NFL free agency has largely come and gone, and the impact on the NFL is massive. First-round targets for every team have changed based on the moves made so far this offseason. Of course, There are still some big-name players out there, like Odell Beckham Jr., Leonard Floyd and Frank Clark. Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson are still awaiting a trade as well. Those players will shift strategies again, but we will deal with the fallout when those moves are complete.
For the majority of teams though, their focus now firmly shifts to the NFL draft. There are still plenty of holes left to fill and some major shifts in draft strategy, especially when it comes to potential first-round targets. Here is a breakdown of the major moves made and some potential first-round targets for the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings following free agency.\
Potential first-round targets for the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings
Brought back: None
Key Additions: WR D.J. Moore, LB Tremaine Edwards, DE DeMarcus Walker, G Nate Davis, LB T.J. Edwards, DT Andrew Billings, RB D’Onta Foreman
Notable Departures: RB David Montgomery, OT Riley Reiff
Chicago has been BUSY so far this offseason. The Bears spent big in free agency, adding a ton of talent on defense, a new top receiving option for Justin Fields and even some offensive line help. Plus, Ryan Poles made the big decision to trade down from No. 1 to No. 9, collecting a ton of draft capital in the process. Make no mistake, this team is still rebuilding, but they made some significant strides in replacing much of the talent that was lacking from missed draft picks and departing veterans over the past few offseasons.
Still picking in the top 10, the Bears have a real chance to land a difference maker on defense or add talent around Fields. Offensive tackle makes a ton of sense given how much this team has struggled to protect the quarterback over the past few seasons. Fields and Russell Wilson tied for the league lead in sacks taken at 55 in 2022. Defensive tackle and edge rusher are both still huge needs for Chicago as well.
Potential first-round targets: Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., Georgia’s Broderick Jones and Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski are the top offensive tackle prospects in this class. There is some conversation to be had around Skoronski though given his shorter arms which could see him kick inside to guard.
If Jalen Carter, the Georgia defensive tackle, is on the board, I think Poles would have a tough time resisting, even with Carter’s arrest for reckless driving and racing in connection with a crash that killed a teammate and a recruiting staff member. Otherwise, Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech), Nolan Smith (Georgia) and Myles Murphy (Clemson) are all edge rushers that could fit with Chicago, but I imagine they go offensive line or Carter instead.
Brought back: LB Alex Anzalone, G Graham Glasgow, K Michael Badgley
Key Additions: DB C.J. Gardner-Johnson, CB Cameron Sutton, RB David Montgomery, CB Emmanuel Mosley, WR Marvin Jones
Notable Departures: RB Jamaal Williams, CB Mike Hughes, WR D.J. Chark
There might not be a hotter team that missed the postseason than the Detroit Lions. Jared Goff experienced a career renaissance under offensive coordinator Ben Johnson and the rest of the team is chock full of young, ascending talent. Couple that with Brad Holmes adding plenty of help for a secondary that struggled mightily in the first half of last season in particular. It really opens up a wide variety of options for Detroit heading into this month’s draft.
With a pair of first-round selections, No. 6 and No. 18, the Lions have a real chance to bolster their roster and set themselves up for long-term success. Cornerback still remains a legitimate option given former first-round pick Jeff Okudah’s struggles over the course of his first three seasons. Edge rusher opposite Aidan Hutchinson feels like a potential approach as well. Of course, quarterback could also be in play, but it feels pretty murky. Goff has played well and is under contract at a pretty reasonable rate through 2024. What Holmes decides to do is one of the biggest wildcards in this draft.
Potential first-round targets: I really like Detroit as a potential landing spot for Georgia defensive tackle Jalen Carter. While Alim McNeil and Levi Onwuzurike are both solid players, Carter would be a massive upgrade over either of them. Dan Campbell feels like the perfect coach to help get Carter back on track. If Carter is off the board, or if Holmes and co. want to go another direction, Tyree Wilson (Texas Tech), Nolan Smith (Georgia) and Myles Murphy (Clemson) are all edge rushers that could make sense.
