The 2021 NFL Draft is rapidly approaching, scheduled to be held in Cleveland beginning on Thursday, April 29. Rookies can oftentimes be overhyped in the fantasy world but the right landing spot can go a long way towards a rookie approaching those lofty expectations. This series of articles will focus on the most enticing positions for rookie production at the offensive skill positions for each NFL team. This article is aimed at those teams residing in the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers: WR
After years in the wilderness, Aaron Rodgers finally looked to be on track for another trip to the Super Bowl in 2020 under the stewardship of the mercurial Matt LeFleur. A convincing 32-18 rout of the Los Angeles Rams in the Divisional Round put them within touching distance before Rodgers faced a familiar foe in Tom Brady in the NFC Championship game. Turnovers either side of the half, including a Rodgers interception, put the Packers in a hole they could not recover from. Another year without a ring for one of the best quarterbacks of his generation – his AP MVP award will be scant consolation.
The talk about the Packers moving back into the first round in 2020 to select quarterback Jordan Love quickly became mute and there is no sign that the Rodgers era is coming to an end. The Packers have a prime opportunity once again in 2021 and they should not make the same mistake as they did last year – they need to draft to win now.
As it was last year, an impact receiver alongside Davante Adams should be top of the Packers shopping list in the draft. They only lost Jamaal Williams in free agency but AJ Dillon showed last year he is more than ready to step up, and with this receiver class being very strong, now is the time to strike. They are unlikely to have to give much up if they did want to move up for their guy in the early rounds. There will be strong options, however, if they stay where they are.
It would be easy to go out an draft an elite slot receiver like Elijah Moore, however I think they should look to a more complete receiver on the outside.
Dream pick: Terrace Marshall Jr., LSU, WR
15 days until Terrace Marshall Jr. is a Baltimore Raven pic.twitter.com/V5F34MlELc
— The Ravens Realm (@RealmRavens) April 14, 2021
Chicago Bears: WR
After the purgatory served by Allen Robinson in Chicago over the past few years with Mitch Trubisky as his quarterback, I feel it would be harsh to will any receiver to the Bears to be honest. But, I am a Vikings fan so I am not going to beat myself up about it too much. There is no doubt that there will be hardly any improvement to get excited about under center after Ryan Pace brought in Andy Dalton on a prove-it one-year deal in the offseason. Dalton was characteristically mediocre at best in his time in Dallas and the winds don’t seem to be changing for “The Red Rifle.”
As they did with Trubisky, the Bears might not be able to help themselves in giving up too much to go out and draft their quarterback of the future. History points towards one of the top prospects at the position falling to a spot where the Bears could make a move, and if they do then I wouldn’t hate it. But, after failing to make inroads on the Packers in the division since Matt Nagy arrived, and with a Super Bowl-calibre defense on roster, the Bears need more weapons on offense.
The departure of Cordarrelle Patterson in free agency also leaves a spot open for a playmaker who can do things all over the field. And that brings us to the most exciting weapon in this year’s draft – a can-do-it-all receiver who will also be a threat out of the backfield. Ladies and gentleman, introducing Kadarius Toney.
Dream pick: Kadarius Toney, Florida, WR
Perusing some Kyle Trask film and holy crap, Kadarius Toney. pic.twitter.com/GpatxLGzor
— Zack Cox (@ZackCoxNESN) April 20, 2021
Minnesota Vikings: QB
Offense wasn’t Minnesota’s issue last season and they seem to be more than happy with their skill-position players despite a mediocre 7-9 season in 2020. Kirk Cousins was simply impressive last year and still has two years remaining after signing an extension last season; Dalvin Cook is one of the top three running backs in the league; and the impactive Adam Thielen was joined by the electric Justin Jefferson out of LSU to form a formidable receiving trio. This all points to the Vikings using their picks to unearth gems in the trenches on both sides of the ball. This is something GM Rick Spielman and Head Coach Mike Zimmer have excelled at in previous drafts.
They did let veteran tight end Kyle Rudolph go in the off-season, but anyone who has seen Irv Smith Jr. perform knows that can only be a good thing for the Vikings. Smith is a legitimate breakout star in Minnesota and will be a popular tight end pick in fantasy drafts this year,
Beyond Cousins, however, the Vikings quarterback room is pretty bare after releasing perennial backup Sean Mannion in the offseason. They would do well to look to snatch up a young signal-caller with starting upside who can learn behind Cousins over the next two years. It just so happens that there are a number of options in this draft that could fit the bill in the middle rounds.
Dream pick: Jamie Newman, Wake Forest, QB
Jamie. Newman. GONE. 💨 pic.twitter.com/TqKBNjtG8M
— ACC Network (@accnetwork) November 24, 2019
Detroit Lions: WR
If I told you that the current wide receiver room in Detroit lists its top three senior players as Breshad Perriman, Tyrell Williams and Quintez Cephus, how badly would you panic? Yeah, pretty badly. There is no way on earth that the Lions will roll out that offense come the start of the year, so receiver will be the first position need (among many, many needs) addressed at pick 7.
A smart move would be to trade down slightly and still add an elite player at the position whilst amassing more picks to address their holes on both sides of the ball. However, you feel that the Lions need to draft a face of the franchise that they can build their offense around for this beleaguered fanbase, so ridiculously starved of success.
They also need a comfort blanket for their new quarterback, Jared Goff. Acquired in a trade with the Rams in exchange for Matthew Stafford (the Lions also received an impressive haul of future picks), Goff has shown his limitations so far in the NFL and will need a regular target to go to if he is going to move the chains. The departure of star but often-injured wideout Kenny Golladay in free agency also points towards a specific need at outside receiver.
There could be a number of phenomenal options at pick 7, but if the current Heisman Trophy winner is low hanging fruit, the Lions should not hesitate to call his name.
Dream pick: DeVonta Smith, Alabama, WR
DeVonta Smith put on a clinic in his Heisman-winning season⚡️🏆 pic.twitter.com/iLixL9nipe
— ESPN College Football (@ESPNCFB) April 19, 2021
Photo by Nick Wosika/Icon Sportswire