NFL draft season wins, concerns and predictions for the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings

The balance of power at NFC North remains in balance beyond the 2021 season as Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers ponders his future: Will he return to Green Bay, retire or try to force a hit change?

Without Rodgers, the Minnesota Vikings might have entered the season as the favorites. But Rodgers ended speculation on March 15 by signing a lucrative extension.

However, the Packers had no All-Pro recipient Davante Adams, who was traded to the Las Vegas Raiders. And recipient Marquez Valdes-Scantling signed a free agent agreement with the Kansas City Sheriff, leaving the Packers’ roster of recipients slim.

Will Green Bay’s reign atop the division be vulnerable? Can Kirk Cousins ​​harness the Vikings’ offensive firepower and outrun the Packers? Is the Bear or the Lion in a position to do a Bengals jump from worst to first?

ESPN NFC North reporters Courtney Cronin (Bears), Eric Woodyard (Lions), Rob Demovsky (Packers) and Kevin Seifert (Vikings) take a look at each team’s wins and concerns and make some predictions as to when Draft coming soon.


Best move of the season: The signing of former Packers center Lucas Patrick is step one for Chicago in rebuilding an offensive line that will allow for the league’s highest 58 sacks in 2021. Not every sack is, though. The result of poor pre-blocking, but improving pass protection around quarterback Justin Fields was crucial to the Bears’ development of offense. Patrick brings rich starting experience and leadership to a relaunched offensive line.

This is still an area of ​​interest: The offensive line is largely non-fixed, with unproven players expected to start at both disposal and career fallback placed on the right. The reception also wasn’t deep enough for the Bears to feel confident that Fields had what he needed to continue his development as a franchise quarterback in Year 2. The season was slow when Chicago made the pitch. impactful attack additions to the list. The team chose not to spend on higher-value free agents, who can deliver faster impact and seem to aim to fill some of the holes in the draft.

Who makes sense with the first choice: If Skyy Moore is available at number 39 (Chicago doesn’t currently own the first pick), the Bears should add a featured Western Michigan receiver. While he’s smaller in size (5 foot-10, 195 pounds) like the Chicago Open Darnell Mooney and Byron Pringle, the second-round recipient is more likely to make an impact as a rookie than a Project strike leader that the Bears can. look there.

Bear wins the division if: It’s a long shot that makes sense only if coach Matt Eberflus can produce the same magical sublimation as Matt Nagy did in his first season in Chicago in 2018. The bears will need a lot. things to win in NFC North this season . Anything short of Green Bay landing in 2022 makes it feel like Chicago will be third or fourth in the division as the franchise embarks on another rebuild.

Bold prediction too soon: Tight finish Cole Kmet became a guard for Fields and topped 800 yards of receive and six touchdowns this season. A tight third year end will develop into an explosive component in the Bears’ passing game and will eventually have a chance to shine in the red zone following the departure of Jimmy Graham. –– Cronin


Best move of the season so far: Signed former Jacksonville Jaguars DJ Chark to a one-year contract. The Lions needed a big player – Chark was 6-4 – to complement rising star Amon-Ra St. Brown, and Chark are still young (25 years old) with a lot to show this year, getting injured In 2021, he will miss 13 games because of an ankle injury. He will attempt to return to the form that led to the Pro Bowl appearance in 2019.

This is still an area of ​​interest: Wide receiver. With St. Brown, Chark and Josh Reynolds, it sounds like a good unit on paper, but the wide receiver may not be enough for quarterback Jared Goff’s skill set. Secondary Detroit could also use a boost.

Who makes sense with the first choice: Edge pusher. The Lions couldn’t miss the 2nd pick. They needed a game changer and it would make sense to upgrade their defense if Aidan Hutchinson of Michigan or Kayvon Thibodeaux of Oregon were available.

The lions win the division if: Well, they probably won’t win the division. The Bengals went from worst to first last season, but they have an extensive franchise and superstar midfielder, among other elite players. The Lions don’t seem ready to make that jump. They will need to have a perfect sketch, Goff has to play the best ball of his career and the stars will have to align.

