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
Marcus Mariota Aug 17 11:30pm ET

Tennessee Titans quarterback Marcus Mariota looked sharp in limited action against the New England Patriots on Saturday, completing 6-of-9 passes for 63 yards and a touchdown strike to tight end Delanie Walker. Mariota capped off a solid week of camp with a convincing performance, leaving no room for speculation about a quarterback competition in Tennessee. Titans reporter Paul Kuharsky went as far as to say "There is no circumstance under which a healthy Marcus Mariota is not the Week One starter in Cleveland. Period." While Mariota's job is not in question, his ability to be a consistent fantasy option at a position filled with options is. Mariota is nothing more than a low-end QB2 option going into his fifth season.

From RotoBaller

Dontrelle Inman Aug 17 11:00pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Dontrelle Inman caught only one pass but it was a crucial 17-yard reception in the fourth quarter of the Patriots 22-17 comeback preseason win. The veteran had seen only one target before he made the catch but Inman came through in the clutch. Inman has bounced around the league the past few seasons and certainly will be a 'bubble' player as he fights for a spot in the final two preseason games.

From RotoBaller

Brandon Bolden Aug 17 11:00pm ET

New England Patriots running back Brandon Bolden scored a 1-yard touchdown in the Patriots preseason victory over the Titans. Bolden registered only two yards on four carries but was able to convert in the red zone. Bolden is far down the running back depth chart on the Patriots but every year, it seems, he plays snaps during the regular season. Bolden will be not be fantasy viable unless multiple injuries hit the New England backfield.

From RotoBaller

Damien Harris Aug 17 10:50pm ET

New England Patriots running back Damien Harris carried the ball 14 times for 80 yards and added 23 receiving yards in the Patriots 22-17 preseason win over the Titans. Harris has been a non-factor in the early portions of training camp but has been dealing with a wrist injury. Harris made some solid, tough runs and looked like the talented prospect the Patriots selected out of Alabama. Harris has pass-catching ability and could find himself in the mix of the running back carousel in New England if he can maintain consistency moving forward.

From RotoBaller

Jakobi Meyers Aug 17 10:50pm ET

New England Patriots wide receiver Jakobi Meyers caught six passes for 82 yards in the Patriots 22-17 preseason win over the Titans. Meyers provided the only consistent offense in the passing game, joining teammate Damien Harris as the only players to post multiple receptions. Meyers made two key 10-yard receptions in the fourth quarter during a game-winning drive. The return of Josh Gordon makes things more complicated for players like Meyers but the 22-year-old is showing what he can do on the field.

From RotoBaller

Lance Kendricks Aug 17 10:50pm ET

New England Patriots tight end Lance Kendricks caught his first pass as a Patriot, a 28-yard reception in the team's preseason win over the Titans. One catch normally is not significant but Kendricks is expected to play a role early on this season with starter Benjamin Watson suspended the first four games. The Patriots have enjoyed production from the tight end position for almost a decade now and Kendricks could benefit playing in New England's offensive system. This is a very small step, but a step nonetheless for Kendricks.

From RotoBaller

Jarrett Stidham Aug 17 10:40pm ET

New England Patriots quarterback Jarrett Stidham completed 14-of-19 passes for 193 yards, including a game-winning touchdown, in the Patriots 22-17 preseason win over the Titans. Stidham hit wide receiver Damoun Patterson down the left sideline for 23 yards to put the Patriots ahead for the first time in the game. It was an efficient performance for the fourth-round rookie, who is looking at starting the season as the third-string quarterback. It is impossible to say whether Stidham is the "future" at quarterback for the Patriots but should see plenty of snaps in the final two preseason games.

From RotoBaller

Nick Brossette Aug 17 10:40pm ET

New England Patriots running back Nick Brossette totaled only 37 yards from scrimmage but scored a touchdown in his second straight preseason game against the Titans. Brossette's numbers have not been impressive but has executed in the red zone thus far in the preseason. Brossette will have to show more productivity than stuffing in one-yard touchdowns to be considered a serious factor when the regular season rolls around.

From RotoBaller

Demetrius Harris Aug 17 8:30pm ET

Cleveland Browns tight end Demetrius Harris was unable to corral either of his two targets in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Harris, who came over to Cleveland as a free-agent after spending five seasons with the Kansas City Chiefs, is expected to serve as the team's second tight end after David Njoku. Of course, Njoku is dealing with a knee injury, which will give Harris more run with the first team during preseason practices. The Browns should run more 12 personnel this season, which would get Harris on the field alongside Njoku in certain situations. Harris doesn't need to be drafted but he is worth monitoring just in case the Browns show that he is a significant part of their plans, especially in the red zone.

From RotoBaller

Rashard Higgins Aug 17 8:20pm ET

Cleveland Browns wide receiver Rashard Higgins turned in a solid game in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Higgins caught all four of his targets for 34 yards in the win. The veteran receiver has been productive during the preseason as he further cements himself as the team's No. 3 wide receiver. While he won't see a high volume of targets behind Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry, Higgins is likely to have a few big games this season on what should be an exciting Browns offense. Keep him in mind as a potential flex option in deeper fantasy leagues this season.

