2021 Pow-Wow Notes: NFC North


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2021 Pow-Wow Notes: NFC North

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. I highly encourage you to check out the entire conversation by accessing our Livestream archives.

Greg and Adam 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. John has been holding these closed-door meetings with Greg and Adam for the last 15+ years. The Fantasy Points staff is proud to let the public peek behind the curtain 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

  • Adam said the Bears coaching staff was happy with the way Justin Fields came into rookie camp. Fields is a good kid who is coachable and OC Bill Lazor and QB coach John DeFilippo will coach him hard. They fully expect Andy Dalton to start in Week 1 but things could change by August. Adam is upping Fields’ start total from seven to nine this season.

  • Greg would start Fields right away especially since the Bears have a veteran center in Cody Whitehair who can handle all the calls up front. Adam said they could flip Whitehair and LG James Daniels this season, and he added that the Bears were happy with Germain Ifedi’s performance last season. Greg called second-round pick Teven Jenkins a mauler in the run game and a potential tempo-setter for this O-line. He also said to keep an eye on fifth-round pick Larry Borom, who can play at both guard and tackle.

  • Fields will add a vertical element to this passing game with his arm and Chicago has some serious speed. Darnell Mooney can fly and he was more advanced as a rookie than anticipated and they also signed Damiere Byrd this off-season.

  • Is this the year Allen Robinson finally gets some strong quarterback play? Adam said the Bears are planning on moving A-Rob around more this year and that Anthony Miller is undraftable for fantasy. Greg likes sixth-round pick Dazz Newsome as a potential slot receiver for the Bears, and he showed some vertical ability at North Carolina.

  • Chicago is really high on Cole Kmet but he’s unlikely to be a volume receiver this season. Jimmy Graham is also still hanging around and he’s going to vulture him at the goal line.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • My favorite best ball quarterback draft strategy this year has been to take one of Josh Allen, Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson, or Dak Prescott in the fifth or sixth round before taking one of Justin Fields or Trey Lance in the 13th- to 15th-round range to finish off the position. My thinking is that those elite quarterbacks should carry the position for me early in the season (and most weeks) before getting the upside weeks from the mobile Fields and Lance later in the season once they get into the starting lineup for their respective teams. It will be a bonus if I get 13+ starts from Fields and/or Lance this season. I think Adam is being a bit conservative with his prediction of nine starts for Fields this season (Greg felt quite differently), but the rest of his report has me feeling optimistic that he can have some immediate success once he gets into the lineup. I also love that the Bears could trot out four WRs in Allen Robinson, Darnell Mooney, Damiere Byrd, and Dazz Newsome who have some speed to take advantage of Fields’ arm strength.

  • I thought I’d be higher on Cole Kmet coming into his second season since he started to emerge late in 2020, but he’s been a player that’s progressively slid down my rankings this off-season. A-Rob is going to continue to dominate targets in this offense and I’m expecting Mooney to take another step forward this season. I’m most concerned about Jimmy Graham stealing too many end-zone targets away from Kmet, and touchdowns are such a big factor for fantasy success for the position.

Detroit Lions

  • Adam said the Lions moved on from Kerryon Johnson because they trust Jamaal Williams. This offense is going to be an unimaginative, grind-it-out, run-first offense. Joe pointed out that Williams was the only free agent to whom the Lions gave a multi-year deal this off-season and Graham mentioned that OC Anthony Lynn loved getting Kalen Ballage and Joshua Kelley carries last year. Williams is likely to be more involved than anyone wants him to be.

  • Greg questioned if D’Andre Swift is a 280-carry guy. Swift is on the lighter side and more in the Alvin Kamara mold than a workhorse back. Given Dan Campbell’s background with the Saints, he could see Swift and Williams being used like Kamara and Latavius Murray in New Orleans.

  • Greg wondered how often you see a top-10 pick switch positions like the Lions are asking Penei Sewell to do before he even plays an NFL snap. The importance of the left tackle position has diminished in recent years since dominant pass rushers line up all over the field, but the transition itself can be difficult for some players.

  • Greg said Jared Goff isn’t great but he’s not a complete stiff and he’s taken a lot of grief over the trade. The Lions’ defense is going to be bad this year so they may have to drop him back more than they want to do. Goff with the Rams was a predominantly under-center, playaction quarterback who played his best when in rhythm. He buckles under pressure and he’s not a second-reaction player but at least the Lions’ O-line could be a strength of this roster.

  • The Lions WR corps is a complete mess heading into the season and camp reports could be important to see how this group sorts itself out. Greg wouldn’t be shocked if Quintez Cephus and Amon-Ra St. Brown are the top two receivers at some point this season given Tyrell Williams and Breshad Perriman’s issues staying healthy. Adam said Cephus is a high-football IQ guy who got pressed into a role before he was ready last year.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • I’ve been hammering Jamaal Williams in early best ball drafts with his ADP sitting at 143.7 in May. His ADP is likely to be on the rise this summer with Anthony Lynn pumping him up, but I’m still fine taking him after the first 100 picks because of how thin the Lions are at the skill position spots. He should have some standalone value next to D’Andre Swift and It wouldn’t be totally shocking if two RBs (Swift and Williams) and a tight end (T.J. Hockenson) score more fantasy points than each of the Lions WRs. The Lions have just seventh-round pick Jermar Jefferson behind their top two backs so Williams, with his three-down skill set, would be a bellcow option if Swift has issues staying on the field again this season.

