Fantasy

Fantasy Spotlight: NFC North Breakdown

CHIChicago Bears

Smokin’ Jay Cutler adds flair and douchebaggery to this offense that is unparalleled by any other fantasy offense. The Bears have one of the biggest “WTF happened here?” factors when it comes to fantasy production. I can tell you exactly what happened. Jay Cutler happened, honey. Just because you CAN make every throw doesn’t mean you should try. Still, his daring approach makes for tantalizing fantasy options in the passing game and with how much the offensive line has historically struggled to keep him on his feet, Matt Forte gets an incredible volume of work underneath. For a team that isn’t particularly good, the fact that they had two players lead their position in total receptions is exciting for fantasy owners. Any fantasy owner that isn’t a Bears fan doesn’t give a damn that Jay Cutler is an angsty headcase as long as he’s not the one they’re relying on every week.

Bustworthy Beauty: Martellus Bennett, TE
H/T: isportsweb.com

H/T: isportsweb.com

For those expecting 90 catches again, y’all are going to be disappointed. I think Bennett is a good tight end and should definitely be owned as a top ten value at the position but I can’t imagine both Bennett AND Forte will lead their positions in catches again. Brandon Marshall’s injury played a part in the increased work for both Forte and Bennett (Marshall had just 61 catches.). Also, Trestman’s offense was very focused on its key pieces. Their top four target hogs were Jeffery (145 targets), Forte (130 targets), Bennett (129 targets), and Marshall (105 targets). The rest of the team had 97 targets combined. I expect there to be a more even spread of the ball in 2015, if anything just to lower the workloads for their main players.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Jay Cutler, QB
thenypost.com

thenypost.com

I know he’s an asshole. And I know that he isn’t the quarterback we expect him to be, but maybe THIS is the year? It was supposed to be last year as it seems the stars were aligning. It was the best offense he’d ever had with two elite wideouts (Marshall and Jeffery), the best pass-catching running back in Matt Forte, and a more than serviceable tight end. I don’t think Cutler’s problem has EVER been talent. He can make all the throws, he just makes them… wrong. The implosion factor is always there with Cutler but if he can piece it together he has a lot of upside. Losing Marshall is a big hit since he won’t be able to force throws downfield and have it work out quite as much, but Kevin White should be able to step in and fill that void. I expect an uptick in terrible forced throws to Alshon because of that, hoping he can fill that role completely. I would be uncomfortable with Cutler as a QB1 but with a safe starter in hand (like Matt Ryan, Ryan Tannehill, Ben Roethlisberger), Cutler is a great boom-or-bust play.

PPR Princess: Matt Forte, RB
H/T: bleacherreport.com

H/T: bleacherreport.com

Matt Forte set an NFL record for receptions by a running back last season with 102. Let that sink in… He had 102 catches. He’s a running back. Holy Trestman. Well, Trestman is gone, so 102 catches won’t come even if Cutler spends half his time on his ass again, but Forte is head and shoulders above every other tailback as the best receiving back in the game. He’s quite underdrafted at this point, even in PPR leagues, slotting in at the back end of the first or early in the second. I understand that the PPR format recommends scoring high on a wide receiver, but receiver is so much deeper it’s probably worth waiting there to lock in someone of Forte’s caliber. Forte’s 102 catches were fourth in the league (after Antonio Brown (129), Demaryius Thomas (111), and Julio Jones (104)). Running backs are hard to come by already and Forte is right on par with elite wide receivers in terms of volume, making him a consideration for a top five spot in PPR leagues no questions asked.

Dynasty Darling: Alshon Jeffery, WR
sportsmockery.com

sportsmockery.com

Now that Brandon Marshall is gone, Alshon becomes the new Marshall as the go-to guy in Chicago. Kevin White steps into the understudy role and with the rest of the pieces from this offense intact, a similar output could be expected all around. I expect Alshon to get a similar volume of targets or even a small rise in target numbers with Kevin White learning the position and both Forte and Bennett expecting a drop coming off of career seasons. I would even go the distance and say that Alshon will finish 2015 as a top five receiver if the chips fall in place and that’s even more incentive to make an extra reach if necessary and grab him earlier in dynasty formats.

