The NFC North is probably shaping up to be the worst division in football. The only saving grace is the Chicago Bears Defense which will carry this team to the division title and into the playoffs. The other 3 teams, the Detroit Lions, the Minnesota Vikings and the Green Bay Packers have new head coaches who will all be looking to turn their respective teams around. Let’s take a look at each squad.
Chicago Bears (2005 Record: 11-5, Lost in division round 29-21)
QB Rex Grossman, Brian Griese, Kyle Orton
The QB position has not been a stable one for the Bears. Starter Rex Grossman has only played in 8 games over his first 3 seasons. Kyle Orton was thrown into the starting job last year as a rookie, doing just enough to let the Defense win, but not enough to keep the starting job. Veteran Brian Griese joins his fourth team, to give this unit some depth. It appears as if Grossman will be the starter on Opening Day, but history shows us that you can’t bank on him to stay healthy. Either way, you should not be looking to the Chicago QB group for your Fantasy QB needs.
RB Cedric Benson, Thomas Jones
Cedric was drafted to be the main running back for the Bears last season. But an injury plagued rookie campaign kept him on the bench and gave Thomas Jones the opportunity to post his best statistics of his career. So far this off-season, both running backs have been again dealing with injuries. That being said, both players will represent great value if you can draft either in the mid to late rounds of your draft. If you can get both, taking Cedric first, you will have a formidable running back to pair with your first round pick (you did take a RB with your first pick right?).
WR Muhsin Muhammad, Bernard Berrian, Mark Bradley
Muhsin’s ADP is somewhere in the 8th or 9th round. He represents good value if you can draft him there as your WR3. Don’t ever expect him to post numbers like his 2004 campaign, but he will have a decent season. The other WRs on this team should only be drafted in deeper leagues.
TE Desmond Clark
There are so many options at TE this year, that Clark should not be a consideration for you.
PK Robbie Gould
Robbie was the 28th ranked kicker last season. With most fantasy leagues only going about 15 deep on the kicker rankings, you shouldn’t be looking at Gould.
2.10 SS Daniel Manning (Abilene Christian)
2.25 CB Devin Hester (Miami Fla.)
3.09 DT Dusty Dvoracek (Oklahoma)
4.23 LB Jamar Williams (Arizona State)
5.27 DE Mark Anderson (Alabama)
6.26 RB J.D. Runnels (Oklahoma)
6.31 OL Tyler Reed (Penn State)
Although some may be looking for Cedric Benson to live up to his 2005 expectations, the player on the Bears who is currently under the radar and may have a decent season is Mark Bradley. You will probably be able to pick him up off the waiver wire so keep your eye on him. His production may increase in Brian Griese takes over at QB.
Detroit Lions (2005 Record: 5-11)
QB Jon Kitna, Josh McCown
Detroit will be looking for veteran Jon Kitna to replace former number one pick and disappointment Joey Harrington. With Mike Martz coming on board as the Offensive Coordinator and the talent on this team, expectations as high. I see Jon having a very solid season, producing stats well above where you should be able to draft him. Take a chance on him as your QB2 and you may find him in your starting lineup before long.
RB Kevin Jones, Arlen Harris, Brian Calhoun
To say Kevin Jones’ 2005 season was a disappointment is an understatement. The expectations were high and he was probably drafted in the early second round. This year you should be able to draft him in the 3rd round and if you can you should. Will he produce top 10 RB numbers?, probably not. But he will do much better than he did in 2005. If you invest in Kevin Jones, consider taking rookie Brian Calhoun as insurance on deeper rosters.
WR Roy Williams, Corey Bradford, Mike Williams, Charles Rogers
With all the #1 draft picks on this roster, why would they go out and sign Corey Bradford? That’s because Charles Rogers can’t stay healthy and Mike Williams does not have the work ethic to keep him on the field. Avoid these two players at all costs. Now for the good news, look for Roy Williams to have a great season as he takes the primary load at WR. UPDATED – Charles Rogers has been released by the Lions.
TE Marcus Pollard
In deeper leagues, Pollard makes a nice TE2 but nothing more.
PK Jason Hanson
If you don’t get one on the top Kickers, Jason could be worth a shot as the Lions will be expecting to score a lot more.
2.09 LB Ernie Sims (Florida State)
2.08 SS Daniel Bullocks (Nebraska)
3.10 RB Brian Calhoun (Wisconsin)
5.08 OL Jonathan Scott (Texas)
6.10 CB Alton McCann (West Virginia)
7.09 OL Fred Matua (USC)
7.39 LB Anthony Cannon (Tulane)
For you IDP players, Ernie Sims will be a great player in this league. Do what you can to get him in your keeper leagues to anchor your defense. But Roy Williams is the player to get on the Lions, I expect that he will break out and maybe even push towards the top 5 list at WR.
Green Bay Packers (2005 Record: 4-12)
QB Brett Favre, Aaron Rodgers
Brett has got to be questioning his decision to come back for one more NFL season. With a revamped offensive line, including 2 rookies starting at Guard, he will not be getting much time after the snap to make things happen. Aaron has solidified the backup QB spot, but it would do him good to get some playing time this season. I see that happening in two ways, Favre gets hurt or the Packers get blown out in a lot of games and Rodgers comes in for mop up duty. Avoid either QB this fantasy season.
