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WCG’s 2021 NFC North top 50: Nos. 30-21

In the third article of a six-part roundtable series, the staff of Windy City Gridiron come together to rank the top 50 players in the NFC North heading into 2021, this time ranking players 30-21.

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We’ve reached the low period in the NFL offseason.

An exciting 2021 NFL Draft for Bears fans has come and gone. Free agency, while technically still ongoing, features very few notable names and players likely to make an impact on the course of a team’s season.

However, with the draft concluded and the free agency market dried up, now is as good of a time as any to compare how teams in certain divisions square up to each other.

In an exercise similar to that of the annual NFL Top 100 list, multiple staff members from Windy City Gridiron have come together to vote on a list of the top 50 players in the NFC North. The voting process had similarities to that of the league-official list: each staff member who participated in the exercise was asked to list their top 35 players, and a certain amount of points was assigned to each ranking slot. For example, if a player was ranked first, that player would receive 35 points. The player ranked second would receive 34 points, so on and so forth. A consensus list was then compiled from how each staff member ranked each player.

Without further ado, let’s continue to break down Windy City Gridiron’s second annual consensus top 50 NFC North players with our players ranked Nos. 30 through 21.

  • T-50. Preston Smith, Jimmy Graham
  • T-49. Darnell Mooney, Robert Quinn
  • 47. James Daniels
  • 46. Billy Turner
  • 45. Rashan Gary
  • T-44. Christian Darrisaw, D’Andre Swift
  • 42. Teven Jenkins
  • 41. Jeff Okudah
  • T-40. Jamie Collins, Bilal Nichols
  • 38. Brian O’Neill
  • 37. Jared Goff
  • 36. Tarik Cohen
  • 35. Darnell Savage
  • 34. Cody Whitehair
  • 33. Jaylon Johnson
  • 32. Robert Tonyan
  • 31. Penei Sewell

30. Justin Fields, QB, Bears

High: 17 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: N/R (Obringer, Robinson)

Last year: N/R

The Bears may very well have finally found their franchise quarterback.

Despite being picked after Penei Sewell, Fields finds himself as the highest-rated NFC North rookie on this list. His superb accuracy, ability to read the field, arm strength and athletic ability give him a high ceiling at the next level. While unknown exactly how he’ll fare in the NFL just yet, his skill-set projects him as a high-quality starting quarterback at the next level.

29. Taylor Decker, OT, Lions

High: 19 (Zeglinski)

Low: N/R

Last year: 29

Going into his sixth season in the NFL, Decker has solidified himself as a quality blind-side protector for the Lions.

He has been an incredibly proficient pass protector throughout his career, playing at a high level that saw him finish fifth in the NFL in PFF pass-blocking grades among offensive tackles. Decker’s presence takes on even more importance in 2021, taking on the role of mentor for rookie Penei Sewell and working to keep new quarterback Jared Goff upright. The Lions have numerous question marks on their roster, but with Decker in tow, left tackle should not be one of them.

28. Elgton Jenkins, OG, Packers

High: 14 (Infante)

Low: N/R (Duerrwaechter)

Last year: 44

Even though it’s a total mystery as to where Jenkins will play along the Packers’ offensive line this year, chances are he’ll be very good at whatever spot he plays.

Jenkins was quietly one of the best offensive rookies in the league in 2019, and he followed that up with a Pro Bowl season at guard. His reliability as a pass protector has quickly proven him to be a piece worth keeping around for the Packers going forward. With the versatility needed to play and excel at all five offensive line positions, it will be interesting to see where he lines up this year.

27. Michael Pierce, DT, Vikings

High: 14 (Obringer)

Low: N/R

Last year: 27

With Pierce opting out of the 2020 season due to concerns surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, it feels like many have forgotten about the Vikings’ splash free agent signing last offseason. Luckily for him, the WCG staff hasn’t.

Pierce gained a reputation during his four seasons with the Ravens as a stout run-stuffer who can eat up gaps at an incredibly high level. His sheer power and his thick frame makes it easy for him to hold up blocks at the line of scrimmage and attract plenty of attention to free up his teammates. He doesn’t play a sexy position, but his impact is nonetheless noticeable.

26. Anthony Barr, LB, Vikings

High: 19 (Salo)

Low: N/R (Leming)

Last year: 26

Despite suffering a torn pectoral muscle two games into the 2020 season, Barr finds himself in the same spot he was in last year.

The four-time Pro Bowler has been a valuable and versatile linebacker for the Vikings over the course of his career. His combination of size and athleticism, as well as his reliability as a tackler and versatility on passing downs, has made him one of the better linebackers around the league. Though his production has never been truly spectacular, it’s his impact outside of the stat sheet that has helped earn him a strong reputation.

25. David Montgomery, RB, Bears

High: 13 (Duerrwaechter)

Low: N/R (Zimmerman, Salo)

Last year: N/R

In his second season in the NFL, Montgomery found himself finishing the 2020 season in the top five of rushing yards in the NFL.

Montgomery jumped from 3.7 to 4.3 yards per carry from his first to second season in the league. Finishing the year with 1,070 rushing yards, 8 touchdowns and contributing with 54 receptions in the passing game, the Iowa State alumnus proved himself down the stretch as a valuable three-down back. If the Bears can improve their passing attack in 2021, Montgomery could find himself playing quite efficiently in his third season.

24. Eddie Goldman, DT, Bears

High: 10 (Sunderbruch)

Low: N/R (Zeglinski)

Last year: 24

The Bears certainly missed Goldman in 2020.

After opting out of the season due to COVID-19 concerns, the veteran nose tackle had his presence felt, or lack there of, in Chicago’s defense. Their consistency against the run wasn’t at the same level as it had been in years past, and part of that was due to the absence of the space-eating Goldman. Assuming he comes back at full form, he will be a much-needed addition to the Bears’ roster.

23. Patrick Peterson, CB, Vikings

High: 15 (Salo)

Low: N/R (Obringer)

Last year: N/R

After 10 seasons with the Cardinals, Peterson now finds himself donning purple in the NFC North.

The eight-time Pro Bowler has one of the best resumes for a cornerback over the last decade, if not in the 21st century. While not necessarily elite at this stage of his career anymore, Peterson is still a more-than-capable defender in the secondary who should provide the Vikings with an upgrade at the cornerback position.

22. Adrian Amos, S, Packers

High: 11 (Sunderbruch)

Low: 34 (Zimmerman)

Last year: 35

Though underrated on a national scale, Amos has quietly become one of the better safeties in the league in recent years.

His rise started with a quality season for the Bears in 2018, and he has played at a high level since coming to the Packers the following year. He has 6 interceptions and 26 pass deflections over the last three seasons, diversifying his skill-set after being known as primarily a run-support safety early in his tenure with Chicago. Amos has been a worthy investment for the Packers and has proven to be a very good starter for their defense.

21. Kirk Cousins, QB, Vikings

High: 15 (Wiltfong)

Low: N/R (Zeglinski, Robinson)

Last year: 16

Cousins is far from an elite quarterback, but it seems like he’s been underrated and underappreciated for much of his career.

An reliable passer who has surpassed 4,000 yards in each of the last two seasons, Cousins makes up for average physical attributes with a high football IQ and an ability to maneuver the pocket well. The two-time Pro Bowler isn’t a game-changer who can single-handedly lead a team to the Super Bowl, but he is a solid starter, nonetheless.