NFC North Tiered Preview: Packers and Vikings

Embed from Getty Images

The most valuable NFC North fantasy assets are easily Davante Adams and Dalvin Cook. However, the Packers and Vikings have a lot more to offer than just those two studs.

In this NFC North preview, the Green Bay Packers and Detroit Lions are the two teams being featured in the second part of this two-part series. Both squads will have new head coaches, contending for playoff spots and feature plenty of new faces – some more welcomed than others – from the NFL Draft.

Each tier breakdown will preview players that have potential to finish in the Top 12, 24 or 36 at their respective positions. These NFC North rivals provide two QB1 candidates, a sure RB1 and another potential RB1, a top WR in Davante Adams, another couple of WRs that may provide outstanding value and a pair of TE sleepers with upside.

If you are looking for the IDP tier recommendations in the NFC North, you should definitely give Kyle’s article a hard look. Just click here to get an edge on your IDP competition. 

Green Bay Packers (13-3, 6-0 in NFC North)

Embed from Getty Images

Tier 1 (Top 12 Potential):

  • Potential studs to build your roster around
  • Will most likely command early round capital

Davante Adams, Wide Receiver (DFD ADP-10.5)

  • 2019 Stats: 127 targets, 83 receptions, 997 yards, 5 TDs in 12 games
  • 2019 Positional Finish: WR22 (tied with Michael Gallup)

If any manager is surprised to see Davante Adams as a Tier 1 wide receiver, then welcome to your first year playing fantasy football! After exploding for 180 receiving yards against the Eagles in Week 4, Adams missed 4 straight games and eventually landed in the backend WR2 range. 

Adams finished last season strong with 22.7 ppr points across his last four games. From 2016 to 2018, the Clemson product has averaged 135.7 targets, 86.7 receptions, 1,089.3 receiving yards and 11.7 touchdowns per season. Adams is clearly a stud and a top 5 WR. He’s a steal at the end of the 1st round or early 2nd round.

Aaron Rodgers, Quarterback (DFD ADP-135.5)

  • 2019 Stats: 62 % passes completed, 4,002 yards, 26 passing TDs, 4 interceptions, 183 rushing yards, 1 rush TD
  • 2019 Positional Finish: QB9

Fantasy football owners have been fading Aaron Rodgers hard. For dynasty players it’s a classic game of hot potato and you don’t want to be caught holding onto Rodgers’ cheesy potato in the end. It’s all about getting the most value out of your asset. The drafting of Jordan Love, new head coach and simply his age all seem like legit reasons to sell the future Hall-of-Famer.

That’s what makes him a great value for SF contenders. When people zig, you try to find the right zag, and Rodgers as buy low QB1 or even QB2 is not a bad zag. Since 2012, Rogers has been a top 12 QB every year but one. That one season he was injured, only playing 7 games. Now that’s consistency.

His days of top 5 QB finishes are probably behind him, but Rodgers is definitely a candidate to finish in the top 12 in 2020. Contenders in dynasty could get him at the right price and he’s a solid target as a late-round pick in 1QB. It’s not hard to imagine the other NFC North teams are looking forward to the Jordan Love era.

Aaron Jones, Running Back (DFD ADP-21.75)

  • 2019 Stats: 236 carries, 1,086 rushing yards, 68 targets, 49 receptions, 474 receiving yards,  19 total TDs
  • 2019 Positional Finish: RB2 in PPR Format

In his third season, Jones broke out for 1,084 rushing yards and an eye-popping 16 rushing touchdowns. Additionally, the Packers running back also showed off his receiving upside with 49 catches for 474 receiving yards and 3 touchdowns. That’s good enough to finish as the 2nd best PPR RB on the year and was absolutely a “league winner.”

Will Jones repeat his 2019 output? The answer is most likely no, and that’s why many people in the fantasy community are fading on him.

He’s in a contract year with no long term deal in sight, the Packers invested a 2nd round pick in a freak of nature (AJ Dillon) and it simply not reasonable to expect him to repeat those numbers. Could Jones still finish as a RB1? It is definitely in the realm of possibilities. Dillon will dig into his work a little bit, but the massive rookie is most likely taking away from Jamal Williams’ work, not Jones’ touches.