RB Ahman Green, Najeh Davenport, Samkon Gado
I really see this team struggling this year, and the running game will suffer too. Both Ahman and Najeh suffered season ending injuries in back to back weeks last season. That opened the door for rookie Samkon Gado who quickly became a waiver wire phenomenon. If you have any interest in drafting a Green Bay RB, please reconsider. If you still need to, make sure you are taking a late round flyer on Gado and don’t put yourself into the situation where you need to rely on any of these guys. Even if they stay healthy, I don’t see the Pack scoring much to make it worth your while.
WR Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson, Rod Gardner, Greg Jennings
Going into last season, this unit was looking strong. Then Javon Walker tore an ACL and forced an off-season trade to the Broncos. Donald is the only WR remaining worth being drafted, unless you are in really deep league. But he is being drafted too high for the production he will get. If you can get him as your WR3, he will have some good games. Rod Gardner will try to latch on to his third NFL team, but I don’t see him making much of an impact. Expectations are high for rookie Greg Jennings, who should see some playing time in his rookie year.
TE Bubba Franks
Bubba is a great Tight End, just not a great Fantasy Tight End. He is a big target for Favre and will occasionally get a TD or two.
PK Dave Rayners
With scoring chances being few and far between for the Pack, Rayners isn’t a good option.
1.05 LB A.J. Hawk (Ohio State)
2.15 OL Daryn Colledge (Boise State)
2.20 WR Greg Jennings (Western Michigan)
3.03 LB Abdul Hodge (Iowa)
3.11 OL Jason Spitz (Louisville)
4.07 WR Cory Rodgers (Texas Christian)
4.18 CB Will Blackmon (Boston College)
5.15 QB Ingle Martin (Furman)
5.33 OL Tony Moll (Nevada)
6.14 DL Johnny Jolly (Texas A&M)
6.16 FS Tyrone Culver (Fresno State)
7.45 DE Dave Tollefson (NW Missouri State)
The two big names in the draft for the Packers were A.J. Hawk and Abdul Hodge, both LBs expected to make a big impact on the Packers Defense. I don’t see anyone on offense having a good year, so keep you eye on rookie Greg Jennings as a possible waiver wire candidate for the second half of the season. UPDATED – With Jennings being named the starter over Robert Ferguson, he may not stay on the free agent list too long. In deeper leagues grab him while you can.
Minnesota Vikings (2005 Record: 9-7)
QB Brad Johnson, Mike McMahon, Tarvaris Jackson
Daunte Culpepper has been traded to Miami, leaving the team in need of rebuilding. Veteran Brad Johnson will start the season at QB, but he is just holding the spot until rookie Tarvaris Jackson is ready. Other than a late round flyer on Brad Johnson there is no need to draft any of these QBs.
RB Chester Taylor, Mewelde Moore, Ciatrick Fason
Part of the rebuilding plan was to bring in former Raven Chester Taylor as the starting RB. Michael Bennett was traded (and then traded again landing in Kansas City) so that leaves just Mewelde Moore and Ciatrick Fason as backups. As long as he stays healthy, Chester should get a bulk of the carries and will make a decent RB3 option. If you need to rely on him as RB2, make sure you also get some depth at RB as I don’t see a lot of scoring from this team.
WR Troy Williamson, Travis Taylor, Marcus Robinson
It was finally Koren Robinson’s time to rebound. He had some very good games to end the 2005 season and was going to be the main WR on this squad. Then he got caught going over 100 MPH while drunk and was released from the team. Second year WR Troy Williamson will take over the #1 spot leaving the team very light at WR. Williamson is the only WR I’d recommend drafting from this squad.
TE Jermaine Wiggins, Jim Kleinsasser
Is it possible to have a TEBC? If there is, this is the definition of it. Both of these guys will get playing time and both will share the offensive production from the TE spot for the Vikings. With TE scoring usually low, it is not a good thing to be sharing.
PK Ryan Longwell
Ryan has an accurate and strong kicking leg. With the Vikings playing over half their games indoors, he could be a decent bye week kicker for you. That’s not saying much is it?
1.17 LB Chad Greenway (Iowa)
2.16 DB Cedric Griffin (Texas)
2.19 OL Ryan Cook (New Mexico)
2.32 QB Tarvaris Jackson (Alabama State)
4.30 DE Ray Edwards (Purdue)
5.17 FS Greg Blue (Georgia)
First round pick Chad Greenway suffered a serious knee injury and was put on IR ending his rookie year. In keeper leagues, I’d stash away rookie QB Tarvaris Jackson. This kid has some skills and is probably one of the reasons the Vikings were OK with trading Daunte Culpepper. He won’t make much of an impact this season, but you will be happy if you have him for future years.
Overall I see the Chicago Bears running away with the division. The only team that has a real shot to compete with them is Detroit. Both Green Bay and Minnesota will struggle this year to stay in games and their veteran QBs will pay the price. It wouldn’t surprise me to see both the Pack and the Vikings at the top of the draft next season.