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Training Camp Preview: NFC North

Fri Jul 26 9:16am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Rodgers played hurt last year


This is the sixth preview in a series of training camp previews. We will continue to release the previews throughout the week. The previews give you a quick look at each team, going over position battles and injuries to watch in camp. The season is right around the corner.

Packers

The Packers have a new coaching staff for the first time in a long time. This means the team has to learn a new offense and defense for the coming year. This will be the big theme of training camp for Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers has a new offense to learn for the first time in his entire career, so there could be a learning curve for him. Keep an eye on the team’s progress during camp. There could be some bumps along the way.

Position battle: The big position battle in Packers camp is for the right to start opposite Davante Adams. The two most likely candidates are Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Packers have a lot of young receiver vying for playing time but these two players stand out above the rest. Many think Valdes-Scantling is the most likely to earn the job but don’t discount Allison, who has produced with past chances. The winner of this job will have some fantasy value for the coming year in the Packers pass-first offense. 

Injury watch: Aaron Rodgers played the entire season last year, but was hurt much of the year. He played at less than 100 percent because of a tibial plateau fracture and a sprained medial collateral ligament. It is pretty amazing he was able to play with these injuries. He is recovered from the injuries but his health is really a key to the Packers season. He played hurt last year and was limited to just seven games the previous year. Injuries have been a factor for him in recent years.

Vikings

There were high hopes for the Vikings last year with Kirk Cousins now on board as their franchise quarterback, but things didn’t go quite as planned. Cousins had an up and down season and the team followed his lead with inconsistent play. Minnesota will look to right the ship this training camp. Much of the year might depend on Cousins. He will need to play more consistent football if the Vikings hope to return to the playoffs. Cousins has a new offense to learn but could be a better fit for the system, which bodes well for him. We will get our first look at Cousins and the new offense, starting in camp. 

Position battle: The Vikings surprised some by using a second-round pick on tight end Irv Smith in this year’s draft. Smith is a pretty complete tight end that does well as a blocker and receiver. He will look to push Kyle Rudolph for the starting job this year. Rudolph has produced for the Vikings in recent year but probably hasn’t been the player the team hoped. He could lose out on playing time to the rookie this year.

Injury watch: Running back Dalvin Cook has played 15 games in two seasons. He missed time again last year after missing nearly all of his rookie year. Cook has really struggled to stay on the field to start his career. He seems to be over his hamstring injury from last year, though, and should be 100 percent for the start of the camp. The trick for Cook is now staying healthy for the entire season. We’ll see if he is able to do that. 

Lions

Detroit had a season to forget last year, finishing 6-10. The team is in a bit of rebuild mode after trading and letting some key players from past teams go. Some younger players will get their chance to shine this year, though, so much of this camp should focus on the progress of those young players. Can guys like Kerryon Johnson and Kenny Golladay take their games to new levels this year? The Lions sure hope that is the case, giving them a chance to shine this year. 

Position battle: The Lions made some changes at tight end this offseason, signing Jesse James and drafting T.J. Hockenson. Both these guys will challenge for the right to start. James might have the edge because of his experience, but Hockenson is the future of the position for the Lions. He should be given every opportunity to start because he provides the most potential for big things. James can be a bigger asset as a blocker. 

Injury watch: Quarterback Matthew Stafford played every game last season but played with a back injury much of the year. He reportedly played with broken bones in his back, which could explain his down play. Stafford didn’t play at his usual level, struggling with accuracy and consistency. He should be over his back injury for the start of this year but keep an eye on him in camp to make sure he looks back to old form. Stafford could be a sneaky late pick for fantasy teams this year if he is healthy and back to his old self. 

Bears

The Bears had a great season last year, going 12-4. Expectations are going to be very high for this team and with good reason. It is a pretty complete squad. The big thing to watch this training camp could be the progression of starting quarterback Mitchell Trubisky, though. He played well last year but had some consistency issues. If the Bears truly hope to be a special team, they will need Trubisky to play at a high level all season. 

Position battle: The Bears will have a battle on their hands for the starting running back job. The team signed Mike Davis this offseason and drafted David Montgomery. These guys will battle it out for the right to start. Davis had a breakout season last year with the Seahawks, showing he could start and produce at a high level in the league. Montgomery is a three-down back that can carry the load. He probably has the edge to start but don’t discount Davis. He just made plays when given the chance last season. 