I wouldn’t rule out Anthony Richardson if the Lions decide to go with a high-upside quarterback. At No. 18, cornerbacks like Illinois’ Devon Weatherspoon, Penn State’s Joey Porter Jr., Maryland’s Deonte Banks and Oregon’s Chrisitan Gonzalez are all viable options, assuming they are available. There will be a run at the position at some point, it is just hard to predict when. If they want to go edge rusher here, Murphy, Smith, Iowa’s Lukas Van Ness and Iowa State’s Will McDonald IV could all be on the board.
Green Bay Packers
Brought back: CB/KR Keisean Nixon, S Jonathan Ford
Key Additions: None
Notable Departures: QB Aaron Rodgers, WR Allen Lazard, TE Robert Tonyan, WR Randall Cobb, DT Jarran Reed, DE Dean Lowry
We are entering a new era of Packers football. While the trade has yet to be finalized, Aaron Rodgers is headed to New York, meaning this is now Jordan Love’s team. He will not have many of the same weapons Rodgers did, with a number of free-agent departures. Defensively, Green Bay lost a few veterans, but nothing too notable. That is, unless Adrian Amos is not brought back, which could open up a clear need for the team at safety.
Looking at what the Packers will need to address in the draft, receiver and tight end are both legitimate targets in the first round. Offensive tackle could also be in the mix as well given recent injuries to David Bahktiari. I don’t think there will be a safety Green Bay would take in the first round, but that could be an area of need later in the draft.
Potential first-round targets: There are a ton of receivers the Packers could target in the first round. USC’s Jordan Addison and Ohio State’s Jaxon Smith-Njigba are likely the two leading candidates. TCU’s Quentin Johnston could also be in play.
At tight end, Notre Dame’s Michael Mayer, Utah’s Dalton Kincaid and Georgia Darnell Washington have different skill sets, so teams will definitely value them differently, but they are closely grouped in prospect rankings. At offensive tackle, Ohio State’s Paris Johnson Jr., Georgia’s Broderick Jones, Northwestern’s Peter Skoronski and Tennessee’s Darnell Wright could all be options. Johnson and Jones are clear left tackle prospects.
Skoronski might ultimately wind up at guard or even center at the next level. Wright found his footing in 2022 after a switch to right tackle. After drafting a pair of defensive players a year ago, I think Brian Gutekunst will opt to go offensive.
Brought back: C Garrett Bradberry, RB Alexander Mattison, K Greg Joseph, S Harrison Smith
Key Additions: CB Byron Murphy, DE Marcus Davenport, DE Dean Lowry, TE Josh Oliver
Notable Departures: DT Dalvin Tomlinson, WR Adam Thielen, CB Patrick Peterson, LB Eric Kendricks
There is a ton of turnover happening in Minnesota and it might not be done yet. Rumors have Dalvin Cook on the trade block and there is no guarantee Danielle Hunter and Za’Darius Smith are back as well. The Vikings got younger at corner, saying goodbye to Patrick Peterson and bringing in Byron Murphy in his place. They also let defensive mainstays Dalvin Tomlinson and Eric Kendricks walk. Given how poor Minnesota’s defense was a year ago and a new defensive coordinator in Brian Flores, it should not be a huge surprise this unit will look very different in 2023.
Minnesota invested prime draft capital into its secondary last year, so I imagine they will either target the front seven or the offense. If I had to guess, defensive tackle would be the focus. Kwesi Adofo-Mensah praised Troy Dye, Troy Reeder and Brian Asamoah II, who would all figure to potentially replace Kendricks.
I don’t think a clear replacement is on the roster for Tomlinson. On offense, wide receiver could be a target after the team moved on from Thielen. There is also a ton of buzz around the Vikings potentially selecting a quarterback. I would be pretty surprised, but we will see what happens come draft day.
Potential first-round targets: Bryan Bresee from Clemson and Calijah Kancey from Pittsburgh feel like the most likely options at defensive tackle. Although, I don’t think Kancey really fits Minnesota’s scheme given his size. At receiver, there are plenty of options. Jordan Addison (USC), Quentin Johnston (TCU), Zay Flowers (Boston College) and Jaxon Smith-Njigba (Ohio State) are the top options.
If all of them were available, I think Johnston would make the most sense, given his clear ability to play on the outside. Addison, Flowers and JSN all project best in the slot where Minnesota already has K.J. Osborn. If the Vikings choose to go with a quarterback, the only real option feels like Hendon Hooker from Tennessee, barring a massive trade up into the top 10.