The Vikings did well in the 2021 NFL Draft, landing two immediate starters on their offensive line, a backup quarterback with intriguing upside, and some dynamic athletes on both sides of the ball. I've written a lot about it.
Now let's shift our attention to the other three teams in the NFC North. The Vikings will play the Packers, Bears, or Lions in six of their 17 games this year, and they'll look to outduel all of them for their first division title since 2017.
Here's a rundown of the draft classes for each of the Vikings' division rivals.
Green Bay Packers
2020 record: 13-3
CB Eric Stokes, Georgia (Round 1, Pick 29)
C Josh Myers, Ohio State (Round 2, Pick 62)
WR Amari Rodgers, Clemson (Round 3, Pick 85)
G Royce Newman, Ole Miss (Round 4, Pick 142)
DT Tedarrell Slaton, Florida (Round 5, Pick 173)
CB Shemar Jean-Charles, Appalachian State (Round 5, Pick 178)
G Cole Van Lanen, Wisconsin (Round 6, Pick 214)
LB Isaiah McDuffie, Boston College (Round 6, Pick 220)
RB Kylin Hill, Mississippi State (Round 7, Pick 256)
Last year, the Packers had one of the more confusing drafts in recent memory, using their first three picks on a trio of offensive players in Jordan Love, A.J. Dillon, and Josiah Deguara who combined to play a total of 153 snaps.
2021 was a little better for the Pack. Stokes was a bit of a reach based on the consensus board, but he's got good size, blazing speed, and was highly productive in the SEC. He could form an impressive duo on the outside with Jaire Alexander, which will be important for games against the Vikings' Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen.
In the second round, they got Myers to replace Corey Linsley at center. And in the third, they finally added a receiver for Aaron Rodgers (assuming he actually remains the Packers' QB in 2021, which is a whole situation of its own). If Rodgers is still around in Green Bay, it'll be a little confusing to have two A. Rodgers on one offense, but the Clemson product will be a nice addition to that offense. None of their Day 3 picks stand out much, but keep an eye on Newman and Jean-Charles.
Ultimately, this was a decent draft that will hinge on how the Stokes and Myers picks turn out. It's not something other teams in the division should be too concerned with (it's worth noting that PFF graded Stokes as a 4th-round pick and Myers as a 5th-rounder), but at least it's better than the 2020 disaster.
2020 record: 8-8
QB Justin Fields, Ohio State (Round 1, Pick 11)
OT Teven Jenkins, Oklahoma State (Round 2, Pick 39)
OT Larry Borom, Missouri (Round 5, Pick 151)
RB Khalil Herbert, Virginia Tech (Round 6, Pick 217)
WR Dazz Newsome, North Carolina (Round 6, Pick 221)
CB Thomas Graham Jr., Oregon (Round 6, Pick 228)
DT Khyiris Tonga, BYU (Round 7, Pick 250)
Wow. Talk about a potential career-saving draft for GM Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy. Four years after whiffing on Mitch Trubisky at No. 2 overall, the Bears moved aggressively to take another swing at finding a true franchise quarterback. They had to give up their 2022 first-rounder and other picks to move up from 20 to 11, but it'll all be worth it if Fields becomes that guy.
In my opinion, there's every reason to believe he has just as good of a chance as Zach Wilson (No. 2) and Trey Lance (No. 3) do to become a star. It felt like people were overthinking Fields during the pre-draft cycle, and I think his slide in the draft could look pretty silly in a few years. He's an incredible athlete with a huge arm and some truly dominant college games (see: Clemson in the CFP semifinals) to his name.
Then the Bears moved up again, giving up their third-rounder to go from 52 to 39 for Jenkins. And while trading up is usually the wrong call, I liked this one too. Jenkins was seen as a likely first-round pick and was clearly the best offensive lineman available at that spot early in the second. He's a physical beast of a tackle who should be a fixture on Chicago's offensive line for a long time. If you draft a quarterback early, you need to protect him, and the Bears helped that cause by landing Jenkins.
They even did pretty well on Day 3 despite not having a fourth-rounder. I really like the Herbert and Graham picks, and Newsome was a beast in 2019. There's not much to complain about with this haul, which is why it's No. 1 in average draft grade in the NFL. If Fields pans out, the Vikings are going to regret that they didn't make a bold move up to get him like their Windy City rivals did.
2020 record: 5-11
OT Penei Sewell, Oregon (Round 1, Pick 7)
DT Levi Onwuzurike, Washington (Round 2, Pick 41)
DT Alim McNeill, NC State (Round 3, Pick 72)
CB Ifeatu Melifonwu, Syracuse (Round 3, Pick 101)
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown, USC (Round 4, Pick 112)
LB Derrick Barnes, Purdue (Round 4, Pick 113)
RB Jermar Jefferson, Oregon State (Round 7, Pick 257)
The Lions and their new leadership of Brad Holmes and Dan Campbell could've gone in a lot of different directions at 7, but when Sewell fell to them, it became a no-brainer. He was dominant at Oregon, is still just 20 years old, and has incredible upside because of his athleticism and size. In most years, Sewell would've been a shoe-in top five pick, but he was hurt by the presence of several top-tier QBs and pass-catchers this year. Adding the best tackle in the class was a great foundational pick for the Lions.
Then they went to the other side of the trenches and added a pair of menacing defensive tackles in Onwuzurike and McNeill. Stopping the run has always been important in the NFC North, and those two will help Detroit in that regard. Going with linemen for their first three picks fits with Campbell's "bite their kneecaps" identity that he's trying to establish.
Melifonwu, St. Brown, and Barnes are big, physical players too. I liked this draft a lot from the Lions, but they have a long ways to go and still don't have a long-term solution at quarterback.
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