Home Division Previews NFC North Breakdown Part 2

NFC North Breakdown Part 2

Hey guys,

I’m back for Part 2 of my NFC North Breakdown. Check out Part 1 here. There are some pretty interesting players and even a few late round dynasty stashes that might be worthy of a spot on your taxi squad. Really interested to hear what you guys think. Hit me up on twitter to keep the conversation going and let me know who your favourite NFC North targets are for redraft and dynasty. Keep it safe and practice responsible social distancing but getting involved in a fantasy football league to stay connected during these times of social isolation.

Much love Kev

Twitter: @AshesKev

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Green Bay Packers

The Lowdown: The Packers offence has undergone an evolution under Matt LeFleur that means it may not be as fantasy friendly as it once was. Having made it to the playoffs only to get a comprehensive beating by Jimmy “handsome” Garoppolo and his 49ers. It was blatantly obvious that they lacked the real weapons needed to do damage against the bigger teams. So when they inexplicably used the draft to add a questionable QB with their first round pick, despite having a future hall of famer in the prime of his career. Their second pick to cover a running back who finished in the top 5 last year and had one of the best efficiency rates at the goal line. The cherry on the cake a fullback they seem to want to convert to tight end. It seems to signal a clear intent to want to play a run heavy short yardage style of football and take the game out of the hands of the man who has been their biggest game changer since he came into the team.

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Quarterbacks: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love

Should we still “Love” Rodgers for fantasy?

Let’s get rid of the elephant in the room straight away. To not give Rodgers one of the many WR weapons in what is touted as a historically good years for wide receiver talent is absolutely nothing short of criminal. As last year showed the packers wide receivers beyond Davante Adams do not look up to the task and struggled badly when called upon to make game winning plays. This hurt Rodgers fantasy production compared to previous years and he finished as the QB 9 which is his lowest career finishes when he’s played 16 games. He scraped in at just 4002yrds and 26 touchdowns which is about 440yrds less than his 2018 numbers. Davante Adams was injured for 4 of those game and Rodgers was left with an assortment of under performing and inexperienced WRs to try and generate game winning drives. He also played a decent portion of last year with an unidentified knee/lower leg injury which the organisation was very cagey on and he seems to now be fully fit heading into next season. He didn’t look like he was washed last season and at 36 should have another couple of years, juice in the tank compared to QBs like Rivers and Brady who have question marks over whether they can throw the ball down field.

Now for me the simple truth about Rodgers depends on whether you think the Packers run game is good enough to keep them in the lead and let LeFleur implement the kind of run first offence he seems intent on building. Or whether the Packers defence will have them playing from behind and they’ll be forced to throw the ball? For me I think they are not quite their yet and Rodgers will still get the chance to put the team on his back and let loose from time to time and when he does he’ll give you some nice production. However I’m only drafting him in redraft situations where I can pick him up using a late QB strategy, because I believe while he’ll be a top 10 QB there will be weeks where the run game will be in full effect and you won’t be happy to have him on your roster. In dynasty I’m not touching him unless it’s superflex and I can trade for him cheaply to bolster a contending roster. It seems like their could be plenty of friction between Rodgers and LeFleur and the high draft capital appeared to be a power play by the organisation to put Rodgers on notice to get in line or be replaced. That chip on his shoulder will have him playing with something to prove but I don’t believe the offensive scheme and his supporting cast will get him back into the top 7 this year.

Jordan Love is an interesting discussion. NFL GM’s seem totally split on whether he’s a diamond in the rough at the QB position or whether he is an athletic profile who can’t throw. But for me the reason why I’m not interested in Jordan Love in either redraft or dynasty is because Rodgers contract has a cap hit of $51mil this year and $31mil next year. So, I just can’t see where the opportunity is coming from for Love to be a starter. Even if he does get the gig in year 3 when Rodgers cap hit drops to $17mil, by then he’s in the 3rd year of his rookie contract and not only will the pressure by on him to perform but they also need to sign him to a big contract almost immediately.. Fantasy football is a game of probability and balancing risk and I’m ok missing on Love because I feel the probability of Love turning into anything is so low.

