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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
Phillip Dorsett Sep 22 5:30pm ET

The Seattle Seahawks are placing wide receiver Phillip Dorsett II (foot) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday, according to a source. Dorsett will be eligible to return in three weeks, and it'll give him some time to let his injured foot heal. The earliest he'll be able to return will be in Week 6. He hasn't played yet in 2020. Dorsett's injury has opened the door for David Moore as the No. 3 behind wideouts DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Moore took advantage in the Week 2 win over the Patriots, catching all three of his targets for 48 yards and his first touchdown of the year. However, he's still a reach in deep leagues, as he's competing with rookie Freddie Swain and has only six targets through two games.

From RotoBaller

Dee Ford Sep 22 3:33pm ET

San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (back) is expected to miss Week 3 against the New York Giants, and there appears to be no clear timetable for his return, according to multiple sources.

From TheHuddle

Dion Lewis Sep 22 3:00pm ET

If all goes well with COVID-19 testing, the New York Giants will sign free-agent running back Devonta Freeman, according to sources. Freeman visited with the Eagles a few days ago, but it's looking like he'll land with the Giants after they lost Saquon Barkley (knee) for the season. The veteran back has 43 scrimmage touchdowns since 2014, which is tied for 11th in the NFL in that span. Freeman should eventually become the team's lead back, but it remains to be seen how long before that'll happen. Until then, Dion Lewis and Wayne Gallman will split touches, making this a tough backfield to get behind until Freeman gets up to speed. For those hurting at running back early in the season, Freeman will be an attractive waiver pickup heading into Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Devonta Freeman Sep 22 2:33pm ET

Free-agent RB Devonta Freeman (Falcons) reportedly agreed to terms on an undisclosed contract with the New York Giants on Tuesday, Sept. 22.

Fantasy Spin: Freeman is reportedly waiting to get through COVID-19 protocols, but it appears the deal will happen if everything checks out OK. If the deal comes together as expected, the former Atlanta Falcon can't be expected to do much in Week 3 but should be expected to lead this backfield at some point early in October. Unfortunately, he graded out as one of the worst running backs analytically last season, so it's debatable what he might be able to offer fantasy owners. Consider him a low-end flex option at best.

From TheHuddle

Kyle Lauletta Sep 22 2:13pm ET

Atlanta Falcons QB Kyle Lauletta was released from the practice squad Tuesday, Sept. 22.

From TheHuddle

Saquon Barkley Sep 22 2:03pm ET

New York Giants RB Saquon Barkley (knee) was placed on the Reserve/Injured list with a torn anterior cruciate ligament in his knee Tuesday, Sept. 22. CB Ryan Lewis was elevated from the practice squad to take Barkley's spot on the roster.

From TheHuddle

Parris Campbell Sep 22 1:50pm ET

The Indianapolis Colts placed wide receiver Parris Campbell (knee) on Injured Reserve on Tuesday with injuries to his MCL and PCL. The team also put safety Malik Hooker (Achilles) on IR, and he'll miss the entire season. The Colts are saying that Campbell will be out indefinitely, but he'll be eligible to return from the IR in three weeks. Without a timetable for a return, the 23-year-old can be dropped in shallow formats if you don't have the room to stash him. Rookie Michael Pittman Jr. and Zach Pascal will see more targets alongside T.Y. Hilton with Campbell out, but this Colts team could be transitioning to more of a run-first offense behind their stellar offensive line.

From RotoBaller

Malik Hooker Sep 22 1:33pm ET

Indianapolis Colts WR Parris Campbell (knee) and S Malik Hooker (Achilles) were placed on the Reserve/Injured list Tuesday, Sept. 22. The Colts also elevated S Ibraheim Campbell and CB Tremon Smith from the practice squad and added free-agent TEs Hale Hentges and Ethan Wolf to the practice squad.

From TheHuddle

Malcolm Brown Sep 22 1:30pm ET

Los Angeles Rams running back Malcolm Brown (pinkie) had surgery on Monday to repair the fractured left pinkie finger that he suffered in the Week 2 win over the Eagles. The Rams expect Brown to play in Week 3 against the Bills, however. Just as we expected, this Rams backfield has been tough to figure out through two weeks of the season. Brown had 18 carries for 79 yards and two touchdowns in the Week 1 win over Dallas, but he came back to Earth against Philly, carrying the ball 11 times for 47 yards and didn't catch a pass. To make things worse, both Brown and rookie Cam Akers (rib) are injured heading into a tough Week 3 matchup with the Bills. Darrell Henderson Jr. could see more of a lead-back role this Sunday as a result, making Brown more of a touchdown-dependent RB3/flex.

From RotoBaller

Henry Ruggs III Sep 22 1:00pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders wide receiver Henry Ruggs III had a quiet Monday night in the win against the Saints, catching just one pass for four yards on three targets. Tight end Darren Waller saw nearly half the targets among the team's pass-catchers, so there were not many to go around for the rest of the offensive weapons. Combining this with 35 rushes did not give Ruggs a whole lot of opportunity to catch passes. Ruggs also saw a lot of attention from the Saints secondary due to his speed and explosiveness. Things will not get easier next week against the Patriots, where Ruggs will likely see a lot of attention from star cornerback Stephon Gilmore. It is unlikely that Ruggs will only catch one pass again next week, but don't expect him to have a great performance either.

