There are a lot of question marks surrounding the NFC North, even for fantasy. How does Matt LaFleur follow up his NFC Championship appearance? Who will start at QB for the Bears? Where does the Vikings offense stand after losing Stefon Diggs? Is the Lions combination of young and veteran talent enough to make them a serious contender within the division?
We may not know the answers to these questions until very late in the season, but these questions alone should give us an idea on how players can perform during the season. The Packers have dominated this division since the realignment in 2002, but there always seems to be another team that challenges them. Do the Bears, Vikings and/or Lions have enough on each side of the ball to compete with Green Bay?
10. Kerryon Johnson – RB – Detroit Lions
2019 Stats – 113 Attempts, 403 Yards, 3 Touchdowns, 10 Receptions, 127 Yards, 1 Touchdown
Kerryon Johnson’s fantasy stock took a hit after the Lions selected D’Andre Swift in the 2020 NFL draft. Johnson’s value is going to come early in the season as Swift is likely to be introduced slowly into the offensive scheme. Johnson’s inability to breakout as a quality starter for Detroit may be due in part to his injury history. Johnson seems to be a late draft pick to fill a back up running back spot or a flex position in deeper leagues. Johnson may show some flashes of excellence a couple times this season, but for him to become a quality asset, Johnson is going to need to work extremely hard to show he can be a consistent player in the league. This may be tough due to Swift’s high potential. Johnson may be a player that can be stashed on the bench in hoping that he can make enough of an impact to be relevant within the fantasy football world.
9. Marvin Jones Jr. – WR – Detroit Lions
2019 Stats – 62 Receptions, 779 Yards, 9 Touchdowns
The case can be made that Marvin Jones is the most underrated receiver in the game today. Jones does not get a lot of headlines due to him playing for Detroit. With Matthew Stafford returning from injury, it is likely that Jones will be targeted more often than when he had Jeff Driskel and David Blough throwing him passes. Something to keep in mind is that Jones has only started 20 of the Lions’ 32 games in the last two years. While some people may see the injuries to Jones as a risk, the people who draft Jones are likely going to get a top 25 receiver out of him. Jones is excellent at making contested catches and highpointing balls. Jones and Kenny Gollladay are a sneaky receiver duo. With the emergence of Golladay as a wide receiver one, it is likely that Jones will face off against the weaker corner and be put into single coverage more often. Jones can be a great value pick in later rounds and may even work his way up to a high end receiver two towards the end of the season.
8. David Montgomery – RB – Chicago Bears
2019 Stats – 242 Attempts, 889 Yards, 6 Touchdowns, 25 Receptions, 185 Yards, 1 Touchdown
In fantasy football, it is never a bad decision to have a running back who plays in the northern part of the United States. In a franchise that has had running backs like Gale Sayers, Walter Payton and Matt Forte, it seems almost inevitable that Chicago will try to establish a running game all season. Other than Tarik Cohen’s pass catching abilities, there doesn’t seem to be any competition for Montgomery to receive touches. When the Bears went 12-4 in 2018, they gave Jordan Howard 250 carries. If the Bears want to replicate their offense from 2018, it is likely that they will have to rely on a workhorse running back. Just by the eye test, it seems that Montgomery is a better runner than Howard. The real upside with Montgomery is that he will be uncontested for touches, as well as the likelihood of inconsistent quarterback play. Montgomery has the potential to be one of those mid-round draft picks that can win somebody their league.
7. D’Andre Swift – RB – Detroit Lions
2019 Stats – N/A
Is D’Andre Swift the most intriguing player this season? There are a lot of questions surrounding Swift and the Lions’ offense this season. It seems like the Lions have been looking for a quality running back since Barry Sanders retired. They are taking another swing here with Swift. Swift had a historic college career at Georgia and looks ready to make that jump to the NFL. At Georgia, Swift ran fast and he ran hard, highlighted by his six yards per carry. Detroit lost an element in their offense last year without Theo Riddick’s exceptional pass catching abilities. Swift figures to play a key part in filling that spot, as he is almost a Riddick/Kerryon Johnson hybrid. This can make for some interesting play calling and interesting uses for Swift in Darrell Bevell’s offense. Swift may split carries with Johnson and Bo Scarborough, but he seems to be the goto running back for receptions out of the backfield as well as goalline attempts. Swift’s value is going to come out of pass receptions as well as goal line carries.
6. Adam Thielen – WR – Minnesota Vikings
2019 Stats – 30 Receptions, 418 Receptions, 6 Touchdowns
Adam Thielen has developed a great chemistry with Kirk Cousins, since Cousins joined the team in 2018. With the departure of Stefon Diggs and the addition of rookie WR Justin Jefferson, it is only fair to say that Thielen will be the unquestioned WR1 in the Minnesota offensive scheme. What plays to Thielen’s benefit is that he is a 6-2, 200 lb receiver, who seemingly comes down with every ball thrown to him, whether it be double or single coverage. The concern here is that Gary Kubiak is known as a run heavy offensive play caller, which may make some people weary of Thielen’s production this year. Another concern being that Thielen is coming off an injury in which he only saw action in 10 games last season. Nevertheless, Thielen is a two time pro bowler, has great rapport with Cousins and is expected to see a majority of the targets in this coming season. If anything, Thielen has a high ceiling, low floor expectancy due to his ability to find the end zone consistently.
