Lunchbreak: Lions, Packers Most-Changed in NFC North After Trade Deadline

The 2018 NFL trade deadline has come and gone without any last-minute moves by the Vikings.

Within the NFC North, Minnesota and Chicago stayed quiet while the Packers and Lions each made major moves.

Perhaps most notable is Detroit’s deal of Golden Tate to Philadelphia in exchange for a third-round pick. The wide receiver began his career with four seasons in Seattle before spending the past four-plus seasons with the Lions. During his time in Detroit, Tate started 64 of 71 games and totaled 416 catches for 4,741 yards and 22 touchdowns.

The trade came just days before the Vikings and Lions will meet for the first of their two division games this season.

The Packers made two trades, sending safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix to Washington in exchange for a 2019 fourth-round draft pick and shipping running back Ty Montgomery to Baltimore in exchange for a seventh-round pick in 2020.

In an article opining winners and losers after the trade deadline, ESPN’s Dan Graziano said the “NFC North parity” was affected by the moves Detroit and Green Bay made. Graziano wrote:

This looks as if it’s about to turn into a two-team race between the Vikings and the Bears. The Packers traded away a couple of key pieces […] and the Lions traded Tate, who was the target of 27 percent of Matthew Stafford's passes this season, one week after acquiring Damon Harrison in what looked like a win-now move. On one hand, if Green Bay wasn't re-signing Clinton-Dix and Detroit wasn’t re-signing Tate, you can understand why they wanted to get picks for them now. But the Packers are a half-game out of first and the Lions only a game out. Each made their current roster perceptibly worse Tuesday.

Thielen, Ham, not NFL’s only big-talent athletes from small-program schools

The Adam Thielen narrative has moved from “Division II player makes roster” to Thielen topping all NFL receivers in catches and yards.

Thielen’s story is one of success, to be sure. But Mark Craig of the Star Tribune recently took a look across the league and discovered that a number of NFL teams with winning records this season are getting those wins with the help of Division II athletes. Craig wrote:

In Detroit on Sunday, Seahawks receiver David Moore posted his fourth touchdown in three games with a juggling grab in a 28-14 upset win over the Lions. Quarterback Russell Wilson has targeted the second-year pro from East Central [Missouri] 14 times with 11 completions, a 20.1 average and a TD percentage of .364.

This Sunday, the NFL’s game of the week is the undefeated Rams (8-0) at New Orleans, 6-1 and winners of six in a row.

The Rams go in with four Division II players on their active roster: All-Pro kicker Greg Zuerlein (Missouri Western), special teams workhorse Marqui Christian (Midwestern State, Texas), backup defensive tackle Ethan Westbrooks (West Texas A&M) and linebacker Matt Longacre (Northwest Missouri State), who started in Sunday’s win over the Packers.

Craig also highlighted Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill – “the most electric player in the league” – who attended West Alabama, Chargers WR Tyrell Williams (who has four touchdowns on 20 catches) and Rams RB Austin Ekeler, a program of Western State (Colorado) who has 305 yards rushing and three receiving scores.

According to the NCAA, the 2018 NFL season opened with 83 Division II players either on active rosters, practice squads or injured reserve. That was down from 90 at the start of the 2017 season.

Thielen obviously has become the modern-day shining example of what can await a well-grounded, hardworking and athletically gifted D-II player. But there were others long before Thielen was even born.

Craig spoke with Vikings fullback C.J. Ham, who attended Augustana University in Sioux Falls, South Dakota.

“I know going to Augie, I think we had four NFL players that people knew about,” Ham told Craig. “So I knew it wasn’t as far-fetched as people think. People automatically think you’ve got to go to D-I to make it to the NFL. That opened my eyes that if I did succeed at the D-II level, there was a chance for me, too.”

Courtesy of the Vikings Team Photographer Andy Kenutis (@vikingsphotog on Instagram), check out these 2018 Vikings Halloween Photoshops.

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