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
Devonta Freeman Jul 13 9:23am ET

Free-agent RB Devonta Freeman (Falcons) was informed that his agent, Kristin Campbell, has terminated their relationship Sunday, July 12.

Fantasy Spin: Freeman still looks to be holding out for more money than his market value is dictating at the moment. He might have to wait for an injury to sign, but he'll be a potential RB3 in fantasy when he does.

From TheHuddle

Dak Prescott Jul 12 10:23pm ET

Updating previous reports, Dallas Cowboys QB Dak Prescott and the team are reportedly 'not close' to agreeing to a contract extension as of Sunday, July 12, according to Calvin Watkins of the Dallas Morning News via a source. The two sides have until July 15 to reach a long-term agreement or Prescott will be forced to play the 2020 season under the $31.4 million franchise tag he signed recently.

From TheHuddle

Richard Sherman Jul 12 10:13pm ET

San Francisco 49ers CB Richard Sherman has allowed a completion rate of 47 percent to receivers in his coverage since 2010 - the best mark in the NFL over that span per Pro Football Focus.

From TheHuddle

Ezekiel Elliott Jul 12 7:00pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was recently ranked as the 11th best at his position by an anonymous NFL offensive coach. The coach would go on to state that the 24-year-old "doesn't look as strong anymore. Feels like he's about 60 to 70 percent of what he was." Elliott was quick to dismiss these comments, but some fantasy managers may pay attention to these remarks, especially if they are drafting after the selections of Christian McCaffrey and Saquon Barkley. The fifth-year back did have one of the most productive years as a professional in 2019, finishing with 1,357 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns off of 301 attempts. He also added 54 catches for 420 yards and two additional scores. While those numbers don't indicate a downward trend, the former Buckeye will be without the guidance of former head coach Jason Garrett in 2020, who is now the offensive coordinator for the New York Giants.

From RotoBaller

Jamar Taylor Jul 12 4:03pm ET

San Francisco 49ers CB Jamar Taylor has a chance to make the final roster because he has experience at outside cornerback as well as slot cornerback and plays on special teams, in the opinion of NinersWire's Kyle Madson.

From TheHuddle

Jadeveon Clowney Jul 12 1:43pm ET

Free-agent DEs Jadeveon Clowney (Seahawks), Everson Griffen (Vikings) and DE Markus Golden (Giants) likely will not receive interest from the New York Jets because the team wants to move their unspent salary cap space to next season, in the opinion of the New York Post's Brian Costello.

From TheHuddle

Christian McCaffrey Jul 12 1:40pm ET

Carolina Panthers running back Christian McCaffrey has plenty of hype entering the 2020 campaign and should continue to be the No. 1 fantasy selection in the majority of fantasy drafts heading into September. However, according to a poll conducted by ESPN's Jeremy Fowler, more than 50 percent of league executives view Saquon Barkley as the top back in the league. As claimed by one anonymous AFC executive, McCaffrey is "not as sturdy as Saquon. Not the same speed-and-power combo." While this declaration may not hinder fantasy managers from taking McCaffrey first overall in drafts, it could give many something to think about.

From RotoBaller

Sony Michel Jul 12 12:33pm ET

New England Patriots RB Sony Michel (foot) is no longer wearing a walking boot on his surgically repaired foot.

Fantasy Spin: Michel will be ready for training camp and should receive most of the carries this season but will have to share snaps with several other backs. He should be considered at least a No. 3 running back in fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Terrelle Pryor Jul 12 12:23pm ET

Free-agent WR Terrelle Pryor (Jaguars) said he is looking to play in 2020 and has talked with five teams this offseason. He said he would like to play for the New England Patriots or Pittsburgh Steelers.

From TheHuddle

A.J. Green Jul 12 11:33am ET

It remains unknown if Cincinnati Bengals WR A.J. Green will sign his franchise tag or agree to a long-term deal before the NFL deadline for contract extensions Wednesday, July 15, at 4 p.m. ET, according to multiple sources.

From TheHuddle

Dak Prescott Jul 12 11:03am ET

The Dallas Cowboys remain optimistic that QB Dak Prescott will accept their best contract extension offer before the NFL deadline Wednesday, July 15, at 4 p.m. ET. However, multiple league sources believe that no long-term deal will be completed by the deadline because he has already signed his franchise tag tender.