Bold prediction too soon: Detroit will win seven games. The Lions have not had a winning record since 2017 and won three games last season, but they have lost the last few games and played hard until the last game. If they add a few pieces and catch some breaks, they can double that winning total. –– Wooden yard


Green Bay Packers

Best move of the season so far: Apparently, Aaron Rodgers is returning. Without him, they’re in Bear and Lion territory (well, maybe not so bad). But looking beyond the obvious, Rich Bisaccia may not have been the most important thing they did. The Packers ended up hiring a proven NFL special team coordinator who, by some accounts, should have given more consideration to the head coach job after what he did last year. in a temporary role with the Las Vegas Raiders.

This is still an area of ​​interest: Who will Rodgers throw to? Not Davante Adams. Not Marquez Valdes-Scantling. And they didn’t add a recipient until signing a one-year deal with Sammy Watkins on Thursday. Also, their tight top end target, Robert Tonyan, may not be ready for the opener after tearing up his ACL on October 28. Maybe they’ll find a way to pull out Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are even more involved in the pass game, but at some point they’ll have to add more receivers.

Who makes sense with the first choice: Whoever catches the ball. This should have been the year the Packers broke the first-round no-recipient record, which began in 2002 with Javon Walker. Two years ago, they loved Justin Jefferson but couldn’t get him. They have more ammo this year with two picks on the first turn (Numbers 22 and 28) and two rounds on the second turn (Numbers 53 and 59) if they want to move up to get it, such as Bang’s Chris Olave Ohio. If they don’t come forward, then Penn State’s Jahan Dotson might be the right man.

The packer wins the division if: They continue to do what they did for the previous three years under coach Matt LaFleur, who has won 13 games a year since he became head coach in 2019. He and Rodgers have had their fair share. Things were found at their end, and the defense seemed to be reliable in the end. Even with all the special team issues, they still dominate NFC North.

Bold prediction too soon: The Packers will break their 13-season streak… by winning 14. The Bears, Lions, and Vikings pose almost no threat. Jets, Giants, Eagles, and Commanders are almost certainties. That’s a double-digit win right there and they can win 4-3 over the rest of the schedule. – Demovsky


Minnesota Vikings

Best move of the season so far: Signed with trailblazer Jordan Hicks. Changing defense plans can be ineffective and costly. But at Hicks, the Vikings have a reliable and persistent player, as well as a strong leader, to fill the spot opposite Eric Kendricks at full-back in their new basic 3-4 set. And his contract requires him to be charged just $3.5 million over the 2022 salary cap.

This is still an area of ​​interest: Secondary. Vikings re-signed full-back Patrick Peterson and added free agent Chandon Sullivan. They are modest signings and combined only charge $4.9 million over the limit. But rivals have weathered persistent deficits in 2022 through the past game. The Vikings dropped 4,300 yards of passing, fifth worst in the league. They need more help.

Who makes sense with the first choice: LSU winger Derek Stingley Jr. Adding Stingley will not only address an area of ​​interest, but it will add a sports player who could one day remind fans of Peterson. All NFL teams are investigating the foot injury that caused Stingley to miss most of the 2021 season, but if healthy, he would be the ideal addition.

Vikings win the division if: Their offense is given a higher score than the Packer. That’s not as much of an assertion as it might sound. The Packers have a midfield advantage over every NFC North team, but the “skillful cast of players” around their cousin – Justin Jefferson, Adam Thielen, Dalvin Cook and Irv Smith – are better than the Packers’. They had a chance.

Bold prediction too soon: Vikings will win one of three NFC wild card landings after challenging for the NFC North title. It is true that the team is moving into a new office and coaching staff, and often in those situations it can take a year or two before the plans and staffing come into play. But coach Kevin O’Connell is inheriting a rather talented squad, compared to what new coaches are often faced with, and NFC seems to open wide after a talent moves to the AFC. Not many teams can be counted out of the NFC playoff race, but the Vikings will enter the season among those most likely to earn a spot. – Seifert NFL draft season wins, concerns and predictions for the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings

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