Training Camp Preview: NFC North

Fri Jul 24 10:02am ET
By JEFF PAUR
Sr Fantasy Writer

Lazard could start for Packers


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 should have an interesting training camp because of friction between Aaron Rodgers and head coach Matt LaFleur. The two will need to get along if the Packers hope to reach their potential, which is high. Green Bay holds training camp at the Don Hutson Center in Ashwaubenon, Wisconsin.

Position battle: The Packers continue to search for a legit No. 2 receiver opposite Davante Adams. The candidates to start this year are Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. Lazard might have the leg up to start right now but this job is up for grabs. There is nothing certain with this position. Hopefully, one of these guys can emerge and be a real help to the passing game, which hasn’t been the case in recent years.

Injury watch: Star receiver Davante Adams missed four games last year because of injury and has failed to play a full season three straight years. The Packers need a healthy Adams in their lineup for a full season if they hope the passing game has any success. There is a huge drop in talent after Adams. 

Vikings

Minnesota is close to making a Super Bowl run but just haven’t gotten over the hump in recent years. The Vikings will hope to take things up a notch this season, starting in training camp. Minnesota needs Dalvin Cook to stay on the field a full year and for Kirk Cousins to play a little more mistake free football. Training camp for the Vikings takes place at the TCO Performance Center in Eagan, Minnesota.

Position battle: Kyle Rudolph has been the starter for years in Minnesota but second-year tight end Irv Smith could push him for the job this year. Rudolph is a better blocker, which probably helps his chances to start over Smith. But Smith is a better, more explosive player in the passing game. Both should play a role offensive even if they don’t start, but the starter might hold a little more fantasy value, especially if Smith can wrestle away the job from Rudolph.

Injury watch: Dalvin Cook is a supreme talent but injuries have been an issue for him to start his career. He is yet to play a full season in three years. He had a huge season last year despite missing two games. Cook needs to shed his injury prone label and get a full season under his belt. He also is threatening a holdout this year because he is searching for a new contract, which is something else to watch during camp.   

Lions

The Lions didn’t have quite the season as expected last year, mainly because Matthew Stafford went down with injury. Getting a healthy Stafford back might be the key to the season for the Lions. The offense just didn’t function nearly as well with Stafford out. Stafford and teammates will train at the Detroit Lions Training Facility in Allen Park, Michigan.

Position battle: Kerryon Johnson has performed well in a starting role the last two seasons but hasn’t been able to stay on the field. The Lions added D’Andre Swift in the draft this year to give Johnson some competition for the job. Swift is a very talented back that can be a three-down player in the NFL. He has a good chance to unseat Johnson for the starter’s job in Detroit. You’ll want to keep a close eye on the competition in camp. It should be a good one.

Injury watch: Marvin Jones battled an ankle injury much of last year, causing him miss games while playing hurt in others. This impacted his production. He should be just fine for the start of training camp, but keep an eye on his health just to be sure. Jones could be a surprise fantasy player this year after his injury issues last year. He has the talent to produce well in this pass-friendly offense opposite Kenny Golladay.

Bears

The Bears should have a very interesting training camp, mainly because of their quarterback battle. This should be something entertaining to watch, seeing who emerges as the starter for the Bears. Obviously, getting solid quarterback play is very important for the success of the Bears season. They need one of these guys to steady the ship. Chicago holds training camp at Halas Hall in Lake Forest, Illinois.

Position battle: The Bears brought in some competition for Mitchell Trubisky, adding Nick Foles to the roster. This will be a wide open competition for the starter’s job. Trubisky has a lot of talent but just hasn’t progressed as expected. Foles is a steady veteran that seems a good fit for the Bears offense. Foles might have the upper hand right now, but don’t rule out Trubisky if he can show improvements from the last few years.

Injury watch: Anthony Miller needed shoulder surgery this offseason. He might not be quite 100 percent for the start of training camp. His health is something to watch, especially since he has injured the same shoulder two straight years. This is an injury concern going forward for Miller. He has a wealth of talent but hasn’t quite reached that potential and this injury might be something that holds him back from reaching that potential.

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
Vic Beasley Aug 7 11:53am ET

Tennessee Titans LB Vic Beasley reported for COVID-19 testing Friday, Aug. 7.

From TheHuddle

James Washington Aug 7 11:13am ET

Pittsburgh Steelers WR James Washington was activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Friday, Aug. 7.

Fantasy Spin: Washington could start opposite of Juju Smith-Schuster, but he'll need to step it up to stave off Chase Claypool. Washington figures to be a WR4 or WR5 in fantasy.

From TheHuddle

Corey Davis Aug 6 7:03pm ET

Updating a previous story, Tennessee Titans WR Corey Davis (toe) is on the Physically Unable to Perform list as a result of offseason toe surgery. He's not expected to miss any games.

Fantasy Spin: This would be a greater concern if Davis was actually missing meaningful practices while on the PUP list. There shouldn't be any major concern, and he'll still enter the season as the No. 2 option behind A.J. Brown.

