Josh’s NFC North Draft Grades

With the NFL Draft concluded, it is time to give out some grades. I normally don’t like giving out draft grades because we won’t truly know who was a good pick and who wasn’t until the player performs on the field. However, you guys like reading these so I delivered them. A lot of factors are taken into consideration when grading a player. Where was this player on my board? Where does this player fit within this offense or defense? What other players were available? What were the team’s needs? And what kind of value did the team receive by selecting this player? 

All of these questions, and more such as medicals, and character flags, were taken into consideration when grading these picks. This article will start a series of eight total articles grading each draft class by division. Reminder, this is my opinion, based on my rankings and what I prioritize in a draft class. I can easily be wrong about a specific team’s draft or player, and I hope a lot of players prove me wrong because I never want to see a player fail, or not succeed. With that being said, if you disagree with a take or opinion I have, feel free to let me know on Twitter @JoshBerg0611 and drop a follow over there for all my latest articles, sports takes and other random stuff I might say over there. 

Note: Big shoutout to Alex Katson (@alexkatson) for this 2020-2021 offseason tracker. It helped me a ton with the UDFA signings and team by team draft classes. So make sure to give him a follow, and check out all his tools and resources he has done a ton of work on this year linked on his Twitter profile. 

Detroit Lions

PASADENA, CA – JANUARY 01: Oregon Ducks (58) Penei Sewell (OL) gets ready to block during the Rose Bowl game between the Wisconsin Badgers and the Oregon Ducks on January 1, 2020 at the Rose Bowl in Pasadena, CA. (Photo by Brian Rothmuller/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

1.07: Penei Sewell/OT/Oregon

Big Board Ranking: #3

Position Ranking: #1

2.41: Levi Onwuzurike/IDL/Washington 

Big Board Ranking: #37

Position Ranking: #2

3.72: Alim McNell/IDL/North Carolina State

Big Board Ranking: #91

Position Ranking: #7

3.101: Ifeatu Melifonwu/CB/Syracuse

Big Board Ranking: #25

Position Ranking: #5

4.112: Amon-Ra St. Brown/WR/USC

Big Board Ranking: #81

Position Ranking: #13

4.113: Derrick Barnes/LB/Purdue

Big Board Ranking: #123

Position Ranking: #11

7.257: Jermar Jefferson/RB/Oregon State

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #15

I didn’t have high expectations for the Lions coming into this draft for a number of reasons. A new regime is always unpredictable and hard to gauge in their first draft, because you never know what they will value or what types of players will draw their attention. Secondly, the Lions were a team that had a lot of holes, and very little draft capital to work with going into the weekend. However, they made the most of each selection and came away with one of my favorite hauls of the entire draft. Starting off with Penei Sewell was a home run. He was the best player on the board at that time, and he is the perfect building block for a team in a rebuild. The Lions then continued to build the trenches by grabbing two really good defensive lineman in Levi Onwuzurike and Alim McNeill. Both Onwuzurike and McNeill can be day one starters for Detroit with Onwuzurike playing the 3-tech spot, and McNeill at nose tackle. The Lions clearly had an agenda by building on both fronts early on, and got really good football players. They then followed it up with the selection of Ifeatu Melifonwu, and if you’ve been following me on Twitter, you know that I have been one of the leaders of the Ifeatu Melifonwu hype train. He had a first round grade from me and was one of my steals of the draft. Amon-Ra St. Brown was a nice follow up in the fourth round. He has been super productive everywhere he’s been, and I can see him potentially being Jared Goff’s number one target by the end of the season. Derrick Barnes and Jermar Jefferson were fine depth pieces at the end of the draft, with Barnes having a nice upside to potentially be a starter for Detroit by December. 

Overall I really loved what Brad Holmes did in his first draft with the Lions. He attacked value, and positions of need and got himself some really good pieces he can use as building blocks for the upcoming rebuild he’s about to face in Detroit. 

Grade: A-

Notable UDFA’s: RB Rakeem Boyd, WR Sage Surratt, WR Johnathan Adams Jr, IOL Tommy Kraemer, & IOL Drake Jackson

Chicago Bears

COLUMBUS, OH – NOVEMBER 7: Quarterback Justin Fields #1 of the Ohio State Buckeyes runs with the ball against the Rutgers Scarlet Knights at Ohio Stadium on November 7, 2020 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Jamie Sabau/Getty Images)

