NFC North Training Camp Preview

NFC NORTH

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Chicago Bears: Rookies 7/22, Veterans 7/25

Head coach Matt Nagy and offensive coordinator Mark Helfrich are entering their second season with the Bears.  This offense ranked 21st in total offense last year, 21st in passing and 11th in rushing.  They were tied for 7th in points per game at 26.8.
Mitchell Trubisky missed two games last season, but made significant improvements in his second year.  Now entering year three and his second year in Nagy’s offense, we should be excited about what he can do for our fantasy teams in 2019. He finished as QB15 last year, throwing for 3,223 yards and 24TDs, while adding 421 yards and 3TDs with his legs.  His current ADP is around QB17 and can be had in the double digit rounds, making him one of my favorite late round targets.  Chase Daniel is primary backup, with Tyler Bray the number 3.
The Bears traded away Jordan Howard and added Mike Davis in free agency, and then drafted David Montgomery out of Iowa State in the third round. Tarik Cohen remains as the primary pass-catching back, but it appears the Bears want to get more targets out of Montgomery and Davis to keep defenses guessing.  We’ll need to monitor the camp battle between these two.  Montgomery currently goes around the RB29 range, while Davis is in the RB50 range.  Cohen’s ADP is around RB24 and is probably the safest of the group right now.  We’re not sure how the Bears will use all three backs, so this will be one of the best camp situations to keep an eye on.  For backups, they have Taquan Mizzell, Ryan Nall and 7th round draft pick Kerrith Whyte.
Allen Robinson leads the way at receiver.  He was boom/bust last year, finising as the WR41 in PPR leagues. He’s definitely a better best ball receiver for me, but year two in the Nagy offense and a full season of Trubisky should help Robinson finish as a WR3 at least.  He had a tremendous playoff game against the Eagles, catching 10 passes for 143 yards and 1TD.  He’s the clear number one and has a current ADP around the WR25 range.  After him, the Bears will start Taylor Gabriel and Anthony Miller.  Gabriel will be a boom/bust big play guy, while Anthony Miller should take a step forward in his second season and become the clear number 2.  Miller is my favorite to lead the Bears in touchdowns this year (again).  His current ADP is around WR49.  The Bears signed Cordarrelle Patterson and drafted Riley Ridley out of Georgia in the 4th round.  These two should get on the field as the fourth and fifth receivers this year.  After them, guys trying to make the team include; Emanuel Hall, Javon Wims, Tanner Gentry, Marvin Hall, Jordan Lambert-Williams, Jesper Horsted and Thomas Ives.
Trey Burton is the starting tight end, finishing as the TE8 in PPR last year.  He played a full 16 games, catching 54 passes for 569 yards and 6 TDs on 76 targets.  His production dipped when Trubisky was out for two games, but was able to pick things back up for the final three games of the season.  Burton’s ADP is around the TE12 range and presents some value for us here.  Seems like a fine idea to target Burton and pair him with another TE2 with upside.  After Burton, Adam Shaheen is healthy and will be the primary backup.  He could eat into some of Burton’s production, so monitor him in camp.  Ben Braunecker will compete with Dax Raymond, Ellis Richardson and Ian Bunting for the number three spot.