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Running Backs: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, A.J. Dillon
Looking to the future of Mr Jones

I believe that 2020 will be a bit of a changing of the guard for the Green Bay Packers in fantasy and we’ll see an offence built around the running backs. The Packers have been building towards this over the last 2 preseasons with the work they did around adding to their defence last preseason and then the acquisition of A.J. Dillon and Deguara. Even if you don’t agree with my Jordan Love take the addition of a potentially mobile quarterback would open up lanes for the run game in the unlikely event he gets a start. When Matt LaFleur took over as coach, he made it clear the offense would be focused on the run game and last season they finished middle of the pack with just under 1800yrds rushing and 18 rushing touchdowns. Fantasy twitter had been begging McCarthy and then LeFleur to free Aaron Jones and when they finally did he didn’t disappoint accounting for 60% of their total rushing yardage and an impressive 16 rushing touchdowns. Jones proved he could handle a workload with just under the golden 250 rushing attempts mark and he is a very good back who should easily be top 15 again this year. The challenge with Jones is though his ADP at present has him sitting at more like a top 7 to 10 overall RB. This is a challenge for Jones value as while Jamaal Williams is not an exciting player to have on your roster has shown he is capable of cutting into Jones workload and the Packers coaching team have been very happy to give him carries to the tune of just short of 500yrds a season and 3.8yrds per carry.

Or do you want to be A.J. Dillon?

The draft pick many expected would be spent on a WR for Aaron Rodgers was surprisingly spent on A.J. Dillon. This pick solidified the thought that the Packers are moving to a run heavy system and also Standing 6’0″ and weighing 247 lbs. He will undoubtedly draw comparisons with LeFleur’s last RB Derrick Henry. My impression coming out of college was that Dillon was less explosive and had less lateral agility than Henry and I wasn’t a big fan. In Dillon’s college career he rushed for over 1000yrds a season and over 1500 in his freshman and final seasons. The second-round pick makes me take a second look at A.J. Dillon in dynasty and even as an end of your bench stash in redraft. Williams is a tough player and Dillon will have to beat him out to gain a meaningful role in the offence this season. However, with this being the final year of Jones and Williams rookie contracts he’s an interesting stash in the 3rd round of your dynasty league. Depending on how the season goes the Packers may decide to see what they have and if AJ Dillon impresses it could go a long way towards them not renewing Aaron Jones contract

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Wide Receivers: Davante Adams, Alan Lazard, Devin Funchess, Jake Kumerow, Marquez Valdez Scantling.
Adams the apple of Rodgers eye

Davante Adams is one of the most valuable WRs in dynasty fantasy football and is in contention with Michael Thomas for the no. 1 overall at the position. Adams is a target hog Aaron Rodgers loves to feed him the ball more than any other target in the passing game. Despite his 4-game injury last season he still put up more targets in 12 games than Marquez Valdez-Scantling and Geronimo Allison both did over the season. With Alan Lazard the preferred target when Adams was injured. He’s also Rodgers favourite Red Zone target and although the Packers tend to be run first at the goal line he’s still likely to be in the conversation for an upside of double digit touchdowns. If he is fit and as long as Rodgers is the QB (and I think he is for the next 2 seasons) Adams is a stud WR1 and will likely finish top 5 at his position. He’s in his prime at 27 years of age and for me I’d draft him above players like Hopkins, Chubb, Godwin, and Jacobs.

Simply the best of the rest

Allen Lazard was the Packers’ second receiver last season. He also appeared to develop a relationship with Rodgers off the field and Rodgers has spoken highly of him in numerous press opportunities. The problem with that is despite 3 games of production Lazard didn’t look impressive. He looks slow and while he’s a big bodied receiver he seems to lack the quick feet to separate. While people seem tempted because of the Rodgers love and that small production sample he’s an exclusive rights free agent at the end of this year and I don’t feel like he’s going to be a valuable asset in redraft or dynasty.

The other 2 players I don’t think have any real long term future are Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Devin Funchess. Some impressive games during his rookie season had many people high on Valdes-Scantling going into last season. Moving him to the outside after he looked more at home in the slot seemed to destroy his confidence and he only looked decent when he could burn a CB with his long speed. His route running leaves a lot to be desired and during the playoffs he completely disappeared. Funchess is a player brought in to give Rodgers another red zone target, but throughout his career he has been perennially injured and has never been a strong fantasy producer. With the likely lack of a preseason I just can’t trust him to stay fit and even if he does, he needs to learn a new offence and develop chemistry with Rodgers. Don’t draft him but keep an eye on him on the waivers to see if he can stay fit and develop a meaningful role

The only receiver I’m reserving a special dynasty mention for is Equanimeous St. Brown. He is a player a lot of people were high on in college and had prototypical size and speed to be an X receiver. He spent all of last season injured and it remains to be seen if he is given the chance to stake a claim for a role in the offence. He’s another who could be left on the waiver wire but keep an eye on him because if given the chance he potentially has the skills to ascend the depth chart.

