The 2021 NFL draft is in the history books.
While some franchises made big changes to their rosters for 2021, did this year’s draft class immediately impact the race to the playoffs in the NFC this season? Or were off-season free agency moves more significant to winning this year?
Let’s look at who is the favorite to win each NFC division after this year’s draft.
NFC teams that are the favorites to win their respective divisions
NFC North - Green Bay Packers
2020 Champions - Green Bay Packers
The Aaron Rodgers saga in Green Bay makes predicting a winner for the NFC North extremely difficult.
Green Bay is bringing back 90% of its starters from 2020 and picked slot receiver Amari Rodgers in the draft, who could become an instant weapon for Aaron Rodgers. If Rodgers returns to the Packers, they are the favorites to win the division for the third year in a row.
However, it’s a big "if" with Rodgers reportedly telling teammates he’s not returning to Lambeau Field and he’s done with the Packers. Now, if Rodgers is traded or retires, that would throw the NFC North race wide open.
The Detroit Lions traded long-time franchise QB Matthew Stafford for Rams quarterback Jarred Goff. They have a new coach in Dan Campbell and are desperate to turn things around.
It may be one season too soon for the Lions to challenge for the division but they could be contenders in 2022.
The Minnesota Vikings struggled last year with Kirk Cousins regressing. The veteran QB is under pressure to perform after he signed a contract extension in 2020. They have a talented roster, which was only bettered in the draft, and if Rodgers leaves the division, the Vikings have a great opportunity to win it in 2021.
Remarkably, the Chicago Bears made the playoffs last season with an 8-8 record. They couldn’t settle on a starting quarterback, with both Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles taking turns at leading the offense.
The Bears moved up in the first round of the draft to pick Ohio State QB Justin Fields. Many NFL scouts believe Fields could be the most talented play-caller in the draft after number one pick Trevor Lawrence.
Chicago also signed veteran quarterback Andy Dalton to a deal in the offseason, so Nick Foles’ days as a Bear may be numbered.
They have a great defense led by Khalil Mack and if they can get any consistency at quarterback from the veteran Dalton or first-round draft pick Fields, then the Bears could win the NFC North for the first time since 2018.
NFC West - Los Angeles Rams
2020 champions - Seattle Seahawks
The NFC West is one of the most competitive divisions in the NFL. Last year, the Seahawks squeaked out the title ahead of the Los Angeles Rams and this season looks like it will be another tight race.
The big offseason move in this division didn’t happen at the draft or in free agency. It happened in a monster trade between the Rams and the Lions, who swapped starting quarterbacks.
The addition of Matthew Stafford to the Rams makes them the favorites to win the NFC West in 2021. Rams head coach Sean McVay clearly wanted to move on from Jarred Goff and now has a new quarterback to call plays for.
Seattle is dealing with a seemingly unhappy Russell Wilson and the loss of their star cornerback Shaquill Griffin. Pete Carroll's teams always compete and with DK Metcalf on offense, the Seahawks are going to be dangerous.
The Arizona Cardinals stocked up on veteran free agents, signing Texans defensive edge rusher JJ Watt and former Bengals wide receiver AJ Green. Adding these veterans could help the Cardinals finally make the playoffs.
The team that reshaped their roster in the draft was the San Francisco 49ers. They moved up in the draft to pick Trey Lance with the third overall pick. At present, it looks like Jimmy Garroppolo will be the starting quarterback this season, but the situation will be one to watch.
If Jimmy G can stay injury-free, there's no reason the 49ers can’t challenge for the division title.
NFC East - Dallas Cowboys
2020 Champions - Washington Football Team
The NFC East was a dumpster fire last season. Not one team in the division had a winning record. The Washington Football Team won the division with a 7-9 record.
This season every team (and fans) will be hoping for a significant improvement.
The Dallas Cowboys are the favorites to win the NFC East title in 2021. My reason is simply consistency and the fact they have three of the best offensive players in the division.
If Dak Prescott has fully recovered from his horrific ankle injury last season, then the Cowboys offense can cause teams all sorts of problems. Add Ezekial Elliott’s power running with Amari Cooper’s receiving skills and Dallas should be able to return to the playoffs this season.
The Philadelphia Eagles went through a torrid offseason, firing Super Bowl-winning head coach Doug Pederson and trading away starting quarterback Carson Wentz to the Colts. They brought in DeVonta Smith via the draft to give new franchise quarterback Jalen Hurts a scary new weapon to operate with.
It looks like a transition year in Philly where they will face a lot of challenges in their rebuild.
One team that made big moves in free agency and the draft was the New York Giants. The front office added wide receiver Kenny Golladay and drafted rookie Kadarious Toney to join star running back Saquan Barkley.
Quarterback Daniel Jones now has plenty of options on offense and if he can continue to improve, the Giants could be a factor this season.
The defending NFC East champions, the Washington Football Team also underwent some big changes in the offseason. They parted ways with veteran quarterback Alex Smith, who has since retired.
Washington added veteran quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and re-signed backup quarterback Taylor Heinicke. They also signed former Panthers wide receiver Curtis Samuel to give their receiver core some more speed.
With 2020 first-round draft pick Chase Young terrorizing quarterbacks, the WFT could upset some and compete for a playoff berth.
NFC South - Tampa Bay Buccaneers
2020 Champions - New Orleans Saints
The defending Super Bowl champions Tampa Bay Buccanneers will be looking to do the one thing they couldn’t last year, win the NFC South. Now that the New Orleans Saints’ legendary quarterback Dree Brees has retired, the division is up for grabs.
The Bucs are the favorites heading into this season. They’re the reigning champs and are bringing back pretty much the same squad as in 2020. Tom Brady is another year older but that no longer seems to affect the seven-time Super Bowl champion.
Defending NFC South champions, the Saints are by no means out of contention. They still have a solid squad intact, with returning backup quarterbacks Jameis Winston and Taysum Hill competing for the starting job.
Any team featuring Alvin Kamara and Michael Thomas on offense has a chance to win every game.
This offseason, the Carolina Panthers made some big moves. They traded for Jets QB Sam Darnold and then traded starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos for a sixth-round pick in the draft.
The Panthers believe in Darnold, as they didn’t draft a quarterback, instead picking cornerback Jaycee Horn to help their defense with the number eight selection. If Darnold can show some of the promise that made him the second overall pick in the 2018 NFL draft, then the Panthers could upset some teams in 2021.
Atlanta has not given up on veteran quarterback Matt Ryan, drafting star tight end Kyle Pitts with the fourth pick in the 2021 NFL draft. This will be a crucial season for Ryan as he has not performed consistently for a few years now.
If Ryan has any magic left, then the Falcons could be the wildcard of the NFC South.
Also Read: What is Tom Brady's Net Worth in 2021?