From RotoBaller

Jonathan Williams Sep 22 12:53pm ET

Detroit Lions RB Jonathan Williams was released from the practice squad Tuesday, Sept. 22.

From TheHuddle

Darren Waller Sep 22 12:50pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders tight end Darren Waller was dominant against the Saints, catching 12 balls for 103 yards and a touchdown on a whopping 16 targets. The Saints had absolutely no answer for Waller. He is too big and strong for safeties and cornerbacks and too fast for linebackers, so he is a matchup nightmare for opposing defenses. He is clearly quarterbackDerek Carr's favorite offensive weapon, leading the team in targets by a significant margin. He will match up against the Patriots next week, a team that has found success against opposing tight ends thus far, but they have not faced an elite tight end like Waller to this point. Look for Waller to have another strong performance next week. He's a must-start high-end TE1 each and every week.

From RotoBaller

Cam Akers Sep 22 12:50pm ET

Los Angeles Rams rookie running back Cam Akers (rib) is being listed as day-to-day after separating rib cartilage in the Week 2 win over the Eagles. Akers had just three carries for 13 yards before suffering the injury last Sunday, but he should be OK going forward. However, the Rams are uncertain on Akers' status for this weekend at the Bills, which is already a very tough matchup to begin with. Malcolm Brown (pinkie) is ailing, too, but LA also has Darrell Henderson Jr. in the picture, so Akers will once again be an extremely risky flex option in shallow leagues for Week 3. After two weeks, this Rams backfield has been extremely tough to predict, as was expected coming into the year.

From RotoBaller

Derek Carr Sep 22 12:40pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had an impressive performance against the Saints, throwing for 282 yards and three touchdowns in a Monday night victory. Carr showed his efficiency once again, completing 73 percent of his passes and not throwing an interception. The Saints have a solid defense, so this was an encouraging performance from Carr. After a difficult first quarter, the Raiders were great on third down, and the Saints had no answer for the passing attack. Carr has led the Raiders offense to 34 points per game over the first two contests, but it will not be easy to keep this pace next week against the Patriots. Carr will need to have a couple more of these performances to start being considered as a legitimate fantasy starter.

From RotoBaller

Josh Jacobs Sep 22 12:40pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders running back Josh Jacobs picked up 88 yards on 27 carries in a win against the Saints. The Saints have one of the best defenses in the league, so yards did not come easy for Jacobs. It was not the best fantasy day, considering he was not heavily utilized in the passing game, catching just three balls for 17 yards. However, he showed that he can still put up a significant amount of yards against stout run defenses, gaining over 40 yards after contact. He will look to build on this performance next week against the Patriots, who surrendered 115 rushing yards to running backs against the Seahawks in Week 2. Jacobs should remain a starter in fantasy lineups no matter who he matches up against.

From RotoBaller

Rob Gronkowski Sep 22 12:23pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers TE Rob Gronkowski received four targets in the first two games, which head coach Bruce Arians said wasn't a surprise. 'We're not throwing the ball 50 times to the tight ends,' Arians said. 'That's what we have receivers for, that's the way our offense is built. Gronk's playing great run blocking in the fourth quarter, so I'm not concerned with his pass catches or his targets.'

Fantasy Spin: Gronk certainly could break out any given week, but if you need to drop him to replace an injured starter, we could certainly see it.

From TheHuddle

Jeff Driskel Sep 22 10:30am ET

The Denver Broncos signed free agent quarterback Blake Bortles to a one-year deal on Tuesday morning. The former Jaguars signal-caller will officially sign once he passes his COVID protocols and will serve as some much-needed depth in the absence of Drew Lock (shoulder). Bortles owns an 80.6 career passer rating in 73 starts along with 103 touchdowns to 75 interceptions. Backup Jeff Driskel looked good in relief of Lock on Sunday and should remain the starter for the near future, though if he falters, Bortles could step in as a serviceable backup.

From RotoBaller

Blake Bortles Sep 22 10:13am ET

Free-agent QB Blake Bortles (Rams) is signing a one-year deal with the Denver Broncos this week. Financial terms weren't disclosed.

From TheHuddle

Blake Bortles Sep 22 9:13am ET

Free-agent QB Blake Bortles (Rams) is visiting the Denver Broncos Tuesday, Sept. 22.

From TheHuddle

Jason Witten Sep 22 12:53am ET

Las Vegas Raiders TE Jason Witten posted one grab for three yards on his only target in Week 2 against the New Orleans Saints.

Fantasy Spin: Witten won't sniff the field for many snaps as long as Darren Waller is healthy and running hot. He is more of an on-field coach and mentor at this point of his career. His fantasy value is rather negligible at the moment. The Raiders travel to meet the Patriots in Week 3.

From TheHuddle