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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
David Johnson Sep 15 2:00pm ET

Arizona Cardinals running back David Johnson (wrist) suffered a wrist injury in the first quarter of Week 2 against the Ravens and is questionable to return. Johnson ran three times for seven yards and caught one pass for no gain before getting injured. A first-round pick in fantasy leagues, losing Johnson would be devastating for the Cards and fantasy owners. Chase Edmonds will take over lead-back duties if Johnson can't return to this contest, and he'd be a top waiver wire pickup if Johnson's injury forces him to miss any time. Losing Johnson in the backfield moving forward would also be a downgrade to rookie quarterback Kyler Murray. Stay tuned for more on Johnson's status.

From RotoBaller

Vernon Davis Sep 15 2:00pm ET

Washington Redskins tight end Vernon Davis (eye) was injured in Week 2 against the Cowboys and is questionable to return. Davis wasn't targeted at all in the passing game before going down. With Jordan Reed (concussion) inactive for the second straight week, Jeremy Sprinkle would be the only tight end left active for the 'Skins if Davis can't return to this game. Sprinkle has one catch for 11 yards as things stand now against Dallas. Whoever is Washington's tight end merely has TE2 value with quarterback Case Keenum under center. Reed has the most upside, but he has trouble staying on the field.

From RotoBaller

Tom Brady Sep 15 1:50pm ET

New England Patriots left tackle Isaiah Wynn (foot) was injured in Week 2 against the Dolphins and is questionable to return. Right tackle Marcus Cannon is inactive on Sunday with an injury of his own, so injuries are already wreaking havoc on the team's offensive line early in the year. It remains to be seen how serious Wynn's injury actually is, but it's a bit concerning for quarterback Tom Brady and is something worth watching. It probably won't make much of a difference the rest of the way against the Dolphins poor defense, however.

From RotoBaller

Kenyan Drake Sep 15 12:50pm ET

While there are reports spreading that the Miami Dolphins have had trade talks with other teams surrounding running back Kenyan Drake this week, the Miami Herald's Armando Salguero is reporting that the team has had zero conversations with other teams about trading him, according to a club source. It wouldn't be a surprise if the Dolphins traded Drake, as they've already sent several others packing this year and are expected to trade former first-rounder Minkah Fitzpatrick soon. On the worst team in football, Drake has become nothing more than an unappealing RB3/flex, although a trade out of Miami could make him more attractive to fantasy owners. If he were to be dealt, Kalen Ballage would be the leader of this backfield.

From RotoBaller

Sam Darnold Sep 15 12:40pm ET

Updating a previous report, New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold (illness) said he's feeling much better and hopes doctors let him rejoin the team this week. He was told to take 21 days to recover from mononucleosis and is hoping to come back after the team's Week 4 bye. Darnold said he hasn't lost much weight at all. His illness likely affected his Week 1 performance in the loss to the Bills, but Darnold is nothing more than a backup fantasy quarterback until he proves otherwise. Trevor Siemian will start until Darnold can return, but he presents owners with limited upside as a low-end QB2. The Jets figure to give Le'Veon Bell a lot of touches to take pressure off of Siemian.

From RotoBaller

Jakobi Meyers Sep 15 12:30pm ET

New England Patriots rookie running back Damien Harris and rookie wide receiver Jakobi Meyers are both healthy scratches for Week 2 against the Dolphins. Both players have exciting long-term appeal for those in dynasty leagues, but the Patriots are just too stacked at running back and receiver now for either of them to make an impact. If anything were to happen to Sony Michel this year, Harris could be in line for a big role and would be an immediate addition off the waiver wire in redraft leagues. With the Antonio Brown signing last week, Meyers gets pushed out of the rotation among Julian Edelman, Josh Gordon and Phillip Dorsett.

From RotoBaller

Amari Cooper Sep 15 12:30pm ET

Dallas Cowboys wide receiver Amari Cooper is being extra patient in contract-extension talks and is the only Dallas player less likely to re-sign this season, according to league sources. With Saints wideout Michael Thomas landing a deal that pays him $20 million a year and Falcons receiver Julio Jones earning $22 million per year, Cooper is intentionally being patient. The 25-year-old caught six passes for 106 yards and a score in the team's Week 1 win over the Giants, and he has an excellent matchup with the Redskins in Week 2. He's locked in as a WR1 in the second game of the season.

From RotoBaller

Seattle Seahawks Sep 15 12:20pm ET

Seattle Seahawks defensive end Ziggy Ansah (shoulder) is inactive in Week 2 against the Steelers. Ansah will have to wait another week to make his debut with the team. The Seahawks are being very cautious with the injury-prone pass-rusher, but he should be back soon. It's good news for Ben Roethlisberger and company as they look to bounce back from their 33-3 drubbing at the hands of the Patriots last week. Big Ben will have QB1 appeal this Sunday, while fantasy owners are best off leaving Seattle's defense on the bench.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Kroft Sep 15 12:20pm ET

Buffalo Bills tight end Tyler Kroft (foot) is inactive in Week 2 against the Giants for the second straight week. Kroft is improving, though, and should be able to make his season debut in Week 3. However, Kroft will be a bottom-barrel TE2 whenever he does suit up. Rookies Tommy Sweeney and Dawson Knox will continue to split snaps at the position in the meantime. Neither of them are options in redraft leagues, although they have some stash appeal in dynasty/keeper formats.

