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
John Ross Aug 12 12:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver John Ross III has left camp to be with his son after both his son and his son's mother tested positive for COVID-19. Ross missed Tuesday's practice and has no timetable for a return. The speedy wideout is clearly prioritizing his family over football, rightfully so, at this point of the preseason. Ross will be placed on the Reserve/COVID list while he is away from the team.

From RotoBaller

Tavon Austin Aug 12 12:20pm ET

The San Francisco 49ers are bringing free-agent wide receiver Tavon Austin in for a workout. The team is hoping to sign the former Dallas Cowboys wide receiver if the workout goes well. San Francisco is looking to bolster their pass-catching corps after speedy wideout Travis Benjamin opted out of the 2020 season last week. Austin caught 13 passes for 177 yards and a touchdown in 14 games with the Cowboys last season.

From RotoBaller

Antonio Gibson Aug 12 12:10pm ET

Washington running back Antonio Gibson has been doing all he can to learn an NFL playbook amid the coronavirus pandemic, which includes sitting in on wide receiver meetings in the early part of camp. Gibson played receiver in college, but also had 33 carries and is expected to primarily be a running back in the NFL, especially with the team releasing Derrius Guice following his arrest. Last season at Memphis, Gibson scored eight receiving touchdowns and added four on the ground so the "Swiss Army Knife" player will be a matchup nightmare for defenses. It will take Gibson time to learn everything about the RB position, but he is electric with the ball in his hands so expect Washington to get creative finding ways to get him involved. Gibson is a high-upside sleeper to target late in fantasy drafts.

From RotoBaller

Dak Prescott Aug 12 11:40am ET

New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones will look to take a step forward in his second NFL season, and will be doing so with a new offensive coordinator in former Cowboys head coach Jason Garrett. In his first public comments since being hired in January, Garrett raved about the sophomore-signal caller's work ethic and the work Jones put in to learn the offense without the two being able to meet face-to-face due to the coronavirus pandemic. Jones showed huge upside last season with five-300 yard passing games and three games with four-plus touchdowns. His main issue was turnovers as he threw 12 picks and fumbled a league-leading 18 times. Garrett had great success with Dak Prescott, so expect him to help Jones improve in year two making him a good QB to target if waiting on the position in drafts.

From RotoBaller

Kenjon Barner Aug 12 11:03am ET

Free-agent RB Kenjon Barner (Falcons) agreed to an undisclosed deal with the Baltimore Ravens Wednesday, Aug. 12.

From TheHuddle

Nick Chubb Aug 12 11:00am ET

Cleveland Browns running back Nick Chubb told reporters during a Zoom session on Tuesday that he is "ready to share work with (Kareem) Hunt and play alongside him in the same backfield." Chubb and Hunt played eight games together in 2019 after Hunt served an eight-game suspension to begin the season. Chubb told reporters, "Last year, it was just half a season (with Hunt), and this year, he's here and ready. I look forward to it." While Hunt's presence in the backfield will affect Chubb in the passing game, the Browns figure to skew run-heavy under first-year head coach Kevin Stefanski. That, along with a revamped offensive line, should lead to more than enough fantasy production for both Chubb and Hunt in 2020. Draft Chubb as a low-end RB1 in all formats this season.

From RotoBaller

Vic Beasley Aug 12 10:53am ET

Updating a previous report, Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley (undisclosed) failed his physical and was placed on the Non-Football Injury list.

From TheHuddle

T Y Hilton Aug 12 9:33am ET

Indianapolis Colts WR T.Y. Hilton (hamstring) passed his physical Wednesday, Aug. 12, and was activated from the active/Non-Football Injury list.

Fantasy Spin: Hilton has been plagued by soft-tissue injuries, and this hamstring injury adds more trepidation. He's a WR3 that you need a backup plan for, but he has upside there as well.

From TheHuddle

Matthew Stafford Aug 12 12:30am ET

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford has been cleared to play football after a COVID-19 test resulted in a false positive. Stafford commented, "I want to play football. I want to be out there", in addressing a situation he referred to as "scary". The veteran quarterback was on his way to one of the best seasons of his professional career last year, passing for 2,499 yards and 19 touchdowns in only eight games. But a fractured back ended his season Stafford and his fantasy value will be weighed down by the specter of that injury heading into fantasy drafts.

From RotoBaller

Equanimeous St. Brown Aug 11 11:23pm ET

Green Bay Packers WR Equanimeous St. Brown (ankle) will be ready for the first practice Saturday, Aug. 15, according to general manager Brian Gutekunst.

From TheHuddle

Evan Engram Aug 11 11:13pm ET

New York Giants TE Evan Engram (foot) said he is ready for training camp thanks to 'a very strong and aggressive rehab' this offseason.

Fantasy Spin: Engram has delivered TE1 production when on the field, but he has played just 19 games over the past two seasons because of various injuries. He could be a Top 5 player at his position, but you need to have a quality backup plan in place.

From TheHuddle

Boston Scott Aug 11 11:03pm ET

Philadelphia Eagles RB Boston Scott is 'positioned to be the No. 2 running back' in 2020, according to Zach Berman of The Athletic, and Berman said he expects Scott to have a Darren Sproles-like role in the backfield.

Fantasy Spin: Scott flashed his upside late last season, piling up 151 rushing yards, 199 receiving yards and scoring four times over the final four games. Miles Sanders is the lead back in Philadelphia, but his owners may want to grab Scott as a handcuff.

From TheHuddle

Malik Turner Aug 11 11:00pm ET

For the second day in a row, the Green Bay Packers have added a wide receiver. This time, it's former Seahawks wideout Malik Turner, who had 15 catches for 245 yards last season. Turner's much more likely to play a role on this team than the other addition, Travis Fulgham, but he still faces an uphill battle to be a fantasy-relevant part of this roster in 2020. Still, Green Bay is fairly shallow at receiver, so Turner could end up as the team's No. 3 wide receiver by the time the regular season rolls around.

From RotoBaller

Jimmy Garoppolo Aug 11 9:33pm ET

San Francisco 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo is no longer wearing a knee brace in practice this year.

Fantasy Spin: Garoppolo had previously said his knee is back to 100 percent following his 2018 injury, and shedding the brace is further confirmation. A more mobile Garoppolo could lead to a few more big plays, but he should probably still be viewed as more of a high-end QB2 than a every-week fantasy starter.

From TheHuddle

Mike Daniels Aug 11 8:03pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent DT Mike Daniels (Lions) agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth up to $2.7 million with the Cincinnati Bengals Tuesday, Aug. 11, according to a source.

From TheHuddle

Aug 11 7:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, free-agent CB Ross Cockrell (Panthers) will remain a free agent after failing to come to terms on a contract with the New York Giants.

From TheHuddle

Aug 11 6:33pm ET

Free-agent DT Darius Kilgo (Lions) signed with the New England Patriots Tuesday, Aug. 11. Terms of the deal were undisclosed.

From TheHuddle

P.J. Hall Aug 11 6:13pm ET

Free-agent DT P.J. Hall (Raiders) visited the Houston Texans Tuesday, Aug. 11.

From TheHuddle

Xavien Howard Aug 11 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins CB Xavien Howard was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Tuesday, Aug. 11.

From TheHuddle

Vic Beasley Aug 11 4:13pm ET

Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley (undisclosed) was placed on the Non-Football Injury list Tuesday, Aug. 11. LB Reggie Gilbert was waived.

From TheHuddle