Injury watch: Tight end Trey Burton had hernia surgery this offseason. He should be ready for the start of camp but nothing is 100 percent certain right now. Keep an eye on his progress to make sure he doesn’t have any setbacks. Burton can play a big role in the offense, an offense that likes to look for the tight end. He didn’t have quite the season as expected last year but could turn things around this year in year two with the Bears.

Jeff Paur is a two-time finalist for FSWA Fantasy Football Writer of the Year and won the FSWA award for Best Fantasy Football Article on the Web in 2011. He also was the most accurate expert in 2012, winning the FSTA Fantasy Football Accuracy Award. If you have any questions for Jeff, email him at jeff@rtsports.com. Follow Jeff on Twitter @jeffpaur.

Player Notes
Amari Cooper Sep 18 12:50pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper (ankle) is not expected to miss any time in Week 2. Cooper was a late addition to the injury report this week, which is always concerning, but it seems he is fine and fully expected to play. Cooper is a high-upside WR1 as long as he suits up, as the Falcons Defense was annihilated by the Seahawks passing game last week. Cooper will match up with rookie defensive back A.J. Terrell.

From RotoBaller

Chris Godwin Sep 18 12:50pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers wide receiver Chris Godwin (concussion) remains in the league's concussion protocol and will be listed as doubtful for Week 2 against the Panthers. Godwin will go through more tests on Saturday, and if doctors clear him then, he will be upgraded to questionable. The good news is that Tampa's game is early on Sunday, but even then, you should be making plans to be without Godwin this weekend. Mike Evans will be a strong WR1 play with Godwin likely sidelined, while slot man Scotty Miller is also quickly rising up the PPR ranks as a flex play in deeper leagues. Both tight ends Rob Gronkowski and O.J. Howard become a bit more attractive as well in a good matchup against Carolina's shaky defense.

From RotoBaller

Buffalo Bills Sep 18 12:40pm ET

Buffalo Bills linebackers Matt Milano (hamstring) and Tremaine Edmunds (shoulder) have both been ruled out for Week 2 against the Dolphins, according to head coach Sean McDermott. Both Milano and Edmunds have appeal in IDP leagues as tacklers, but you will not be able to plug them into your lineups this Sunday. However, even with Buffalo's middle of the defense at less than full strength, the Bills Defense/special teams should remain a top-five fantasy unit in Week 2 against a less-than-stellar Dolphins backfield that includes Jordan Howard, Matt Breida and Myles Gaskin.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Sep 18 12:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd finished with seven catches for 72 yards and a score during the Thursday night loss to Cleveland. The 25-year-old made a noticeable improvement in this one after a miserable four-catch, 33-yard performance in Week 1 against the visiting Chargers. Though A.J. Green eclipsed Boyd for looks from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow (13), he still made enough noise to appease the fantasy managers who had him starting. While Boyd will likely have a few more performances like the one he had against Los Angeles, he should also produce some efficient outings moving ahead.

From RotoBaller

C.J. Uzomah Sep 18 12:40pm ET

Updating a previous report, Cincinnati Bengals head coach Zac Taylor said that tight end C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) will miss the rest of the season with a torn Achilles that he suffered in the Thursday night loss to the Browns. It had the looks of a season-ending injury when he was carted off the field. Uzomah will finish 2020 with eight catches on 11 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown in two games. Drew Sample should be expected to step in as the starter in Cincinnati, and although tight ends usually see more run with rookie quarterbacks, he'll be a low-end TE2 not worth chasing in the majority of leagues.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Sep 18 12:30pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon ran for 46 yards off of 16 carries during the loss to the Browns. He also added four catches for 40 yards. Mixon trended in the wrong direction on the ground after posting 69 yards against the Los Angeles Chargers in Week 1. However, he did make his PPR fantasy managers a little more comfortable by providing an uptick in receptions and receiving yards. Nonetheless, opposing defenses may start paying additional attention to rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow after his three-touchdown performance on Thursday night. As a result, the door may open a little wider for the former Sooner to get some extra breathing room moving ahead, so fantasy managers should continue to give him a few more chances to turn things around before even considering benching him.