 

DETDetroit Lions

I’ve always felt like the Lions offense disappoints during the season. There’s a lot of potential on this offense and it doesn’t seem to reach that potential. That falls squarely on the shoulders of Matthew Stafford who has all the talent but can’t seem to limit his mistakes and come up big when necessary. He turns the ball over too much and generally when you want to score points (and thus fantasy points) it’s imperative to keep the ball. I’m still a believer that Stafford can be a top five NFL quarterback someday but he really needs to giddy-up and get on it because he won’t have the most uncoverable receiver in football forever.

Bustworthy Beauty: Joique Bell, RB
H/T: www.profootballfocus.com

H/T: www.profootballfocus.com

Last year I predicted that Joique Bell would end up with more fantasy points than Reggie Bush and I was very right. Reggie Bush got hurt and Joique Bell took over lead back duties. Well this year, I predict that Ameer Abdullah will end up with more fantasy points than Joique Bell and I’m bullish that I’ll be right. Joique Bell is just an average back and that’s all there is to it. He’s not bad but he’s not fast (4.68 40 at the combine) and his 3.9 yards per carry last year is nothing to smile about. Joique has limited upside and he had to be the lead back last year because Reggie Bush is overrated, constantly injured, and definitely not fit to be an every down back anywhere.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Calvin Johnson, WR
H/T: sports.yahoo.com

H/T: sports.yahoo.com

A healthy Calvin Johnson is the most uncoverable receiver in football. That’s a fact. Sure, health is officially a question mark for him and the decoy usage last season was incredibly frustrating, but given his track record and the fact that he still was a top 15 receiver in a “terrible” season. I understand expectations are high for him, but it’s very difficult for a position player to repeat success like that in such an unpredictable sport. When you invest in Calvin Johnson, you invest in talent and if it doesn’t quite pan out, you have to take the hit because there’s a lot of justification to that pick. He’s being drafted somewhat fairly as the fifth or sixth wide receiver on the board but I think he should be going higher. Fantasy owners are reactionary and that pushes player draft stock up and down based on recent production.

PPR Princess: Golden Tate, WR
H/T: fansided.com

H/T: fansided.com

Golden Tate’s first season in Detroit was bomb. This is the same guy I drafted in his rookie season just because his name was Golden and not because I expected him to amount to much at the NFL level. And in Seattle, he was a WR4 caliber player at best. Oh how the tides changed in Detroit. 99 catches and 1300+ yards pushed Tate to WR #13 in fantasy last season. Even this year, he’s going a little late in the fifth and sixth rounds because I expect a similar output. The yardage may come down but the targets should still be there as the second best option on the team. Stafford is a gunslinger and he’ll be looking for both of his main receivers A LOT. Calvin is the more explosive threat, but given question marks on health, Tate may be the “safer” option.

Dynasty Darling: Ameer Abdullah, RB
H/T: wiat.com

H/T: wiat.com

Tight end Eric Ebron was a consideration here but honestly I’m not sold on his talent  yet. Tight end is a hard position to learn and it takes quite some time to grow into the role. Ameer Abdullah, on the other hand, steps right into what should be his role very soon. Joique Bell is nothing special and Abdullah has the chance to be something special. He has ability to contribute in all facets of the game (returned kicks in his career as well) and while he may not develop into a three down back in the NFL because of his size (He’s quite small at 5’9″ 205 pounds) he definitely has more upside than Joique Bell. I’m not going to jump fully on this bandwagon because we’ve seen smaller running backs with similar skill sets struggle to cope with the beating (Andre Ellington (who is much faster) is the most recent example, and the guy he projected to be on draft day (Jahvid Best) is another example to note). The smaller backs that have had success (Ray Rice, Maurice Jones-Drew, Frank Gore) have profiled as bigger backs who can run in between the tackles. To be a staple in the NFL Abdullah likely needs to put on some weight, but the raw skills are there.