From TheHuddle

Chris Conley Jul 12 10:23am ET

Jacksonville Jaguars WR Laviska Shenault Jr. will compete with veteran WR Chris Conley during training camp to be the team's No. 2 receiver behind WR DJ Chark.

Fantasy Spin: Shenault is fully recovered from core muscle surgery and is expected to play an integral role in the Jacksonville offense this season. He has a great deal of upside and is worthy of consideration as a WR5 option in this year's fantasy drafts.

From TheHuddle

Jadeveon Clowney Jul 11 7:23pm ET

Free-agent DE Jadeveon Clowney (Seahawks) could show interest in the Philadelphia Eagles because he wants to join a winning team, according to 710 ESPN's John Clayton.

From TheHuddle

Rodney Gunter Jul 11 6:13pm ET

Jacksonville Jaguars DE Rodney Gunter and DE Dawuane Smoot could receive some snaps at defensive tackle this upcoming season.

From TheHuddle

Antonio Brown Jul 11 3:43pm ET

Free-agent WR Antonio Brown (Patriots) reached a settlement with the New England Patriots regarding the compensation grievance Brown filed against the team.

From TheHuddle

Hunter Henry Jul 11 3:20pm ET

Los Angeles Chargers tight end Hunter Henry isn't expecting a long-term contract extension before the deadline of Wednesday, July 15, so he expects to play the 2020 season under the $10.6 million franchise tag. The 25-year-old doesn't seem to be too worried about it, though, and he's focused on the 2020 season. He views this year as a prove-it deal because he hasn't played a full season in his four-year career due to injuries. Henry spent May and June working out with rookie quarterback Justin Herbert and recently had throwing sessions with Tyrod Taylor. Henry had career highs with 55 catches and 652 receiving yards in 2019. Among tight ends, Henry has the best passer rating when targeted at 132.3 since 2016. He's surely a top-10 fantasy tight end, but injuries and a downgrade at QB limit his overall ceiling.

From RotoBaller

DeSean Jackson Jul 11 2:30pm ET

The Philadelphia Eagles announced on Friday that they fined wide receiver DeSean Jackson "for conduct detrimental to the team," which included controversial posts on Instagram and sharing an image of a quote falsely attributed to Adolf Hitler earlier this week. Jackson has since offered multiple apologies, but he "must also commit to supporting his words with actions" in order to remain with the team. The 33-year-old missed all but three games in 2019 because of an injury and is now desperately trying to repair his image before the season. If healthy, D-Jax should be the team's primary deep threat, but as usual, he'll be a boom-or-bust WR3 for fantasy owners.

From RotoBaller

Le'Veon Bell Jul 11 2:30pm ET

New York Jets running back Le'Veon Bell had a "great talk" with disgruntled All-Pro safety Jamal Adams on Thursday and came away with the impression that Adams wants to stay in New York if he gets a new contract. Bell doesn't oppose Adams' hard-line stance in negotiations. Adams formally requested a trade last month and has two years remaining on his rookie contract. He's making $3.6 million in 2020 and $9.9 million in 2021 under the fifth-year team option. Adams is believed to be looking to become the highest-paid safety in the league, and the Jets continue to say they want to make him a "Jet for life," but they aren't putting a timetable on it. Bell doesn't want Adams to be traded and doesn't think he will. Adams hasn't had a ton of interceptions, but his ability to play the run and rush the passer makes him unique and the top overall IDP defensive back.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Higbee Jul 11 2:23pm ET

Los Angeles Rams TE Tyler Higbee had a 33-percent target rate when the Rams were trailing in 2019. That matched San Francisco 49ers TE George Kittle for the highest percentage in the league, according to Pro Football Focus data.

Fantasy Spin: Higbee closed out 2019 with a stellar five-game run and has placed himself squarely in TE1 territory for 2020. He's a tight end to target if you miss out on the top five.

From TheHuddle

Davante Adams Jul 11 1:43pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Davante Adams is the only wide receiver with 4,000 receiving yards and 40 touchdown receptions since 2016.

Fantasy Spin: Injuries limited Adams to a career-low 12 games in 2019, ending a run of three straight top-12 fantasy wideout finishes. With any kind of better health fortune, expect a WR1 bounce-back season for Adams.

From TheHuddle