1.11: Justin Fields/QB/Ohio State

Big Board Ranking: #5

Position Ranking: #2

2.39: Teven Jenkins/OT/Oklahoma State

Big Board Ranking: #27

Position Ranking: #4

5.151: Larry Borom/OT/Missouri

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #25

6.217: Khalil Herbert/RB/Virginia Tech

Big Board Ranking: #84

Position Ranking: #7

6.221: Dazz Newsome/WR/North Carolina

Big Board Ranking: #106

Position Ranking: #18

6.228: Thomas Graham Jr/CB/Oregon

Big Board Ranking: #128

Position Ranking: #15

7.250: Khyiris Tonga/IDL/BYU

Big Board Ranking: #156

Position Ranking: #13

Similarly to the Lions, I did not have high expectations for the Chicago Bears. Not because I didn’t believe in Ryan Pace’s ability to evaluate and take talent, but more importantly I didn’t believe in Ryan Pace’s ability to evaluate and take talent at the quarterback position. Chicago, for all intents and purposes, had one need going into the 2021 NFL Draft: Quarterback. This draft would have been a failure for Ryan Pace and his regime if they failed to land a franchise changing player at the QB spot. So what do they do? They see Justin Fields slipping down the board, sees teams like Minnesota, New England and Washington ahead of them, and they convince Dave Gettleman of all people to trade down with them. That in itself deserves an A+. But Pace was not done, as they continued to find value all over the board. They moved back up to select Teven Jenkins atop the second round, and although I don’t love the plan of playing him at left tackle week one, the talent is there for him to be a long-term starter along the offensive line. Larry Borom is a fine player that offers positional versatility, and even though he didn’t make my final top 200 big board, I can understand the selection of him in round five. After Borom the Bears went and grabbed not one, not two, but THREE of my favorite prospects in this draft class at incredible values! Khalil Herbert was, in my opinion, the most overlooked and underrated running back in this draft class, who has great explosiveness and can be a contributor in the passing game. It will be interesting to see how he fits in the rotation with David Montgomery and a returning Tarik Cohen. Dazz Newsome was another one of my favorite day three picks of the 2021 NFL Draft for a number of reasons. The first being, Chicago desperately needed a slot receiver with Mooney and Robinson already occupying the outside, and Newsome can be exactly that. He was forgotten a little in this draft process due to Dyami Brown, Javonte Williams, and Michael Carter getting all the love from the Tar Heel offense, but Newsome was a productive player at UNC with solid hands and route running ability. I also thought Thomas Graham Jr and Khyiris Tonga were great values late in the sixth and seventh rounds as well to be potential rotational pieces on defense. 

Ryan Pace had one major job to do in this draft and that was to find a franchise QB for the long term of this organization. He did so by aggressively trading up for Justin Fields, so that in itself helps this grade out a ton. The rest of the weekend he hit on a bunch of value and got a lot of players that can contribute right away. If a few of these players hit, especially Fields, this class might have saved him his job. 

Overall Grade: A-
Notable UDFA’s:
RB CJ Marable & LB Charles Snowden

Minnesota Vikings

MIAMI GARDENS, FLORIDA – JANUARY 02: Kellen Mond #11 of the Texas A&M Aggies directs the offense against the North Carolina Tar Heels during the second half of the Capital One Orange Bowl at Hard Rock Stadium on January 02, 2021 in Miami Gardens, Florida. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

