NFC North Pow-Wow: Notes and Takeaways

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NFC North Pow-Wow: Notes and Takeaways

The Fantasy Points staff recently welcomed NFL Films legend Greg Cosell and NFL Insider Adam Caplan to talk about the NFC North as part of our Virtual Pow-wow Series. We highly encourage you to check out the entire conversation by accessing our Livestream archives.

Cosell and Caplan joined John Hansen and company to break down the NFC North from front to back to help us get a deeper understanding of every roster heading into the summer. Hansen has been holding these closed-door meetings with Cosell and Caplan for the last 15 years. The Fantasy Points staff is proud to let the public peek behind the curtain for the first time ever during these exclusive Livestreams! Here are the notes I compiled from the NFC North meeting, and I included my biggest fantasy takeaways for each team.

Chicago Bears

  • Greg said Matt Nagy did a great job getting the most out of Mitch Trubisky two years ago. Trubisky isn’t a consistent player and he doesn’t see things easily. Nagy has to design throws for him but he can’t always do that. Nick Foles has his own limitations.

  • Adam said new OC Bill Lazor and new QB coach John DeFilippo are scaling things back for both QBs this off-season. Former OC Mark Helfrich didn’t bring in the ideas that the coaching staff was hoping for last season. Both Foles and Trubisky have to be in the shotgun to have the most success. They’re going to have an open competition for the starting job during camp.

  • Adam said the Bears have two offensive issues. They don’t have a lot of receiver depth behind Allen Robinson, who is a star. Ted Ginn will help replace the speed lost from Taylor Gabriel, but he’s also 35 years old now. Anthony Miller will continue to play in the slot. Their offensive line is the other issue, especially along the interior with Kyle Long’s retirement. They brought in Juan Castillo to be the offensive line coach.

  • Greg sees David Montgomery as a “contact-balance” running back, and there are a lot of those types of backs in the league. He had flashes of what he looked like at Iowa State last season, but a lot of his runs were dead on arrival in the backfield last season. He’s not a back who can make you miss, and he can’t avoid quick penetration. Montgomery needs the point-of-attack to be cleaner this season. The Bears O-line must significantly improve for him and for this offense to improve.

  • Graham didn’t think Montgomery had NFL-level burst, but he thinks Leonard Fournette (second-round ADP) and Montgomery (fifth-round ADP) are the same types of players in similar situations with much different ADPs right now.

  • Adam said the Bears think Jimmy Graham has something left and that he moves better than people think, but it’s still a bad contract at the end of the day. The Packers didn’t use him right last season, using him too much inline instead of as a movement tight end. Graham won’t have to play on the line of scrimmage and be asked to run block this season after the Bears drafted Cole Kmet in the second round.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • David Montgomery is one of the toughest dilemmas in fantasy drafts early on. He’s likely to see heavy volume again and his price is even cheaper than it was during his rookie campaign. However, there’s a reason why he’s cheaper this season. Montgomery might be a “JAG” (just a guy), and this Bears O-line might be even worse than last year. I don’t recommend a WR-heavy approach in drafts this season, but I’d target guys like James Conner and Montgomery once I started taking RBs because of their potentially huge roles if everything breaks right.

  • I’m not exactly rushing to suddenly draft Jimmy Graham, but it’s at least notable that his struggles last season may have at least been partially related to his usage in Green Bay.

Detroit Lions

  • Despite the organization’s overall results, Greg thinks Matthew Stafford has been a pretty darn good QB, including in 2019 before an injury ended his season early.

  • Greg also thinks T.J. Hockenson can be really good, but they don’t have a weekly plan on offense, which makes it hard for him for fantasy. He’s a really good player though. Stafford and Hockenson didn’t play a ton together last season because of their injuries. Adam said the Lions want to use more 12 personnel and use James as the run blocker.

  • The Lions are searching for a running game seemingly every year and 2020 will be no different. Kerryon Johnson hasn’t been the solution. D’Andre Swift is already the better three-down option. Greg thinks Bo Scarbrough could be the better option over Johnson as the early-down runner thumper. This backfield is totally up in the air behind Swift.

