Over the past few years, the NFC North has been right up there as one of the more competitive divisions in football, and a lot of that competition comes from the NFL Draft. At least two teams from the division made the playoffs in each of the past two seasons, and that wouldn’t be possible without strong drafting.
Along with the on the field talent, there has also been plenty of off the field and non-performance items brought up among the NFC North teams, most notably the current quarterback situations for the Green Bay Packers, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions.
Leading up to the start of the 2021 campaign, the NFC North could very well be a competitive one yet again, with the Packers looking to be early-season favorites and the Minnesota Vikings, Bears and Lions likely battling it out for the second spot in the division standings.
Before the season can officially kick off, however, all four teams still have some holes to fill and some needs to address this offseason. And there is no better time to start doing just that than through the upcoming 2021 NFL Draft taking place April 29-May 1.
Both Detroit and Minnesota hold picks in the earlier half of each round, while Chicago and Green Bay have selections in the latter half of each round in the draft. As the draft continues to inch closer, let’s take a dive into some needs for each team in the division and what each squad should look to address at the end of the month.
One Need For Every NFC North Team Heading Into 2021 NFL Draft
Minnesota Vikings – Offensive Line
If you’ve followed the Minnesota Vikings at all over the last handful of seasons, you have realized an ongoing need for the team has come at offensive line and finally figuring out that unit to protect the quarterback and open holes for the run game.
Well, this year that is once again the case in Minnesota, and the Vikings have done just about everything else this offseason to address needs throughout the roster with the exception of the offensive line. Now going into the 2021 NFL Draft at the end of April, Minnesota should have priority one be shoring up that offensive line in the opening round of the draft and throughout the seven-round selection process.
Earlier this offseason, the Vikings went out and re-signed guard Dakota Dozier and tackle Rashod Hill, while also trading for offensive lineman Mason Cole in a deal with the Arizona Cardinals. But more work still needs to be done to protect Kirk Cousins and help Dalvin Cook continue his dominance on the ground. And where Minnesota sits in the first round of the draft, it will have the opportunity to do just that.
With the anticipated quarterback-heavy first portion of the draft, Minnesota could land a solid prospect at offensive line, selecting one of the top few lineman entering this year’s draft. With the No. 14 overall pick, some of those prospects include tackles Rashawn Slater from Northwestern, Virginia Tech’s Christian Darrisaw, Teven Jenkins of Oklahoma State and Michigan’s Jalen Mayfield. Interior linemen such as Alijah Vera-Tucker from USC or Alabama’s Alex Leatherwood could also be solid options.
Although drafting an offensive lineman isn’t a flashy move or one that will excite the fan base much, it’s a position of great need for Minnesota and should be something it gives a hard look at in the first round and throughout the three-day draft at the end of the month.
Green Bay Packers – Weapons
For a team that has normally flown under the radar as far as headlines go, the Green Bay Packers have been in the news plenty during the 2020 season and into this offseason leading up to the 2021 campaign. Mainly, that is due to the rumored relationship between legendary quarterback Aaron Rodgers and the organization.
A year ago in the 2020 NFL Draft, Green Bay decided not to draft an asset to surround Rodgers with on offense and instead drafted his eventual replacement Jordan Love in the first round of the draft. Since that took place, many wondered if and how the Packers would address the growing need to maximize what is left in Rodgers’ career and surround him with whatever talent needed to make a run or two at a Super Bowl.
Unfortunately for Rodgers, that hasn’t happened just yet and Green Bay is once again in the same position of needing to add weapons to surround the quarterback with on the offensive side of the ball, even with having the likes of Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling filling the receiver room. That’s why the Packers need to focus on doing just that in the upcoming draft and giving Rodgers a target on the outside of the field.
In this year’s draft, Green Bay holds the No. 29 overall pick in the first round, while also having a second-round (No. 62) and third-round (No. 92) selection. If the Packers decide to finally draft a wide receiver in the first round, there could be players such as Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman, Ole Miss’ Elijah Moore, LSU’s Terrace Marshall, Purdue’s Rondale Moore and Florida’s Kadarius Toney, among others.
It’s time for Green Bay to do all it can to push the chips in and provide Rodgers with the necessary weapons he has long asked for. If the Packers don’t this offseason, the veteran quarterback could soon be leading another team who will.
Chicago Bears – Quarterback
One of the biggest storylines over the last year-plus for the Chicago Bears has been the quarterback position and who will take over that position in 2021 and beyond.
After parting ways with Mitchell Trubisky over the offseason, Chicago went out and signed veteran quarterback Andy Dalton and publicly stated he was the new starting quarterback ahead of backup Nick Foles. Dalton could still take over under center as the starter this season, but the Bears should also look to draft a quarterback in a draft that will be filled with quality prospects.
In the first round of the upcoming draft, Chicago holds the No. 20 overall pick if it doesn’t ultimately trade up higher into the first round to take a player still available. If the Bears were to remain in that spot at No. 20, the top-tier quarterbacks such as Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence, BYU’s Zach Wilson, North Dakota State’s Trey Lance, Ohio State’s Justin Fields and Alabama’s Mac Jones could already be off the board.
If any of those prospects were to fall to Chicago in the second half of the first round, it’s likely to be one of either Lance, Fields or Jones. In that case, the Bears should act quickly to select whoever that player may be.
If non of those quarterbacks are still on the board when Chicago selects, it could still look at the likes of Florida’s Kyle Trask, Stanford’s Davis Mills or Texas A&M’s Kellen Mond, although those players could probably still be available in the second round.
Regardless of who the quarterback is that Chicago would hypothetically select, that player could still sit behind Dalton and Foles as a rookie to develop with hopes of taking things over in future seasons. But one thing is for certain in that the Bears need to figure out the quarterback position for good and this draft might be the best way to address that.
Detroit Lions – Wide Receiver
Like Stafford, Goff could bring somewhat of a similar style of play to Detroit offense in 2021 and beyond, given his ability to air the ball out often much like Stafford did when leading this offense.
With Goff now leading the offense, the Lions need to surround him with some talent on the outside of the field to throw the ball to. T.J. Hockenson is still on the roster, but Detroit has a lack of receivers on the team now without Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola. Golladay signed with the New York Giants and Jones signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars this offseason as a free agent, while the 35-year-old Amendola is still a free agent.
Heading into the draft, the Lions could and should address the wide receiver position with a few solid prospects likely still available when Detroit selects at No. 7. Some names that could be there at No. 7 are LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase, Alabama’s DeVonta Smith and Jaylen Waddle, Minnesota’s Rashod Bateman and others. Just looking at those four prospects, any of them would help the Lions and the passing game moving forward.
This offseason, Detroit’s biggest need is wide receiver and it is a position the Lions need to address in the draft.
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