Here is a breakdown of skill players for each respective team in the NFC North after the 2012 draft to give owners an idea where each team’s offense currently lies before camp…
Jay Cutler will return for another season with the Bears, but this time he’s got his binky: Brandon Marshall. With the addition of Marshall, Cutler’s numbers should improve. Look for Cutler to put up impressive yardage and his share of touchdowns. But, as always, also be aware of his shaky decision making at times and a number of badly thrown interceptions.
Matt Forte is coming off of a knee injury and contract squabbles with the Bears. As of this writing, he is still Chicago bound this year and will get the boatload of carries. However, don’t overlook the addition of Michael Bush. The Bears have long wanted running back duo and now replace Marion Barber with Bush. Bush could easily cut into many of Forte’s red zone touches.
Chicago went from a “who knows what’s next” receiving corps, to a pretty formidable group. Marshall, as mentioned above, joins his former Broncos teammate Jay Cutler. These two got along well in the Mile High City and will look to flourish once again. Earl Bennett, another Cutler “buddy”, will be the number two man. That leaves Johnny Knox, second round draft pick Alshon Jeffrey and Devin Hester to fight for the third slot. Expect Hester to go back to his special teams/defensive roots.
With so much firepower at the other skill positions, don’t expect a ton from tight end Kellen Davis.
Matthew Stafford finally made truth out of all those rosy projections he had faced in prior years. In 2011, Stafford was the real deal. With no running game, Stafford still put up career numbers across the board and finally stayed healthy. There’s no reason to not think Stafford will again be an elite fantasy quarterback in 2012.
As has been the case for a while now, the running back position is a major question mark in Detroit. The depth chart of this position includes career threatening concussions (Jahvid Best), career threatening knee injuries (Kevin Smith), a sophomore who didn’t play a single snap in last year’s regular season due to a torn Achilles and Keiland Williams. This will be a competition to pay close attention to during camp and the preseason.
We know the deal with the Lions receivers. Calvin Johnson dominated the NFL last year and looks to do the same in 2012 as, once again, Detroit’s go-to skill player. The only thing to be concerned about with Johnson is the Madden jinx. The rest of this group is going to be a fun competition to watch. Nate Burleson showed flashes last season, but that’s been his calling card throughout his NFL career. He’ll be challenged by Titus Young, if he keeps his head on straight and rookie wideout from Oklahoma, Ryan Broyles. If Broyles is healthy to begin the year, he’s worth watching, as his game compliments Johnson’s skill set very well.
Just because the receivers are dangerous for Detroit, doesn’t mean the tight ends go without love. Because of the lack of running game from the Lions, Stafford’s been forced to look at all of his options. Those options include the impressive Brandon Pettigrew and the heady veteran Tony Scheffler. Pettigrew is the more consistent, but if he goes down, Scheffler’s worth the gamble.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers. You have any questions? We didn’t think so.
Ryan Grant is likely gone, so James Starks will once again get his chance to be the man for the Packers out of the backfield. Starks has the talent, as he showed in the postseason two years ago. But, can he stay on the field and will he get the ball enough? Both of those are legit questions. Brandon Saine is the backup and will get some looks with the way Green Bay operates their backfield.
In the mold of the Patriots and Saints, the Packers just have a ton of options at the wide receiver position. Jordy Nelson proved that his postseason heroics of two years ago weren’t a joke with some big games last season. However, if you own Nelson, be prepared for some lackluster production every once in a while (five games with single digit fantasy points in PPR leagues last season). While Greg Jennings didn’t have the blockbuster year his owners were hoping for last season, he still gave you steadiness. Jennings will get his looks and be more than worthwhile on your roster. James Jones and Donald Driver are interchangeable.
Jermichael Finley had big-time expectations heading into last season. Those expectations weren’t met, as Finley struggled with nagging injuries and dropped footballs. His fantasy draft stock will likely take a hit this season, but he still remains one of the most highly skilled players at his position in the NFL.
Christian Ponder might have made his NFL debut a little earlier than expected and struggled for the most part. The rookie completed only a shade over 54% of his passes and equaled his 13 touchdowns with 13 picks. Ponder is a lower-level backup this year for fantasy owners.
The production of the running back position will ride on Adrian Peterson’s health. When AP is healthy, there’s no doubt of his skill and fantasy value. However, after blowing out his knee at the end of last season, his health is a gigantic fantasy question. As of this writing, Peterson is working out and is confident that he’ll be the starting tailback come game one of the season. Keep an eye on his progress or lack thereof. If Peterson has issues getting ready to start the year, it’ll be up to Toby Gerhart to foot the bill.
The Vikings have some talent at the receiver position with Percy Harvin who absolutely poured it on later in the year with Ponder under center. The hope is that Harvin will be fully healthy in 2012 and pick up where he left off. To go along with Harvin, the Vikings are betting that they’ll get one productive receiver out of the inconsistent (Michael Jenkins & Devin Aromashadu) or the talented, but troubled (Jerome Simpson).
Many people expected John Carlson to do some impressive things in Seattle, but outside of a few memorable moments, he didn’t take the world by storm. Now, Carlson heads to Minnesota to replace Visanthe Shiancoe and attempt to find that spark again on a more consistent basis. If Carlson doesn’t do much early on, Kyle Rudolph will get an opportunity to make a difference. Rudolph showed glimpses last season with limited looks.
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