The 2021 NFL Draft is in the books, and the four teams in the NFC North believe they are better today, thanks to the new infusion of young talent via this year's draft.
Now that the dust has settled on the draft, let's take a look at who Detroit, Chicago, Minnesota and Green Bay added to their roster and how it might impact the division moving forward:
Draft picks: Rd 1 – OT Penei Sewell (Oregon), Rd 2 – DT Levi Onwuzurike (Washington), Rd 3 – DT Alim McNeill (NC State), Rd 3 – CB Ifeatu Melifonwu (Syracuse), Rd 4 – WR Amon-Ra St. Brown (USC), Rd 4 – LB Derrick Barnes (Purdue), Rd 7 – RB Jermar Jefferson (Oregon State)
Most impactful pick: We have to start at the top with Sewell, who is immediately expected to slot into the right tackle spot in Detroit and solidify the Lions' offensive front. Sewell is big and powerful, but also surprisingly nimble and quick-footed for a man his size.
Sleeper pick: I have to admit McNeill wasn't on my radar heading into Day 2, but the more I studied the pick the more I liked it. McNeill is a strong, stout nose tackle, but his superior athleticism gives him a ton of upside. He was a high school running back and linebacker, and also was a terrific baseball player. He bench presses nearly 450 pounds and squats almost 650 pounds. He had 5.5 sacks playing the nose in 2019 before teams got smart and double teamed him just about every snap in 2020. Can he provide some push and pass-rush prowess from the interior? If he can, it's a great pick in the third round by Lions GM Brad Holmes.
Quotable: "There's a lot of different ways you probably could break that success down," Holmes said of parameters he considers for a good draft. "When you look back it, I've often looked at just playtime percentage. It's easier to see it as accolades if they ended up being All-Pros, or Pro Bowls and all that type of stuff, but it's a good barometer to see playtime percentage, games played, games started. That's probably usually a quick reference to break down success of past drafts."
Twentyman: This was a classic case of Holmes trusting his board with the best available players and not being tempted to reach for perceived needs. The Lions built up both of their lines with their first three picks and then started filling some needs at the end of Day 2 and into Day 3. Overall, I thought it was a really solid first draft for Holmes.
Draft picks: Rd 1 – QB Justin Fields (Ohio State), Rd 2 – OT Teven Jenkins (Oklahoma State), Rd 5 – OT Larry Borom (Missouri), Rd 6 – RB Khalil Herbert (Virginia Tech), Rd 6 – WR Dazz Newsome (North Carolina), Rd 6 – CB Thomas Graham Jr. (Oregon), Rd 7 – DT Khyiris Tonga, DT, BYU
Most impactful pick: The Bears identified Fields as their quarterback of the future and traded up from No. 20 to No. 11 to get him. It will be interesting to see if he can push veteran Andy Dalton for the starting role in 2021. Chicago has been a consistent quarterback away from making a lot of noise in the NFC over the years. Did they finally find their man in Fields?
Sleeper pick: After releasing cornerback Kyle Fuller this offseason, the Bears had a hole in their secondary. Graham was a nice late-round snag. Graham started as a true freshman at Oregon and was one of the highest graded corners in the FBS in 2018 and 2019 before opting out in 2020.
Quotable: "I don't think there's pressure at all on me because I expect myself to be a franchise quarterback ... and one day, hopefully, a top-five quarterback in this league," Fields told the Chicago Sun-Times. "That's what I'm going out to do. I'm going to work every day to reach my goal and reach new heights."
Twentyman: Solid draft for the Bears, addressing their long-term needs at quarterback and some more immediate ones – especially along the offensive line – early on. Jenkins should start for them immediately and they've got players with some real upside in this class moving forward.
Draft picks: Rd 1 – OT Christian Darrisaw (Virginia Tech), Rd 3 – QB Kellen Mond (Texas A&M), Rd 3 – LB Chazz Surratt (North Carolina), Rd 3 – DE Patrick Jones II (Pittsburgh), Rd 3 – G Wyatt Davis (Ohio State), Rd 4 – RB Kene Nwangwu (Iowa State), Rd 4 – CB Camryn Bynum (California), Rd 4 - DE Janarius Robinson (Florida State), Rd 5 – WR Ihmir Smith-Marsette (Iowa), Rd 5 – TE Zach Davidson (Central Missouri), Rd 6 – DT Jaylen Twyman (Pittsburgh)
Most impactful pick: A lot of draft analysts had Darrisaw as the third best tackle available so getting a plug-and-play guy like him at No. 23 is terrific value for Vikings GM Rick Spielman. He brings some nastiness to the Vikings offensive line that needed some upgrades coming out of this draft.
Sleeper pick: Jones has a chance to be a really good pass rusher in this league. He recorded 17.5 sacks and 24 tackles for loss the last two seasons at Pittsburgh.
Quotable: "We feel like we're athletic, but you end up going against some really big defensive linemen, especially inside, you get so many of those big guys," Vikings head coach Mike Zimmer told the Minneapolis Star Tribune. "Darrisaw has real long arms, so that helps him in pass protection against some of those speed rushers. But yeah, that was one of the things we talked about."
Twentyman: A lot of picks for Spielman and I thought he got terrific value at a number of spots, especially in the first round with Darrisaw. It will be interesting to see how Mond develops over the next couple years and if he can become the future at quarterback in Minnesota. The Vikings got some players here who will come in and help them right away.
Draft picks: Rd 1 – CB Eric Stokes (Georgia), Rd 2 – C Josh Myers (Ohio State), Rd 3 – WR Amari Rodgers (Clemson), Rd 4 – G Royce Newman (Ole Miss), Rd 5 – DT Tedarrell Slaton (Florida), Rd 5 – CB Shemar Jean-Charles (Appalachian State), Rd 6 – OT Cole Van Lanen (Wisconsin), Rd 7 – RB Kylin Hill (Mississippi State).
Most impactful pick: Cornerback was a major need for the Packers. Stokes is speedy and competitive, and should plug in opposite Jaire Alexander.
Sleeper pick: Last season, Davante Adams had 82 more receptions that any other Packers wide receiver. Green Bay needed help at the position, and Rodgers has a chance to step right into the slot and have an immediate impact.
Quotable: "It's interesting. Every year you end up with a bunch of guys and you never really know how it's going to pan out, but you always usually have a little bit of a feeling how quickly these guys can adapt," Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst told ESPN of his 2021 draft class. "And I feel really good about this group. I think there's some guys that are going to help us immediately, and I just think that are all suited kind of for long-term success in the NFL. I know that's very rare and it doesn't always happen, but I like all these guys' chances."
Twentyman: The big story in Green Bay over draft weekend didn't involve the draft at all, but rather MVP quarterback Aaron Rodgers and his future with the organization. We'll see what happens on that front in the coming weeks and months. In terms of the draft, I thought the Packers did a good job addressing some important position needs with their first three picks.