Draft Grades: NFC North rundown, updated divisional odds for each team

One week removed from the 2018 NFL Draft, fans won’t really know who are the real winners or losers until a few seasons down the road. However, that won’t stop NFL experts in determining who they believe did well and who got the short end of the stick.

Let’s break the NFC North draft down.

Chicago Bears — B-

1. Roquan Smith, LB: Georgia

2. James Daniels, C: Iowa

2. Anthony Miller, WR: Kentucky

4. Joel Iyiegbuniwe, LB: Western Kentucky

5. Bilal Nichols, DT: Delaware

6. Kylie Fitts, DE: Utah

7 Javon Wims, WR: Georgia

The Bears wanted to get stronger on defense, and by all appearances they did. Roquan Smith joins LB Leonard Floyd with hopes of solidifying the inside and outside of the defense for the Bears. With Mitchell Trubisky running the show in 2018, Chicago is hoping to make a run to the postseason.

Detroit Lions — B+

1. Frank Ragnow, C Arkansas

2. Kerryon Johnson, RB: Auburn

3. Tracy Walker, S: Louisiana

4. Da’Shawn Hand, DE: Alabama

5. Tyrell Crosby, OL: Oregon

7. Nick Bawden, FB: San Diego State

Lions fans said “Who?” when Detroit announced Arkansas center Frank Ragnow as their first selection in the 2018 NFL Draft. The Lions said they were committed to bolstering their offensive line and they stuck to it. Ragnow did not allow a single sack in college, and fifth-round selection Tyrell Crosby, a tackle out of Oregon did not allow a sack last season.

Detroit is hoping with these two selections they will help solidify protection for QB Matt Stafford.

Green Bay Packers — C

1. Jaire Alexander CB: Louisville

2. Josh Jackson, CB: Iowa

3. Oren Burks, OLB: Wake Forest

4. J’Mon Moore, WR: Missouri

5. Cole Madison, OL: Washington State

5. JK Scott, P: Alabama

5. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR: South Florida

6. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR: Notre Dame

7. James Looney, DE: California

7. Hunter Bradley, LS: Mississippi State

7. Kendall Donnerson, LB: Southeast Missouri State

The Packers wanted to strengthen their defensive corners and showed it right away in the 2018 draft. Green Bay allowed an NFL-worst 21 TD passes in 2017, which made Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson justifiable selections. Jackson was a stud at Iowa and may be the best athlete the Packers selected in the entire draft.

Minnesota Vikings — B+

1. Mike Hughes, CB: South Florida

2. Brian O’Neill, OT: Pittsburgh

4. Jalyn Holmes, DE: Ohio State

5. Tyler Conklin, TE: Central Michigan

5. Daniel Carlson, K: Auburn

6. Colby Gossett, OG: Appalachian State

6. Ade Aruna, DE: Tulane

7. Devante Downs, LB: California

They landed Kirk Cousins in free agency, and their first five draft selections may all be keepers this season. The Vikings are showing they are ready to prove last season was far from a fluke.  Cornerback Mike Hughes and DE Jalyn Holmes should make an impact this season. TE Tyler Conklin may turn out to be the surprise of the draft for the Vikings and should be a nice compliment to Kyle Rudolph.

Now the questions are out there. Will the Vikings rule the North, or will Aaron Rodgers regain his form and lead the Packers to another division title? Can Matt Patricia work his magic in Detroit and lead the Lions to the postseason or are the Bears ready to surprise everyone and return to their “Monsters of the Midway” form?

Here are the early NFC North odds.

  • Vikings +140
  • Packers +185
  • Lions +500
  • Bears +600

Detroit Lions 2018: Newest Lion wants Dez Bryant to play in Detroit

Dez Bryant is now officially a free agent. While the rumors that will soon follow Bryant will most likely have him linked to several teams over the next few days and weeks, one player for the Detroit Lions has made his feelings clear – he would like to see No. 88 suit up for the Lions.

LeGarrette Blount took to Twitter earlier today telling Bryant that he should bring his game to Motown for the 2018 season. Blount, the former New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles star who played a huge role in the last two Super Bowls, apparently he was not joking when he told Dez to bring his talents to Detroit.

Now, while all players like to take to social media these days to express their feelings, is there any realistic shot of the Lions taking a look at Bryant? While you can never say never, it is doubtful.

