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NFC NORTH: 2021 NFL Draft preview

NFL Draft week is here, which means teams are putting the final touches on their preparations ahead of the three-day draft beginning with Thursday's first round in Cleveland. This is Brad Holmes' first draft as Lions general manager, and he'll be looking to add impact youngsters to a revamped Lions roster this offseason.

The Bears, Vikings and Packers will have their own strategies for finding the players that can come in and help the team immediately.

Here's a look at where all four teams in the NFC North stand heading into the draft:


2020 finish: 13-3 (won division)

Total offense: 389.0 (5th)

Rushing: 132.4 (8th)

Passing: 256.6 (9th)

Total defense: 334.0 (9th)

Rush defense: 112.8 (13th)

Pass defense: 221.2 (7th)

Most impactful 2020 pick: The Packers spent a second-round pick on Boston College running back AJ Dillon, and he did a nice job as a power option behind Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Dillon averaged 5.3 yards per carry as a rookie, and now takes over as the No. 2 back in Green Bay with Williams moving on in free agency to Detroit.

Top 3 draft needs: CB, WR, OL

2021 draft picks: Round 1 (No. 29), Round 2 (62), Round 3 (92), Round 4 (135), Round 4 (142), Round 5 (173), Round 5 (178), Round 6 (214), Round 6 (220), Round 7 (256).

Who fits in Round 1: The Packers have lost a couple of big names along their offensive line in free agency the past couple years with All-Pro center Corey Linsley being the latest this offseason. Selecting late in the first round, it's all about value for the Packers. Getting a player like Alabama's Landon Dickerson, arguably the best pure interior lineman in this draft, would be great value for a plug-and-play option from Day 1.

Twentyman's take: The Packers are in pretty great shape heading into the draft. They return all of their skill-position players on offense and most of their main pieces on defense. Green Bay currently has 10 selections and four picks in the Top 150. They need to add some young talent along their offensive line and in their secondary, and this is also a great draft to add to their receiver corps with this stacked class of pass catchers.


2020 finish: 8-8

Total offense: 331.4 (26th)

Rushing: 102.9 (25th)

Passing: 228.4 (22nd)

Total defense: 344.9 (11th)

Rush defense: 113.4 (15th)

Pass defense: 231.6 (12th)

Most impactful 2020 pick: Second-round pick Jaylon Johnson stepped in and started all 13 games he played at the right cornerback spot in 2020, but I'd argue that fifth-round pick wide receiver Darnell Mooney had even more impact. Mooney was targeted 98 times and caught 61 passes for 631 yards and four touchdowns as a rookie. That's pretty good production for a fifth-round pick.

Top 3 draft needs: OT, CB, QB

2021 draft picks: Round 1 (No. 20), Round 2 (52), Round 3 (83), Round 5 (164), Round 6 (204), Round 6 (208), Round 6 (221), Round 6 (228).

Who fits in Round 1: The Bears need a young right tackle and a quarterback, but getting a player like Northwestern's Greg Newsome II to pair opposite Johnson at cornerback would solidify the outside cornerback spot in Chicago for at least the next three or four seasons. Newsome is considered one of the top corners in this class.

Twentyman's take: The Bears have a new quarterback in Andy Dalton. He'll provide some much needed stability at the position in 2021, but he's not the long-term option. The Bears are in a tough spot to get one of the top 5 quarterbacks picking at 20. They'd probably have to move up to get one. At 20, I'd take the best player available and lock up one of their two cornerback openings (also need a starter at nickel). This draft is loaded at offensive tackle and receiver, so they can address those needs on Day 2 or 3.


2020 finish: 7-9

Total offense: 393.3 (4th)

Rushing: 142.7 (5th)

Passing: 250.6 (14th)

Total defense: 393.3 (27th)

Rush defense: 134.4 (27th)

Pass defense: 258.8 (25th)

Most impactful 2020 pick: No need to look any further than wide receiver Justin Jefferson, Minnesota's first-round pick. Jefferson caught 88 passes for 1,400 yards and seven touchdowns and earned a Pro Bowl nod along the way. It's scary to think how good he can be in year two.

Top 3 draft needs: OL, EDGE, TE

2021 draft picks: Round 1 (No. 14), Round 3 (78), Round 3 (90), Round 4 (119), Round 4 (125), Round 4 (134), Round 4 (143), Round 5 (157), Round 5 (168), Round 6 (199), Round 6 (223).

Who fits in Round 1: Northwestern's Rashawn Slater and Oregon's Penei Sewell are the top offensive tackles in this draft, and there's a chance one could still be on the board at No. 14 for the Vikings. If so, they get their new starter at right tackle and someone who can eventually be their left tackle of the future. Selecting one of the draft's best pass rushers – Gregory Rousseau, Kwity Paye or Jaelan Phillips – to play opposite Danielle Hunter would also be a good fit in the middle of the first round.

Twentyman's take: It was unusual to see Minnesota's defense struggle as much as it did a year ago. We haven't seen that much in the Mike Zimmer era. Expect the Vikings to try and infuse some young talent into a defense that's getting older. GM Rick Spielman has seven picks in the top 143, and he's shown over the years to have a good eye for young talent.


2020 finish: 5-11

Total offense: 350.2 (20th)

Rushing: 93.7 (30th)

Passing: 256.5 (10th)

Total defense: 419.8 (32nd)

Rush defense: 134.9 (28th)

Pass defense: 284.9 (30th)

Most impactful 2020 pick: An argument can be made for second-round pick D’Andre Swift or third-round pick Jonah Jackson. Swift notched 10 touchdowns as a rookie and wasn't even a starter until past the midseason point. Jackson came in and started all 16 games at guard.

Top 3 draft needs: WR, LB, DT

2021 draft picks: Round 1 (No. 7), Round 2 (41), Round 3 (72), Round 3 (101), Round 4 (112), Round 5 (153)

Who fits in Round 1: The Lions have a lot of options at No. 7. Maybe GM Brad Holmes really likes one of the quarterbacks, and there's certainly value taking a signal caller of the future at No. 7. Detroit could also get one of the top pass catchers or offensive linemen. If LSU wide receiver Ja'Marr Chase is still on the board that could be a terrific pick for Detroit. The Lions signed veterans Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman in free agency, but both are on one-year deals. Chase gives the Lions a young, No. 1-caliber receiver for new quarterback Jared Goff to throw to.

Twentyman's take: The Lions have needs on defense, but this isn't a great draft for difference-making defenders at the top. Instead, the Lions can address their needs at receiver with one of the top players, or possibly solidify their offensive line with the best tackle available, and then shift their focus to defense on Day 2. Quarterback is the big question mark. The Lions have Goff, 26, but Holmes scouted a lot of this year's quarterbacks in person and said he wouldn't rule out taking one.

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