Detroit Lions: Rookies 7/18, Veterans 7/24

Matt Patricia enters his second year as head coach and has a new offensive coordinator this year, Darrell Bevell, previously with Seattle in 2017.  Detroit ranked 24th in total offensive last year, 20th in passing and 23rd in rushing.  They were 25th in scoring with just 20.3 points per game, finishing with a 6-10 record.  With Bevell in town, we should expect the Lions to focus more on the running game this year.
Matthew Stafford played through a broken back last year, finishing as QB20.  It was his worst statistical season of his career in terms of fantasy points per game.  He threw for 3,777 yards, 21 TDs and 11 INTs.  We should expect a bounce back season this year, but nothing too crazy.  He can have QB2 value in 2QB leagues and will probably have some streamable weeks for redraft.  He’s not someone we should be targeting in redraft leagues.  The team signed Danny Amendola this off-season to form a trio with Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones.  They also drafted stud tight end TJ Hockenson with their first round pick.  Stafford should be able to top 4,000 passing yards and be somewhere in the mid-twenties for touchdowns.  Behind him, Tom Savage will be the primary backup with David Fales the number three.
Because of new OC Darrell Bevell, we should be excited about the running game potential in Detroit.  Kerryon Johnson is the headliner here.  He flashed as a rookie, but ended up on injury reserve with a knee injury mid-season.  He was dynamic as a runner and pass-catcher.  He was averaging 14.1 PPR points per game, which would have been good for a high RB2 finish.  His ADP is around RB19 and is going in the third round of drafts.  He’s been a favorite target of mine in the middle of the third, but definitely behind players like Devonta Freeman and Aaron Jones.  The Lions brought in CJ Anderson to be the primary backup.  If Johnson misses anytime, we’ll likely be projecting CJA as a low end RB1, high RB2.  The real questions lie behind these top two.  Theo Riddick is reportedly on the roster bubble.  If he is let go, Johnson’s PPR floor will be fantastic.  They have Zach Zenner to compete with CJ Anderson as the big back.  Mark Thompson will compete with 6th round draft pick Ty Johnson for the final roster spot.
Kenny Golladay enjoyed a breakout second year, finishing as the WR21 in PPR.  Unfortunately, his average ADP is around WR17 and I’m afraid he’s being drafted at his ceiling.  The return of Marvin Jones will limit his upside, along with the change in offensive philosophy.  Golladay could return value if he sees an increase in touchdowns, which is entirely possible. Marvin Jones is being drafted around the WR36 range and presents a better value at ADP.  He’s a solid best ball pick in the 7th/8th round.  Danny Amendola will try his best to fill the Golden Tate role.  I’m not too excited for Amendola but he could deliver double digit PPR floor numbers to start the year.  Injury concern has always been the question with him.  After the top three, we’ll see free agent Jermaine Kearse, Brandon Powell, Tommylee Lewis and 6th round draft pick Travis Fulgham jostle for the remaining roster spots.  Long-shots to make the team include; Andy Jones, Chris Lacy, Deontez Alexander, Jordan Smallwood, Jonathan Duhart and Tom Kennedy.
TJ Hockenson was selected 8th overall this year and will be the primary receiving threat at tight end.  He’s also a fantastic blocker and should not leave the field very often.  Stafford had some success with Brandon Pettigrew earlier in his career, so I’m open to Hockenson having some redraft value for us this year.  He should be the main red-zone weapon and can help fill some of the void left by Golden Tate.  The team signed Jesse James to be the backup.  They also drafted another tight end in the seventh round, Isaac Nauta out of Georgia.  He’ll compete with Logan Thomas and Jerome Cunningham for the third spot.

 

Green Bay Packers: Rookies 7/22, Veterans 7/24

A new era has begun in Green Bay, with new head coach Matt LaFleur taking over for Mike McCarthy.  LaFleur spent his last two seasons as the OC for the Titans and Rams.  He had success as the QB coach in Atlanta before that.  His offensive coordinator will Nathaniel Hackett. previously the Jaguars offensive coordinator.  Together, we’ll see if these two can rejuvenate the Green Bay offense that finished 12th in total offense last year, 9th in passing and 22nd in rushing.  The biggest improvement should come from the running game.
Much will be talked about with Aaron Rodgers – Matt LaFleur relationship.  The two need to meet somewhere in the middle in order to have a successful future.  Rodgers will have to buy into the offense and LaFleur will need to trust his QB to put the team into good plays at the line of scrimmage.  Rodgers was hobbled with a fractured knee last year.  Also playing with a three rookie receivers and the pressure from the McCarthy relationship also played in a factor in the disappointing year.  Rodgers was still able to finish as the QB7 overall, throwing for 4,442 yards and just 25 TDs.  We should expect his touchdown total to grow into the mid-thirties.  He’s being drafted around the QB4 range and is somewhat of a value in redraft leagues.  He should be a lock for top 5 production and has a good chance at returning to top 3 form.  If he falls into the 6th round, that is usually where I draw the line and pay up for the QB.  Behind him, DeShone Kizer and Tim Boyle will compete for the backup role.
With the excitement around LaFleur’s running system, Aaron Jones will be one of the most popular third round selections.  He has RB1 upside this year.  The biggest question mark will be how much LaFleur decides to use him.  He will be more involved in the passing game this year and is clearly the most talented back of the bunch.  Jamaal Williams is solid pass blocker and has value on third downs and short yardage situations.  He’ll be pushed by 6th round pick Dexter Williams out of Notre Dame.  Monitor Dexter in training camp to see if he look explosive and how he handles pass protection.  Tra Carson is the fourth back and should make the roster.  The Packers will also be better on defense and should have better game scripts.
Davante Adams will compete with DeAndre Hopkins to be the first receiver drafted this year.  Adams had the highest fantasy points per game last year in PPR leagues and is primed for another fantastic season.  He finished with 111 receptions for 1,386 yards and 13 TDs, all career highs.  What’s scary is that he has the chance to improve on all of these numbers this year.  Take him as high as #5 overall and enjoy.  The real fun comes after Adams.  Geronimo Allison will play in the slot, while Marques Valdes-Scantling starts outside.  Both of these guys have redraft value this year.  Allison should have more receptions, but Scantling has big play upside and could out-produce Allison in yards and touchdowns.  I’m into both guys at ADP.  After the top three, Jake Kumerow, Equanimeous St. Brown and J’Mon Moore will compete for the backup roles.  Trevor Davis is a special teams ace and should make the team as the 7th receiever.  Monitor the battles in camp for sure to see who wins that #4 job.
Jimmy Graham had a down year in his first with the team, but was still able to finish as the TE12 in PPR leagues.  I fully expect his touchdown total to increase from last year.  He caught 55 passes for 636 yards and two touchdowns.  Many drafters are forgetting about Graham this year, with is ADP around the TE18 range.  Draft him as your TE2 and pair him with another high-upside tight end and you’re good to go.  There is some excitement for more 2TE sets this year.  That’s where Robert Tonyan and Jace Sternberger come into play.  Tonyan flashed last year and will likely be the number two this year.  Sternberger was drafted in the third round and is a great dynasty target as well as Tonyan.  Once Graham is out of the picture, we’ll see a Tonyan-Sternberger 2TE set for years to come.  Monitor these two in camp to see who’s making the most of their opportunities.  Marcedes Lewis is the other lock to make the roster as the primary blocking tight end.  They also have three young tight ends trying to make the team in Evan Baylis, Malcolm Johnson and Pharoah McKever.

