2019 Fantasy Football Outlook: NFC North Edition

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MINNEAPOLIS, MN - DECEMBER 30: Dalvin Cook #33 of the Minnesota Vikings carries the ball for a gain against the Chicago Bears at U.S. Bank Stadium on December 30, 2018 in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Adam Bettcher/Getty Images)

Now that our football appetites have been whetted with the NFL draft, we’ll continue this momentum by discussing the upcoming 2019 fantasy football season. This week I’ll start with the NFC North, breaking down the top fantasy football players from each team.

2019 Fantasy Football Outlook: NFC North

Chicago Bears

Mitchell Trubisky showed, in his second year, that he is capable of leading the Bears’ offense. Trubisky threw for a respectable 66% completion rate and displayed the ability to produce with his legs. He rushed 68 times for 424 yards and three touchdowns. While weeks one through three were underwhelming, weeks four through eight showed the kind of ceiling he possesses. Trubisky scored over 25 FP (fantasy points) in each of those weeks. and led all quarterbacks with 55 FP in week four vs. Tampa Bay Buccaneers. He then added 41 FP in week 10 vs. Detroit Lions. Consider Trubisky match up dependent until he can prove that he can produce on a consistent basis. Trubisky’s ceiling makes him an attractive streaming option and a good choice as a QB2. He’s worth targeting in two QB leagues and in best ball leagues.

The Bears’ running game should be solid even with the loss of Jordan Howard (via trade to Philadelphia Eagles). The Bears still have the dynamic Tarik Cohen (double-digit FP in five weeks) and they added Mike Davis in free agency and human pinball David Montgomery, drafted in the third round, from Iowa State. Cohen should remain in his current role and is most valuable in PPR (points per reception) scoring formats. Keep your eyes on Montgomery this summer. He could fill the Jordan Howard role and eventually take on a featured role even though he’s small in stature. Some have compared him to Maurice Jones-Drew. Davis could begin the season as the primary ball carrier, however, I expect Montgomery to take over the job by mid-year (if not sooner). Add Montgomery in later rounds and the first or second round of dynasty leagues.

The main pass-catching targets remain the same. Allen Robinson (double-digit FP in only two weeks) heads the wide receiver unit with Anthony Miller getting targets in the slot and Taylor Gabriel stretching the field. Fantasy owners were expecting more from Trey Burton as he was selected by many as a TE1. He topped double digits in standard leagues only twice and did not offer much more in PPR formats. I like Robinson no more than a low-end WR2 and Burton as TE2. If Robinson gets hurt, which he’s had a propensity to do, jump on Miller.

Minnesota Vikings

Kirk Cousins’ first year in the Vikings offense was exactly what we’ve come to expect from him, solid but not spectacular. Cousins topped 20 fantasy points six times. His highest output was 41 FP in week two against Green Bay. However, with the weapons the Vikings have on offense, his fantasy output was not the caliber of a QB1. I like Cousins to improve in his second year. How could he not give his dearth of weapons? If you like to wait on the quarterback position until the end of the draft, you could do worse than Cousins as your QB1.

Dalvin Cook is now two years removed from a knee injury (suffered his rookie year). He was used sparingly in 2018 due to the presence of Latavius Murray. His workload increased the second half of the season in which he scored double-digit fantasy points in six out of the last eight games. Murray has moved on to the New Orleans Saints and all indications point to Cook being the workhorse for the 2019 season. Additionally, Cook has value in PPR formats as Cousins looked to him for screen passes. And, given Cook’s speed, he can bring it to the house at any time. One rookie notable is Alexander Mattison. He was added in the third round of the draft. I’d keep an eye on him if Cook isn’t able to hold up over the entirety of a season. I love Cook as RB2.

Not too much needs to be said regarding the Vikings wide receivers. Adam Thielen is still a WR 1 in all formats, especially PPR scoring, Diggs is a high-end WR2 and if you like to draft running backs in the first two rounds, Diggs would be a viable WR1. Kyle Rudolph ended last year as the 9th rated tight end in standard points formats. That may change a little this year with the addition of Irv Smith Jr. I’d take Rudolph as a low-end TE1 and draft Smith Jr. in dynasty.