In dynasty, Jones is tough to project outside of the 2020 season, but he could definitely be a solid trade target for contending teams as he’s currently considered a high-end RB2, not a RB1. Whether he continues to dominate NFC North defenses in 2021, we just have to wait and see.

Tier 2 (Top 24 Potential):

  • Key starters that you need to be a contender in your league
  • Most likely to have middle round ADP- where fantasy seasons are won or lost

Jace Sternberger, Tight End (DFD ADP-299)

Embed from Getty Images

For 2019 dynasty start-up drafts, Jace Sternberger was considered by many fantasy players as an excellent stash pick and is emerging as a tight end sleeper for 2020. The 2nd year TE has little to no competition for the starter’s spot with Jimmy Graham in Chicago now. He offers a lot of potential as a receiving threat, particularly on contested catches and after the catch.

After Adams’ large share, the target load in Green Bay is quite an open contest, which includes 132 vacated targets from 2019. The 6-foot-4, 251 lb prospect should be considered a TE2 with huge upside as potential No. 2 or No. 3 target for Rodgers.

Tier 3 (Top 36 Potential):

  • Steady depth players or high upside picks that can make or break your team
  • These players could be labeled “sleepers” if you are looking for that type of player

None, but Allen Lazard offers some great sleeper value as the potential No. 2 WR in this offense.

Minnesota Vikings (10-6, 2-4 in NFC North)

Embed from Getty Images

Tier 1 (Top 12 Potential):

  • Potential studs to build your roster around
  • Will most likely command early round capital

Dalvin Cook, Running Back (DFD ADP-6.75)

  • 2019 Stats: 250 carries, 1,135 rushing yards, 63 targets, 53 receptions, 519 receiving yards,  13 total TDs
  • 2019 Positional Finish: RB6 in PPR Format

Dalvin Cook finally lived up to the hype in his third NFL season. The Vikings star finished the RB6 in PPR formats despite missing two games in 2019. Now that he is officially in stud status, it is time for potential holdout, right? Those early reports definitely caused some stress for dynasty owners, but the 2019 Pro Bowler has reported to training camp and stated that he will not hold out for a contract extension. 

Cook is the complete package you want in a RB1 – a true workhorse, receiving upside, breakaway speed, draft capital, part of a good offense. In dynasty, now would be the time to target Cook in trades as his contract situation is looming. He’s an outstanding pick in the late 1st round for redraft leagues, particularly PPR scoring formats. Cook is by far the most valuable asset in the NFC North as the division’s stud running back.

Tier 2 (Top 24 Potential):

  • Key starters that you need to be a contender in your league
  • Most likely to have middle round ADP- where fantasy seasons are won or lost

Kirk Cousins, Quarterback (DFD ADP-281.75)

Embed from Getty Images

  • 2019 Stats: 69.1 % passes completed, 3,603 yards, 26 passing TDs, 6 interceptions, 63 rushing yards, 1 rush TD
  • 2019 Positional Finish: QB15

I absolutely love Kirk Cousins’ value. According to DFD’s August ADP, the Vikings signal caller is the 24th QB off the board and I can’t understand why he is so low. The Minnesota offense took a run-heavy approach last season, but Cousins still managed to finish QB15 while displaying fantastic passing efficiency. 

The Michigan State product completed 69.1% of his passes with only 6 interceptions on his way to 3,603 yards and 26 touchdowns. He previously held a 70.1% completion percentage with 4,298 passing yards and 30 touchdowns, which was good for QB12. 

Yes, Cousins lost a star in Stefon Diggs, but he gained Justin Jefferson and Irv Smith Jr. looks ready to take another step forward in his development. Cousins looks to finish in the QB12-16 range this season, which offers tremendous value in all formats given his ADP.

Adam Thielen, Wide Receiver (DFD ADP-41.25)

  • 2019 Stats: 48 targets, 30 receptions, 418 yards, 6 TDs in 10 games
  • 2019 Positional Finish: WR63

After an injury-riddled season, Thielen was being sold all over dynasty leagues (including by me) in fear that his value took another significant dip. Then Stefon Diggs was traded to Buffalo and Thielen’s value trended up again.