From RotoBaller

Kareem Hunt Aug 17 8:20pm ET

Cleveland Browns running back Kareem Hunt saw two touches in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. Hunt carried the ball twice for six yards and was unable to haul in his lone target in the win. The game action marked Hunt's preseason debut after he was not involved in the preseason opener last week. Hunt will begin serving an eight-game suspension once the regular season begins but he has some value as a flex option in PPR leagues when he does come back. Of course, using a draft pick on him will require a fantasy owner to keep him on the roster for over half of the fantasy regular season. That only seems like a viable plan in leagues with large roster settings.

From RotoBaller

Greg Joseph Aug 17 8:10pm ET

Cleveland Browns kicker Greg Joseph missed a 53-yard field goal in a 21-18 preseason win over the Indianapolis Colts on Saturday. The 53-yarder was Joseph's only field goal attempt in the game although he added an extra point. Joseph has been in a preseason camp battle with rookie Austin Siebert for the right to be the team's kicker during the regular season. Both have been pretty even during their battle, with Siebert also missing his lone field goal attempt against the Colts. Whoever wins the starting kicker role will have plenty of fantasy value tied to what should be an explosive Cleveland offense.

From RotoBaller

Daniel Carlson Aug 17 7:40pm ET

Oakland Raiders kicker Daniel Carlson had an impressive season with the Silver and Black in 2018 and is primed to improve in this campaign. After getting waived by the Vikings following Week 2, Carlson finished the last 10 games of the season with the Raiders setting a new team record with a 94% field goal succession rate. With an improved offense likely providing more point-after attempts and better field goal positioning, the former fifth-round pick could put up a considerable point total this year if he can stay in the 90% conversion range.

From RotoBaller

Keelan Doss Aug 17 7:20pm ET

Oakland Raiders wide receiver Keelan Doss has turned a few heads through the team's first two preseason games. The undrafted rookie caught a touchdown pass in Week 1 and followed that performance with a five-catch 38-yard game in Week 2, making a case for a place on the 53-man roster. Doss is competing for one of the final roster spots at WR, but faces an uphill battle with only one spot available and three players ahead of him on the depth chart for the job. Even if the 23-year-old cracks the squad, he won't receive enough playing time to become a fantasy contributor in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Doug Martin Aug 17 7:10pm ET

Oakland Raiders running back Doug Martin is slated for a backup role with the Silver and Black this season after leading the team in rushing in 2018. The "Muscle Hamster" racked up an underwhelming 723 yards and four touchdowns last season and will play second fiddle behind rookie Josh Jacobs in 2019. Martin didn't hold much fantasy value as a starter a year ago and is off the radar this campaign in a backup role. With Jalen Richard finding work in the passing game, it would take a significant injury from Jacobs to give Martin any sort of fantasy relevance. He's a late-round handcuff in best-ball leagues and can be avoided in season-long formats.

From RotoBaller

Jalen Richard Aug 17 7:00pm ET

Oakland Raiders running back Jalen Richard is coming off a successful 2018 campaign which saw him accumulate 55 rushes and 68 catches for 866 all-purpose yards. With the team using a first-round pick on Josh Jacobs, Richard finds himself third on the depth chart this season with a question mark surrounding his usage for this year. Richard was a huge factor in the passing game last season finishing seventh among running backs in receptions. With the coaching staff hopeful of Jacobs becoming an every-down back, Richard will struggle to find playing time on this improving offense. Unless Jacobs gets injured or struggles mightily as a pass-catcher, Richard won't hold any fantasy appeal in 2019.

From RotoBaller

Andrew Luck Aug 17 4:33pm ET

Indianapolis Colts QB Andrew Luck (ankle) worked out on the field before the preseason game Saturday, Aug. 17, and appeared to be moving around well.

Fantasy Spin: Luck is still uncertain for Week 1, so fantasy players will need to continue to keep an eye on his status. He is a No. 1 quarterback in fantasy leagues when he is healthy, but players may want to draft a strong No. 2 quarterback in case Luck misses a few games.

From TheHuddle

Dee Ford Aug 17 4:33pm ET

San Francisco 49ers DE Dee Ford (knee) is on track to play in Week 1, according to general manager John Lynch.

From TheHuddle

Nick Chubb Aug 17 3:50pm ET

According to the Cleveland Browns pregame show, running back Nick Chubb is not expected to play on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts in his team's second preseason game. Chubb saw minimal work last week in the preseason opener as he played on the first series with the team and took one carry. Cleveland has little reason to risk injury to their No. 1 running back in the preseason, so Chubb will be a spectator. Look for Chubb to play more extensively in the preseason dress rehearsal next week.

From RotoBaller

Baker Mayfield Aug 17 3:50pm ET

The Cleveland Browns will rest many of their starters in the team's second preseason game on Saturday against the Indianapolis Colts. Quarterback Baker Mayfield and wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr. are among the starters who will be watching from the sidelines in the contest. Mayfield played sparingly during the preseason opener last week while Beckham has yet to appear in a preseason game as he is dealing with a hip pointer. Garrett Gilbert will draw the start at quarterback against the Colts on Saturday. Look for Mayfield to play a good bit in preseason Week 3 next week. Beckham's status is unclear, although he is unlikely to play.

From RotoBaller