  • Adam said this backfield is going to have at least two backs involved. They were happy with Scarbrough last season after Ty Johnson failed to back up what he did in training camp.

  • The Lions will flip between 11 and 12 personnel. They do want to be a run-first offense, but their defense is going to be a below-average unit once again. They’ll likely have to throw it more than they want to as they did last year. Bevell would prefer a controlled-passing game. The Lions had no depth at WR, which was a nightmare at the end of last season.

  • Graham doesn’t know where the targets are going to come from for Swift. Darrell Bevell hasn’t given his RBs heavy targets during his career.

  • The Lions want to play man coverage, which is why they drafted Jeff Okudah with the third overall pick. Matt Patricia comes from the Bill Belichick school with multiple looks up front and man coverage on the back end.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • I would recommend staying away from this backfield, especially Kerryon Johnson. His ADP is at least starting to plummet since the draft, but it sounds like there’s a real chance Bo Scarbrough could overtake him as the early-down runner. Scarbrough might be worth a dart throw really late in deep drafts. Swift has the talent to be a three-down back but Matt Patricia, with his Patriots background, seems hellbent on using a committee. Matthew Stafford has certainly supported a receiving back like Theo Riddick in the past, but Darrell Bevell’s track history leaves something to be desired. I’d be much more willing to take a shot on Swift if his ADP was outside the top-50 picks but that is unlikely to happen this summer.

  • I’ll be drafting T.J. Hockenson some this summer because I believe he’s a top talent at the position, but Bevell never went out of his way to feature him as a receiver outside of his blow-up performance in his NFL debut. I’m feeling a little more optimistic about Hockenson if they’re indeed looking to use him more as a movement tight end this season. I’ll be following camp reports on Hockenson this August because I think he could take a big step forward this season if they do plan to expand his pass-game usage.

Green Bay Packers

  • Greg said Matt LaFleur and the Packers have a clear plan after their off-season moves. They want to run an offense that starts like Kyle Shanahan’s offenses. They drafted Josiah Deguera to be their Kyle Juszcyk.

  • Coaches in the league told Adam that A.J. Dillon isn’t explosive. He may be an upgrade over Jamaal Williams, but Williams is good in pass protection so he could still stick around in passing situations. They’re trying to get a deal done with Aaron Jones before he becomes a free agent.

  • Greg said Dillon isn’t as vertically explosive as Derrick Henry, but he has a little more lateral explosiveness. The Packers want to run the rock, and LaFleur now has two backs that are different and potentially very good at what they do. We know what they’re going to do, it’s just a matter if they’re going to be good at it.

  • Adams said transactions always tell the story and the Packers are going to be a run-first offense. The Packers are turning Aaron Rodgers into Jimmy Garoppolo, and they’re taking the ball out of his hands.

  • The Packers still don’t know what they’re doing with the second WR spot. They were expecting a lot more Marquez Valdes-Scantling last season, and Adam was floored that they signed Devin Funchess. They were quite happy with Allen Lazard’s emergence last season.

  • Davante Adams has no target competition at receiver right now even in a run-first offense. Adam said the turf toe injury Adams suffered last season was a pretty significant injury to recover from.

  • Greg loved Jace Sternberger coming out. He’s an athletic receiver that can work the middle of the field, and he’s effective after the catch. He’s got a chance to be a very good player in this offense.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • Aaron Rodgers and Aaron Jones both saw their fantasy stocks plummet during the draft with the Packers clearly transitioning to a new offensive philosophy. I never really had the chance to take Rodgers in the past because he was always drafted before I was willing to select a quarterback. His price is now more affordable as a ninth-round pick, but I still want no part of him since he’s still being over-drafted. They’re clearly going to take a more run-heavy approach, and he has no proven receiving weapons in his arsenal outside of Davante Adams. Jones was going to face a huge regression this season off of his 19-touchdown campaign in 2019, but he now faces more competition for touches and potentially goal-line carries from second-round pick A.J. Dillon. I view Jones as an early third-round pick now but he’s still being drafted as an early second-round pick.

