When the 2021 regular season rolls around, we could be looking at 3 of the 4 teams in this division under a new QB. DA BEARS drafted JUSTIN FIELDS/Ohio State, and cut MITCH TRUBISKY outright. The LIONS traded MATTHEW STAFFORD for JARED GOFF, kinda. And AARON RODGERS says he is done in Green Bay. COUSINS for the VIKES might be the only returning starter in the division. That is all quite significant, but for now we’re here to talk about the quality of each team’s Draft. So here we go…
DA BEARS The first two days of this Draft, GM RYAN PACE and Head Coach MATT NAGY decided to fix some spots on their roster, and I don’t mean Special Teams. They traded up to grab QB/JUSTIN FIELDS of Ohio State at Pick 11. Just when FIELDS will become their starting QB is TBD, but for now, they still have DALTON and FOLES on their roster. Depending upon how soon FIELDS projects as their starter, once Camps get under way, I would expect one of those two vets to be trade bait during the pre-season, when someone gets hurt and some team is looking for a veteran to bring in. Then in Round 2, they got itchy again and traded up to Pick 39, whereupon they selected Oklahoma State OT/TEVEN JENKINS to upgrade their OL, in a move made several seasons too late IMO. I also found it interesting that the team felt the need to save some Cap dollars and avoid changing their mind by dispatching both TRUBISKY/QB and CHARLES LENO/OT to Free Agency and new homes. So the two top rookies are both being challenged to step it up right away and win starting jobs ASAP. After the dust settled from these moves, the team had to wait until Round 5 to pick again. They took another OL in LARRY BOROM/Missouri, who will get a shot at either OT or OG to win a starter’s role. In Round 6, the team reaffirmed it’s affection for shorter, elusive RB’s with the selection of KHALIL HERBERT/VA Tech. There could be quite a battle at the RB position for roster spots this Summer in IL. DAZZ NEWSOME from UNC is an elusive, quick moving receiver that may have a chance to win the final receiver spot on their roster. THOMAS GRAHAM/CB was a highly thought of defender that seemed to lose some luster after opting out of the 2020 Covid season at Oregon. I think KHYIRIS TONGA/BYU at DT, is a nice value in Round 7. Nothing fancy about him, but he’s over 320 lbs. and can move a bit, as well as eat up blockers, against the run.
LIONS Almost everything is new in Detroit when it comes to LIONS football. New GM, new Head Coach, and most of all to the fans, a new QB to replace MATTHEW STAFFORD. DAN CAMPBELL will bring some new toughness to the team. Fans will need a roster sheet to identify their heroes this season. I don’t see much to debate about when I say this was their best Draft effort in years. It starts with arguably the best OL in the draft, PENEI SEWELL/OT/Oregon. He’s a big (6’5/330), athletic, tough guy who is only 20-years old, however, he and TAYLOR DECKER should make the best pair of bookend tackles in this Division, by a mile. And that’s gonna be important to new QB JARED GOFF. The team’s only receiver draftee was AMON-RA ST. BROWN from Southern Cal, who should make an excellent slot guy, but I also like two of their URFA wideouts in JONATHAN ADAMS/Arkansas State and SAGE SURRATT/Wake Forest, both good, sure-handed receivers. The team cleared out much of it’s RB group, opening up several jobs for newcomers, which include Round 7 steal, JERMAR JEFFERSON/Oregon State, though he’ll have to show early in Camp that he can handle receiving duties and pass blocking, or he may end up on a Practice Squad instead of a 53-man roster. One of the big changes under the new coaching staff will be the switch to a 3-4 base D. This of course will require tinkering and new talent to fit the depth chart to the scheme, so the team spent Picks in Rounds 2 thru 3 to accomplish that goal. At Pick 41, LEVI ONWUZURIKE/Washington was the choice, and he is an athletic, versatile defender. He will likely be slated to play DE, but should find situations where he returns to an inside role. Then in Round 3, at Pick 72, the team tabbed ALIM McNEILL/NC State, who has the girth to play on the Nose, but is also athletic enough to slide around. These two guys might make a very nice tandem whenever the team desires to present a 2-man front. With a Compensatory Pick at 101, the team selected IFEATU MELIFONWU/CB/Syracuse. The team has talent and decent size out on the corners already, but sure could use some help at S. Mark me down as a believer that he gets some audition time at a S slot, opposite TRACY WALKER. The steal Pick for the LIONS may have come in Round 4 when the team jumped all over DERRICK BARNES/LB/Purdue. BARNES had a very productive career in West Lafayette for the Boilermakers, and was one of the big winners in Mobile. He can do a bit of everything from blitzing to pass coverage, and at 245 lbs. he brings the lumber. On paper, it does indeed look like one of the best Draft Classes in years for the LIONS.