From RotoBaller

C.J. Uzomah Sep 18 12:30pm ET

The Cincinnati Bengals fear that tight end C.J. Uzomah (Achilles) suffered a torn Achilles during the Thursday night loss to the Browns, according to a source. Uzomah had been one of rookie quarterback Joe Burrow's most effective targets in the early going through two weeks, but he was carted off the field on Thursday night. He'll undergo an MRI exam on Friday. The 27-year-old has eight catches on 11 targets for 87 yards and a touchdown through two games, but this had the looks of a season-ending injury. In a best-case scenario, Uzomah will probably be out for multiple weeks, which would make Drew Sample the team's top pass-catching tight end. If that's the case, Sample would merely be a low-end TE2 for fantasy gamers.

From RotoBaller

Jamison Crowder Sep 18 11:40am ET

New York Jets wide receiver Jamison Crowder (hamstring) will miss his team's Week 2 contest against the San Francisco 49ers. This leaves the Jets really shallow at receiver, with Breshad Perriman taking on the role as the team's No. 1 option this week. Perriman becomes an intriguing flex play, though the 49ers Defense is really good and the Jets passing attack as the ability to be really inconsistent. We might also see more of Braxton Berrios, but he's not really a fantasy option outside of being a cheap punt play in DFS contests.

From RotoBaller

Michael Thomas Sep 18 11:00am ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Michael Thomas (ankle) "felt fantastic" at practice on Thursday and there is a "little glimmer of hope" that he can play on Monday night against the Raiders, according to a source. It's still unlikely that Thomas plays with his high ankle sprain, but the Saints were pleased with Thomas' progress even though he didn't actually practice. With the Saints playing on Monday this week, you almost have no choice but to bench the All-Pro wideout this week. The 27-year-old is making good progress, though, so there's an outside chance he could be back for Week 3. With Thomas likely out, Emmanuel Sanders and Jared Cook should be quarterback Drew Brees' go-to targets through the air against Las Vegas.

From RotoBaller

Joe Burrow Sep 18 10:20am ET

Cincinnati Bengals quarterback Joe Burrow had a terrific showing against the Browns in his Thursday night debut. The rookie threw for three touchdown tosses and 316 yards on 37-for-61 passing. He also had seven attempts for 19 yards. While the first-year signal-caller had issues with ball security by fumbling twice, the Bengals' coaching staff and front office personnel were likely ecstatic with Burrow's overall performance in this one. The former Heisman trophy winner has now racked up four total scores on the year in addition to demonstrating maturity and game management well beyond his years. Fantasy managers in all formats, especially those in need of a quarterback, should take notice, as he likely has some more positive outings in the works throughout the rest of the 2020 campaign.

From RotoBaller

Joshua Kelley Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers No. 2 running back Joshua Kelley is coming off of a nice Week 1 performance and will look to solidify himself as part of the backfield in Week 2 versus the Kansas City Chiefs. Although starting running back Austin Ekeler led the team with 67% of the snaps, Kelley chipped in with 24% and made the most of the opportunity presented to him. The rookie rushed 12 times for 60 yards and a touchdown in his Week 1 matchup versus the Bengals. Kelley has been making a strong impression on the coaching staff since training camp and has leap frogged Justin Jackson for the number two spot behind Austin Ekeler. Jackson did have 11 snaps, but that could decrease with the way Kelley is running. Kelley is shaping up to be one of the better insurance policies for managers and should be considered in leagues of 10-12 managers. He also makes for a cheaper option in DFS leagues for the time being.

From RotoBaller

Keenan Allen Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen had a rough opening week against the Bengals and will look to get back on track versus the Kansas City Chiefs in Week 2. Allen was only able to muster four catches for 37 yards on eight targets in Week 1 with his new quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Allen is coming off of a 104-catch season and has consistently been one of the better options at his position. The loss of quarterback Philip Rivers to the Colts is expected to impact Allen, but he should still be able to put up strong numbers with Taylor behind center. The Chiefs are an 8.5-point favorite versus their division foe and thats a good sign that the Chargers could be behind and more likely to pass the ball. Allen also will be going up against a young Chiefs secondary and that could play to his advantage. He should be considered a WR2 heading into Sunday.