  • Swift is going a little earlier than I’d like with an ADP of 18.4 — I prefer Najee Harris and A.J. Brown who are typically going after him — but I have a feeling it’s going to correct some over the summer. I’ll be buying him if he starts slipping into the late second/early third rounds.

  • The Lions receiving corps is going to be wide open. I’ve been leaning toward Tyrell Williams as my late-round dart throw because of his connection to Anthony Lynn with the Chargers. He also got $1.5 million more in his contract than Breshad Perriman and he has a longer track record of success. With that said, I don’t have any issue throwing darts at Williams, Perriman, Amon-Ra St. Brown, and/or Quintez Cephus in the final round or two in best ball drafts. Hopefully, we get some clarity with this receiving corps once the preseason rolls around.

Green Bay Packers

  • Adam said we’ll know by August if Aaron Rodgers is going to report. If he doesn’t report, that’s when Green Bay will have to make a decision on his future in Green Bay. If he’s willing to miss training camp then he’s not going to report because the fines in the new CBA would be in the millions by the end of camp and they can’t be rescinded. Rodgers is very stubborn and he holds grudges and his issues with GM Brian Gutekunst are well documented.

  • Greg’s scouting report on Jordan Love from last year: He had a desirable skill set and he had higher level arm talent to make him a first-round talent. He was deficient with his lower-body mechanics and his ball placement, and Greg couldn’t speak to the mental part of his game.

  • Greg said there’s no mystery to A.J. Dillon, who is set to take over as the team’s #2 RB after Jamaal Williams’ departure this off-season. Dillon has lighter feet than another big back in Derrick Henry, but he doesn’t have the short-area explosiveness that Henry does. Dillon is basically a zero in the passing game

  • Aaron Jones has the potential to catch more passes this year with no Williams because Dillon is basically a zero in the passing game. Greg thinks these two backs complement each other well like Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray do in New Orleans, and it should be like a 65/35 split in touches in this backfield.

  • Adam said to keep an eye on Patrick Taylor as the team’s third running back. He was an undrafted free agent in 2020 but he’s yet another dynamic Memphis running back who can factor in as a runner and as a receiver.

  • Greg said Amari Rodgers has more of a vertical dimension than Randall Cobb, and he doesn’t view him strictly as a slot receiver. He’s a complete receiver and a powerful one too at 211 pounds.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • Greg compared the Lions backfield to the Saints backfield earlier in the Pow-wow, but I see this Packers backfield as even more like the one in New Orleans. I’ve viewed Aaron Jones and Alvin Kamara as similar fantasy assets heading into this season, but they’re being valued in the same ballpark. Jones should have a stranglehold on the passing work in this backfield now that Jamaal Williams and his 31 catches are gone from last season. Meanwhile, Kamara could see a dip in receptions going from Drew Brees to Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston. Jones and Kamara’s ADPs aren’t similar in May though, with Kamara being drafted a bit aggressively with an ADP of 3.7 and Jones now falling into the second round at 12.0. Obviously, Jones has some Rodgers’ uncertainty baked into his current ADP, but he has the chance to go down as a bargain if Rodgers sticks in Green Bay since 60+ catches are well within reach with Williams out of town.

Minnesota Vikings

  • Adam believes first-round pick Christian Darrisaw and third-round pick Wyatt Davis will start on the left side of the offensive line as rookies. Riley Reiff was a below-average left tackle and Darrisaw will give them their first legit left tackle in years. They’ve spent a lot of draft capital on their offensive line in recent years, which will help this rushing attack and their playaction passing attack.

  • There’s no reason Irv Smith can’t catch 50+ passes with Kyle Rudolph gone and just Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen ahead of him in this passing attack.

  • Graham loves Adam Thielen at his current ADP in the late fourth round/early fifth round. His skills haven’t diminished entering his age-31 season and Justin Jefferson is the guy that opposing defenses will be most concerned about this season.

  • Kirk Cousins is pretty consistent at this stage of his career. He does the same thing every year, and he should hover around 30 TD passes and 4000 passing yards once again this season.

  • The Vikings see Kellen Mond as an upside prospect who they want to see if they can develop. Cousins’ contract has him locked in as the team’s starting QB in 2021-22 before the Vikings will reevaluate their situation heading into the 2023 season.

  • Greg loves Iowa’s Ihmir Smith-Marsette, whom the Vikings drafted in the fifth round. He’s not a volume receiver but he can run well and he can get over the top against opposing defenses. He’s got a good chance to emerge as their #3 WR at some point.

Brolley’s Fantasy Takeaways

  • I worry slightly about the passing volume for this offense since Minnesota’s defense will likely be much better this season. The Vikings had a disastrous defensive year in 2020, but they have a chance to bounce back to a fairly high level since they’ll be adding DE Danielle Hunter (neck), LB Anthony Barr (pec), DT Michael Pierce (opt-out), CB Patrick Peterson (FA) and DT Dalvin Tomlinson (FA). Minnesota’s O-line will also be improved if their rookies are ready to play from Day One, which is why I think Dalvin Cook is closer to being the top overall pick than he is to being the third overall pick. With an improved defense, an improved O-line, and Mike Zimmer at head coach, I’m probably going to be a bit underweight on Justin Jefferson (23.7 ADP in May) and I’m out on Kirk Cousins (125.5) at their current ADPs.

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.