  • I hate Rodgers’ prospects for this season, but the Packers’ odd off-season has sharpened my desire for two of his targets. Davante Adams is locked in as the clear WR2 behind Michael Thomas, and Adams should feast this year after struggling through his turf toe injury. He saw double-digit targets in 10 of his last 11 games last season, and this receiving corps got worse from 2019. I’m also focused on getting a bunch Jace Sternberger shares. Greg has been high on Sternberger since he entered the draft last season out of Texas A&M. His love is a major reason why I’ve had my eye on him in fantasy drafts this summer after the Packers cut Jimmy Graham. He’s one of my favorite TE2/3 targets since the Packers failed to upgrade their #2 receiver spot this off-season. Sternberger is essentially free in drafts with a 15th-round ADP right now, but I could see his stock rising this August when the hype could start to build with a strong preseason and/or good camp reports.

Minnesota Vikings

  • The big question for this offense is if first-round pick Justin Jefferson can win on the outside. The Vikings must think he can do it. Greg saw Jefferson as a smooth, polished slot receiver. Some WR coaches told Adam that they think Jefferson could struggle on the outside with his build.

  • They’re going to do a lot of the same things with Gary Kubiak calling plays as they did with Kevin Stefanski last season. Kubiak has been a good play-caller throughout his career, they’re going to use a lot of 12 personnel once again.. They don’t have any depth at WR behind their top two options. Chad Beebe will definitely compete for snaps in the slot.

  • Irv Smith could be the key to everything they do this season. They moved him all around the field last year, and he looks like a WR when he’s lined up on the outside. A Vikings coach told Adam that they view Smith as a WR. The problem is this is a low-volume passing game, which hurts Smith and Kirk Cousins.

  • Graham said we need to move Adam Thielen up in our projections and John plans to move him into our top-12 at the position. He’s a huge bargain in drafts right now with his fourth-round ADP. He’s averaged 16.8 FPG in his last 40 healthy games, which is sixth at the position over the last three years. He has an unproven rookie WR next to him in Jefferson, and he’ll be the focal point of this passing attack.

  • Thielen has three issues this year: recent hamstring injury/age, low-volume passing game, and more attention. Thielen is going to suffer a little bit from Stefon Diggs being gone with opponents being able to devote more attention to him. Scott said Thielen hasn't been a cornerback sensitive on the perimeter in the past. At least Cousins and Thielen are boys, and he could be locked even more on him now.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • I’ve been digging RB-RB starts to my fantasy drafts so far because of the depth of the top-end WRs, which includes Adam Thielen and his absurd fourth-round ADP. Thielen has the potential to dominate targets in the Vikings passing game in a similar fashion to the way Davante Adams will dominate targets in the Packers passing game. Both teams are taking run-heavy approaches with unproven weapons behind their #1 WRs, and both Thielen and Adams have strong connections with their quarterbacks. The difference is there are 31 overall picks and 13 WRs picked between Adams and Thielen right now. Adams is the WR2 with an ADP of 11.3 while Thielen is the WR16 with an ADP of 42.3.

  • I also have pretty similar feelings about the secondary receivers in Minnesota (Irv Smith and Justin Jefferson) compared to the secondary receivers in Green Bay (Jace Sternberger and Allen Lazard). Like Sternberger, Smith is one of my favorite TE2/3 options late in the last rounds of drafts as they enter their second seasons. Like Jefferson, I’ll also be sprinkling in some Lazard shares just in case he’s the guy that develops into the #2 receiver.

Tom is a Senior Writer at Fantasy Points who specializes in fantasy and betting analysis. He’ll be helping you to navigate the waiver wire and manage your fantasy teams while also keeping our betting content robust all year long, especially during the season. Tom's Best Bets against the spread won at 61.5% clip in 2019 and he was a perfect 8-0 on his Best Bets for season win totals in 2020.