From RotoBaller

Mike Williams Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams will look to build off of a solid Week 1 performance with a matchup against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. Williams was dealing with a shoulder injury last week, but was still able to grab four catches for 69 yards on nine targets. The most important part of that line is that quarterback Tyrod Taylor was looking for his big target a bunch. Taylor isnt the most accurate quarterback, but Williams has shown flashes of being able to make spectacular catches in his young career. With the Chargers likely to be playing behind on Sunday, they may have no choice but to pass and Williams could be a part of that attack. Williams will be going up against a young secondary and could be considered a for the flex position in deeper leagues.

From RotoBaller

Hunter Henry Sep 18 9:30am ET

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry will look to build off his Week 1 performance with a date against the Kansas City Chiefs on Sunday. The injury prone tight end put together a team-high 73 yards with five catches and saw eight targets in Week 1 versus the Bengals. Henry was a favorite of new quarterback Tyrod Taylor and is likely to continue to see a decent share of targets in Week 2 as the Chargers could potentially be battling an uphill fight. Henry has shown the ability to be a top-10 tight end when he is healthy and should be rostered in all formats. He will compete with Austin Ekeler, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams for touches this season and already looks like a favorite of Taylor in the offense.

From RotoBaller

Cleveland Browns Sep 18 12:20am ET

The Cleveland Browns Defense picked up three sacks in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Cleveland also recovered a Joe Burrow fumble near the Cincinnati goal line in the game, which wasn't as close as the final score indicates. Myles Garrett led the way as he was the one who forced the Burrow fumble on a sack in the third quarter. The Browns offense cashed in on that turnover two plays later on a Nick Chubb one-yard touchdown run. Cleveland's defense has another plus matchup in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Odell Beckham Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. caught four of his six targets for 74 yards and a touchdown in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. Beckham and Baker Mayfield connected for a pretty 43-yard touchdown in the second quarter to give Cleveland their second TD of the evening. That went in the books as Beckham's first score of the 2020 season. The star receiver has now drawn 16 targets through the first two games of the season, totalling seven catches for 96 yards. He will be a solid WR2 in Week 3 when he faces the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller

Michael Pittman Jr. Sep 18 12:10am ET

Indianapolis Colts rookie wide receiver Michael Pittman Jr. (toe) was a limited practice participant on Thursday after not showing up on the injury report on Wednesday. Pittman should be good to go on Sunday against the Vikings as long as he doesn't have any setbacks. The talented big-bodied receiver played fewer snaps than Zach Pascal in the season opener, finishing with two catches for only 10 yards in his NFL debut. Even if tight end Jack Doyle (ankle, knee) doesn't play, Pittman is too far down the pecking order in Indy's passing game to be considered a viable fantasy starter in most leagues.

From RotoBaller

Jarvis Landry Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Jarvis Landry caught three of his four targets for 46 yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was a quiet game for Landry, who can normally be counted upon to see more than four targets in most games. That being said, the Cleveland offense under new head coach Kevin Stefanski wants to be run-heavy, which will cut into Landry's looks. Landry has caught eight of 10 targets for 107 scoreless yards through the first two games of the season. He will take on the Washington Football Team in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Duke Johnson Sep 18 12:10am ET

Houston Texans running back Duke Johnson (ankle) practiced on a limited basis on Thursday for the second straight day. Johnson was listed as week-to-week after suffering an ankle injury last Thursday in the season opener, but it looks as though he's made some quick progress. However, even if the 27-year-old winds up playing against a nasty Ravens Defense this week, he'll be a desperation flex play in PPR leagues. Buddy Howell is set to be the primary backup to David Johnson if Duke Johnson has to sit this one out.

From RotoBaller

Austin Hooper Sep 18 12:10am ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Austin Hooper caught two of four targets for 21 scoreless yards in a 35-30 win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 2. It was another quiet game for Hooper, who only caught two passes for 15 yards in the season opener against the Baltimore Ravens. There was some hope he would have more chances in Week 2 after David Njoku was placed on injured reserve earlier in the week. It didn't help that the Browns only attempted 23 passes in a game that wasn't as close as the final score indicates. With just four catches for 36 yards through two games, Hooper is slipping into low-end TE2 territory in fantasy. He will look to rebound in Week 3 against the Washington Football Team.

From RotoBaller