The 2021 NFL Draft is clearly in the rear view now, with spring programs getting underway and summer training camp not too far off. Not a single team is likely finished adding to or tweaking its roster ahead of kickoff in September, but all 32 have at least a glimpse of their foundation for the fall. And some clubs have undergone quite the transformation since draft weekend. With that in mind, we're "resetting" each division -- reviewing how every team has fared since adding new talent in Cleveland, and looking ahead to forecast what lies ahead this season. Here, we're focused on the NFC North, starting with a team fresh off a bold move to add a quarterback:
It's now impossible to lead any discussion about the 2021 Bears without highlighting their big move in the first round -- a trade up to land Fields, who enters the year as the presumptive starter-in-waiting behind Andy Dalton but figures to see the field sooner rather than later. Chicago still has question marks at key spots, like up front and at cornerback, but there's no overstating how much Fields' dynamic ability means to an offense that sputtered through much of 2020. If and when Chicago turns the keys over to the rookie QB, the Bears should be able to ride their still-feisty defense into the wild-card mix, even if they might be a year away from truly competing.
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As soon as the Lions granted Matthew Stafford's wish to relocate, they willingly ushered in a rebuild. Swapping Matt Patricia for Dan Campbell at head coach would've necessitated a transition period on its own, but it was the Stafford deal -- which netted Detroit future first-rounders in addition to ex-Rams QB Jared Goff -- that really signaled this is a long-term project. The draft didn't really change that at all. Investing in the trenches with guys like Onwuzurike and McNeill will give Campbell a scrappy defense out of the gate, but the Lions are still counting mostly on replacement-level talent to help Goff. Maybe the latter surprises now that he's got a chip on his shoulder, but even sniffing .500 would be an upset in Motown.
They're now easily the toughest team to forecast because of what's going on under center. It's still hard to imagine the Packers opening 2021 without Aaron Rodgers, and vice-versa. But all indications are that the reigning MVP is firm in his dissatisfaction with Green Bay management, so it's increasingly dangerous to assume the Pack will have No. 12 in Week 1. Jordan Love may have intriguing arm talent, but we literally have no idea what he looks like on an NFL stage -- so if Rodgers actually leaves, Green Bay almost certainly plummets to a .500-level projection, if not worse. Still, if he's back, they've got more than enough pieces (including additions at WR and CB) to make another push.
Don't look now, but they're sneaky candidates to win the North. That's partly because the Packers may or may not be without Aaron Rodgers. But it's also because Minnesota has a tendency to rebound under Mike Zimmer, who's never overseen two straight non-playoff seasons with the Vikings. Kirk Cousins now has some added motivation with Mond entering town as a potential successor, and the Vikings first-round pick, Christian Darrisaw, should give him good protection off the blind side. Couple the draft-day moves with early-offseason adds like Dalvin Tomlinson and Patrick Peterson, and you're looking at a solid all-around team that, at the very least, should be back in the wild-card mix.