Everyone in the NFC North has been chasing the Green Bay Packers, who have won the division four straight years.
Perhaps the best way for the Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings to gain ground comes in the form of the NFL draft.
With that in mind, our NFC North reporters -- Rob Demovsky (Packers), Jeff Dickerson (Bears), Ben Goessling (Vikings) and Michael Rothstein (Lions) -- decided to rank each team's draft. A first-place vote was worth four points, a second-place vote three points and so on.
Here are the results (with first-place votes in parenthesis):
1. Vikings 14 (2)
T2. Bears 10 (2)
T2. Packers 10
4. Lions 6
And now, we discuss:
Dickerson: Each division team drafted a potential playmaker in Round 1, except for the Lions (YAWN), who used pick No. 28 on a guard. What happened to the renegade Lions, Rothstein?
Anyway, what sets the Bears' draft apart is the guy Chicago took in the first round will actually have the ball in his hands five-plus times a game -- wide receiver Kevin White. I know, I know, the Bears failed to rid themselves of the national nightmare known as Jay Cutler, but White runs a legit 4.35 40-yard dash and caught 109 passes last season at West Virginia. He's the real deal. Don't get me wrong, I like Minnesota's selection of cornerback Trae Waynes, but White clearly has the higher ceiling, regardless of whether Cutler is his quarterback (for the short term). I assume Damarious Randall is a future Pro Bowler just because GM Ted Thompson picked him, but I refuse to give Demovsky the satisfaction of ranking Green Bay's draft class ahead of Chicago. After all, I have to watch the Bears lose twice a year to Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay, so at least give me draft-class bragging rights. Is that too much to ask? First-year Bears general manager Ryan Pace followed up the White choice by taking nose tackle Eddie Goldman and center Hroniss Grasu, both future starters. I refuse to get emotionally invested in Day 3 picks because, let's face it, Rounds 4-7 are one big roll of the dice. So it boils down to White, Goldman and Grasu versus Waynes, Eric Kendricks and Danielle Hunter in Minnesota. Again, White tips the scales in the Bears' favor. Show me a proven offensive playmaker in the Vikings' trio of players. There is none. Sorry, Goessling, go back to chasing Adrian Peterson. The Bears have the best 2015 draft class in the division. Finishing last has its perks. I demand a recount.
Rothstein: Did you see Detroit's offensive line last season, Jeff? They were easier to jump than a New York City subway turnstile -- not that I'd ever advocate that -- to destroy the Lions' run game and destroy Matthew Stafford. The Lions had to address the offensive line and spent a vast majority of their picks on re-establishing their line and run game. Laken Tomlinson was the best guard in the draft and possibly the safest overall pick as well. It was a good selection. Besides, Detroit got its theoretical playmaker in the second round in Ameer Abdullah. While I thought that was a little high considering what was on the board, it's still a potentially helpful pick.
I'll say that I voted Minnesota first and Detroit third, this despite my feeling the Lions had a very safe and steady draft. Other than fullback Michael Burton in the fifth round, there were no huge reaches. I'm surprised they finished last in this poll, though. They found at least three potential Week 1 starters (Tomlinson, running back/returner Abdullah and Burton) and vastly improved one of their biggest weaknesses, the run game. That lack of flash potentially hurts them when it comes to evaluating the draft, though, because other than Abdullah, there were no huge college names taken by Detroit. Maybe it says more about the NFC North than anything else that even in one of GM Martin Mayhew's best strategic drafts, the Lions are still at the bottom. But I'll maintain that despite putting Detroit third, it was a smart draft by the Lions overall.
Goessling: While there were things I liked about all four of these drafts, I had the Vikings at the top of my ballot. I gave their draft a "B" on Saturday night, but the more I've looked at it in the past few days, the more I have liked it. The second-round pick of linebacker Kendricks fills a long-standing need, and if Waynes works out, the Vikings could have an elite defense in the next couple years. There's an argument to be made that the Vikings could have drafted a receiver earlier, but fifth-rounder Stefon Diggs could be a good value pick, and I'm intrigued by tight end MyCole Pruitt, given what offensive coordinator Norv Turner has done with former basketball players in the past. There are some gambles in this draft, but the Vikings hit on some key areas and could take a big step forward if this group works out.
I'm intrigued by what happened with the Bears, though. I liked their first couple of picks, but didn't think their draft was quite as deep as some of the others in the division. Two of us (including me) had them last, and two of us had them first. What gives, guys?
Demovsky: I kind of like sitting back and watching you guys bicker at each other. I wonder if that's how the Packers view the rest of the division; they keep winning it, while everyone else is fighting for second.
It's funny how in our little poll nobody put the Packers first, but nobody put them last, either. So in other words, it was a typical Thompson draft -- underwhelming yet likely will pan out. Who else would take a safety in the first round (Randall of Arizona State) and play him at corner? Or a guy like Quinten Rollins in the second round, who played four years of college basketball before just one season of college football at Miami (Ohio). But in Ted the Packers trust. He has drafted 10 Pro Bowl players since he took over in 2005. Don't be surprised if there's another one that comes out of this draft. Maybe it's Jake Ryan, the inside linebacker from Michigan in the fourth round. Mel Kiper Jr. loved that pick. Even if the Packers didn't have the best draft in the division, the other teams are so far behind it might not matter. I like the Goldman pick. I would have picked him in my NFL Nation mock draft if I would have been allowed a redo. And the Vikings got the inside linebacker, Kendricks, that I thought the Packers might target. It's hard to be excited about a guard in the first round, but maybe I undervalued what the Lions did.