With almost two months to go until NFL Training Camps begin, I will approach each division one at a time and break down each team. I will let you know where some sleepers might be and what could be some good landing spots for free agents and draft prospects. I will first discuss the NFC North.
Matt Stafford: He is the unquestioned starter. He had some up and down games over the season but it looks like he is the real deal. He also has some excellent weapons to dish the rock to. I think he could be a great bye week fill in quarterback and even worth starting with favorable match-ups. If the line provides some blocking for the kid he could push into the top 15 for fantasy quarterbacks. If Stafford stays healthy he could be a solid player for years to come.
Kevin Smith: This guy is in trouble. He was slow and lacked a burst before the injury so no one knows how he will return. He does have great hands and can make a solid third down back but I doubt he could be a lead back again. I would stay away from him if possible. More will be known when training camp rolls around and you see how his knee recovers.
Maurice Morris: He has shown flashes on the Seahawks and also on the Lions after the injury to Kevin Smith. His value rests on the shoulders of Kevin Smith’s recovery and if the Lions go for a running back in the draft. He could be a solid fill in play if the stars align for Morris.
Calvin “Megatron” Johnson: One word…Manbearpig. This cat is one of the top five wideouts in the league. The only thing that can stop Johnson is the Lions crappyness. He has all the tools to be a dominate wide out in the league and it shouldn’t come as a surprise to anyone if he puts up a line of 1,200 yards 10 touchdowns. While I would be ok with him as my number one wideout in fantasy, If he is your number two you are going to be in excellent shape. In dynasty it’s a buy now market for Johnson. If the Lions start to get it together he could enter the realm of untouchable. Remember what coach Scott Linehan did with Randy Moss, the numbers could be similar with Johnson.
Nate Burleson: He is reuniting with Linehan under whom he had his best season as a pro. He should face a lot of one on one coverage with Johnson on the other side. He still has some home run ability and he could put up some solid numbers. I would be confident with him as my WR3 and he should be an excellent bye week fill in. He should see 5-7 targets a game and could finish with pretty good numbers as the Lion’s second wideout. Also even if the Lion’s take a wideout in the draft I think his position is safe for the coming season.
No other wide out is worth owning or even keeping on your roster.
Brandon Pettiegrew: He was having a promising season prior to his knee injury. It seemed as if the Lions were really working him in to the plans. I would hold off and see how his recovery comes from the injury but if he is ready to go for the start of the season, I would be happy to have him as my second tight end. He has the potential to get a lot of good looks with the middle of the field being open due to the options at wide receiver.
The Lions have been making some serious fantasy moves since we last spoke.
Tony Scheffler: I think he could be a steal as a second tight end. I could see a lot of two tight end sets and more importantly I see him split out wide as a legit third wideout. It isn’t a question that he can flat out catch the ball. I see him getting a chance at 50+ catches and a decent amount of scores. If you get a good TE1, Scheffler could be a great bye week guy or sneaky pick for people who like to build other positions first.
Jahvid Best: Had this cat not suffered that horrible fall while leaping into the end zone he would have been in the argument for the best back in the draft. He can catch and he has explosive speed. It is not out of the question that he could be the surprise rookie and in my opinion has realistic chance to win the ROY. I wouldn’t say take him in the second round in your draft but fourth or fifth might be just right for this explosive playmaker.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers: After waiting and waiting for Favre to stop playing or the Pack to just ship him out, Rodgers has hit the ground running. He throws the ball all over the field and does it well. He has had north of 4,000 yards passing and over 30 total touchdowns in the past two seasons. With no slowing down in sight he is going to be good for years to come. His weapons are young and he somehow improved a monster ’08 season in ’09. While I don’t think he could possibly do any better in the coming season if he gets close to 4,200 yards and 32 touchdowns with 7 INTs you will be a happy owner.
Ryan Grant: Welcome to the roller coaster. When he is good he is real good and when he is bad he is real bad. He will get some yards because teams have to respect the pass game of the Packers. The biggest problem for Grant is that he sucks in the pass game. With the Packers moving to a pass heavy attack this could spell trouble for Grant if they get a solid pass catching back. He is no more than a RB2 and there a lot of people I would take ahead of Grant. I would tread lightly with Grant in the coming seasons.
Brandon Jackson: While he is a much better receiver than Grant he lacks what one would call talent. He is a good third down back and he will be a good change of pace back. He will get value if the Packers neglect to pick a back in the draft and then Grant gets hurt. Unless that happens there is nothing to see here, move along.
Greg Jennings: Have faith young grasshopper. Jennings is still the best receiver on one of the best passing teams in the NFL. He had a crappy year but he will still be the No. 1 option in the offense and with the emergence of Jermichael Finley he should see a little more single coverage. I expect him to go back to his ’08 stats and get right around 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns. Draft him with confidence as a No. 1 but if you get him as your No. 2 you are going to be in great shape.