From RotoBaller

Mike Williams Sep 15 12:10pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers wide receiver Mike Williams (knee) is active for Week 2 against the Lions. It was reported early Sunday that Williams would likely be just a red-zone threat for the Bolts on Sunday if he played. That means that the Chargers will predictably lean on running back Austin Ekeler and Keenan Allen with tight end Hunter Henry (knee) out indefinitely. Williams is an extremely risky and touchdown-dependent WR4/5 while playing through his injury. Travis Benjamin has a better shot at big-play potential with Williams' snaps being limited, but he's an even worse flex option in deep leagues.

From RotoBaller

Andy Isabella Sep 15 12:10pm ET

Arizona Cardinals rookie wide receiver Andy Isabella is a healthy inactive for Week 2 against the Ravens. The 22-year-old didn't have a single target in Week 1 and is well behind fellow rookie teammate Keesean Johnson on the depth chart. He also has Larry Fitzgerald, Christian Kirk, Michael Crabtree and Damiere Byrd ahead of him, so Isabella definitely belongs on the waiver wire in redraft leagues. The only place you're stashing him is in dynasty/keeper leagues. Expect the Cardinals to mix in the veteran Crabtree more against Baltimore, which hurts the upside for Johnson.

From RotoBaller

Marquise Brown Sep 15 12:10pm ET

Baltimore Ravens running back Mark Ingram (shoulder), tight end Mark Andrews (foot) and rookie wide receiver Marquise Brown (hip) are all active in Week 2 against the Cardinals, as expected. All three players had huge weeks in the season opener and could all shine again against a weak Cardinals Defense at home. Ingram has clear RB1 upside in what could be the team's second straight blowout win. Andrews is a firm TE1 after rookie T.J. Hockenson lit up Arizona's D last week. Brown is the most risky flex play at wideout after playing just 14 snaps in his NFL debut. There's big-play potential with the Cardinals without their top two cornerbacks, but Brown will be as boom or bust as they get.

From RotoBaller

San Francisco 49ers Sep 15 12:00pm ET

San Francisco 49ers rookie defensive end Nick Bosa (ankle) is active in Week 2 against the Bengals. Bosa had his snaps limited in his NFL debut last week against the Buccaneers, but when he was on the field he was productive, so his presence on Sunday won't be good news for quarterback Andy Dalton in front of a shaky offensive line. Bosa cannot yet be trusted in IDP leagues as the Niners try to get him past his nagging ankle issue. While San Fran's D looked much-improved last week, they also shouldn't be in fantasy lineups just yet.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Sep 15 12:00pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon (ankle) is active for Week 2 against the 49ers. Mixon does have a good matchup against a Niners team that gave up healthy ground yardage against Tampa in the season opener, but Mixon will have a lot of volatility and could have his snaps limited while playing through his injury. Consider him a risky low-end RB2/high-end RB3/flex, with Giovani Bernard mixing in to spell him. Bernard would've had RB2 upside if Mixon was inactive, but instead he'll revert back to being an unexciting flex option.

From RotoBaller

Hunter Henry Sep 15 11:53am ET

The Los Angeles Chargers have declared DL Cortez Broughton, TE Hunter Henry, C Michael Davis, LB Jatavis Brown, PK Mike Badgley, QB Easton Stick and S Roderic Teamer inactive for Week 2.

From TheHuddle

David Fluellen Sep 15 11:53am ET

The Tennessee Titans have declared OT Kevin Pamphile, LB Reggie Gilbert, C Hroniss Grasu, CB Tye Smith, DL Brent Urban, RB David Fluellen and OG Nate Davis inactive for Week 2.

From TheHuddle

Jayrone Elliott Sep 15 11:53am ET

The Pittsburgh Steelers have declared CB Justin Layne, DL Isaiah Buggs, FB Roosevelt Nix, LB Jayrone Elliott, OT Chukwuma Okorafor, OL Fred Johnson and TE Zach Gentry inactive for Week 2.

From TheHuddle

Tavon Austin Sep 15 11:53am ET

The Dallas Cowboys have declared OG Adam Redmond, S Donovan Wilson, DE Taco Charlton, WR Tavon Austin, DT Trysten Hill, OL Brandon Knight and LB Luke Gifford inactive for Week 2.

From TheHuddle

Ezekiel Ansah Sep 15 11:53am ET

The Seattle Seahawks have declared WR David Moore, S Tedric Thompson, C Joey Hunt, CB Neiko Thorpe, WR Gary Jennings, DT Poona Ford and DL Ziggy Ansah inactive for Week 2.

From TheHuddle

Matthew Stafford Sep 15 11:50am ET

Detroit Lions left tackle Taylor Decker (back) has been ruled out in Week 2 against the Chargers. It's a downgrade for quarterback Matthew Stafford on Sunday, and he could be facing a lot of pressure from pass-rushers Melvin Ingram and Joey Bosa. Stafford looked good in Week 1 throwing the football, but that was also against a Cardinals team missing their top cornerbacks. Consider Stafford a low-end QB2 in a much tougher matchup against the Bolts.

From RotoBaller