Green Bay Packers

Although Aaron Rodgers had, what some consider, a down year, he topped 20 FP nine weeks. Four of those weeks he went for more than 30 FP. Still, this is less than what fantasy owners expect from Rodgers. Because of the perception that he’s in decline (due in most part to the Bleacher Report article regarding his relationship with coach Mike McCarthy, injuries and a new coach), he could be had later in your drafts than in the past.  There will be sexier, younger names picked ahead of Rodgers in your drafts this year. Your patience, in drafting a quarterback, could be rewarded in the later rounds. Monitor the pre-season closely to get a sense of how Rodgers works in Matt LaFleur‘s offense and adjust your rankings accordingly.

Aaron Jones is clearly the best running back. He topped double-digit fantasy points in weeks 10 through 14. If he becomes featured in LaFleur’s offense (and he should be) he would be a solid RB 2. He would make an excellent pick if your a zero running backs drafter. The downside to drafting Jones is how Jamaal Williams will be used in the offense. Williams offers little value unless Jones gets hurt (he missed the last three games to injury) or they use him in goal-line situations.

Davante Adams was the number one overall wide receiver of 2018. Adams received double-digit targets in all but 5 games (he missed week 17 to injury), however, he still averaged 8 targets in those four games. He also topped double digit fantasy points in every game but two (eight FP week four vs. Buffalo Bills and week 17). I would not expect much dropoff from those numbers, as he is clearly Rodgers’ favorite receiver. Other receiving options might earn you a win at Scrabble with names like Equanimeous St. Brown and Marquez Valdez-Scantling. If either of the two emerges as a secondary target, they might be worth a late round flyer. The Packers have veterans Jimmy Graham and Lance Kendricks at the tight end position. Graham was a fantasy bust as he was drafted as TE1 and Kendricks offers little value. A name to watch and add in dynasty leagues is tight end Jace Sternberger, drafted in the third round out of Texas A&M.

Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford was drafted as a low-end QB1 in many leagues and was most likely dropped midway through the season. It was a tale of two seasons for Stafford, with the exception of week one (nine fantasy points), Stafford was producing an average of 20 FP through week eight. After that, his fantasy output dropped off a cliff as he only averaged 11 fantasy points the rest of the way. Darrell Bevell was brought in to run a ball controlled offense. Statistically speaking I expect Stafford to be more efficient but not have eye-popping fantasy production. I view him as a back up at best. He might be a good streaming option in a favorable match-up.

Running back Kerryon Johnson should be featured in Bevell’s offense. In limited action, he displayed massive potential averaging 5.4 yards per carry and three receptions per game which left fantasy owners begging for more. I think it’s safe to project a similar workload to that of Chris Carson: approximately 15-20 touches and three to five receptions. Johnson also offers the ability to catch passes out of the backfield. The only question mark will be his health. The Lions brought in C.J. Anderson to beat up defenses in the fourth quarter and (at the moment) have Theo Riddick to catch passes out of the backfield on third down. I love Johnson as an RB2. My only worry is Anderson vulturing touches ala LeGarrette Blount.

The Lions have an above-average receiving corps led by Kenny Golladay. He will be the clear cut number one option for Stafford and should be viewed as a low-end WR2 or excellent WR3. Golladay topped 100 yards three times and produced double-digit fantasy points seven times. Marvin Jones will be Detroit’s number two option. He reached double-digit FP in just three games and missed the entire second half of the season. He might be worth an add in deeper leagues but in leagues less than 12 teams; I’m leaving him on the free agency wire. Danny Amendola was added via free agency and could garner some PPR attention, but he’s not worth adding. The Lions also brought in Jesse James and drafted T.J. Hockenson to improve the tight end position. I’m not drafting either, but keep a close eye on how they’re used. I like Hockenson in dynasty leagues.

Last Word

I’m intrigued by Trubisky’s potential and the possibility of Rodgers’ average draft position falling due to public perception. I expect one, if not all, of the running backs: Cook, Jones, and Johnson to have a break out year. Finally, I’m keeping an eye on rookies Montgomery, Smith Jr., Sternberger, and Hockenson for dynasty leagues.

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