 

GBGreen Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is a baaaaaaaad man. That makes this offense a baaaaaaaad offense. If there is a 2015 offense to guarantee a share in, it’s this one. That’s not because it’s the most explosive offense or strongest offense we’ve seen, but rather because it’s the most reliable. I trust Aaron Rodgers and I trust this team the most on a week-to-week basis. I know what I’ll get from every player and because fantasy football is so unpredictable, consistency is very important. Don’t always go for a home run and strike out. Just make contact and get on base (Granted, a lot of this offense is a home run anyway.).

Bustworthy Beauty: Davante Adams, WR
H/T: nflspinzone.com

H/T: nflspinzone.com

Okay, I like this kid, but he’s starting to get so much hype as a sleeper that he won’t be a sleeper for much longer. Currently projecting in the 12th-14th round area which is fantastic value, but the number of “DAVANTE ADAMS IS THE SLEEPER TO BUY” articles and discussions expects to make him look like… not as much of a sleeper anymore. Let’s face the facts. Aaron Rodgers will throw the ball 40 times a game. Even if just five go to running backs, Jordy and Cobb expect about 20 combined, Richard Rodgers (yuck) and Andrew Quarless the wandering gunman eat up say another five. Then there’s Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis and rookie Ty Montgomery. That leaves maybe five targets a game for Davante Adams, give or take. I just think the expectations are a bit high given he’s at best the fourth option on the team (after Jordy, Cobb, and Lacy).

Sleeping Sweetheart: Aaron Rodgers, QB
H/T: www.cbssports.com

H/T: www.cbssports.com

Is it possible for the best quarterback in the world and reigning MVP to be a sleeper? He’s the first quarterback off the board in almost every non-dynasty draft board (going in the late second or third round) but while that’s the case, I would argue he be taken even earlier. Fantasy football is A LOT of swing and misses and drafting is based around management of risk. If you ask me one player that I’m MOST sure of will produce for me every week no matter what, that answer is Aaron Rodgers. And he will produce well pretty much every week. Owning the premier player at a position induces a lot of confidence and maybe this is more mental than anything, but there is a comfort to owning a guy like Rodgers. If my draft goes, say Arian Foster, A.J. Green, Justin Forsett or something in the first three round, I like what I have but I’m nervous. Arian Foster’s health concerns me, A.J. Green’s quarterback’s incompetence concerns me, Justin Forsett’s 29 year old body and one-year wonder nature of his play concerns me. If I have Aaron Rodgers instead I know I have the most reliable fantasy producer in the highest scoring position. Regardless of positional scarcity, the point of the game is to put up the most points possible.

PPR Princess: Jordy Nelson, WR
H/T: bleacherreport.com

H/T: bleacherreport.com

Jordy Nelson is one of the safest options at the receiver position in the league. He’s not flashy but when you have the best quarterback in the world throwing the ball to you, all you have to do is be in position and not drop the ball. Good news: Jordy can do both of those things. In an offense that is bound to spread the ball around, Nelson’s targets are the least likely to diminish. He’s not as explosive as Randall Cobb in the slot but he’s dependable, sure-handed, and most importantly, the baaaaaad man thinks he’s a good man and will throw him the football.

Dynasty Darling: Randall Cobb, WR
H/T: blogs.nfl.com

H/T: blogs.nfl.com

Cobb’s talent is so exciting and at just 25 he’s the go-to skill option on this roster in a dynasty league, even over Eddie Lacy. My opinion there involves my lack of faith in the running back position. Running back situations are so fluid it’s hard to assume anything about running backs in the long-term. Even guys that I like, I’m not SURE about. Latavius Murray is one of those guys. I think I like him as a solution for the Raiders but if I had to choose a dynasty piece on that team, I’m picking Amari Cooper because I trust the longevity of a receiver more than any running back. In dynasty formats I’d rather have DeVante Parker or Jarvis Landry than Lamar Miller in Miami. I’d rather have Demaryius Thomas than C.J. Anderson any day of the week, and the list goes on there. On this team, Eddie Lacy is a real consideration and to some he’s the better option because of positional scarcity. Hell, you can make a case for Aaron Rodgers too. At 31, he has at least four or five more years of elite production. Take your pick here, you probably won’t be wrong.

