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NFC North Preview

Chicago Bears

QB Rex Grossman

Grossman and the Bears were the beneficiaries of a weak schedule last season, especially early on, as the Bears passing game flourished right out of the gate.  After reeling off seven wins to start the season, Chicago inexplicably laid an egg against Miami, then two weeks later the passing game was on life support.  Chicago enters this season with Grossman solidly at the helm, and though many will tout the fact that Grossman could be in for a good year since he’s in the last year of his contract, I see him as a middle of the road fantasy QB at best.  He’ll live up to his preseason ranking around #15 on the fantasy QB list. 

QB Other

Brian Griese is a capable backup, and could even be a viable starter, but he won’t see time unless Grossman gets hurt.  If Lovie Smith stuck with Grossman thru his perils last year, then he’ll likely do so again. 

Kyle Orton carries the clip board as the third string QB.

RB Cedric Benson

The Chicago Bears love to run the football, and now that they’ve moved Thomas Jones, Cedric Benson will be the man.  Now in his third season, it remains to be seen if this is a role that he can excel in.  Everyone thought he would break out in his rookie season, but a long holdout put a damper on any rookie of the year consideration.  An early injury last year opened the door for Jones to keep a hold on the starting job, and he did just that.  The excuses have run out, Benson must produce. 

Personally, I still have my doubts that Benson will be a top 10 fantasy RB.  He’s had two years to prove his worth and hasn’t done much.  Of course, the flip side is that the Bears have now handed him the job so that there’s really no reason for him not to be the man.  I see him having a few good games, but nothing spectacular. 

RB Other

Adrian Peterson and

Garrett Wolfe will be sitting behind Benson should he falter.  Peterson is a guy that could produce in Benson’s absence, so from a fantasy perspective, if you’re finishing up your draft with backup RBs, Peterson is a guy you want to consider. 

WRs Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammed

Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammed are the only WRs worth fantasy consideration.  Berrian is the big play threat, so he’s the hit or miss type of guy.  One week he might light it up for a couple of TDs and 100 yards, the next week he might have 2 catches for 30 yards.  Muhammed is the more steady performer, not ever really getting the big numbers, but generally not getting shut out either.

WR Other

Mark Bradley and

Rashied Davis are the backups, with

Devin Hester the wild card.  Hester’s ability to get into the endzone on kick returns makes him a valuable asset in IDP leagues, but otherwise he doesn’t have much individual offensive fantasy value. 

TE Discussion

The Bears used their first round pick to select

Greg Olsen.  They are very high on his ability, but generally speaking it takes TEs a long time to be productive fantasy players.  Being a top pick, Olsen’s learning curve is probably going to be a little shorter,

Desmond Clark will probably see the bulk of the playing time early in the season, with Olsen taking over around week 6. 

K Robbie Gould

Robbie Gould will be the kicker for the Bears, he’s a top ten fantasy kicker as the Bears offense should put up enough points and move the ball to give him a lot of FG opportunities. 

Detroit Lions

QB Jon Kitna

Introducing the starting quarterback of your Detroit Lions….Jon Kitna!  But before you dismiss him, Kitna has the weapons in place to put up a top ten fantasy season.  His competition to the starting job is only Dan Orlovsky and JT O’Sullivan, so he’s going to be the starter.  And once again, the Lions went out and selected (yet another!) WR in the draft.  Don’t overlook Kitna as a QB1 on draft day. 

QB Other

Nothing to see here, move along.

RB Discussion

The backfield in Detroit is quite muddled. 

Kevin Jones did well last season, but battled injuries, and I have him as the most talented of the bunch.  Detroit went ahead and brought in not only

Tatum Bell to steal carries, but also

TJ Duckett to score from the one yard line!  A fantasy mess.  So clearly we’ve got a RBBC, at least at the start of the season.  If I were to guess, I’d say that Tatum Bell will end up with the better fantasy numbers over the course of the season, he just seems like he’d be the more productive guy in this offense.  Unfortunately, unless one of he or Jones get hurt, then neither will be worth much to your weekly starting lineup.  Duckett will only end up stealing some goal line thunder, so he’s not much of a fantasy consideration either.

WRs Roy Williams and Calvin Johnson

Roy Williams finally broke the mold of “top Lion WR that ends up playing badly once getting to Detroit”.  He is, and will continue to be a top ten fantasy player at the position.  Can Calvin Johnson follow in those footsteps?  I say yes, and I say that both he and Williams have tremendous fantasy seasons. 

WR Other

Mike Furrey, Shaun McDonald, and

Kevin Kasper will also be in the mix, with Furrey the only player worth a late flier in fantasy drafts.  The Lions are mostly a WR1 and WR1A team with Williams and Johnson, but Furrey could get some decent numbers from time to time. 

