Instant Analysis: NFC North Draft Picks

Apr 28, 2021; Cleveland, Ohio, USA; A video digital billboard promoting the 2021 NFL Draft on Ontario St. in downtown. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

The first round of the 2021 NFL Draft has come to an end, so it’s time to take a look at who the NFC North picked up today, and how those picks project for these teams.

Detroit Lions: OT Penei Sewell

With the 7th overall pick, the Detroit Lions selected the best offensive tackle in the draft, Penei Sewell. Pairing Sewell up with Taylor Decker and Frank Ragnow will give the Lions a solid offensive line, which is necessary in an NFC North filled with pass rushers such as Danielle Hunter, Khalil Mack, and Za’Darius Smith. While they could have picked up Devonta Smith to help out their receiving core, you cannot fault the Lions for picking a generational tackle. 

Scouting Report from The Draft Network: Penei Sewell aligns at left tackle and is a good athlete overall, as evidenced in his initial quickness of the snap and his body control and balance in his set. In the run game, he demonstrates his physical toughness as an in-line blocker. He comes off the ball with the intent to maul you inside and he’s dominant on combo blocks. In the passing game, he demonstrates his competitiveness and length on the perimeter. He’s rarely on the ground, but has a few reps where his technique falters a bit and puts his body in tough positions. Later in his career, he will easily kick inside to guard if athletic edge rushers start to give him issues. He may ultimately prove to be a better fit inside.

Chicago Bears: QB Justin Fields

The Chicago Bears traded up to the 11th overall pick and got the steal of the draft. Ryan Pace has been criticized heavily in his tenure as general manager, but this was an absolute home run trade and pick for them. The Bears now have their quarterback of the future, and a player many had as the second-best quarterback in the draft. If you’re a Bears fan, today is a day to remember for a very long time. If Aaron Rodgers does get traded, Justin Fields has the potential to be the best quarterback in the NFC North, which is a dream Bears fans have had for the entire Superbowl era. 

Scouting Report from The Draft Network: Justin Fields projects as a franchise quarterback at the NFL level — he offers the blend of throwing ability, athleticism, stature, and clutch play that will cause NFL teams to fall in love with his evaluation, even if his 2020 campaign showed some cracks in his play. Fields’ ability as a passer is top shelf when accounting for his natural delivery and how easily he’s proven to be able to throw around defenders or work himself into generating velocity and accuracy when on the move; the Buckeyes embraced rolling pocket with Fields at quarterback to take advantage of his arm strength and the subsequent access he’ll get to all areas of the field as a passer. Fields will kill man-coverage heavy teams with his legs; he’s big, strong, and yet still quite dynamic as a runner — so breaking contain and converting third downs with his legs is a large staple of the conflict Fields is capable of putting you into as a player. 

Minnesota Vikings: OT Christian Darrisaw

While many Vikings fans are disappointed they couldn’t get Fields, the Vikings still ended up with a great first round. They traded down from the 14th overall pick to the 23rd pick, while getting the 66th and 86th pick, and giving up 143. They also got tremendous value, in what many consider to be the third-best offensive tackle in this draft. This was a player many would not have had an issue with taking at 14, so the fact that they traded down and still picked Darrisaw is an absolute win for the Vikings. 

Scouting Report from The Draft Network: Virginia Tech offensive tackle Christian Darrisaw earned the opportunity to start for the Hokies as a true freshman and did nothing but improve for three seasons, developing into a dominant blocker in 2020. From a size, length, and mobility standpoint, Darrisaw firmly checks the boxes and should immediately become an asset to an NFL franchise in pass protection, outside zone runs, and utilizing his exceptional ability to pull and connect with moving targets in space. Like most young offensive linemen, Darrisaw has room to add functional strength to improve his overall power at the point of attack, but it’s far from a deficiency that is of major concern. The amount of technical growth Darrisaw has demonstrated throughout the course of his career is exciting when considering his starting point for the next level and how he peaked at the perfect time. It shouldn’t take long for Darrisaw to earn a starting role in the NFL and he has the upside to become a standout, franchise left tackle.

Green Bay Packers: CB Eric Stokes

With the 29th pick in the draft, the Green Bay Packers added to their secondary with Georgia cornerback Eric Stokes. While Kevin King was a problem for their defense last year, it was widely believed the Packers would finally spend a first-round pick on an offensive skill player. Since 2012, Jordan Love is the only first-round pick the Packers spent on an offensive player. The Packers got a good player, but there is an aura of disappointment here, especially if an offensive player was necessary to appease Rodgers. 

Scouting Report from The Draft Network: From 2019 to 2020, Eric Stokes has certainly improved at being more opportunistic with regards to securing turnovers. He can mirror from a press position, but he can afford to clean up his technique—particularly his eye discipline in man coverage and getting “grabby” at the top of the route. He has shown the ability to play in man or zone from a press and occasional off position, but he does not play to his high-level timed speed with his play. He’s not a dynamic closer at the top of the route and lacks elite short-area, stop-and-start agility. His skill set may be best suited in a predominantly zone situation where he can play with vision and utilize his ball skills to make plays.