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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
D.J. Moore Sep 19 12:00am ET

Carolina Panthers wide receiver D.J. Moore will look to keep things going on Sunday in Arizona. Moore has been one of the focal points for Carolina this season, currently leading the team in targets (24), receptions (16), and receiving yards (165). Despite the potential start of sophomore quarterback Kyle Allen, who would fill in for Cam Newton (foot) if he is unable to go, Moore will still likely produce. The 22-year-old racked up six receptions (15 targets) for 100 yards with Allen under center in 2018. He should remain a starter in a majority of fantasy leagues even if Newton isn't able to suit up on Sunday against a lousy Cardinals Defense.

From RotoBaller

Christian McCaffrey Sep 18 11:40pm ET

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey will surely rebound in Week 3 against the Cardinals. After a dismal performance against the Buccaneers that saw the 23-year-old rush for just 37 yards on 16 attempts, the Panthers will next square off with one of the lousiest defensive teams in the league on Sunday. With the Cardinals allowing a league-worst 30.38 fantasy points per game to opposing backs this season, McCaffrey is a must-start in all fantasy formats in addition to being featured in daily contests. Get him in your lineup.

From RotoBaller

Paul Perkins Sep 18 11:13pm ET

Detroit Lions RB Paul Perkins is learning his new team's playbook this week, and he is excited about the chance and wants to be explosive. 'I'm going to go home and look over some stuff,' he said Wednesday, Sept. 18. 'But the offense seems pretty dope and it seems it can get a lot of guys the ball.'

Fantasy Spin: Initially Perkins is likely to see a bulk of his action on special teams, where he has excelled. He missed the 2018 season due to a pectoral injury. For now, avoid Perkins in all fantasy formats, but stash the name away. He might not be quite done yet, and could re-emerge as a fantasy option if injuries strike in the Motor City.

From TheHuddle

Shaquil Barrett Sep 18 11:13pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers DE Shaquil Barrett earned NFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his three-sack performance in Week 2 against the Carolina Panthers.

From TheHuddle

Taysom Hill Sep 18 10:53pm ET

New Orleans Saints QBs Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill will both play in Week 3 against the Seattle Seahawks, with head coach Sean Payton declining to name a starter Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Fantasy Spin: Bridgewater is likely to play more snaps, with Hill subbing in for his regular assortment of Wildcat formation plays, especially in short-yardage situations and plays near the goal line. For those looking for a streaming option in fantasy, Bridgewater is certainly the better bet.

From TheHuddle

Kenny Golladay Sep 18 10:20pm ET

Detroit Lions wide receiver Kenny Golladay is in line to have a big day Sunday when the Lions take on the Eagles in Philadelphia. Golladay is coming off a 117-yard, one-touchdown performance and should be able to build off those numbers against a leaky Eagles secondary. Through the first two games of the season, the Eagles have already allowed three 100-yard receiving performances and six passing touchdowns and are seemingly not able to stop anything through the air. That bodes well for Golladay's chances in this matchup. Golladay can be considered a solid WR2 and has a very good opportunity to exceed the 100-yard mark for a second straight game.

From RotoBaller

Derek Carr Sep 18 9:20pm ET

Oakland Raiders quarterback Derek Carr failed to capitalize in a juicy Week 2 matchup, making him difficult to trust with a grimmer task ahead in Week 3. The team will travel to take on a stout Vikings Defense who finished third-best in 2018 giving up 196 passing YPG. Carr has looked more comfortable overall in year two under Head Coach John Gruden, but the deck is stacked against him this week as eight-point underdogs. He could save face with some late garbage time points, but he shouldn't be relied upon in any fantasy format in Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Tre'Quan Smith Sep 18 9:00pm ET

New Orleans Saints wide receiver Tre'Quan Smith (ankle) did not practice on Wednesday. Smith got his legs caught underneath him at the end of the Week 2 loss to the Rams and could be questionable for Week 3 against the Seahawks. The 23-year-old has only five receptions for 75 yards and a touchdown through two weeks and is fourth in the pecking order behind Michael Thomas, Ted Ginn and Jared Cook, making him extremely inconsistent for fantasy owners in much deeper leagues. With Teddy Bridgewater now at quarterback with Drew Brees (thumb) out at least six weeks, Smith should be planted on benches where he's owned.

From RotoBaller

Darren Waller Sep 18 9:00pm ET

Oakland Raiders tight end Darren Waller has displayed a positive chemistry between himself and quarterback Derek Carr, and it should only grow stronger throughout the season. He currently leads the team with 13 catches and 15 targets through two games while showing a slick pair of hands and a dynamic athletic ability. With the Raiders playing a tough road contest this week versus the Vikings, Waller's ceiling isn't as high, but he should see plenty of volume as eight-point underdogs. Minnesota gave up a 9/77/0 line to Falcons tight end Austin Hooper in Week 1 while they played catch-up, giving Waller a projection somewhere in this neighborhood for Week 3.

From RotoBaller

Trevor Davis Sep 18 9:00pm ET

The Oakland Raiders acquired wide receiver/kick returner Trevor Davis from the Packers on Wednesday, according to a source. The speed demon is one of the league's better punt and kick returners and should compete for a spot on the receiver depth chart in Oakland. The 26-year-old had just one catch for 28 yards in two games this year in Green Bay and has nine receptions for 122 yards and one touchdown in 29 career games played. He'll mainly be used on special teams in his new home and can be ignored for fantasy purposes unless you're in a really deep league that counts return yardage.