Minnesota Vikings: Rookies 7/22, Veterans 7/25

Mike Zimmer enters his 7th season as the Vikings head coach.  Kevin Stefanski has been with the Vikings since 2006 and is now the offensive coordinator.  It is believed that the team wants to run the ball more going forward.  We’ll have to watch for signs of this in the pre-season.  The Vikings finished 20th in total offense, 13th in passing and 30th in rushing.
Kirk Cousins finished his first season with the Vikings as the QB9, throwing for 4,298 yards and 30 touchdowns.  If we are expecting more focus on the run this year, it’s a good bet to see Cousins finish lower this year.  His current ADP is around QB14 and presents us with some value here.  You can get him in the double digit rounds.  The backup job will be up for grabs between Kyle Sloter and Sean Mannion.  They also brought in UDFA Jake Browning.
Dalvin Cook appears primed for a career season.  His outlook gets muddy when you look at his injury history, however.  The offensive line improved this off-season so we should be expecting low RB1 numbers when Cook is healthy.  He is heavily involved in the passing game and should have a solid PPR floor.  Latavius Murray is now on the Saints.  This should be a positive for Cook, especially in the red-zone.  Cook should be able to score a career high in touchdowns, as well as receptions this year.  He has an ADP around RB11.  The Vikings drafted Alexander Mattison out of Boise State in the third round.  He’ll be the biggest name to watch in camp.  If the Vikings plan to run the ball more and Murray is no longer in the picture, the backup RB will have value for us this year, especially given Cook’s injury history.  Mike Boone, Ameer Abdullah, Khair Blasingame and DeAngelo Henderson will battle for the third and fourth spots.
The passing game will run through Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs again this year.  Both finished as WR1s last year, but we should be limiting our expectations this year and draft them both as high WR2s with upside.  Thielen has an ADP of WR9 while Diggs is at WR14.  At these prices, I’m liking Diggs more.  The camp battle for the WR3 spot will be one to watch.  Laquon Treadwell might not even make the team.  Chad Beebe and Jordan Taylor both impressed in off-season OTAs and minicamps and should beat out Treadwell.  Guys trying to make the final roster spots include; Brandon Zylstra, Jeff Badet, Olabisi Johnson, Dillon Mitchell, Davion Davis and Alexander Hollins.  I like the rookies Johnson and Mitchell the most.
Kyle Rudolph got a contract extensions and will be the starting tight end.  They drafted Irv Smith Jr. out of Alabama in the 2nd round this year, so keep an eye out for his practice reports.  We probably shouldn’t expect much from him this year with Rudolph in the way.  Rudolph has an ADP of around TE14 and presents some value here.  He finished as the TE7 last year.  After these two, we have David Morgan and Tyler Conklin.  Cole Hikutini and Brandon Dillon round out the group.

 

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