5. Allen Robinson II – WR – Chicago Bears
2019 Stats – 98 Receptions, 1,147 Yards, 7 Touchdowns
Since Allen Robinson’s 2015 season with Jacksonville, he has remained a consistent presence as a receiver in the NFL (minus 2017, where he missed the whole season due to injury.) Ever since Alshon Jeffery left for Philadelphia, Robinson has been the number one option for Chicago quarterbacks. Matt Nagy is still the head coach of Chicago, which means that there is still going to be tricks and schemes on offense. The addition of John DiFilippo as the quarterbacks coach should help Nick Foles and/or Mitch Trubisky play to their potential, and this only helps Robinson’s case as a number one receiver in terms of fantasy football production. Obviously the big question with Chicago’s offense is at the quarterback position, is Trubisky going to finally get over the hump? Or is Nick Foles going to play like we saw him in 2013? Even though the quarterback situation is shaky, the combination of Robinson’s skill, Nagy’s offensive expertise and DiFilippo’s success with quarterbacks should propel Robinson to a WR1 this season.
4. Kenny Golladay – WR – Detroit Lions
2019 Stats – 65 Receptions, 1,190 Yards, 11 Touchdowns
Kenny Golladay is the best receiver that Matthew Stafford has had since Calvin Johnson retired. Golladay quietly led the NFL in touchdown receptions last year, going to show that as a fourth year receiver, he knows how to find the end zone. Using his 6-4, 215 lb frame, Golladay is able to win a majority of the jump balls that Matthew Stafford has made a career on throwing. With the Lions having other receiving threats (Marvin Jones, Geronimo Allison, TJ Hockenson), it is likely that Golladay can see a lot of single coverage against smaller cornerbacks. Using his size, Golladay is likely to win jump balls on fade routes in the end zone when the Lions find themselves near the goaline. What also helps Golladay is that the Lions defense may be the worst in the NFL, which can lead to a lot of shootout games and a high reward in the statistical category for Golladay.
3. Aaron Jones – RB – Green Bay Packers
2019 Stats – 236 Attempts, 1,084 Yards, 16 Touchdowns, 49 Receptions, 474 Yards, 3 Touchdowns
Did anyone benefit from a new coach last year, more than Aaron Jones? In an unfamiliar run-first Packers offense, Jones made the most out of his opportunities by scoring 19 touchdowns, good for a share of first place in the NFL. Jones is a shifty back who can find very small holes and hit them efficiently. Another facet to Jones’ game is that the Packers quietly have one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. Jones is most lethal though when he finds space. LaFluer is able to take advantage of this, by not only lining Jones up in the backfield, but also in the slot, as well as out wide. With a loaded backfield including Jamaal Williams, AJ Dillon and Tyler Ervin, we could see a share of Jones’ 236 carries decrease, but his exceptional pass catching skills, open field abilities and knack for finding the end zone should land Jones a spot in the top seven running back conversation.
2. Davante Adams – WR – Green Bay Packers
2019 Stats – 83 Receptions, 997 Yards, 5 Touchdowns
In relation to 2018, Davante Adams’ 2019 season can be seen as a disappointment. Adams, who missed four games to injury still finished three yards short of 1,000. With the departures of Jimmy Graham and Geronimo Allison and Green Bay not drafting a receiver, it is very possible that Adams can amass 125 receptions this season. Where Adams really thrives is in the red zone, highlighted by his 40 touchdowns since 2016. Adams definitely has the skill to finish as a top five receiver and by sheer volume alone, it is likely that Adams will finish as a top 10 receiver. It can be worrisome for some that Matt LaFluer operates a run-first offense, but Adams being paired with one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever throw the football should not hurt his numbers in the slightest.
1. Dalvin Cook – RB – Minnesota Vikings
2019 Stats – 250 Attempts, 1,135 Yards, 13 Touchdowns, 53 Receptions, 519 Yards
Dalvin Cook broke out last year into what the Vikings thought that he was going to be when they drafted him out of Florida State. Cook is an exceptional runner, who can find holes and hit them hard (highlighted by a 75 yard TD run against Green Bay in week two.) Gary Kubiak has now taken over the offensive coordinator duties for Minnesota. This has potential to be a home run pairing with Cook, as Kubiak has coached star fantasy running backs in the past (Arian Foster, Justin Forsett, Knowshon Moreno and Mike Anderson). With the departure of Stefon Diggs and the decline of the aging Kyle Rudolph, Cook is expected to be the focal point of the offense, with Alexander Mattison and Mike Boone spelling him when necessary. Given these circumstances, Cook could very well end up as the best running back and fantasy player in the NFL this coming season.