From RotoBaller

Matthew Stafford Sep 18 8:50pm ET

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford will look to rebound after a so-so Week 2 performance when the Lions take on the Eagles in Week 3. Stafford faces an Eagles secondary that has allowed 680 yards through the first two weeks of the season, which places them just above the Raiders for second-most yards allowed through the air. He has also thrown the ball a healthy 75 times through two games, and this matchup is lining up to follow that trend. Stafford's floor can be considered in the high-upside QB2 range this week in a matchup where he should have no problem moving the ball.

From RotoBaller

Michael Badgley Sep 18 8:50pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Keenan Allen (knee) and kicker Michael Badgley (groin) were both limited in practice on Wednesday. Allen should be fine to play in Week 3 against the Texans against a secondary that consistently gets burned deep. The Chargers top wideout ranks third in the NFL after two games with 25 total targets. Allen is a top-five fantasy receiver this Sunday. Badgley has yet to kick in a game this year but is getting closer to making his season debut. He can't be trusted in fantasy until he proves his health. Ty Long has been filling in but has made just two of his four field-goal attempts, including two big misses in the Week 2 loss to the Lions.

From RotoBaller

David Njoku Sep 18 8:40pm ET

Cleveland Browns tight end David Njoku (concussion, wrist) has a broken wrist that could require surgery, according to a source. Njoku was also knocked out of the Monday night game after suffering a concussion. He is seeking more opinions to determine if surgery is necessary and how long he'd be sidelined if he goes under the knife. It's a tough break for Njoku's owners, as they'll be without him for multiple weeks at least. Demetrius Harris is Cleveland's backup tight end, but he's unlikely to become a big part of the weekly game plan. Quarterback Baker Mayfield takes a slight hit in value, while wide receiver Jarvis Landry could be used more underneath and in the middle of the field.

From RotoBaller

Aaron Donald Sep 18 8:33pm ET

Los Angeles Rams C Austin Blythe (ankle) and TE Tyler Higbee (chest) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18. RB Malcolm Brown (ankle) and DT Aaron Donald (back) were limited during practice.

From TheHuddle

Tevin Coleman Sep 18 8:23pm ET

San Francisco 49ers RB Tevin Coleman (ankle), DE Dee Ford (quadriceps), S Jaquiski Tartt (ankle), WR Jalen Hurd (back), OT Joe Staley (leg) and WR Trent Taylor (foot) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18. DE Nick Bosa (ankle) and S Jimmie Ward (hand) were limited during practice.

From TheHuddle

Kerryon Johnson Sep 18 8:20pm ET

Detroit Lions running back Kerryon Johnson could be in line for a big Week 3 performance against an ailing Philadelphia Eagles squad. Johnson should be able to do some damage through the air against an Eagles Defense that has allowed 15 receptions to running backs through the first two weeks of the season, and with Eagles defensive tackle Tim Jernigan sitting out this week, finding holes on the ground will be an easier task as well. Johnson has the chance to see an expanded workload after the recent release of C.J. Anderson and will slot in as a high-upside RB2 in what could be a shootout at the Linc.

From RotoBaller

Kyle Allen Sep 18 8:20pm ET

Carolina Panthers quarterback Kyle Allen is trending toward starting over Cam Newton (foot) in Week 3 against the Cardinals. Newton aggravated a foot injury he initially suffered in the preseason and missed practice on Wednesday. He was also seen in a walking boot, so it's looking doubtful that he plays this Sunday in Week 3. If Newton is inactive, it'll be a downgrade to all Panthers receivers, while running back Christian McCaffrey will likely be heavily utilized to take pressure off Allen. Even in a good matchup with Arizona's soft secondary, Allen would be a last-gasp QB2 for fantasy purposes.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Lockett Sep 18 8:03pm ET

Seattle Seahawks WR Tyler Lockett (non-injury) was limited during practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Fantasy Spin: Lockett caught 10 of his 12 targets last week and finished with 79 yards. He will continue to be the main target in the passing game for the Seahawks and can be a No. 2 or No. 3 fantasy receiver.

From TheHuddle

K.J. Wright Sep 18 8:03pm ET

Seattle Seahawks OG Ethan Pocic (neck), CB Neiko Thorpe (hamstring), S Tedric Thompson (hamstring) and OG D.J. Fluker (ankle) did not participate in practice Wednesday, Sept. 18. OT Duane Brown (non-injury), DE Jadeveon Clowney (non-injury), LB K.J. Wright (non-injury), WR Jaron Brown (toe), OG Mike Iupati (foot), DE Quinton Jefferson (hip), WR David Moore (shoulder), DT Poona Ford (calf) and C Joey Hunt (ankle) were limited during practice. DE Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) fully participated in practice.

From TheHuddle

Ted Ginn Jr. Sep 18 7:53pm ET

New Orleans Saints WR Ted Ginn Jr. (thigh) was limited during practice Wednesday, Sept. 18.

Fantasy Spin: Ginn did not receive any targets last week and will need to adjust to a new quarterback. Fantasy players may need to see how he work with Teddy Bridgewater in a game before considering him a starting option.

From TheHuddle