The Lions’ wide receiver core consists of Golden Tate, Marvin Jones and an up-and-comer Kenny Golladay – not to mention Bradley Marquez and T.J. Jones as well. Still, with a quarterback with a huge arm like Matt Stafford, don’t you have to at least take a look at a player with the talents of Bryant?

One thing’s for sure. No matter where Dez lands in 2018, he is going to have a massive chip on his shoulder, which may be another reason to give him at least some consideration.

Bryant, who also took to Twitter, let the NFL world know that he will be more than ready for the 2018 season, no matter who he plays for.

Tigers vs. Indians series preview 2018: Detroit rolls into Cleveland for key 4-game series

The Detroit Tigers will face the Cleveland Indians in a big four-game series starting Monday evening from Progressive Field in Cleveland, Ohio.   On the heels of sweeping the White Sox in Chicago, something of the Tigers have not done since September of 2011, Detroit is a confident bunch heading to Cleveland.

Now, how big a series can really be in April can always be debated, however, for the Tigers, playing well against Cleveland could set the tone for the entire season. Yes, the entire season! Why? That is simple. The Indians have dominated the American League Central for the last two seasons, and they have steamrolled the Tigers in the process.

Detroit has lost seven in a row to the Indians and 11 of their last 12 overall. It’s a good thing for the Tigers that Monday night’s starter Francisco Liriano has no recall of those defeats. The veteran is in his first season wearing the Old English D, and if he can have a repeat performance of his first outing, the Tigers have a good shot at winning their fourth consecutive game.

Liriano was dominant in his first start of 2018 against the Royals on last Monday. The lefty pitched 6.2 innings, giving up just one run on four hits while striking out three Kansas City batters.

One plus for the Tigers will be that the Indians will be without right fielder Lonnie Chisenhall. Chisenhall, who has been a Tigers killer over the past few seasons, was placed on the 10-day disabled list Sunday afternoon with a strained right calf. Cleveland will replace Chisenhall on the roster with Tyler Naquin.

Right now the Tigers don’t care who is in the lineup for the Tribe, they just want to get a win. Here is how the pitching matchup for the series is scheduled to break down.

Monday will see Francisco Liriano (1-0, 1.35 ERA) take the hill to face the reigning American League Cy Young Award winner Corey Kluber (0-1, 2.40).

On Tuesday Matthew Boyd (0-0, 1.50 ERA) will face Josh Tomlin (0-0, 24.00 ERA), followed by two pitchers who have been struggling a bit so far in 2018 when Detroit’s Jordan Zimmermann (0-0 8.71 ERA) squares off against Carlos Carrasco (0-0 5.40 ERA) on Wednesday evening. 

The final meeting of the four game set will feature Detroit’s Michael Fulmer (1-1, 0.68 ERA) opposing Trevor Bauer (0-0, 2.0 ERA). First pitch for each game is scheduled for 6:10 p.m. ET. 

Fulmer, Tigers defeat White Sox 6-1, eye series sweep tomorrow

Michael Fulmer is showing manager Ron Gardenhire and Detroit Tigers fans everywhere that he is ready to be the ace of the pitching staff. For the second straight outing, Fulmer was lights out on the mound. Following up on his dominant performance against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Fulmer was even better Saturday against the White Sox.

The hard-throwing righty pitched 5 ⅓ innings, giving up six hits while striking out four Sox batters. More importantly, he didn’t give up a run, and has only given up one run in 13 ⅓ innings this season. With this performance, Fulmer lowered his ERA to 0.68 on the season.  

Dixon Machado and Miguel Cabrera continued their hot start to the season. In the top of the third inning with two outs, Cabrera singled into right field driving in two runs. He later drove in a third run on a sacrifice fly. Machado finished the day going 2 for 5, including a double and two RBI.

The other bright spot for Detroit was once again their bullpen. Joe Jimenez looked overpowering, which is a great sign for Detroit. Jimenez has given up just one hit in 3 ⅓ innings so far in 2018, and has an ERA of 0.00.

Sure, it is still early, but winning the first two games on the road for this team is a big deal. If the Tigers can pull out the win tomorrow and complete the sweep of Chicago, it would send them to Cleveland with a lot of confidence.

The Tigers will send their veteran newcomer Mike Fiers to the mound Sunday while the White Sox are scheduled to start Reynaldo Lopez. First pitch is scheduled for 2:10 p.m. ET.

