, Kansas State
  • Derick Hall II, Auburn
  • Ali Gaye, LSU
  • YaYa Diaby, Louisville
  • Dylan Horton, TCU
  • Thomas Incoom, Central Michigan
  • Bralen Trice, Washington
  • Andre Jones, Louisiana-Lafayette
LB:
Photo Credit: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

Overall this class is pretty weak at the top, with just okay depth. This position is one that Packers are not too specific on. They like guys who are 6’1+ and 235+. Cover skills are not a priority. They tend to draft guys that are okay athletically.

  • Trenton Simpson, Clemson
  • Noah Sewell, Oregon
  • Jack Campbell, Iowa
  • Ben VanSumeren, Michigan State
  • Darius Muasau, UCLA
  • SirVocea Dennis, Pittsburgh
  • Shaka Heyward, Duke
  • Jimmy Phillips Jr., SMU
  • Payton Wilson, NC State
  • Ivan Pace Jr., Cincinnati
CB:
Photo Credit: Andy Lyons/Getty Images

This corner class is pretty solid. There is no Sauce Gardner in it, but there is potential with a number of the guys. The depth is ok. Like edge rusher, the Packers like their corners to be elite athletes. Green Bay has a height threshold of 5’10 1/4″ that they stick to. They also like them to be 190+ — preferably closer to 200. They also like long arms and an ability to play press.

  • Kelee Ringo, Georgia
  • Christian Gonzalez, Oregon
  • Joey Porter Jr., Penn State
  • Jaylon Jones, Texas A&M
  • Kyu Blu Kelly, Stanford
  • Julius Brents, Kansas State
  • Darrell Luter Jr., South Alabama
  • Cory Trice, Purdue
  • Anthony Johnson, Virginia
  • Lance Boykin, Coastal Carolina
Safety:
Photo Credit: Tyler Ingham/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

This safety group is interesting. There are a lot of talented guys, but with some big question marks. It is also not a great class depth wise. There is a sharp drop after the 3rd round. The Packers thresholds here are similar to corner. The main difference is they like their safeties a little bigger: 5’11+ and 200+.

  • Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M
  • JL Skinner, Boise State
  • Brian Branch, Alabama
  • Jordan Battle, Alabama
  • Josh Proctor, OSU
  • Patrick McMorris, SDSU
  • Ji’Ayir Brown, Penn State
  • Gervarrius Owens, Houston
  • Demani Richardson, Texas A&M
  • Macon Clark, Tulane
  • Kaevon Merriweather, Iowa

For more on the Packers, check out my piece detailing the struggles on defense and what the team should do about them. You can also find the NFL draft database I update almost daily over at our good friends RiseNDraft.

2023 NFL Draft: Early Look At Potential Packers — Offense

Photo Credit: James Gilbert/Getty Images

In this article we are taking an early look at potential Packers 2023 NFL draft prospects. In this first part, we look at offensive players. It’s important to remember there is a lot more information to be gathered in the process, especially since the Packers rely on athletic testing heavily. These will be players to familiarize yourselves with who could be on Green Bay’s draft board come late April.

Since it is highly unlikely that the Packers will pick in the top five of the 2023 NFL draft, I will not be including players who are expected to go that high, like Jalen Carter or Will Anderson. I will also be judging based off players that fit what the Packers look for with the information we have. So, for example, no Dawand Jones, as he’s not a great fit for a zone offense.

Now, let’s get to it!

QB:

With a bunch of quarterbacks heading back or entering the transfer portal, the class has lost a lot of its depth. The Packers tend to like quarterbacks who are decent athletes, at least 6’2″, and have a solid build. I don’t see the Packers drafting a QB in the first, but I will still list them just in case. Crazier things have happened!

RB:
Texas running back Bijan Robinson could be a target for the Packers in the 2023 NFL draft
Credit: John E. Moore III/Getty Images

This is a pretty solid, and deep, class. The Packers like their running backs to be 5’9+ and at least 200 pounds. They also tend to prefer solid, all-around athletes. Being able to contribute in the passing game is a huge plus.

  • Bijan Robinson, Texas
  • Jahmyr Gibbs, Alabama
  • Zach Evans, Mississippi
  • Kenny McIntosh, Georgia
  • Tank Bigsby, Auburn
  • Roschon Johnson, Texas
  • Sean Tucker, Syracuse
  • Eric Gray, Oklahoma
  • Chase Brown, Illinois
  • Kendre Miller, TCU
  • Tyjae Spears, Tulane
  • Zach Charbonnet, UCLA
  • Blake Corum, Michigan
  • Travis Dye, USC
  • Kendall Milton, Georgia
  • Lew Nichols III, Central Michigan
TE:
Credit: Michael Hickey/Getty images

The tight end class is not a great group outside of the top five, but it’s an ok group. The Packers don’t have hardcore requirements for their tight ends. Usually 6’3+, 245+, and at least an average athlete.