Tight Ends: Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara

Second-year tight end Jace Sternberger is a tight end with the speed and athletic profile to become the second target behind Adams in this offence. Sternberger saw very little work so far as a rookie, but with Jimmy Graham gone he’s got a clear path to a role in the offence and if he takes a step forward then he could be an interesting late round or streaming option. Deguara seems like he was brought in as a blocker to help the run game. He’s not going to be fantasy relevant.

Detroit Lions

The Lowdown: It was hoped bring in Matt Patricia would revitalise a lions franchise that could be summed up with the word average. However their poor win loss record and the inability to play football built around the defence and the run game has put Patricia staring down the barrel at the sack and his job is  on the line. The lions were curtailed last season by Matt Stafford’s injury, but now Stafford is back healthy there are high expectations around the team and the ownership and that will hopefully bode well for your fantasy football teams.

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Quarterbacks: Matt Stafford, David Blough, Chase Daniel

If you are a proponent of the late round QB strategy then Stafford is one of my favourite QBs to target. Before Stafford’s week 9 back injury he was on pace for 4,998 yards and 38 TDs. Now fully healed from fractured back and surrounded with an impressive selection of weapons at all of the offensive skill positions, Stafford has the capability to put up some serious fantasy numbers. With the lions wanting to be run first but losing Darius Slay, I can’t see the defence being good enough to keep them ahead meaning Stafford is going to have to throw which should keep his passing numbers up. He’s reliable when it comes to ball possession keeping the turnovers down and managing 8.9 air yards per catch so he doesn’t mind throwing it downfield when he needs to. His ADP is about the QB14 and I have him projected to be in the QB 7-10 range so he’s a good price for those looking for a reliable QB in the mid rounds.

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Running backs: Kerryon Johnson, DeAndre Swift, Ty Johnson, Bo Scarborough, Jason Huntley
A Swift exit for Kerryon?

DeAndre Swift was many people’s favourite RB going into this years NFL draft and he’s long been a darling in devy circles. His two year college production of 2,267 yards,  359 carries and 17 rushing touchdowns make it easy to see why. He has great hands and is an excellent pass catcher and route runner and I think he has a better build than Kerryon, when it comes to carrying a bell cow workload. The fact that he landed on the lions made his ADP fall because a lot of people think he will be battling with Kerryon for the lead role. While I think he is likely to start the season splitting carries I expect him to eventually overtake Kerryon for the lead role by the end of the season. He’s not without injury risk himself after he missed time with a left shoulder injury last year and was plagued by a groin injury the year before. In dynasty I’d buy the ADP dip and try to acquire him cheaply if your league is uncertain about his landing spot and I think in redraft he’ll be a fine flex or first bench RB with upside to be a low end RB2.

Is this the end for Kerryon Johnson? A highly favoured running back the previous 2 seasons Kerryon flashed his considerable talents but then missed a significant portion of the last back-to-back seasons, Johnson missed a significant portion of the year with knee injuries. When we have seen him on the field, he has looked good particularly in the passing game and even if the lion’s offensive line hasn’t left him much room to run against better opposition. He’s going in the 7th-9th round of most startup drafts and given I expect him to start the season in a split backfield with swift then hes not a bad target for those wanting to go with a zero RB strategy or as a flex with upside for more if Swift goes down. In dynasty he’s off contract the end of this season so if you can grab him cheap he might be worth a stash in the hope he transitions to the pass catching role in a better offence, but while he’s a good  talent, His role in the team could diminish as the season goes on.

Notable dynasty mention

While I don’t really want any part of Bo Scarbrough, Ty Johnson,  or Wes Hills, a notable mention should go to Jason Huntley. His college production at a smaller school was impressive last year with over 1000yrds double digit touchdowns and over the magical 40 catch mark. He’s small and fast and works as a kick returner so he may have a chance at touches straight away. So, keep an eye on him he could be a handy stash on your taxi squad in a dynasty format.

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Wide Receivers

The wide receiver opportunity has been consistent over the past three seasons. They averaged 207 catches for 2,838 yards and 18 TDs on 337 targets per game. In 2019, their wide receivers gained over 20 yards on 60 plays (6th in the NFL). All of this was done last year without their starting quarterback for a half of a season

Wide Receivers: Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones Jr, Geronimo Allison, Danny Amendola, Quintez Cepheus
Will Kenny G slide into the top 10 or will Marvin Jones disrupt his rhythm?

