With training camp days away and players itching to get back on the field we take a look at some players inside the NFC North to watch throughout camp and into the preseason.
The Bears, Lions and Vikings all start practices on Friday, with Marc Trestman and the Bears taking the field first in the early morning, while the Packers start things on Saturday.
Leading up to your fantasy draft you will be wondering who to target and who to avoid. We break down the studs, duds and sleepers from the NFC North this upcoming season.
Packers – QB Aaron Rodgers/RB Eddie Lacy
Rodgers is entering his 10th year in the league and is still one of the most dominant quarterbacks around. Despite only appearing in nine regular season games a season ago due to injury, the 30-year-old Cal product still managed to throw for over 2,500 yards along with 17 touchdown passes. He is currently being selected as the third quarterback in drafts around the end of the second round in 12 team leagues. Rodgers is a must grab if you feel the need to take a top-tier passer this season.
Lacy, the 2013 Offensive Rookie of the Year is going to see an increased workload, the Packers have already said that. He is currently being taken around the 10th selection, ranking as the fifth back behind only LeSean McCoy, Jamaal Charles, Adrian Peterson and Matt Forte. Lacy is a bruiser who should have an even better 2014 season with a year under his belt.
Lions – WR Calvin Johnson
The 6-foot-5 athletic freak is definitely the top receiver. Last season, he posted 80 plus catches, 1,400 plus yards and 12 touchdown grabs in what was considered a down year for him. With Golden Tate coming over from Seattle and Eric Ebron entering the picture at tight end, Johnson could see less double teams. He is currently being selected as the third overall player in fantasy drafts and top receiver. If you have the third selection you’ll have a tough time convincing yourself to take anyone else but Megatron.
Vikings – RB Adrian Peterson
Even though he is entering his age 29 season, Peterson is still fantasy royalty. He averaged 4.5 yards per carry in 2013, slightly below his career average (5.0 ypc). He still totaled 10 touchdowns and 1,266 rushing yards. Something that will make him even better in 2014 is the fact that new offensive coordinator Norv Turner loves getting his running backs touches out of the backfield, especially in the passing game. Peterson should certainly improve on his 29-171-1 season a year ago as a receiver. If he can stay healthy there’s no reason Peterson can’t carry his team on his shoulders yet again.
Bears – RB Matt Forte
The 28-year-old Tulane product posted career highs in rushing touchdowns (9) and receptions (74). He also tied his career-high in total touchdowns (12). Forte accounted for 363 touches out of the backfield and excelled in Trestman’s offensive scheme. With another year in the new offense, Forte should be even sharper. The elusive back is being taken in the top 10 and rightfully so. The only concern with him is his health, but that’s really with any running back these days. The guy is a must grab and should be featured on your team.
Packers – Any Green Bay Tight End
71 catches and five touchdown receptions. Those are the combined numbers of all the current Packers tight ends heading into training camp. Brandon Bostick got an opportunity to make something of himself last season once Jermichael Finley went down to that terrible spinal injury. Andrew Quarless also got his shot. The Packers snagged Richard Rodgers (No relation to Aaron) in the third round of the draft. They also took a chance on Colt Lyerla, an athletic pass catcher, who got booted off the Oregon team two years ago. With all that being said, I don’t care how good #12 is for the Pack, none of these guys will do anything to warrant a fantasy roster spot.
Lions – RB Reggie Bush
The 29-year-old rushed for over 1,000 yards and reeled in over 500 yards in 2013, but he only totaled seven touchdowns. That number should only go down with Joique Bell and Theo Riddick earning more carries. Bush has touched the ball over 250 times the past three seasons as the lead back for the Lions and Dolphins previously. His body was very fresh when he arrived in Miami however he isn’t getting any younger. New Lions offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi loves to run the ball in a rotation. Look at what he was able to do in New Orleans with Pierre Thomas, Darren Sproles, Chris Ivory and others for years. Bush will still warrant a flex spot, but he is only going to do less this season and his average draft position (45) might even be too high actually.
Vikings – WR Cordarelle Patterson
The second-year speedster posted decent numbers (45-459-4) in 2013, but didn’t have a true breakout game until week 12 against Green Bay, when he caught 11 passes. He caught only 45 of his 78 targets and should improve this season, but with Matt Cassell likely taking the field as the Week One starter and rookie Teddy Bridgewater possibly coming in at some point, the sky isn’t the limit for Patterson. He needs to improve his route running and patience. With mediocre quarterbacks in the mix it’s hard to see him doing much better than his rookie campaign. He is nothing more than a WR 4 or 5.
Bears – WR Marquess Wilson
Entering his second NFL season, Wilson added 10 pounds of muscle this off-season and has been handed the third receiver spot with Earl Bennett no longer in Chicago. However, Wilson won’t generate enough grabs to be fantasy relevant. In terms of the Bears team he should be better and will be of big value if he can take pressure off of Brandon Marshall and Alshon Jeffery, but he shouldn’t be relied upon at all in the fantasy world.
Packers – WR Jarrett Boykin
The third-year Virginia Tech product looked solid for the Packers last season with Randall Cobb out for a good amount of time. After not playing at all in the first four weeks, Boykin generated 49 catches for 681 yards and three touchdowns over the final 13 weeks. He had two games with 100+ receiving yards and three games with 80+ receiving yards. He should be a solid third receiver behind Jordy Nelson and Cobb this season and with Rodgers back healthy he will be in line for even more grabs than a season ago. Also, with the fact that the Packers lack a true No. 1 tight end, look for them to use many three wideout sets this season. Boykin is a steal at 151, where he is being drafted on average behind rookies Odell Beckham and Marqise Lee.
Lions – RB Joique Bell
Bell added 650 rushing yards and eight scores, while reeling in 53 catches for 547 yards last season. He averaged over 10 yards per catch out of the backfield. His numbers will increase under Lombardi and if he can stay healthy he could easily overtake Bush. He already has the lead in terms of goal line carries and has nice value this season. He is being taken around the 75th spot, slightly ahead of Chris Johnson and Ray Rice. He could pan out to be something way more than even the Lions envision him to be.
Vikings – TE Kyle Rudolph
Injuries only allowed Rudolph to play in eight games last season, but he still managed 30 catches for 313 yards and three scores. With Turner running the offense, Rudolph’s touches should increase substantially. Look at what he was able to do with Antonio Gates in San Diego, Vernon Davis in San Francisco and most recently with Jordan Cameron in Cleveland. The guy really knows how to get value out of his athletic tight ends and Rudolph fits the mold. He is currently being taken as the ninth tight end behind aging stars Greg Olsen and Jason Witten.
Bears – TE Martellus Bennett
With Jay Cutler under center for 11 games in 2013, Bennett caught 52 balls for 591 yards and four touchdowns. He finished the year with 65 catches for 759 yards and five touchdowns. Cutler and Bennett’s chemistry was nearly as good as Cutler’s and Marshall’s. If Cutler can stay healthy through all 16 games, we could see a tremendous 2014 campaign for Marty. Expect to Bennett’s touchdowns increase despite 2013 being his career-high in that category. Cutler will boost Bennett’s value tremendously. It’s hard to believe Bennett is being taken around the 126th spot behind Lions rookie Ebron and youngsters Ladarius Green and Zach Ertz. Bennett is a nice value at a not so deep tight end position.
All fantasy draft values gathered from FFToolbox.com
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