The NFL's "Black and Blue" division is about to get a lot more competitive. Each team in this division spent their 2021 NFL Draft picks wisely, which should make for an entertaining race this season. How much longer can the Green Bay Packers hold off other three teams? We're about to find out. Here is what each team accomplished in this year's draft.
Objective Achieved: They may have finally found their franchise quarterback
Andy Dalton may be QB1 for now, but the assumption is that it's only a matter of time before Justin Fields takes the reigns. Oklahoma State's Teven Jenkins, and Missouri's Larry Borom give the Bears much-needed reinforcements on the offensive line. Virginia Tech's Khalil Herbert adds to a stacked backfield, North Carolina's Dazz Newsome provides another young pass catcher for the offense, Oregon cornerback Thomas Graham Jr. could contend for the all-important nickel back position, while BYU's Khyiris Tonga adds another presence to an already impressive defensive line. It's still early but it seems that general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy did a solid job addressing as many needs as they could in what could be a make-or-break draft for the duo.
Green Bay Packers
Objective Achieved: Addressed all of their team needs
Clemson wide receiver Amari Rodgers, and Mississippi State running back Kylin Hill add playmakers to this offense. Ohio State center Josh Meyers, Mississippi guard Royce Newman, and Wisconsin guard Cole Van Lanen add new faces to the offensive line. Cornerbacks Eric Stokes (Georgia), and Shemar Jean-Charles (Appalachian State), along with linebacker Isaiah McDuffie (Boston College), will help the back end of a defense that struggled in last season's NFC Championship Game. The Packers' biggest concern, of course, is Aaron Rodgers' status.
Objective Achieved: Also addressed their needs
When you've had three straight losing seasons, you'll do whatever is necessary to improve your team. In this year's draft, the Lions not only added support around new QB Jared Goff, they also added talent to their defense. Oregon offensive tackle Penei Sewell will keep Goff upright, while Oregon State's Jermar Jefferson adds depth to a young and talented backfield. Then there's USC wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, who looks to help fill the void left behind by Kenny Golladay.
The Lions are also looking to get better on defense, which at times has struggled more than the offense. Syracuse cornerback Ifeatu Melifonwu, Purdue linebacker Derrick Barnes, along with defensive tackles Levi Onwuzurike (Washington) and Alim McNeill (NC State) all could claim significant roles with a new coaching staff taking over.
Objective Achieved: Took care of their needs in the trenches, and found their potential quarterback of the future
The Vikings needed help on both lines and they made sure to select enough players to help in that regard. Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw, and Ohio State guard Wyatt Davis will make an immediate impact for this offensive, line which gave up 39 sacks in 2020. The Vikings' defense finished 22nd in sacks last year (23), so they bolstered their pass rush by taking Florida State's Janarius Robinson, and the Pittsburgh pair of Patrick Jones II and Jaylen Twyman.
Kirk Cousins is entrenched as the starting quarterback, but he's 32 years old and his play has been under scrutiny, so the Vikings selected Kellen Mond in the third round with an eye on the future. Mond will need some time to develop, but he could emerge as Cousins' eventual successor. Minnesota also picked up North Carolina linebacker Chazz Surratt, Iowa State running back Kene Nwangwu, California cornerback Camryn Bynum, Iowa wide receiver Ihmir Smith-Marsette, and Central Missouri tight end Zach Davidson to round out another deep draft class that the team hopes provided some immediate dividends.
— Gabe Salgado is part of the Athlon Contributor Network. He's also written for NBC, Fox, The Sporting News, The Sports Journal, The Undefeated and Complex. He can also be heard on WGN Radio. Follow him on Twitter @GabeSalgado82.
(Justin Fields photo courtesy of @ChicagoBears)