2020 Fantasy Football Preview: NFC North draft targets

Minnesota Vikings running back Dalvin Cook (33) celebrates after scoring on a 7-yard touchdown run during the second half against the Atlanta Falcons, Sunday, Sept. 8, 2019. (Bruce Kluckhohn/AP)

With the 2020 NFL season fast approaching, so are fantasy football drafts.

To help get you ready, Sportsnet’s Andy McNamara will down a division position by position every Friday until the start of the campaign.

Next up: the NFC North

QUARTERBACK

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers

People can dump on Rodgers all they want, but the bottom line is that the future Hall of Famer remains a bona fide starting fantasy quarterback. Yes, his touchdown totals have dipped over the past couple of seasons, but Rodgers is a consistent 4,000-plus yard producer and hasn’t thrown double-digit interceptions in a decade.

The Packers star projects as an eight-to-12-type of QB in 2020.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions

Last a fantasy force in 2017 as a QB7, Stafford still possesses the firepower to be a gunslinger if he can remain healthy. His weapons are solid in Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones, youngster T.J. Hockenson and a pair of dynamic running backs.

If you decide to choose Stafford as your starter, think about securing a solid backup like a Teddy Bridgewater or Derek Carr, just in case.

Detroit Lions quarterback Matthew Stafford (9) throws in the first half against the Los Angeles Chargers in Detroit, Sunday, Sept. 15, 2019. (Duane Burleson/AP)

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings

Cousins’ efficiency, high completion percentage and low turnovers make for a solid real-life quarterback, but not an enticing fantasy option. In his two seasons with the Vikings, Cousins has finished as a QB13 and QB18, respectively. Consider the Michigan State alum as a safe backup or a second in two-quarterback leagues.

Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles, Chicago Bears

Yikes – the Bears get a hard no from me for fantasy quarterback. Trubisky’s regression was shocking in 2019 and who knows what to expect from Foles as a newbie to the team at this point in his career.

RUNNING BACK

Minnesota Vikings

Everything being equal, Dalvin Cook is the best fantasy running back in this division. However, a possible holdout due to a contract dispute and the fact he’s never completed a full 16-game schedule are concerning. Just like last year, Alexander Mattison is the handcuff to own as Minnesota’s No. 2.

Track Cook’s progress with the Vikings on an extension. If there’s a resolution then feel comfortable treating the 2017 second-round pick as a true RB1. If questions remain, I’d advise to downgrade him in your rankings.

Chicago Bears

The only thing making David Montgomery a more appealing fantasy option than anyone in the Green Bay or Detroit backfields is that he is not a part of a committee. That means at least the sophomore is in line for significant touches.

Montgomery fell flat on the high hopes put on him last September. His yards per carry were a pedestrian 3.7 in 2019 and he ended up around 24th amongst all running backs for fantasy points. A better flex play than a RB2.

Green Bay Packers

Well, thanks for nothing Green Bay. By selecting A.J. Dillon in April’s NFL draft, the Packers threw breakout fantasy star Aaron Jones into a two-and-a-half-headed monster in the backfield. Jamaal Williams is involved just enough in the offence to be annoying, and now there’s the issue of ball distribution with the rookie.

Dillon is a smart pickup in dynasty leagues since Jones’s contract expires at season’s end, but that doesn’t do much to clear up 2020. In re-draft formats, I won’t think of touching Dillon until the very end of the second or into the third round.

Aaron-Jones-Green-Bay-Packers
Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) scores on a 12-yard touchdown run during the second half against the Minnesota Vikings, Monday, Dec. 23, 2019, in Minneapolis. (Andy Clayton-King/AP)

Detroit Lions

It’s not the player, it’s the situation when I think of D’Andre Swift heading off to Detroit. The rookie joins 2018 second-round pick Kerryon Johnson in the Lions backfield.

Emerging from the NFL running back factory that is Georgia, Swift possesses all the tools to be an every-down player. He’s a dream standalone fantasy star as a polished rusher that can run between tackles, pass protect and catch. My concern on how high to draft him comes from not just the presence of Johnson, but also the ideology of Detroit’s offence.

Head coach Matt Patricia is a Bill Belichick disciple and seems to adhere to his former boss’s strategy of tormenting fantasy owners in running back usage. Remember Bo Scarbrough’s random insertion late last season just before kick off?

Swift’s talent is undeniable, but don’t reach for him this year.

