Draft Preview: NFC North

DETROIT LIONS:

Head coach: Dan Campbell

Projected Pick at 7: DeVonta Smith, WR, Alabama

Team needs: WR, LB, ED

Projected team picks:

  • Round 1: No. 7

  • Round 2: No. 41

  • Round 3: Nos. 72, 101

  • Round 4: No. 112

  • Round 5: No. 153

When it comes to the Detroit Lions, they could do with a heap of draft picks to improve their roster. The Lions have holes dotted all along their squad that need to be improved before the 2021/2022 season commences. New head coach Dan Campbell will be eager to see what his new Quarterback [QB] Jared Goff has to offer. Several mock drafts have the Lions trading within the top five to select a QB early, however, it’s likely the Lions stay put with their seventh overall pick and supply Goff with the opportunity to flourish under a new scheme.


With the recent free agency departures of Marvin Jones [Jacksonville Jaguars] and Kenny Golladay [New York Giants], the wide receiver position needs to be a top priority for the Lions. The Lions currently have former Raiders’ WR Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman as their top options at the position- not the most star-studded names by any means.


The 2021 NFL Draft is stacked at the receiver position and with the seventh pick the Lions could find themselves drafting a wide receiver who could provide a spark to a depleted wide receiving core. Ja’Marr Chase or DeVonta Smith are possible candidates to end up with the Lions. The Cincinatti Bengals or the Miami Dolphins could possibly snap up Chase before the Lions selection. Therefore, the 2020 Heisman winner DeVonta Smith would be an ideal selection for the Lions. With Smith’s elite pass catching ability and his tidy routes, he could find himself playing the WR1 role in Detroit.


DeVonta Smith pictured playing for Alabama. Image: The Draft Wire-USA Today

The Lions may also shift their attention to the defensive side of things early on in the draft. Head coach Dan Campbell recently described the type of team he wants to build: “We’re going to kick you in the teeth, all right, and when you punch us back, we’re going to smile at you, and when you knock us down, we’re going to get up and, on the way up, we’re going to bite a kneecap off,” Campbell said at a press conference.


So, if Campbell is looking for a gritty defensive player, Linebacker Micah Parsons from Penn State certainly fits the bill. Parsons, viewed as one of the top linebackers in the draft, would give the veteran linebacker Jamie Collins some well-needed support. The Lions may also look to improve their pass rushing weapons as the Lions were ranked the 20th worst team in the league for rushing the QB, according to PFF. Michigan's Kwity Paye or Penn State's Jayson Oweh could be top candidates for the Lions if they decide to draft at the DE [defensive end] position in the first-round.



MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Head coach- Mike Zimmer

Projected pick at 14: Alijah-Vera Tucker, G, USC

Team needs: IOL, DE

Projected team picks:

  • Round 1: No.14

  • Round 3: Nos. 78, 90

  • Round 4: Nos. 199, 125, 134, 143

  • Round 5: No. 157,168

  • Round 6: No. 199


In recent years, the Minnesota Vikings have prided themselves with their electrifying offense. With Dalvin Cook in the running back department, the formidable duo of Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen in the wide receiver department and Irv Smith emerging as a top prospect at the tight end position, the Vikings have the basis of a high-scoring offense. Quarterback [QB] Kirk Cousins certainly has the weapons around him.


However, it’s the protection for Cousins that needs work. With the pick 14 in the draft, the Vikings should turn their attention towards the offensive line. Cousins was the sixth-most sacked QB in the league last season [ sacked 39 times].


New York Giants’ QB Daniel Jones was sacked 45 times and L.A Chargers’ QB Justin Hebert was sacked 32 times, according to Statmuse. There’s a chance that both the Giants and the Chargers use their picks to boost their offensive line. So, who does that leave for the Vikings at pick 14? If Penei Sewell, Rashawn Slater and Christian Darrisaw are all off the board come pick 14, expect the Vikings to look at Guard [G] Alijah Vera-Tucker out of USC.


The O-line is a top priority, but the Vikings may also use their first-round pick to bolster their defensive presence. Last season, defensive end [DE] Danielle Hunter underwent neck surgery which ruled him out for the entire 2020/2021 season and with Yannick Ngakoue joining the Baltimore Ravens mid-season, the Vikings struggled at the DE position. Taking a defensive end at 14 could re-establish a strong pass-rushing identity. With Kwity Paye likely off the board at pick 14, Jaelan Philips, Azeez Ojulari and Jayson Oweh are all in contention to be selected at 14 if the Vikings decide to give Hunter some respite for the new season.