 

MINMinnesota Vikings

It’s strange that an offense led by Adrian Peterson is the worst fantasy offense in the division, but that’s the case. Norv Turner’s offense injects some upside, but we’re still unsure about the passing game (It seems to be trending in the right direction, but there are still relative unknowns here.) Adrian Peterson is great, but it’s harder for a running back to do it by himself like he has for the last few years. At 30, he should have already fallen off the running back cliff but his talent is keeping him going. I’m just concerned that the expiration date on him is coming sooner than we want it to, and I’m not sure how much this offense can do without him.

Bustworthy Beauty: Adrian Peterson, RB
H/T: taylorblitztimes.com

H/T: taylorblitztimes.com

WAIT. Don’t panic. Adrian Peterson will most likely be good and clearly an RB1 in any format. However, I am skeptical taking him first overall as many are considering. I am skeptical taking him in the top three, and I can make a case that he should go sixth. There are six running backs in conversation for the first overall pick (Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy, Arian Foster, and Adrian Peterson), and while there are a few that project above the others (AP is one of those), you could make a strong case for any of the six. The case for Adrian Peterson is this: He’s probably still the best running back in the NFL. In his absence, the secretly good Jerick McKinnon and the actually awful Matt Asiata were a top ten running back combined. Adrian Peterson is better than them and should be EASILY a top ten running back. The case against Adrian Peterson: He’s 30, he hasn’t played football in a year, he doesn’t particularly want to be there, and we’re not sure if the Vikings will be good enough to afford give him the ball 25 times a game. I just feel that there are safer options on the board. For completeness sake, I rank these running backs Le’Veon Bell, Jamaal Charles, Marshawn Lynch, Eddie Lacy, Adrian Peterson, and then Arian Foster. I’m not saying avoid Adrian Peterson, I’m just saying don’t count your touchdowns before they’re scored.

Sleeping Sweetheart: Charles Johnson, WR
H/T: www.twincities.com

H/T: www.twincities.com

With Jennings gone and Adrian Peterson back to distract defenses, one of these receiving options is primed to have a breakout year. Most people have money on Charles Johnson, so what the heck, add ours to the pot. It’s not so much that I LOVE Charles Johnson, I just don’t think Jarius Wright is special, I think Kyle Rudolph is useless, and Cordarrelle Patterson might end up being a poor man’s Percy Harvin, and have you SEEN Harvin recently? Charles Johnson becomes the WR2 behind Wallace almost by default, and someone’s got to catch the ball. Bridgewater is not incompetent back there and I expect them to look deep to both their speedy outside receivers in Norv Turner’s aggressive offense.

PPR Princess: Pick a Receiver and Throw Him the Ball Over and Over and He’ll Become the PPR Princess

The Vikes leading receiver last year was a washed up Greg Jennings (Why the hell is he washed up at 31? He might need to quit his day job.) He had 59 catches and the next highest, Jarius Wright, had 42. Well Jennings is gone and replaced by Mike Wallace. Mike Wallace is definitely not a volume guy, so unless someone like Charles Johnson (with his blazing speed, it’s unlikely), Jarius Wright (meh), or Cordarrelle Patterson (good joke) breaks out to be a volume target, take your PPR interests somewhere else.

Dynasty Darling: Teddy Bridgewater, QB
H/T: bleacherreport.com

H/T: bleacherreport.com

Bridgewater showed flashes of excellence last year taking over for Matt Cassel. The 14-12 TD-INT ratio is a little troubling, but growing pains were to be expected. He led the league in red zone completion percentage last year and has the raw athleticism to maintain a good production floor with his legs. Teddy’s arm strength is enough to “make any throw necessary” in Norv Turner’s offense, so we may be primed for a 2015 breakout season to spice up the pot for future production. He has two great athletes on the outside and the luxury of Adrian Peterson behind him as the best football player on the field at any given time. Sometimes I’m skeptical of young quarterbacks (Mariota this year, for example) but Teddy is not one of those quarterbacks.

 

Yesterday: NFC East

Check in tomorrow for our NFC South Breakdown.

Click here to return to the 2015 Divisional Roster Breakdown homepage to catch the other articles in this series.

 

Featured Image: www.scrippsmedia.com

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