Last year Kenny Golladay was a breakout wide receiver. He produced career high yards per catch numbers and 11 touchdowns. While his production slipped towards the back end of the season, he still put up consistent WR2/3 numbers with David Blough. This seems to be Golladay’s floor now as a fantasy receiver so the question is with Stafford back and healthy, what is Golladay’s ceiling going forward? Golladay had 5 games over 100yds and all but one with a touchdown. 4 of those games’ came with Stafford demonstrating clear chemistry and I think Golladay is a receiver you can rely upon in as your WR1. I’d take Thomas, Adams, Julio and Hill ahead of him but I think he’s in that tier of receivers with Godwin and DJ Moore where you can take him confidently knowing he has upside to be a top 10 receiver. The caution with taking him higher is that despite how great he looked he only had over 10 targets on 2 occasions which speaks to the run first strategy the lions are trying to instill in the offence.

Much of Golladay’s final finish may well rest on Marvin Jones Jr. Jones is a perennially undervalued WR with an impressive knack for getting on the end of a deep ball and someone with excellent contested ball abilities. He was on pace to set career-highs in catches and targets if he didn’t miss the final three games with an ankle injury. Now Jones has hit 30 his ADP has him in the 10th round yet he finished as the WR28 in half ppr last season. He also had over 10 targets in 3 games and averaged 7-8 targets in his other games which is similar to Golladay. This isn’t a knock on Golladay just evidence that Stafford can easily support a top 10 and a top 30 WR. I love him for those in 3WR leagues who go RB heavy or high tight end and need a WR3/4 to round out their squad. His red zone ability means he has the upside to haul in 2 to 3 touchdowns any given week and put up some big numbers in you WR3/Flex spot.

The rest

Basically, with Golladay and Jones locked in as the starting WR duo the rest are fighting for the slot role. Traditionally this has been valuable during Golden Tate’s time with Stafford the other receivers don’t have Tate’s chemistry or his elite talent. The 34yr old vet Danny Amendola will get first crack at this role and while he managed 64 catches on 97 targets, he only had a touch over 650yrds. The player he will be competing with had similar troubles last season unable to beat out Alan Lazard for the packers no2 role and struggled to get on the field for a team desperately in need of someone to step up as a WR. 34 receptions for just over 250yrds tells the story and for me both should remain undrafted. If you need bye week cover in a bind then stream Amendola off the waivers in matchups where the nickel corner covering the slot is weak. Otherwise do not stash in dynasty or redraft.

Notable mention

Quintez Cephus is a really interesting taxi squad stash out of Wisconsin. His draft stock was low because of some off the field stuff in 2018 which was later dismissed in court. He was productive in college coming up just short of 1000yrds last season and he has shown some excellent skills after the catch and he excels with the ball in space. His major drawback was a number of drops in college which he won’t get away with at the NFL level. I expect him to sit most of his first year and learn the craft. But with Jones and Amendola both off contract after this season. He could find himself ascending the depth chart quickly in 2021.

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Tight Ends: TJ Hockenson, Jesse James, Isaac Nauta, Matt Sokol, Hunter Bryant

Stafford has shown in the past he will target the TE position over the middle of the field when he has someone capable of doing some damage and Hockenson as all the athletic skills to do so.

I mentioned this in the Irv Smith conversation but I think as a second year TE Hockenson will probably still need another season of development and is more of a streaming option in matchups where teams are bad at covering the TE. If you want evidence of this see the damage he did to the cardinals on game one of last season. In redraft I wouldn’t attack him in drafts and beyond streaming I think he’s in for about 600yrds, so you won’t be happy if he’s your starting TE. I don’t usually carry more than one TE in redraft so I’m letting someone else draft him. In dynasty hes a different story. I expect him to see a significant uptick in usage in 2021 once the WR room clears. A lot of dynasty players thought they’d struck gold with him after week 1 last year and he burned them with the lack of production after then the ankle injury in week 13. It was entirely expected and if anyone is selling in your dynasty league for cheap then take them up on it and put him on you bench for 2021.

Well that’s in for my NFC North breakdown. Hope you’ve enjoyed it and hit me up on twitter and let me know which players and teams you’re interested to hear more about. ‘Til next time!

K

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