WIDE RECEIVER

Detroit Lions

It’s incredible what Kenny Golladay was able to accomplish in 2019 with the backup quarterbacks he had slinging it to him. Still delivering over 1,100 yards and 11 touchdowns with Jeff Driskel and David Blough under centre after Matthew Stafford got injured is remarkable.

He’s a definite WR1 who I would feel comfortable drafting in the second round. Marvin Jones is a bench-depth wideout, while Danny Amendola is, at most, a DFS matchup based add.

Note: Golladay was placed on Detroit’s COVID-19/reserve list Wednesday.

Green Bay Packers

It’s Davante Adams and a bunch of guys when it comes to Green Bay’s wide receiver situation. Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling are no more than extras at the bottom of your fantasy roster. Could one of them take the “Lambeau Leap” up to fantasy relevance? Perhaps, but it would be more of a lucky guess.

Adams, on the other hand, is a stud when healthy and was just three yards shy of 1,000 last season even after missing four games. Currently, the 27-year-old has an average draft position (ADP) of 18 and is the third WR off the board, according fantasypros.com.

Minnesota Vikings

Adam Thielen is the present, but I’m excited about Justin Jefferson as the future. The six-foot-one, 202-pound LSU Tiger may take some time to ramp up, but his straight-away burst, natural hands and ridiculous catch radius are too good to pass on as a mid-round draft choice.

Thielen had not missed a game in five previous NFL seasons before last year, so his nagging injuries from 2019 don’t concern me. Being selected in the late third/early fourth round as a WR1 feels like the right spot for the former walk-on.

Chicago Bears

Like most fantasy position groups on the Bears this season, the wide receiver unit can be described as “yuck.” Allen Robinson II is the only remotely interesting fantasy option here after finishing last season as a WR12 in standard formats.

It all comes back to the quarterback situation: is it Trubisky or Foles, and what does that mean for Robinson? I could stomach him as the third receiver on my roster with sky-high potential. Anthony Miller, Ted Ginn Jr. and Riley Ridley should not be considered starters in 12-team leagues.

bears-giants
Chicago Bears wide receiver Allen Robinson (12) celebrates his touchdown with Jesper Horsted during the second half against the New York Giants. (Charles Rex Arbogast/AP)

TIGHT END

Minnesota Vikings

From a real-life football perspective, the Vikings are in great shape at tight end. Fantasy-wise though, they are faced with a committee. Now we’ve seen this work well in Philadelphia, but Kyle Rudolph is no Zach Ertz.

The addition of Irv Smith cut down Rudolph’s catches by 25 last season and strangely saw his touchdown total rise by two to six. I’d expect Smith to get even more involved in his second year, which neutralizes both players’ fantasy relevance.

Detroit Lions

T.J. Hockenson is a curious case entering Year 2. He exploded for six receptions, 131 yards and a touchdown Week 1, and then only eclipsed 50 yards one time over his other 11 outings.

It seems like Hockenson would be the perfect big target for Stafford. Can we count on it though? The answer has to be no right now and that’s why the Iowa product remains outside my top-14 fantasy tight ends.

Note: Hockenson was placed on Detroit’s COVID-19/reserve list Wednesday.

Chicago Bears

What an odd franchise the Bears have become. Why on earth would they give a declining Jimmy Graham a no-trade clause after he just finished two unproductive seasons with division rival Green Bay?! If Graham couldn’t thrive under Rodgers, why should we believe some combination of Trubisky and Foles would do any better? I’m viewing the veteran as nothing more than a tight-end backup on my roster.

It’s not all bleak in Chicago: Cole Kmet has future star written all over him, but the key word here is “future.”

Green Bay Packers

Green Bay’s starting tight end heading into the 2020 campaign had exactly zero catches last year. You read that correctly – sophomore Jace Sternberger was tossed one pass this past season. Sternberger has plenty of potential as arguably the Packers’ most athletic TE since Jermichael Finley, but right now Sternberger should be considered as a late-round stash in drafts.

Josiah Deguara was selected 94th overall in April, but at six-foot-two he projects more as a glorified fullback.

Note: Sternberger was placed on Chicago’s COVID-19/reserve list Thursday.

When submitting content, please abide by our submission guidelines, and avoid posting profanity, personal attacks or harassment. Should you violate our submissions guidelines, we reserve the right to remove your comments and block your account. Sportsnet reserves the right to close a story’s comment section at any time.