  • Michael Mayer, Notre Dame
  • Tucker Kraft, South Dakota State
  • Darnell Washington, Georgia
  • Dalton Kincaid, Utah
  • Zach Kuntz, Old Dominion
  • Josh Whyle, Cincinnati
  • Luke Schoonmaker, Michigan
  • Blake Whiteheart, Wake Forest
  • Will Mallory, Miami
  • Cameron Latu, Alabama
  • Sam LaPorta, Iowa
  • Luke Musgrave, Oregon State
  • Brevyn Spann-Ford, Minnesota
WR:
Creidt Sam Greenwood/Getty Images

The wide receiver class is a super deep group, but it’s not great at the top. There are a number of guys who fit the Packers size preference. This has been talked about a lot. They like them 6’1+, 190+ and good athletes. Usually 4.55 or faster and with good agility scores. Also willing blockers.

  • Quentin Johnston, TCU
  • AT Perry, Wake Forest
  • Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia
  • Rashee Rice, SMU
  • Andrei Iosivas, Princeton
  • Jonathan Mingo, Ole Miss
  • Michael Wilson, Stanford
  • Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
  • Rome Odunze, Washington
  • Jacob Copeland, Maryland
  • Xavier Hutchinson, Iowa State
  • Puka Nacua, BYU
  • Jalen Wayne, South Alabama
  • Justin Shorter, Florida
  • Michael Jefferson, Louisiana-Lafayette
  • Jared Wayne, Pitts
  • Trey Palmer, Nebraska
  • Zakhari Franklin, UTSA
OT:
Credit William Purnell/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

Despite Olu Fashanu returning to Penn State, it is still a pretty deep group. This is another position that the Packers prefer highly athletic players. Usually 6’4+ 305+ with at least 33″ arms.

  • Paris Johnson, Ohio State
  • Blake Freeland, BYU
  • Anton Harrison, Oklahoma
  • Broderick Jones, Georgia
  • Patrick Paul, Houston
  • Matthew Bergeron, Syracuse
  • Jaelyn Duncan, Maryland
  • Javon Foster, Missouri
  • Tylan Grable, UCF
  • Delmar Glaze, Maryland
  • John Ojukwu, Boise State
  • Alfred Edwards, Utah State
  • Marcus Bryant, SMU
Interior OL:
Credit: Ken Murray/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The center group is solid, and there is potential with the guard group if certain tackles move inside. This position is somewhat similar to tackles as far as the Packers’ preferences. Arm length is not as much of a requirement, and they will take guys who are under 6’4. Versatility is also a big plus.

  • Peter Skoronski, Northwestern
  • Nick Broeker, Ole Miss
  • Cody Mauch, NDSU
  • Ricky Stromberg, Arkansas
  • John Michael Schmitz, Minnesota
  • Jarrett Patterson, ND
  • Joe Tippman, Wisconsin
  • Nick Saldiveri, Old Dominion
  • Jaylon Thomas, SMU
  • McClendon Curtis, Chattanooga
  • Alex Palczewski, Illinois
  • Samuel jackson, UCF
  • Cooper Beebe, Kansas State
  • Jordan McFadden, Clemson
  • Alex Forsyth, Oregon
  • Olusegun Oluwatimi, Michigan
  • Alan Ali, TCU
  • Sincere Haynesworth, Tulane
  • Matthew Lee, UCF
  • Ryan Hayes, Michigan
  • Michael Jurgens, Wake Forest
  • Matthew Bedford, Indiana
  • Matthew Jones, OSU
  • Donovan Jennings, USF
  • Cedrice Paillant, Marshall
  • Jacob Likes, Memphis
  • Rusty Staats, Western Kentucky
  • Ilm Manning, Hawaii

For more on the Packers, check out my latest piece detailing the struggles on defense and what the team should do about them. You can also find the database that I update almost daily over at our good friends RiseNDraft.

NFC North Preview: Off-season Recap and Predictions

NFC North preview

The NFC North has been dominated by Aaron Rodgers and the Green Bay Packers for a while now. With big time players moving in-division, the NFC North could be close this year. Here’s a look at what each team did this offseason, and how I believe they will finish in this NFC North preview.

NFC North Preview

4. Chicago Bears

Key losses – RB Damien Williams, WR Jakeem Grant, P Pat O’Donnell, QB Nick Foles, WR Allen Robinson, DE Bilal Nichols, OG Alex Bars, QB Andy Dalton, OG James Daniels, CB Artie Burns, DE Akiem Hicks, OT Jason Peters, DE Khalil Mack

Key additions – HC Matt Eberflus, DT Justin Jones, DE Al-Quadin Muhammad, C Lucas Patrick, WR Byron Pringle, QB Trevor Siemian, OT Riley Reiff, OLB Nicolas Morrow, TE Ryan Griffin, WR N’Keal Harry, CB Kyler Gordon, S Jaquan Brisker, WR Velus Jones Jr.

