The third week of this website’s fantasy football team reports focused on the NFC North – Chicago Bears, Detroit Lions, Green Bay Packers and Minnesota Vikings. I’m here to critique the opinions, rankings, and projections found in those team reports, just as I did the previously for the NFC East and AFC East.
The NFC North is very top heavy with what should be a great season-long battle for the division title between the Bears, Lions and Packers. All three of these teams have impressive offensive weapons that will lead to high scoring games. The Vikings are once again in a “rebuilding” year breaking in a new quarterback, but can never be counted out week-to-week featuring stud running back Adrian Peterson. Keeping my Chicago-bias in check, this division should provide many thrills and be highly competitive throughout the year.
Team Report (June 24)
Chicago Bears offense took a giant step in the right direction in 2013 under the direction of new head coach Marc Trestman. He brought his pass friendly offense to Chicago and that proved to work well taking their team quarterback fantasy points from 26th (275) in 2012 to 5th (375) in 2013. With Top 5 dual threat running back Matt Forte, Top 5 wide receiver Brandon Marshall recently signing a contract extension and 2013 sophomore-sensation Alshon Jeffery breaking out, it appears the Bears are ready to make a legit run. The hurdle they need to get over is keeping their gun-slinging quarterback Jay Cutler healthy.
Jay Cutler missed 12 games over the last three seasons, so it is no surprise fantasy owners are worried about drafting him. Assuming he is healthy all 16 games, Cutler will be a Top 7 quarterback. That’s right, Top 7.
Last season, Josh McCown threw for over 1,800 yards and 13 touchdowns when Cutler was sidelined. That is remarkable for a guy most teams had written off. Was it the player or was it the system? I believe it was the system. Cutler does have a tendency to get a little erratic and try to force the ball into situations he shouldn’t be throwing into, causing interceptions. However, with a full year and two training camps under his belt with Trestman, the coaching staff should have worked out those miscues.
This website has Cutler ranked as the 14th best quarterback, which I find extremely low. As I said, Top 7 if healthy all season. With an average ADP in the 9th to 10th round (12-team league), that is incredible value for a guy with so many weapons at his disposal.
Team Report (June 25)
Detroit Lions made some key off season moves that can finally put them over the top and back into the playoffs. Matthew Stafford is certainly a Top 5 quarterback when you throw in the likes of two receiver friendly running backs, Reggie Bush and Joique Bell. They should each catch about 50 passes from this year.
Stafford also has the best wide receiver in the league in Calvin Johnson, who finished 1st, 1st, 2nd in fantasy points at WR from 2011-2013, and we are expecting more of the same this season. Golden Tate will be a nice counterpart to Megatron and should put up respectable numbers. However, regardless of all of these other offensive weapons at Stafford’s disposal, the Lions player I’m most excited to watch this year is rookie Eric Ebron.
Ebron has been compared as the next Jimmy Graham, who we all know is more of a wide receiver than tight end (regardless of how the arbitrator ruled), and that is extremely high praise for Ebron’s receiving ability. He was the first tight end taken off the board this year, and it wasn’t to catch this website’s modest projections of 30 passes for 390 yards, 2 touchdowns, ranking him 26th at the position. While defenses focus their attention on Johnson, Tate and the running backs, Ebron should have a relatively easy time finding space in the middle of the defense.
It is rare for a tight end to have a significant fantasy impact in his rookie season, but when that player is part of such a high flying offense, the potential and upside is there. Expect Eric Ebron to finish comfortably inside the Top 15 at tight end this season.
Green Bay Packers
Team Report (June 27)
Green Bay Packers have done an amazing job building through the draft and developing that talent. So much so, that when a player such as James Jones hits free agency, the team adds a couple of new wide receivers in the draft and let Jones walk out the door. When a player goes down to injury, like Randall Cobb last season, they have a pretty decent next-man-up ready to go, as Jarrett Boykin filled in admirably while Cobb was out (plus the team altered its game plan to run the ball more).
Lost a bit in the shuffle of the wide receivers, and more ball control with running back Eddie Lacy, is the role Cobb plays in this offense. He was injured in Week 6 last season, and returned to catch only 2 passes in each of Week 17 and the Packers Wild-Card playoff game.
Prior to Cobb’s injury he averaged 10 targets and over 100 total yards rushing plus receiving per game. He did only catch 2 passes in Week 17, but both were for touchdowns including the game winning touchdown pass that put the Packers into the playoffs.
In short, Cobb is an immensely talented and vital piece to this offense. This website has Cobb ranked an extremely conservative 19th at WR due to concerns about a recurring injury. Cobb suffered a freak injury last season, and played in 15 games in each of his first two years in the league. The injury concern is overblown here, and Cobb should be ranked amongst the Top 10 wide receivers for fantasy.
Team Report (June 27)
Taking their time to decide between the best of two subpar options – rolling out veteran Matt Cassel or rookie Teddy Bridgewater at quarterback – the Minnesota Vikings do not have high expectations this season. It is a quarterback driven league, after all.
As it pertains to the analysis in the Vikings team report, there is not much I find myself disagreeing with. Even if he doesn’t start the season under center, Bridgewater should be the starter at some point this season to see what he can do. Adrian Peterson is another year older, but expect his normal or higher than average load approaching 350 touches under new OC Norv Turner.
At wide receiver, many fantasy pundits, this website included, are tagging Cordarrelle Patterson as a prime breakout candidate. However, even though he is the Vikings’ number one receiving option, I would not rank Patterson this high. This website currently ranks Patterson 15th at wide receiver.
Patterson will be utilized not only in the passing game, but the return game and running some reverses and mis-direction plays. This will bump his all-purpose yardage, but there aren’t many leagues that count return yardage. If you are in a league that adds return yardage to the position players, then I might be able to justify Patterson ranked this high.
Assuming Cassel is under center for the start of the season, and Bridgewater takes over mid-season, Patterson will get his opportunities, but I just have a hard time drafting him ahead of a group of receivers with much better circumstances, most significantly, they have a better QB. Some of the players currently ranked behind Patterson include Larry Fitzgerald, Randall Cobb, Andre Johnson (while his QB is also questionable, he is a reliable, heavily targeted wideout), Victor Cruz and DeSean Jackson. Don’t get caught reaching for Patterson in what could surely be a bumpy ride in 2014.