TE Discussion

None of the TEs on Detroit’s roster are exciting, but in a new offensive scheme,

Dan Campbell might be a deep sleeper (very deep sleeper). 

Dernell Sanders is also on tap to see some action. 

K Jason Hanson

Jason Hanson, as has been the case for many years, is the ever capable kicker. 

Green Bay Packers

QB Brett Favre

Brett Favre once again enters training camp as the starter, and once again, the questions asking if this will (finally) be his last year are sure to emerge early and often.  Favre’s fantasy value has certainly slipped, and you’d be wise to only consider him as your QB2 at best. 

QB Other

Aaron Rodgers

is once again waiting in the wings, waiting for the torch to be passed.

RB Discussion

An interesting situation is developing in Green Bay’s backfield.  For some reason, the Packers went out and acquired

Vernand Morency to be their guy (ala Minnesota with Chester Taylor).  Which wasn’t too far fetched, young guy that never got the chance in Houston.  Right off the bat, he gets hurt and rookie

Brandon Jackson is not only in camp, but he’s looking good in camp.  Already I’ve seen drafts where guys are falling all over themselves to pick up Jackson.  And you know what, I’d be loathe to dissuade people from doing so.  As a general rule, it can take rookies a little while to put up start-worthy fantasy numbers, but Jackson seems to be bucking that trend, at least so far.  He’s in camp, he’s healthy, and with Morency on the shelf at least temporarily, Jackson will have a chance to make the job his.  Potential rookie of the year candidate here. 

Noah Herron and

DeShawn Wynn fill out the RB roster for the Packers, but Jackson is the guy you want to have, followed by Morency.

WRs Donald Driver and Greg Jennings

As long as Brett Favre is able to throw the ball, then the WRs on the Packers will put up good fantasy numbers.  If Favre starts failing and Green Bay goes with Rodgers, then all bets are off here.  Donald Driver has been solidly in the top ten at WR, and that should continue.  On the other side, Greg Jennings looks to make the jump from mediocre to ok as far as us fantasy players are concerned.  Jennings is a good sleeper candidate. 

WR Other

James Jones and

Robert Ferguson fill out the depth chart, but aren’t worth much of a look unless Driver and Jennings get hurt. 

TE Discussion

As of this writing,

Donald Lee tops the TE depth chart, with the ever present (and under achieving)

Bubba Franks also on the list.  If one can emerge as the starter, they may be worth a look as a TE2. 

K Discussion

Mason Crosby and

Dave Rayner have locked horns in the battle for the kicking job.  Green Bay traditionally has had some good value in their kicker so keep an eye on this situation.

Minnesota Vikings

QB Discussion

What on earth is going on in Minnesota??  Once a hotbed for fantasy prospects, now the Vikings have players that are hardly recognizable.  We start out with starting QB

Tavaris Jackson (?). 

Brooks Bollinger backs him up.  Honestly, I don’t even know what to say about either of these two!  Let’s move on. 

RB Discussion

Last year, dynasty owners were finally rewarded for holding onto

Chester Taylor for all those years as he rose from the ashes and went from buried back to fantasy star.  Taylor enters the season with a battle for playing time on his hands, though judging from the rest of their offensive position players, Minnesota would be wise to run early and often if they want to win any games.  Under normal conditions, I’d be writing that Taylor is a top ten fantasy RB, but Minnesota drafted

Adrian Peterson.  I do think Taylor will have a very good year, but I think he’ll end up just outside the top 10.  While many will rush to grab Peterson in their draft, I don’t think this is the year for him to do well.  I expect him to suffer much the same fate of other rookie RBs, little playing time, trouble learning blitz pickup, and very reduced fantasy numbers.  I’m guessing a 70/30 split for fantasy production in favor of Taylor, so he’s the one I’d get if forced to choose one of them.

RB Other

Mewelde Moore and

Artose Pinner are also on the depth chart, Moore may sneak a few goal line carries, but neither will produce unless Taylor is unable to play. 

WR Discussion

Once the source of tremendous fantasy scoring, the Vikings WR corps are a shell of their glory days.  That said,

Troy Williamson is a very good sleeper candidate (someone has to catch the ball, no?).  Williamson is poised to be the starter and he should end up as a top 20 WR when the season is over.  As for the rest,

Sidney Rice, Bobby Wade, Aundrae Allison, and

Bully McMullen are in the mix.  Keep an eye on this list and see if anyone emerges in the first few games of the season and grab them in free agency.

TE Discussion

Though

Jim Kleinsasser is still on the roster, I’m hearing that

Visanthe Shiancoe will be the starter.  Cool name, but will he have game?  I wouldn’t hold out much hope on a ton of fantasy production, but as with the WR situation, keep an eye on the early box scores. 

K Ryan Longwell

Ryan Longwell will be the kicker, not a ton of fantasy excitement here, worthy of being a bye week filler at best.

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