2021 NFL Draft Preview: NFC North

Green Bay Packers

By Hunter Firment

Similar to last year, the Green Bay Packers enter this 2021 NFL Draft with a late first-round pick. They are coming off of back-to-back 13-3 seasons that have ended with two NFC Championship Game losses in Matt LaFleur’s first two seasons as head coach. They just need to improve some position groups to finally get past the NFC Championship. Also like last year’s roster, their position needs remain mostly the same. While I’m not opposed to the Packers selecting the top available defensive player regardless of position, the top priority for the Pack should be to bolster their secondary at the cornerback position. Jaire Alexander is a bonafide stud at the team’s top cornerback spot, but Kevin King and Josh Jackson just won’t cut it on a Super Bowl-contending squad. There is a wealth of corner talent in this draft, and using a first round selection on a corner would be a huge step in the right direction for Green Bay. The dream scenario for the Packers at pick 29 is Virginia Tech’s Caleb Farley. He is a big, strong, fast corner at 6’2” and just under 200 pounds. He will probably be off the board by the time Green Bay is on the clock, but a man can dream. 

The next best option for the Packers would be Florida State’s Asante Samuel Jr. Another ballhawk and great player who would be an immediate starter in new defensive coordinator Joe Barry’s defense. Him and Jaire playing the corner positions and Darnell Savage and Adrian Amos behind them at safety would be a very solid secondary. If they decide to address their defensive line need in the first round, expect it to be defensive lineman Christian Barmore out of Alabama. 

If Green Bay instead decides to go offense in the first round, expect an offensive tackle or a wide receiver. This is another deep receiver class, and Packers GM Brian Gutekunst may have heard enough backlash to finally put another talented pass catcher across from superstar Davante Adams. If they go receiver, expect them to take a flyer on Florida’s Kadarius Toney or Purdue’s Rondale Moore. 

Detroit Lions

By Brody McShane

The Detroit Lions new Head Coach Dan Campbell, along with General Manager Brad Holmes and owner Sheila Ford Hamp, will have an opportunity to bolster their roster with pick number seven in the 2021 NFL draft. They are in prime position to grab a potentially transcendent player. With that in mind, their roster presents many holes and they have already undergone a dramatic change at the quarterback position this offseason. The deal that sent Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams for Jared Goff and an abundance of draft picks has changed the outlook of the franchise moving forward. Jared Goff is still only 26 years old and has previously played in a Super bowl. I think the former number one pick deserves the opportunity to lead the team. The loss of wide receivers Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones is a significant blow to their offense and putting weapons around Jared Goff should be of the utmost importance. Players who would make sense in the first round for the Lions include Alabama’s Heisman-winning wide receiver Devonta Smith, Florida’s versatile tight end Kyle Pitts or stud Louisiana State University receiver Jamar Chase. The skill sets of both Pitts and Chase should have them going within the top six selections and potentially just out of Detroit’s reach. And although this draft is loaded with quarterback talent, building around Jared Goff, coupled with the draft picks that they gained from the trade would give this team the best chance to win moving forward.

Minnesota Vikings

By Hunter Firment

The Minnesota Vikings face a tall task in catching up to the top of their division and matching the talent level of the Green Bay Packers. But Minnesota has some offensive gems on their roster, including last year’s first round wide receiver selection Justin Jefferson. Jefferson posted elite numbers right away in his rookie season, and is probably already Wide receiver one in Minnesota. The guy who lines up across the field from him isn’t too bad either. Wide receiver Adam Thielen is a Pro Bowler who (when healthy) complements Jefferson perfectly. Pair those guys with an elite running back in Dalvin Cook and the Vikings don’t look half bad. However, holes in the offensive line and all over the defense left the Vikings at a weak 7-9 last season and outside of the playoff picture. 

With the 14th pick, expect the Vikings to bolster the defense. I like them taking either an elite corner like Patrick Surtain II out of Alabama, or an offensive lineman like Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw or Northwestern’s Rashawn Slater. However, I expect the Vikes to go defense-heavy after a year in which they gave up 30 passing touchdowns and 20 rushing touchdowns. Look for Head Coach Mike Zimmer and General Manager Rick Spielman to attempt to turn things around on the defensive side of the ball. 

Chicago Bears

By Noah Cope

The outlook on the 2021 NFL season looks very familiar for the Chicago Bears as they enter this year’s draft. The never ending search for a franchise quarterback continues even after Andy Dalton has continuously been touted by General Manager Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy as “QB1.” However, at pick number 20, it seems unlikely the Bears are able to land one of the “big five” QB’s in this year’s draft. A trade up is possible with a team like the Lions at pick number seven or the Panthers at pick number eight if the Bears are interested in pursuing a QB like Trey Lance, Justin Fields or Mac Jones. If the Bears do decide to stand pat, I expect them to target the offensive line which has been one of the worst in football for the last couple years and will likely look even worse without Trubisky behind center who, despite all his limitations, was very mobile. If the bears go this route, I expect them to possibly target a QB like Kellen Mond or Kyle Trask in the later rounds and look to add some playmakers on offense, as they failed to get a long term deal done with their top WR in Allen Robinson who will be playing this upcoming season on the franchise tag. Additionally, with the departure of top corner Kyle Fuller, I expect the Bears to add to their secondary at some point in this draft.