Detroit did make one roster move following today’s game. The optioned pitcher Warwick Saupold to Triple-A Toledo. The move was to make room for Fiers’ activation from the 10-day disabled list.

Tigers vs. White Sox 2018: Live stream, TV info, Vegas odds, and prediction

The Detroit Tigers and Chicago White Sox will face off in Game 2 of their three-game series Saturday afternoon at Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, Illinois.

The Tigers earned their second win of the season on Thursday afternoon, spoiling Chicago’s home opener. Detroit’s wild 9-7 win in extra innings had all of the excitement of an old fashioned baseball offensive shootout, but the weather made it feel more like a Lions vs. Bears game in mid December.

Jordan Zimmermann was less than stellar in his second performance of the season. Zimmermann failed to make it to the fifth inning as he lasted just 4 ⅓ innings before being sent to the showers. When all was said and done for the Tigers right hander, he surrendering six runs, nine hits and one walk and now has an ERA north of eight.  The positive for the Tigers is that the bullpen once again looked solid, especially Daniel Norris.

Norris went 3 ⅓ innings, giving up just one hit and one run while striking out six, and more importantly keeping the Tigers in the game.

Now the Tigers will hand the ball to Michael Fulmer in Game 2 of this three game set. Fulmer was lights out in his first game of the season against the Pittsburgh Pirates. The hard throwing righty pitched eight strong innings giving up just four hits and one run, but in the end, he was the hard luck loser as the Tigers fell by the final score of 1-0.

Fulmer will be opposed by Chicago’s Lucas Giolito. Giolito pitched six innings against the Royals on March 31 but did not get a decision in the White Sox 4-3 win.

Las Vegas oddsmakers have the White Sox listed as the favorite at -115, with the come back on the Tigers set at +105. The over/under run total is 8.  

Prediction: The Tigers owe Michael Fulmer. If he can pitch half as well as he did against the Pirates last week, Detroit has a great chance to get their second win in a row against the ChiSox.

Pick: Detroit +105

Fans can watch Saturday’s Tigers vs White Sox game several ways. The game will air live in Detroit on Fox Sports Detroit and stream live through the Fox Sports Go App. The game will also air on WGN 9 in Chicago. First pitch is slated for 2 p.m. ET.

Detroit Tigers: Youth movement should give fans plenty of optimism

Not much is expected from the Detroit Tigers in 2018, that is until you listen to all of the MLB experts. While the season is still in its infancy, Tigers fans, despite a 2-4 start, should feel optimistic about this season and beyond, and here is why.

Jeimer Candelario, Niko Goodrum, and Dixon Machado may not be household names right now, but these three youngsters are showing some serious potential. Candelario came over to Detroit last season from the Chicago Cubs as part of the trade that sent catcher Alex Avila and Justin Wilson to Chicago. Detroit also acquired 19-year-old prospect Isaac Paredes in the deal, who along with Candelario is coming off of a great season of winter ball.

Candelario was a high prospect for the Cubs organization, however, playing third base behind a guy named Kris Bryant isn’t the best way to try to break into the big leagues. The verdict is still out, but this trade looks like a winner for Detroit as Candelario has shown great glove work in the field and a great eye at the plate.

When the Tigers signed Niko Goodrum, they knew they were getting a utility player, but Goodrum may be the best around in terms of flexibility. Goodrum has already played shortstop and first base so far in 2018 and looked comfortable at each position.

His shining moment of the early 2018 season came on Thursday in Chicago. Not in the starting lineup, Goodrum came off the bench after Miguel Cabrera injured his ankle and went 2 for 5 with a home run as he helped lead the charge for the Tigers comeback 9-7 win in 10 innings.

Finally, there is Dixon Machado. Machado has been in the Tigers organization since 2015 and after three seasons of being a role player, he is getting his shot as a starter. When the Tigers traded Ian Kinsler to the Angels, the second base job was handed to Machado and it is his to lose. Through six games, Machado is hitting .280 and has five RBI.

The Tigers are hoping that along with these three rising stars, pitchers Michael Fulmer, Matthew Boyd and right fielder Nicholas Castellanos will help lead the charge for the new look Tigers to once again becoming a contender in the AL Central.

Detroit has not had a youth movement since 2006, and that season they went to the World Series. While the Tigers are most likely not going to make it to the Fall Classic this season, they are confident that a return trip isn’t far off.