Donald Driver: I would be wary of him. He is slowly going down in production and with all of the other options in Green Bay he could slowly be put down the depth chart. I see him as low quality WR2 and a good WR3. I just fear that he might hit the wall much like Terrell Owens did. Although the high powered attack should preserve his value.
James Jones/Jordy Nelson: These two have been back and forth as who is the No. 3 receiver. Both are worth owning due to the large number of three wideout sets the Pack run. As soon as Donald Driver steps over both players will see a hike in production and value, but until this happens neither one is worth owning in a redraft league. They should just be monitored on the waiver wire. In a dynasty league I think Jones has a slightly higher value than Nelson.
Jermichael Finley: This kid is a freak. He is big, tall, and fast. He has great hands and at the end of the season the Pack would split him out wide and use him in one on one situations in the red zone. He provides a huge miss match against any corner and is just too fast for linebackers to cover. He will be in the top 5 of tight ends next year and is 23 years old. The sky is the limit for Antonio Gates 2.0.
The Packers didn’t really do much from a fantasy perspective as far as offensive players are concerned. They did add a solid offensive lineman and that should go a long way to help the current players on the roster. They are still a high powered offense and I don’t think that will change in the coming season.
Jay Cutler: He has talent and he has the offensive coordinator to help him maximize that talent in fantasy. Mike Martz has turned garbage quarterbacks in to fantasy gems, now he has a signal caller with some talent. He may still throw some interceptions but in the end he should have pretty solid numbers and should be one of the top 10 quarterbacks next year. I think he will be slightly overvalued because of Martz come draft time but I think he will be able to be had in the 6-8th rounds. He is young and is worth making a move for in dynasty and keeper leagues.
Matt Forte: This is the year you will figure out if Forte has it or if he was just a one year wonder. He can catch which will help him but the addition of Chester Taylor really kills his value. I just don’t think Forte is that good and I think they went and got a proven back in free agency for a reason. I would avoid Forte on draft day unless the value is too good to pass up.
Chester Taylor: The time share is going to kill him and much like was stated for Forte you should avoid him on draft day. He can catch the ball and runs the ball pretty well also. If there is an injury to one of the two backs their value will increase but without the injury every week will be a guessing game. Buyer beware.
Devin Aromashodu: He has the most potential of any of the wideouts in Chicago. Cutler likes him and he seems to have developed a good rapport with Cutler. He is a huge gamble though and is most likely going to enter the season as one of the top “sleepers”.
Devin Hester/Johnny Knox/any other clown they pick up: None of the receivers the Bears have are actually a No. 1 or even a No. 2 they are all slot guys that need some other receiver to help provide them with help. The Bears wideout position is something to avoid come draft time
Greg Olsen: Martz doesn’t use the tight end… end of story. He had Vernon Davis, who is better than Olsen, and he was a non factor so there is no reason to believe Olsen will get decent numbers.
With no draft picks of value and most of their work done via free agency there is little to report here. The biggest value here is that Martz has been working his magic.
Brett Favre: He won’t repeat his ’09 performance, but he should still put up solid numbers and will be worth selecting. He will continue to help Sidney Rice and Percy Harvin develop and could project to have a solid season. He will be a solid pick but I wouldn’t count him as your No. 1 quarterback for the coming year.
Adrian Peterson: He has some fumbling problems but he is a stud. Pick him second overall and just plug him in to your line up. Without Chester Taylor there to snatch up the third down carries and touches he could see a slight spike in numbers. If he keeps the receptions up he could challenge for No. 1 running back overall in the coming season.
Sidney Rice: If Favre comes back he will be worth being your No. 2 wideout. If Favre doesn’t return tread lightly. Rice is big and tall with decent speed. I think he is a prime sell-high player, but if you are in a redraft league then you should draft him with no worries.
Percy Harvin: He turned into one of the best slot receivers. He will be a great flex play and could turn out to be a solid WR2 if he gets an uptick in production. His value is very much up in the air for years to come. He combos good receiving ability with good rushing ability he can hurt a team in many ways. Draft him as a third wide out and be confident in him as a bye week fill in.
Bernard Berrian: He regressed and has taken a back seat to the other options. Nothing to see here unless someone gets hurt.
Visanthe Shiancoe: A red zone monster and favorite target of Favre. He found the endzone 11 times last year and should be close to that number again. He didn’t get a ton of yards but owners were happy with his production. He scored in all but 6 games and had two touchdowns in one game once. He will hold down your TE1 position but at the same time there are better options out there.
The Vikings just used the draft to fill in their bumps and bruises on the defensive side of the ball.
Toby Gerhart : will serve as a handcuff for All Day but something tells me he isn’t going to be stealing too many carries. I just can’t see a team that is so close to being the top team keeping their number one stud on the bench for too long, no matter how many fumbles he has. He will be a handcuff and nothing more, I really don’t even see him as a good selection in a dynasty league.