The undrafted Vikings star is the unquestioned #1 target in Minnesota, with a bevy of youngsters competing for the rest of the targets. Many analysts are predicting Thielen’s production to fall off due to his recent injuries, which is a fair concern given that back injuries can linger. If the Minnesota State legend can stay on the field, he should be productive for at least a few more seasons and NFC North defenses will need to plan accordingly.

After two consecutive top 8 WR finishes in 2017 and 2018, Thielen looks primed for a bounce back year- if his actual back can hold up. His ceiling could be in the top 12, but a top 24 finish is more realistic, as missed games should be expected and factored into his ADP. Thielen is the definition of a big risk, big reward pick.

Irv Smith Jr., Tight End (DFD ADP-265.75)

  • 2019 Stats: 47 targets, 36 receptions, 311 yards, 2 TDs
  • 2019 Positional Finish: TE33

With the 50th pick of the 2019 NFL Draft, the Minnesota Vikings selected their future starting tight end, Irv Smith Jr. from the University of Alabama. The 6-foot-2, 242 lbs tight end finished his rookie campaign with 36 catches on 47 targets for 311 yards and 2 scores. 

Smith Jr. is a very intriguing fantasy football prospect, but may be an even better real football prospect. His polished route running, athleticism and strong hands up are what fantasy owners are attracted to, but his superior run blocking ability should get him more snaps. More snaps equals more opportunities, simple as that. 

There is a roadblock in the way in the name of Kyle Rudolph, who has been an excellent starter for the Vikings and is signed through the next 3 seasons. However, Smith is too good of a player not to see the field and finished with only 1 target behind Rudolph last season. 

If the Smith surpasses Rudolph on the depth chart, then he is a TE2 with A LOT of upside. At his current ADP, he is an absolute bargain at that TE21 price  and has the potential to breakout this year or next season. Either way, he is worth the investment and will be a top NFC North TE for years to come.

Tier 3 (Top 36 Potential):

  • Steady depth players or high upside picks that can make or break your team
  • These players could be labeled “sleepers” if you are looking for that type of player

Justin Jefferson, Wide Receiver (DFD ADP-132.5)

With Stefon Diggs traded to Buffalo in March, there was a lot of buzz around the Vikings investment at the wide receiver position. They hit a home run in Justin Jefferson, who could be an instant impact player in this offense. 

Unless you never followed football and this is the first fantasy football column you ever read (thanks for picking mine!), you are likely well aware of what the LSU star did in that historic offense last season (111 catches for 1,540 yards and 18 touchdowns). Though he played a big slot at LSU, he can line up all over the field.

The Vikings’ heavy zone run offense did not previously limit them from consistently producing two top 24 wide receivers. Jefferson should still have plenty of upside as the favorite to be Cousins’ No. 2 target. Now if Thielen’s back problems continue, the sky’s the limit for the rookie WR.

Alexander Mattison, Running Back (DFD ADP-136.5)

Embed from Getty Images

  • 2019 Stats: 100 carries, 462 rushing yards, 12 targets, 10 receptions, 82 receiving yards, 1 TD
  • 2019 Positional Finish: RB60

Alexander Mattison is a premiere handcuff in fantasy drafts. So, he’s a really good backup. Is that enough of a reason to invest in him? If he plays in a run heavy offense behind a star with a lengthy injury history that is now in a contract dispute, then yeah, it seems like a solid investment.

When Cook’s holdout news was all over player alerts and Twitter, Mattison became a hot pick and it was the optimal time to be looking to sell him. Now with Cook back at camp and expressing his intention to not hold out, Mattison is back at value and could be a great buy.

Clearly if Cook is out Mattison will feast, but that’s a big “what if”. The Boise State running back still managed a respectable 462 rushing yards and 1 TD backing up Cook. The Vikings could look to preserve Cook a bit with such a talented backup in their backfield. 

At his ADP, Mattison could be an excellent investment with Cook’s health and contract looming. He offers a decent floor if Gary Kubiak decides to utilize Mattison more. Time will tell, but the potential is no doubt there.

Follow me on Twitter @FF_Banterman. Check out my FF podcast A Tale of Two Rivals with co-hosts @FF_Spaceman & @ff_walrus wherever you find your favorite podcasts. Get all the dynasty advice, rankings, and featured articles that you need by subscribing to Dynasty Football Digest. Looking for the best IDP takes to help win your league? Look no further than the IDP Guys, just click here to dominate your league.