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NFL Draft

Which NFC North Team Has Best Non-QB Roster?

  • The Draft Network
  • June 28, 2021
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It’s been a heck of an offseason thus far in the NFC North as we slowly creep into the meat of the summer months. Amidst the reports of Aaron Rodgers’ potential departure from Green Bay has come the rumored quarterback competition in Minnesota following the selection of Kellen Mond. Not to mention there’s a new man under center in Detroit in Jared Goff, while the future of the Chicago Bears has fallen on the shoulders of Justin Fields, whether he starts in Week 1 or not. 

It’s been a whirlwind of a spring, but as we are just a tick over two months from kickoff, let’s take a deeper dive into the who’s-who of the NFC North, with the aforementioned signal-callers excluded. 

Green Bay Packers

With Rodgers excluded, the top of the NFC North wasn’t as easy to identify as some of the other divisions we’ve covered thus far. While the Packers have an excellent foundation of both young and wily veteran talent, it would be juvenile to discredit the quality of the group in Minnesota—but alas, it’s the Packers who reign supreme.

With Aaron Jones back on a sparkling four-year, $48M deal, the Packers return one of the league’s most dynamic talents in a backfield expected to include a larger workload for second-year man A.J. Dillon, who garnered just 46 rushing attempts during the 2020 regular season. Davante Adams needs no introduction, as he’ll continue to serve as one of football’s top talents on the outside for whoever is under center for the Packers. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard round out the returning wideouts but keep an eye on rookie talent Amari Rodgers, who could develop into one of the league’s highest targeted pass-catchers working out of the slot. 

Jaire Alexander is a name many are unfamiliar with, but he will soon become a household name as he continues to progress into one of the league’s elite cover corners. He was snubbed of a first-team All-Pro selection last fall, but his continued production will become awfully difficult to ignore as time goes on. Up front, the Packers are led by the Smiths, Za’Darius and Preston, as they anchor the Packers' sturdy front seven.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings had one of the most impressive offseasons, bar none—including free agency and the draft, general manager Rick Spielman had an impressive cycle.

The signing of Dalvin Tomlinson to shore up the defensive interior ushered in Patrick Peterson’s arrival on the backend, and offensively, first-round selection Christian Darrisaw should put offensive line skeptics to bed, as he’ll be tasked with protecting Kirk Cousins’ blindside.

For the returning punch on offense, Justin Jefferson’s presence on the exterior pairing with Adam Thielen and backfield headliner Dalvin Cook rounds out an impressive arsenal of weapons for head coach Mike Zimmer. Jefferson, the league’s top first-year wideout last season, will surely look to improve upon his massive campaign in 2020, where his 1,400 receiving yards ranked fourth among all pass-catchers. 

With Tomlinson comes a healthy Danielle Hunter, who’ll headline a front seven touting the likes of Anthony Barr and one of the league’s top cover linebackers in Eric Kendricks. And although the Vikings could serve to address the secondary in due time, Peterson’s play-making ability and leadership to assist Harrison Smith at the apex of Minnesota’s defense will be a welcomed sight for a unit ranked 25th in total passing yards allowed last fall.

Chicago Bears

The success, or lack thereof, for the Bears in 2021 rests solely on head coach Matt Nagy’s decision under center, but we’ll save that for another time. The purpose of this exercise is to focus solely on the players around the quarterback and the Bears have found themselves set up rather nicely. With youth in abundance, built upon one of the most aggressive, physical defensive units in the league, the Bears could serve as the Cinderella’s of the upcoming 17-game campaign if ALL goes well. 

You can’t get much better up front with Khalil Mack and Akiem Hicks to serve as the leaders on a defense full of alpha-athletes. Add in Roquan Smith, a sideline-to-sideline defender coming off a career year, coupled with Danny Trevathan, and the Bears have a variety of skill sets to counter the ever-evolving offenses of a division touting Rodgers, Cousins, and Goff.

Offensively, the Bears aren’t a group that pops on paper, but the return of Allen Robinson to lead a rather unimpressive group of pass-catchers will be substantial to the growth of Fields, whether Robinson remains in Chicago or not past this fall. A healthy Tarik Cohen offers a change of pace to the bulldozer that is David Montgomery, and tight end Cole Kmet looks to be in line for a massive workload—he could develop into the de facto target hog of Chicago’s offense. 

For Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace, it’s their last chance to prove to ownership that they are the duo to lead Chicago into the future.

Detroit Lions

Detroit’s “rebuild” has gone on for nearly three decades, when will it come to an end? 

The franchise has just one playoff win since 1957 via a 1991 divisional round win over the Dallas Cowboys. That’s not good, folks. 

Talents in Barry Sanders, Calvin Johnson, and Matt Stafford, all have passed through the gauntlet of Detroit, with little postseason and overall success to show for. The Lions enter the 2021 campaign with fresh faces aplenty in general manager Brad Holmes and head coach Dan Campbell. But, let’s focus on the roster as best we can.

D’Andre Swift and T.J. Hockenson highlight a depleted offense, while first-round selection Penei Sewell headlines a below-average unit up front. Sewell, Holmes’ first selection as GM, has now been tasked with sliding over to the right side of the line as Taylor Decker looks to have the nod at left tackle. Whether that’s the right decision for both the success of the line and Sewell’s development is not for me to answer, but placing the draft’s top front-five talent in a spot he’s less comfortable playing due to the presence of an under-performing veteran is blasphemy.

Defensively, much is expected in year two from corner Jeff Okudah after appearing in just nine games as a rookie. In six starts, Okudah, the 2020 third overall selection, totaled just one interception while allowing a 118 passer rating when targeted against. 

There just isn’t much to be excited about in the Motor City, as the Lions, again, enter a franchise-altering rebuild in an attempt to slowly rejuvenate a roster back to league average. 

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