1.23: Christian Darrisaw/OT/Virginia Tech

Big Board Ranking: #16

Position Ranking: #3

3.66: Kellen Mond/QB/Texas A&M

Big Board Ranking: #104

Position Ranking: #7

3.78: Chazz Surratt/LB/North Carolina

Big Board Ranking: #75

Position Ranking: #9

3.86: Wyatt Davis/IOL/Ohio State

Big Board Ranking: #33

Position Ranking: #3

3.90: Patrick Jones/EDGE/Pittsburgh

Big Board Ranking: #89

Position Ranking: #10

4.119: Kene Nwangwu/RB/Iowa State

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #26

4.125: Camryn Bynum/CB/California

Big Board Ranking: #164

Position Ranking: #21

4.134: Janarius Robinson/EDGE/Florida State

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #26

5.157: Ihmir Smith-Marsette/WR/Iowa

Big Board Ranking: #160

Position Ranking: #27

5.168: Zach Davidson/TE/Central Missouri

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #24

6.199: Jaylen Twyman/IDL/Pittsburgh

Big Board Ranking: #109

Position Ranking: #11

With the way the Minnesota Vikings have drafted over the last several years and with them being my favorite team, my expectations for the organization were fairly high, and after night one ended it looked to be a great start for Minnesota. Trading back from 14 to 23 and picking up two extra third rounders in the process was a great move in itself, but to read the board the way Rick Spielman did and get Christian Darrisaw to fall right into their laps was the icing on top of the cake. Darrisaw is a plug and play starting left tackle week one, which was Minnesota’s number one need in the draft. Minnesota then had four third round picks to play with on day two, and instead of trading up into round two, they stood where they were and picked. To me this is where the draft slowly fell apart in my eyes. Kellen Mond was the first selection for Minnesota in the third round, and I love the flashes he’s shown and some traits that he possesses, but I don’t love the idea of taking him in the top 75 picks in the draft, especially when the team had other needs on the board. Mond will be sitting for at least 1-2 years behind Kirk, and I just don’t ever see him being a franchise caliber QB that Minnesota will eventually want him to be once Kirk’s contract is expired. They then went with Chazz Surratt, and the value and the player are really decent here, but again to me there were better players on the board, and bigger needs to fill. Minnesota then hit a home run with Wyatt Davis in round three, and this selection just seemed like it was a match made in heaven for months. Davis, if healthy, is a starting caliber guard that I know Minnesota fans, including myself, have been pounding the table for since the draft process began. Patrick Jones II was a really nice selection to round out day two, he possesses all the tools that Mike Zimmer and Andre Patterson love to look for in their pass rushers, and he is a good fit for this defense. However, on day three Minnesota again made some questionable calls in my eyes with some of the players they chose. Kene Nwangwu is a fun and intriguing player who has kick and punt return capabilities, but drafting a player who will primarily be a return specialist his first year or two on the roster in the fourth round just isn’t a great value in my opinion. I do understand the pick though because of the struggles Minnesota faced in the return game this past season. Camryn Bynum was a great choice, with the ability to play both corner and safety, and if the plan is to convert him to a full time safety, I think he has the chance to start next to Harrison Smith before the season is over. Janarius Robinson is a typical Minnesota Vikings draft pick on the defensive line. A super athletic and raw pass rusher that has all the physical and athletic traits to be good in the NFL if he can put it all together. Ihmir Smit-Marsette was an excellent pick by Minnesota, as I foresee him having a great chance to win the WR3 role in the lineup. Zach Davidson will be interesting to see how they use him, but overall wasn’t a big fan of that selection, and Jaylen Twyman, for where he was taken, was a good value, but I would’ve loved to see Minnesota take another offensive lineman or wide receiver with this pick. 

Minnesota put together another solid draft. Although the players and positions they addressed weren’t the players or positions I would’ve addressed if I was the man in charge, the Vikings stuck to the tools and traits they always do on the defensive side of the ball, and still found value throughout. It wasn’t a home run, but Rick Spielman again proves why he’s one of the better drafters in the NFL. 

Overall Grade: B

Notable UDFA’s: WR Whop Philyor, IDL Jordan Scott, LB Tuf Borland, K Riley Patterson

Green Bay Packers

FAYETTEVILLE, AR – SEPTEMBER 26: Eric Stokes #27 of the Georgia Bulldogs celebrates after returning a interception for a touchdown during a game against the Arkansas Razorbacks at Razorback Stadium on September 26, 2020 in Fayetteville, Arkansas The Bulldogs defeated the Razorbacks 37-10. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)

1.29: Eric Stokes/CB/Georgia

Big Board Ranking: #40

Position Ranking: #6

2.62: Josh Myers/IOL/Ohio State

Big Board Ranking: #58

Position Ranking: #6

3.85: Amari Rodgers/WR/Clemson

Big Board Ranking: #168

Position Ranking: #28

4.142: Royce Newman/OT/Ole Miss

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #32

5.173: Tedarrell Slaton/IDL/Florida

Big Board Ranking: #186

Position Ranking: #15

5.178: Shemar Jean-Charles/CB/Appalachian State

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #36

6.214: Cole Van Lanen/OT/Wisconsin

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #29

6.220: Isaiah McDuffie/LB/Boston College

Big Board Ranking: N/A

Position Ranking: #19

7.256: Kylin Hill/RB/Mississippi State

Big Board Ranking: #131

Position Ranking: #10

Unfortunately for Green Bay the storyline of the weekend was not which players they would be bringing in from the pool of college prospects, but if Aaron Rodgers was going to be on the team once the regular season was underway. Nevertheless, the Green Bay front office still had a draft to conduct, and I am going to be honest I was not impressed. I really like Eric Stokes a lot. He has speed, length and athleticism that the Packers desperately needed and lacked in their secondary opposite of Jaire Alexander. I personally would’ve gone with a weapon on the outside to pair with Davante Adams, but corner was a massive need for them, and they filled it with a good player. I loved the Josh Myers pick in round two, I think he can be a plug and play center to replace Cory Linsley, who they let walk in free agency, but he also offers guard flexibility if they wanted to move Elgton Jenkins over the center for the long-term. After those first two picks it went downhill for Green Bay fast. Amari Rodgers is a very fun, gadget type player, but there were so many better receivers on the board that the value of Rodgers in the third was a little bit rich for me. The rest of the draft just was overall very underwhelming to me. Newman in the fourth was a reach when there were way better and more polished tackles available. Slaton in the fifth is a fine player, but I feel this ceiling is incredibly low, and Jean-Charles is an intriguing player, but there were so many better corners on the board for Green Bay to take. 

I don’t think the Aaron Rodgers situation is fixable at this point, but if I was Green Bay I would’ve at least tried to resolve the situation by giving him some reliable weapons on the outside opposite of Davante Adams throughout the draft. Outside the first two selections, I just wasn’t a fan of the haul by Green Bay. They didn’t get a ton of value, and the players they took at positions of need, in most cases, were reaches in my opinion. 

Grade: C-

Notable UDFA’s: IDL Carlo Kemp & S Christian Uphoff


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