Re-signed – S DeAndre Houston-Carson (1-year)

Extensions – LS Patrick Scales (1-year, $1.2 million)

After going 6-11 in the regular season, the Bears fired head coach Matt Nagy after four seasons. Matt Eberflus takes over after spending last season in Indianapolis as defensive coordinator. The rookie head coach will try to turn the franchise around with Justin Fields going into his second NFL season.

Fields came in looking like a rookie last season, and it didn’t help that Nagy was calling the plays, as they finished 24th in total offense. They ranked even worse in points, as they were 27th in the NFL. They didn’t do much in the offseason to fill those holes, either.

We’ll have to see if Justin Fields makes the leap in with a new coach, but the offensive line won’t help. They rank in the bottom five of the league in the NFL, and could be dead last. However, David Montgomery is back with Khalil Herbert in the backfield — but I don’t expect much from them.

The last part of the offense is the receiving corps, and it is easily the worst in the NFL. Darnell Mooney is still there and still has potential, but isn’t close to a #1 wideout. Behind him they have Equanimeous St. Brown, Byron Pringle, and Velus Jones Jr. Those three have combined for 37 receptions in a combined six seasons. They can still prove to be weapons on an NFL offense, but I don’t expect it.

With Khalil Mack gone, that leaves Robert Quinn and Roquan Smith as the leaders of this defense. Quinn leads a defensive line that is one of the worst in the league, and will most likely fall lower than their ranking of 23rd against the run last season. Smith will help that cause and newly acquired Nicholas Morrow will fill in nicely next to him. It’s an, at-best, average linebacker group in the NFL.

The final part of this team is the secondary. You’re probably thinking there has to be one good part of this team. Well… there’s not. The secondary is very young with two rookies starting. One of those players is Kyler Gordon, who will be opposite of Jaylon Johnson at cornerback. They can eventually both grow to be a great duo, but are too inexperienced and young right now. Jaquan Brisker is the other rookie starting at safety alongside Eddie Jackson, who is the oldest in the secondary.

Prediction

I expect another long season for Bears fans with a new regime. I have them going 3-14, and 1-5 against the NFC North. With Nagy now gone, they will be looking to rebuild the right way.

3. Detroit Lions

Key losses – OLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin, DE Trey Flowers, DT Nick Williams

Key additions – WR DJ Chark, CB Mike Hughes, LB Chris Board, ILB Jarrad Davis, OT Kendall Lamm, S Deshon Elliott, RB Justin Jackson, DE Aidan Hutchinson, WR Jameson Williams, DE Josh Paschal, S Kerby Joseph

Re-signed – FB Jason Cabinda (2-years), K Riley Patterson (1-year), LB Alex Anzalone (1-year), S Tracy Walker (3-years), C Evan Brown (1-year), OLB Charles Harris (2-years), WR Kalif Raymond (1-year)

The first season since 2008 without Matthew Stafford went about as you’d expect for the Detroit Lions. They finished 3-13-1, earning the first overall selection in the 2022 NFL Draft. They ended up drafting twice in the top ten and are looking to start moving in the right direction this year in head coach Dan Campbell’s second season.

They’re tied to Jared Goff for a little bit longer, after ranking 22nd in total offense last season. D’Andre Swift looked solid in his second season, averaging 4.1 yards per carry and will look to improve with a top five offensive line. It’s an offensive line that includes three first round picks that Detroit nailed.

Tight end features T.J. Hockenson, who hasn’t lived up to the hype yet, but has still been a quality starter. Amon-Ra St. Brown shined towards the end of last season, and now has some quality counterparts. DJ Chark comes over from Jacksonville and will help open up the field along with rookie Jameson Williams. However, Williams is still recovering from a torn ACL, but should be ready a few weeks into the season.

The defense ranked 29th last year, but is getting a big boost from #1 overall pick Aidan Hutchinson. He joins a defensive line that has potential, but will still be a bottom-ten unit in the league. They won’t be getting a lot of help from linebackers Alex Anzalone and Chris Board, either. Both players have been unable to prove to be quality starters in this league.

The secondary will still rank towards the bottom of the league, but it will be interesting to see if cornerback Amani Oruwariye can build off a good 2021. Jeff Okudah is still coming back from an Achilles injury, so Mike Hughes will be opposite Oruwariye. The safety tandem of Tracy Walker and DeShone Elliott is average, so I wouldn’t expect too much from this defense.

Prediction

I like the direction Dan Campbell is taking this team, but they need to put some wins up this year. I believe they will, finishing the season 7-10, and 1-5 against the rest of the NFC North.

