North Drafts: Worst to First

After digesting the big picture for the last week,'s team publishers and NFL Scouting's Michael DiJulio provide their insight on the NFC North drafts. Which team fared worst, which team fared best and what picks got us talking? Find out in this four-part series. publishers Nate Caminata (Detroit), Bill Huber (Green Bay), Jeremy Stoltz (Chicago) and Tim Yotter (Minnesota), along with NFL Scouting's Michael DiJulio, break down the drafts of the four teams in the NFC North.

We ranked the teams, from worst to first, with each publisher not allowed to vote for his own team. Minnesota, with two last-place votes, leads off this four-part series as our worst draft. It's no knock on the Vikings — it's hard to imagine any division found as much talent as the North teams landed with their combined 30 selections.

Michael DiJulio, NFL Scouting

1 (12) Christian Ponder, qb, Florida State.
2 (43) Kyle Rudolph, te, Notre Dame.
4 (106) Christian Ballard, dt, Iowa.
5 (139) Brandon Burton, db, Utah.
6 (168) DeMarcus Love, ot, Arkansas.
6 (170) Mistral Raymond, db, South Florida.
6 (172) Brandon Fusco, C, Slippery Rock.
6 (200) Ross Homan, lb, Ohio State.
7 (215) D'Aundre Reed, de, Arizona.
7 (236) Stephen Burton, wr, West Texas A&M.
Was Christian Ponder a reach at 12? Absolutely, but he was a necessary reach. When quarterbacks began flying off the board, Minnesota had no choice but to grab Ponder earlier than expected to ensure they get their man. Ponder fits the West Coast offense the Vikings will be running next season and he's one of the more pro-ready passers.

In the second round, the team added the draft's premier tight end in Kyle Rudolph. Ponder will need a big target in the middle of the field that can consistently get open, so Rudolph made a lot of sense. The team got good value in the fourth and fifth rounds in Christian Ballard and Brandon Burton, respectively – two players that were expected to go earlier. Ballard gives the team some more youth in the middle and Burton is a physical corner that loves to press at the line. Later in the draft, the team added some solid depth along the interior of the offensive line with DeMarcus Love and Brandon Fusco. Don't sleep on Stephen Burton, either. He's a big-bodied receiver that could be successful in the West Coast offense.

Bill Huber, Packer Report

I don't buy the "reach" talk with Ponder. If he's the guy you want and you either can't move down or nobody's willing to help you move down — or you simply don't want to risk that someone else grabs him — then you take him. If you don't have a quarterback, you have no chance. Just look at the NFC North: The Packers have Aaron Rodgers, the Bears have Jay Cutler and the Lions didn't have Matthew Stafford.

The problem is, who protects him? He missed four games in 2009 with a separated throwng shoulder, an injury that required surgery. In 2010, a strained elbow, bruised triceps and ruptured bursa sack in his elbow conspired to take the zing out of his throws. The elbow eventually needed surgery. He returned for the bowl game but suffered a concussion.

Frankly, I love the rest of the draft, even though they didn't draft a tackle. Burton is a key addition with the Packers' and Bears' pass-happy attacks, and I wouldn't be shocked if Fusco is starting at center by season's end.

Nate Caminata, Roar Report

The pick of Ponder remains a reach, but the Vikings did their best to conceal it with a quarterback's best friend, Kyle Rudolph. Rudolph is a big target with great hands and a penchant for strong blocking, so he's ideal for a young, developing quarterback like Ponder. Unfortunately, both picks have durability concerns.

Christian Ballard and Brandon Burton were strong selections, and address both the inside and backfield of the defense, respectfully. Brandon Fusco and Demarcus Love will compete for playing position on the offensive line, but neither are necessarily starting material out of the gate.

The success of Minnesota's draft will rely heavily on the Ponder pick. Having a quarterback is an absolute necessity, especially in the NFC North, but it has to be the right quarterback. Only time will tell.

Jeremy Stoltz, Bear Report

No team had a tougher first-round decision to make than the Vikings. With essentially no viable quarterbacks on the roster, and the top three signal-callers off the board, Minnesota was forced into reaching for Ponder. Should he have gone that early? Probably not. Was it the right call to make? Absolutely. The NFL is a quarterback's league, and with Ponder, the Vikings get a smart, fundamentally sound player that, due to the number of weapons around him, won't need to carry the team right away.

Kyle Rudolph was a great value pick and should pay dividends right away as an over-the-middle option for a rookie quarterback. Christian Ballard also was great value and will help ease the loss of Pat Williams. Brandon Burton and Mistral Raymond are prototypical Cover-2 cornerbacks that will provide needed depth at the position. DeMarcus Love and Brandon Fusco fell way too far and were solid late-round additions. Both could challenge for starting spots along the interior of the offensive line. Ross Homan is a smart, instinctive player who should be very dependable as a backup.

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