From TheHuddle

M.J. Stewart Aug 6 5:43pm ET

Tampa Bay Buccaneers CB M.J. Stewart was released Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rod Smith Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Las Vegas Raiders RB Rod Smith was placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Josh Doctson Aug 6 5:33pm ET

Updating a previous story, New York Jets WR Josh Doctson was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Rashaan Melvin Aug 6 5:23pm ET

Updating a previous story, Jacksonville Jaguars DB Rashaan Melvin was placed on the Reserve/Opt-Out list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Ricardo Louis Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent WRs Ricardo Louis (Dolphins) and Chester Rogers (Colts) have been contacted and put through physicals by the Miami Dolphins, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

J.J. Wilcox Aug 6 5:13pm ET

Free-agent S J.J. Wilcox (Falcons) is expected to re-sign with the Atlanta Falcons pending COVID-19 testing and a physical, according to a source Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Shaq Lawson Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins LB Raekwon Davis, DT Benito Jones, S Brandon Jones, OG Solomon Kindley, DE Shaq Lawson and WR Kirk Merritt were placed on the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Zach Sieler Aug 6 4:23pm ET

Miami Dolphins RB Malcolm Perry and DT Zach Sieler were activated from the Reserve/COVID-19 list Thursday, Aug. 6.

From TheHuddle

Robert Woods Aug 6 4:03pm ET

Los Angeles Rams WR Robert Woods said he has had preliminary contract extension talks with the Rams and wants to finish his career with Los Angeles.

Fantasy Spin: Woods has played very well since joining the Rams and has posted at least 1,100 yards in each of the last two seasons. He will be one of the main options in the passing game this season and should be a weekly starting option in all fantasy leagues.

From TheHuddle

Leighton Vander Esch Aug 6 1:53pm ET

Dallas Cowboys LB Leighton Vander Esch said he will be playing middle linebacker this season with LB Jaylon Smith moving to weakside linebacker.

From TheHuddle

Clay Matthews Aug 6 12:43pm ET

Free-agent LB Clay Matthews (Rams) and LB Everson Griffen (Vikings) have received interest from the Seattle Seahawks.

From TheHuddle

Tee Higgins Aug 5 8:20pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tee Higgins was selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL draft and has a high ceiling without a doubt, especially since he will be catching passes from No. 1 overall selection Joe Burrow. Both rookies have built a rapport already as the duo conducted workouts together during the offseason. Higgins finished his final season at Clemson with 59 catches and 13 touchdowns off of 1,167 yards. While he is a risky selection in redraft leagues this season due to his potential limited playing time, he is surely worth a first-round pick in dynasty formats as he will likely rack up plenty of receptions from Burrow for years to come.

From RotoBaller

Tyler Boyd Aug 5 8:10pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver Tyler Boyd has begun catching passes from rookie signal-caller Joe Burrow as the team kicks off training camp. The 25-year-old has plenty of hype heading into the 2020 season after racking up over 1,000 yards in his previous two seasons. With A.J. Green seemingly healthy along with the addition of Clemson wideout Tee Higgins, Boyd could see things open up more on the offensive end, while also remaining the team's top pass-catcher.

From RotoBaller

A.J. Green Aug 5 8:00pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals wide receiver A.J. Green went through his first walkthrough under second-year head coach Zac Taylor on Tuesday. The veteran, who recently signed a one-year tender a few weeks ago, missed all of 2019 after injuring his ankle during training camp. While consistent ailments have been the theme for the 32-year-old over the past seasons, there is no denying his ability when healthy. He is no longer considered an elite wideout, however, he is worth a mid-round pick for those looking for an option with an enormous upside.

From RotoBaller

Joe Mixon Aug 5 7:40pm ET

Cincinnati Bengals running back Joe Mixon is still without a new deal as the team heads toward the 2020 season. However, according to director of player personnel, Duke Tobin, the organization views the 24-year-old as a "cornerstone piece of the franchise." Mixon is looking for a contract that would pay him north of $8 million per year, a significant increase from the $1.2 million that he is expected to earn in the final year of his rookie deal. The former Sooner is coming off back-to-back 1,000-yard rushing seasons and is projected by many to be a fantasy breakout by year's end.

From RotoBaller

Ezekiel Elliott Aug 5 7:10pm ET

Dallas Cowboys running back Ezekiel Elliott was quick to respond to Ed Werder's Twitter post regarding a potentially reduced role for the former rushing champ, quipping "we all gonna eat." Though Elliott is a shoo-in, first-round pick in fantasy drafts for the 2020 campaign, many still wonder how he will co-exist on an offense that has plenty of mouths to feed, notably Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup, and 17th overall pick, CeeDee Lamb. Elliott finished 2019 as a top-five back in the majority of formats. Under new head coach Mike McCarthy, who has overseen some productive runners throughout his career, the 25-year-old could be in store for another productive year.

From RotoBaller