Building The Roster: NFC North
In a new series, National Recruiting Analyst Adam Gorney has broken down the roster of every NFL team in terms of star ratings for players in high school, which conferences have the most players on each team and which states those players come from as well. Below is a breakdown of the NFC North as National Recruiting Director Mike Farrell offers his thoughts and memories on each roster.
If there is one thing to learn about Chicago’s roster - and this could be by design or purely coincidental - is the targeting of players from the state of Florida. The Bears have 11 players from that state on the roster and there are other obvious trends going on as well.
The SEC is well-represented on Chicago’s roster with 14 players from that conference especially from Georgia with receivers Riley Ridley and Javon Wims and linebackers Roquan Smith and Leonard Floyd. Alabama defensive backs Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Eddie Jackson also play for the Bears.
Non-Power Five schools are also abundant on the roster with 18 players from places like North Carolina A&T (Tarik Cohen), Abilene Christian (Taylor Gabriel), Ashland (Adam Shaheen) and Regina (Akiem Hicks). The five-stars on Chicago’s roster are OL Bobby Massie, DL Eddie Goldman, DB Kevin Toliver and Clinton-Dix.
Farrell’s take: There are a lot of big names on the Bears roster and many took different routes to the NFL. While some were stars in college like Roquan Smith and Clinton-Dix, others like Toliver took the undrafted route. There is a big SEC flavor here and some guys that really developed in college like Floyd and plenty of unsung heroes like Goldman on a great defense. Khalil Mack is the most famous Bear and he was a two-star out of Florida who had to go to Buffalo to get a chance to play college football.
There is a famous line in Mad Men when Don Draper says, “Los Angeles is not what you see in the movies. It’s like Detroit with palm trees.” Well, there are plenty of California players on the Lions’ roster and it’s definitely left an impression. Eight players from that state are on the Detroit team led by former five-star Devon Kennard.
There are six non-Power Five defensive backs on the roster as well in Jamal Agnew (San Diego), Mike Ford (Southeast Missouri State), Rashaan Melvin (Northern Illinois), Dee Virgin (West Alabama), Miles Killebrew (Southern Utah) and Tracy Walker (UL-Lafayette).
Farrell’s take: Detroit is a better team than many think led by Stafford, one of the better high school quarterbacks I've seen over the years. Kerryon Johnson could have also been a great defensive player in college if he wanted to be. Hand is probably the biggest name on the roster to recruitnicks as our No 1 player overall over Myles Garrett back in 2014 and he had an unremarkable career at Alabama. However, he is off to a very good start as an NFL player. Robinson was a no-brainer five-star that 'Bama just plucked out of the state of Texas at the end of his recruitment in one of the bigger shockers that year.
GREEN BAY PACKERS
There are some interesting storylines when it comes to Green Bay’s roster like having eight players from the state of California and eight from the Pac-12 as well. Even more of a concentration of Big Ten players with nine including three from Northwestern and six players that played high school ball in Illinois, which is surprising because it’s not one of the more talent-heavy states for NFL players.
The Packers have also taken a huge liking to SEC defensive players. Nine players from that conference are on the Green Bay roster and eight of them play defense with three overall from Mississippi State in OL Elgton Jenkins, LB Preston Smith and DB Will Redmond. Twenty players were two-stars or unranked coming out of high school, which is a high number.
Farrell’s take: Aaron Rodgers is of course the face of the franchise and was a three-star prospect with one offer coming out of junior college. The Packers have done a great job of taking some small school guys who have turned out to be great players and guys like Gary, our No. 1 player in 2016, are trying to make their name. Lewis has been around forever and was one of our first ever five-star tight ends.
Players from the Big Ten lead all other conferences with players on the Vikings as there are 10 players from there with two from Iowa (Riley Rieff and Jaleel Johnson), two from Ohio State (Pat Elflein and Jalyn Holmes) and two from Michigan State in Kirk Cousins and Trae Waynes. No other Power Five conference is really close in numbers of players, but from the non-Power Five schools there are 17 players.
The amount of four-star defensive linemen and defensive backs also stood out as all these players had that rating in high school and are on Minnesota’s roster: Danielle Hunter, Ifeadi Odenigbo, Holmes, Johnson, Mackensie Alexander, Kris Boyd, Mike Hughes, Jayron Kearse and Harrison Smith.
The five-star players who play for the Vikings have also materialized. Running back Dalvin Cook, WR Stefon Diggs, tight end Kyle Rudolph and defensive lineman Everson Griffen have all had excellent NFL careers and definitely backed up their rankings.
Farrell’s take: Diggs is in the news lately wanting a trade and he was one of the most dynamic and competitive players I've ever scouted. There was a time where I thought about having him as No. 1 overall in the country over Dorial Green-Beckham back in 2012 and I probably should have pulled the trigger. He's one of the best smaller receivers we've ever scouted. Cook was a no-brainer five-star and the defense is loaded with some highly ranked talent led by Griffen. Kirk Cousins, he of the huge guaranteed contract, was a three-star quarterback in high school who has played above that level.