PACKERS OK, let’s get it over with… the elephant in this locker room is AARON RODGERS pounding his chest in righteous indignation. Now let’s move on to what they procured in the Draft itself. The PACKERS Defense was betrayed by their secondary in their Playoff loss to Tampa. So their first Pick at 29 was CB/ERIC STOKES/Georgia. He brings more speed and ball skills to their secondary than perhaps ever. If he shows that he’s ready to start, watch for KEVIN KING to be cut or traded during Camp. They then concentrated on helping the Offense with OC JOSH MYERS/Ohio State, who will try to win the starting job vacated by another former Buckeye in COREY LINSLEY, the big VFA loss by the team. If he can handle it, then ELGTON JENKINS can stay at OG where he has excelled in his two years in Title Town. The team traded up in Round 3 to Pick 85 to grab Clemson’s AMARI RODGERS, which should give them their best slot receiver since RANDALL COBB left town in Free Agency two years ago. RODGERS may also give them a boost in their Return Game, and even carry a bit as a RB on gadget plays. Many Draftniks have labeled RODGERS as the best 3rd Round Pick of this Draft. My sentiments exactly. The team may have reached a bit for the versatile, but not terribly athletic OL ROYCE NEWMAN/Ole Miss. The team has been unable to control the run on Defense since a guy named RAJI retired. In Round 5, the team took a candidate to beef up their interior DL; TEDARRELL SLATON/Florida, currently listed at 360 lbs. When he is in “shape”, he actually showed some athleticism as a Gator. But that might require shaving about 25-30 lbs. off his frame. Nickel CB candidate SHEMAR JEAN-CHARLES/App State is another ball-hawk that the team hopes will upgrade an OK slot, with a better athlete. The team lost RB JAMAAL WILLIAMS to Detroit in VFA, leaving their backfield depth a bit questionable, so they may have gotten a virtual steal in Round 7 with former Miss State RB KYLIN HILL. He averaged 5.6ypc in his SEC career. He is a solid blocker in pass-pro and he fumbled just once in 519 career touches for State. He also proved that he can catch, with 21 receptions last season in just 3 games, before he opted out over philosophical differences with new HC MIKE LEACH and his staff. This looks like a lot better Draft effort than the team was initially given credit for.
VIKINGS VIKINGS GM RICK SPIELMAN has become almost the King of the NFL Draft in recent years. He has amassed double digit Draft Picks for multiple years, and in general, has brought in good quality. This was his first year in a long time without top assistant GEORGE PATON, who was hired to replace JOHN ELWAY as the BRONCOS GM. But SPIELMAN and his guys survived with another productive 11-man Draft group. The OL has been losing players for a few years now, so SPIELMAN made additions there a priority. At Pick 23, he lucked into CHRISTIAN DARRISAW/OT/VA Tech still being available. Then in Round 3, Pick 86, he landed WYATT DAVIS/OG/Ohio State. With a bit of luck, he may have landed one entire side for his OL. With an early Round 3 Pick, at 66, he surprised more than a few folks with the selection of Texas A&M QB KELLEN MOND. Could we be looking at COUSINS’ replacement when his current contract expires? Round 4 saw the team bring in a workout warrior with plenty of tread left on his tires, in Iowa State’s KENE NWANGWU. He tested quite well at his Pro Day and showed flashes in limited action behind Heisman Candidate BREECE HALL. An interesting Pick in my mind was IHMIR SMITH-MARSETTE/WR/Iowa at Pick 157. He’s a versatile guy that will earn his stripes on Special Teams right away, but could become a No. 3/4 WR in time. Keep an eye on TE ZACH DAVIDSON/Central Missouri. Some quality depth for their Defense came with Picks of CHAZZ SURRATT/LB/UNC, PATRICK JONES/DE/ER/Pitt, CAMRYN BYNUM/S/Cal & JANARIUS ROBINSON/DE/ER/Florida St.
It was a very productive Draft for all four teams in this division. And with 34 total Picks, it could easily be called both high quantity and quality. I liked the BEARS having the balls to trade up twice, in the early Rounds, to get quality for spots that needed serious upgrades.