CHICAGO BEARS

Head coach- Matt Nagy

Projected pick at 20 - Caleb Farley, CB , Virginia Tech

Team needs: CB, OL, QB

Projected draft picks:

  • Round 1: No. 20

  • Round 2: No. 52

  • Round 3: No. 83

  • Round 5: No. 164

  • Round 6: Nos. 204, 208, 221, 228


With the departure of All-Pro corner Kyle Fuller in the offseason, the Bears should have the cornerback [CB] position as their main focus in this years’ draft. The Bears’ 2020 second-round rookie CB Jaylon Johnson impressed last year, but the Bears need to give Johnson some help as it doesn’t seem like veteran CB Desmond Trufant will be a strong enough replacement to fill the role left by Fuller.

This years’ draft class is stacked at the CB position. Alabama’s Patrick Surtain II will likely be one of the first cornerbacks off the board, closely followed by South Carolina’s Jaycee Horn. Although, the Bears may be able to snatch one of the draft-day steals at pick 20 with Caleb Farley or Greg Newsome II. Farley was projected to be one of the top cornerbacks taken in early on in this year’s draft, but a back surgery in March severely impacted his draft value. The talent is there with Farley but so is the risk.


If the Bears decide to play it safe, they may select Newsome II. The Northwestern CB has a lot of hype behind him ahead of the draft. Newsome II also has the lowest pass completion percentage allowed in single coverage in the whole draft class of 2021 (10%), according to PFF.


The Bears received fierce backlash with their decision to pick up former Bengals and Dallas Cowboys’ Quarterback [QB] Andy Dalton during free agency. The moved was unpopular amongst fans and critics who believe the Bears are one quality QB away from becoming an elite team. Many still believed that the Bears would head into this draft eager to select a Quarterback, however, a tweet from the Bears captioned ‘QB1’ with an image of Andy Dalton fairly cemented the fact that Chicago looks to be content with Dalton suiting up as the starter.


The Bears may attempt to find a diamond in the rough in the later rounds of the draft at the QB position. Texas A&M QB Kellen Mond has potential but selecting Mond at pick 20 would be a slight reach as he’ll likely fall into rounds 2 and 3. Texas Longhorns QB Sam Ehlinger and Florida Gators QB Kyle Trask would also be Quarterbacks to watch if the Bears decide to take one in the later rounds.



GREEN BAY PACKERS:

Head coach- Matt LaFleur

Projected pick at 29: Teven Jenkins, OT, Oklahoma State

Team needs: OT, CB, WR

Projected draft picks:

  • Round 1: No. 29

  • Round 2: No. 62

  • Round 3: No. 92

  • Round 4: Nos. 135, 142

  • Round 5: Nos. 173, 178

  • Round 6: Nos. 214, 220

  • Round 7: No. 256


The Green Bay Packers are one of the hardest teams to predict when draft day comes calling. They seem to have a knack for shocking the NFL. For instance, last year’s first–round pick involving QB Jordan Love caused uproar amongst Packers fans and current Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers told reporters that he ‘wasn’t elated’ and that he was hoping for a receiver, according to Mercury News.


Hopefully Rodgers will be amused with the selection of an O-linemen in this year’s draft. With the departure of All-Pro Centre [C] Corey Linsley to the L.A Chargers and All-Pro left tackle [LT] David Bakhtiari nursing an ACL injury, taking an offensive lineman in the first-round would add depth to an area that could be pose some issues for the Packers this upcoming season.


With the Packers having a late pick in the first-round, the majority of top O-line prospects will likely be long gone. However, Tackle [T] Teven Jenkins out of Oklahoma State would be a safe pick at 29. Jenkins had an impressive career at Oklahoma State, allowing no sacks in 2019 and 2020 and played a vital role in creating running routes for Oklahoma State’s running back [RB] Chuba Hubbard to run wild during his 2,094-rushing yard season, according to PFF.


The Packers may also look at cornerback position with their first-round pick. The prospect of Greg Newsome II and Jaire Alexander is a scary one for sure, the Packers drafting a Cornerback [CB] is likely, but perhaps in the later rounds.


The Packers managed to cope without drafting a wide receiver [WR] last season, but a lot of that was down to the outstanding performances by Davante Adams. Adams was graded as the top WR from the 2020/2021 season according to PFF. Averaging 3.59 yards per route run against press coverage.

The breakout season for tight end Robert Tonyan gave Rodgers another weapon to play with. However, it’s depth at the WR position that’s the issue for the Packers. Allen Lazard has struggled to dominate as a WR2 and Marquez Valdes-Scantling is too inconsistent to be the reliable second option. Therefore, look for the Packers to add some depth at the position in later rounds, or don’t, it is the Packers after all.