2. Minnesota Vikings

Key losses – S Xavier Woods, OLB Anthony Barr, OLB Nick Vigil, TE Tyler Conklin, C Mason Cole

Key additions – HC Kevin O’Connell, OLB Za’Darius Smith, DT Harrison Phillips, ILB Jordan Hicks, OG Chris Reed, OG Jesse Davis, TE Johnny Mundt, S Lewis Cine, CB Andrew Booth Jr., OG Ed Ingram, LB Brian Asamoah

Re-signed – CB Patrick Peterson (1-year)

Extensions – QB Kirk Cousins (1-year, $35 million)

The Vikings missed the playoffs for the second straight season, going 8-9 and finishing second in the NFC North. They fired Mike Zimmer and decided to bring in Kevin O’Connell, former Rams offensive coordinator. O’Connell will look to lead the Vikings to the playoffs, and hopefully farther.

Last year’s offense ranked 12th in the NFL, but could take a jump this year. O’Connell is bringing a Super Bowl-quality playbook to help quarterback Kirk Cousins. Cousins is also getting help from amazing offensive weapons. Dalvin Cook is back to take the load off of Cousins’ plate, looking for his fourth consecutive 1,000-yard season.

However, Cook is running behind a below-average offensive line. If Christian Darrisaw can improve off of a good 2021 as a rookie, this line can move to top 15 in the league. The receiving corps is loaded, with Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen starring. Tight end Irv Smith Jr. is looking to make a jump and open up the field for Jefferson and Thielen. It should be a top-10 offense this year with O’Connell at the helm.

The defensive side of the ball struggled last season, finishing 30th in the NFL. They got some help up front with edge rusher Za’Darius Smith and defensive tackle Harrison Phillips. It’s now a top-15 defensive line in the league. Jordan Hicks and Eric Kendricks help create a top ten linebacker corps in the league and will look to fill the lanes.

The secondary is slightly above average after adding two players in this year’s draft. Lewis Cline is one of them who could start along side Harrison Smith to create a nice safety tandem. The cornerbacks feature Patrick Peterson, who is aging, and Cameron Dantzler, who looks to shine this season. It is a much-improved secondary looking to be a top-15 group in the league.

Prediction

I believe the Vikings did well this offseason and will make it back to the playoffs this season. I have them finishing 10-7 after going 4-2 in the division. Expect a monster season from Kirk Cousins and Justin Jefferson.

1. Green Bay Packers

Key losses – C Lucas Patrick, P Corey Bojorquez, OT Billy Turner, WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling, OLB Za’Darius Smith, CB Chandon Sullivan, ILB Oren Burks, WR Davante Adams

Key additions – P Pat O’Donnell, DE Jarran Reed, WR Sammy Watkins, LB Quay Walker, DL Devonte Wyatt, WR Christian Watson, WR Romeo Doubs, OL Sean Rhyan

Re-signed – CB Rasul Douglas (3-years), Robert Tonyan Jr. (1-year), LB De’Vondre Campbell (5-years)

Extensions – CB Jaire Alexander (4-years, $84 million), QB Aaron Rodgers (3-years, $150 million), LB Preston Smith (4-years, $52 million)

The Packers ran away with the NFC North last year and earned the #1 seed in the NFC all-together. They finished 13-4, before losing in the divisional round to the San Francisco 49ers. They traded away superstar wideout Davante Adams, so we’ll see if quarterback Aaron Rodgers can win his third straight MVP without him.

The offense ranked tenth last year, and is now without its top target from a year ago. Rookie wide receivers Romeo Doubs and Christian Watson will have to step up to carry the load. Tight end Robert Tonyan is looking to shine again after a breakout season with 11 touchdowns, and could help Rodgers make the passing game top ten.

Rodgers will be protected by a top-tier offensive line. There is a minor worry at tackl,e with Elgton Jenkins still working back from an ACL tear. The running back room is phenomenal with AJ Dillon being the bruiser, and Aaron Jones being a quality dual-threat back. This offense will be scary as long as they have #12 under center.

The defense was phenomenal last season, as they ranked ninth in total defense. They lost Za’Darius Smith to the Vikings, but still bring in a great front seven. The defensive line ranks in my top five, while the linebacker unit is in the top ten. De’Vondre Campbell leads the linebackers, alongside rookie Quay Walker. The defensive line includes superstar Kenny Clark, who gets help from pass rusher Rashan Gary.

The secondary could be the biggest strength of this team. With superstar Jaire Alexander, they have lockdown ability along with a top-flight safety tandem in Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos. This defense should be elite this season, as they don’t have a major weakness.

Prediction

The Packers have the back-to-back MVP, so I don’t expect them to lose this division. I have them finishing 12-5, and 6-0 against the NFC North. Expect a superstar to emerge on that offense.