Earlier this month, we took a gander at some projections for four NFC West players. Now we leave the Pacific Coast for four teams up in the NFC North.
Once again, we will be using Bovada’s odds to predict the seasons for studs from the NFC North teams: The Green Bay Packers, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions. Let’s begin with Chicago, where our first player hopes to get some more consistent quarterback play.
Chicago Bears – Allen Robinson
2020 over/under projections: 89.5 receptions, 1,099.5 receiving yards, 7.5 touchdowns
Robinson was a target monster in 2019, ranking third in the NFL with 154 passes thrown his way, racking up a WR8 finish in PPR leagues. He eclipsed the 150 target mark twice previously, totaling 80 and 73 receptions in 2015 and 2016, respectively. However, during a career year in 2019, Robinson improved on his efficiency, hauling in 98 catches along with 1,147 yards and seven touchdowns.
This comes one year after his first season in the NFC North, 2018, ended with WR40 finish. The difference: Chicago ran the ball at the sixth-highest rate in 2018, but that script flipped in 2019. He also was available for all 16 games after missing three in 2018. It might be unrealistic to expect the Bears to finish outside the top 20 in rushing percentage again, but WR Taylor Gabriel is now gone. Chicago didn’t do much to address that absence. We can reasonably assume Nick Foles won’t be any worse than Mitch Trubisky was last season, either. All that lines up for a repeatable WR1 performance from Robinson.
Projection: OVER 89.5 receptions, OVER 1,099.5 receiving yards, OVER 7.5 touchdowns
The first two statistics are easily repeatable for Robinson, considering nobody aside from Anthony Miller expects to see a dramatic uptick in targets. The touchdown prediction is more of a gut-call. Robinson posted 14 touchdowns in 2015 with Blake Bortles throwing to him.
If Robinson achieved the minimum of these three marks, he’d finish with 248 points, which would have equated to the WR9 last season. I think that’s a fair assumption as the NFC North stud looks to be a target hog once again in 2020; almost certainly with better quarterback play.
Detroit Lions – Kenny Golladay
2020 over/under projections: 69.5 receptions, 1175.7 receiving yards, 7.5 touchdowns
Golladay exploded onto the fantasy scene last season, finishing as the WR9 in PPR leagues and the WR3 in standard leagues. A large part of his success is due to his ridiculous touchdown rate (he scored once for every 5.9 receptions). It wasn’t just his touchdown numbers that were impressive, however. He also ranked seventh in the league in receiving yards, despite playing only half of the season with Matthew Stafford.
Some are concerned about Stafford’s health entering 2020, but he had started every Lions game since 2010 prior to last year’s injury. During the past eight seasons, Stafford has averaged 4,466 yards and 27 touchdowns. Here are the players Golladay has to compete with for targets: T.J. Hockenson, Marvin Jones Jr. and Danny Amendola. Not exactly an intimidating group to vie for targets with.
Projection: UNDER 69.5 receptions, UNDER 1,175.5 receiving yards, OVER 7.5 touchdowns
This projection may seem counter-intuitive, but I think Golladay barely misses the first two marks here. Despite accumulating 116 and 119 targets during the past two seasons, he has averaged a meager 67.5 receptions per season. He’s not a possession guy. The Lions also spent a second-rounder on running back DeAndre Swift, and Hockenson should command more targets in Year 2. Despite those “negatives” here’s what Golladay is: a big-play machine.
He has a strong-armed quarterback and no real competition for end-zone looks outside of Hockenson. Marvin Jones has stolen touchdowns in the past, but he totaled 66.6 percent of his touchdowns in two games last year. That’s far less repeatable for Jones than it is for Golladay, though touchdowns are difficult to predict in the first place. I have Golladay slated for 65 receptions, 1,100 yards and nine touchdowns this season, which would give him 236.5 points. That’s good for a WR13 finish in PPR and WR11 finish in standard leagues.
Green Bay Packers – Aaron Rodgers
2020 over/under projections: 3,899.5 passing yards, 26.5 touchdowns
Let’s not overthink this one too much. If Rodgers posted 3,900 yards and 27 touchdowns, he’d finish with 264 fantasy points. That’s before accounting for rushing points (he has essentially received a two-point boost per game from his efforts on the ground during the past two seasons). Fourteen different quarterbacks amassed at least 260 fantasy points last season. If you think Aaron Rodgers fails to meet these numbers, you essentially agree with one of these three statements.
- You wouldn’t be surprised to see Aaron Rodgers finish 2020 as QB14.
- For the first time since 2015, Rodgers will fail to reach 3,900 yards while healthy (that’s the only instance of him failing to reach 3,900 … he had 3,821).
Projection: OVER 3,899.5 passing yards, OVER 26.5 touchdowns
We can be on the same page regarding Rodgers not being quite what he used to be. But he’s still Aaron Rodgers. He has a fire lit underneath him that he’s never had before. The Packers neglected him in the draft, opting to select his replacement instead of weapons in the passing game. I think Rodgers, with a fully healthy Davante Adams, has a monster season and crushes these numbers. As a matter of fact, I’ll have money on these lines before you finish reading this sentence. Seriously.
Minnesota Vikings – Justin Jefferson
2020 over/under projections: 725.5 receiving yards, 5.5 receiving touchdowns
Wrapping up our NFC North rundown with one more WR, the intriguing rookie, Justin Jefferson. Kevin Stefanski is no longer in Minnesota, but don’t expect the Vikings to shy away from the run. Dalvin Cook holdout or not, Minnesota is going to run the ball. They’ve ran the ball at a top-five rate in two of the past three seasons, and that shouldn’t change much, considering the construction of their roster.
However, you still have to pass the ball to win in the NFL. The Vikings threw the ball 51.7 percent of the time, good for a total of 466 attempts. I predict Justin Jefferson will produce pretty quickly, considering the lack of other receiving weapons up north. Minnesota threw to their tight ends about 25 percent of the time, wide receivers about 45 percent, and running backs about 30 percent, per Pro Football Reference, last season.
Adam Thielen missed six games last year, but he also left two games incredibly early. Because of Thielen’s absence, they likely had to throw to running backs and tight ends a little more than they wanted to. Across a 16-game season, Thielen was on pace for just about 100 targets. This would leave roughly 100-125 targets up to the remaining receivers on the team. Those other receivers consist of lackluster veterans or youngsters who were never highly touted in the first place. Jefferson should easily compete for 80-plus targets, and that’s being a little conservative.
Projection: OVER 725.5 receiving yards, OVER 5.5 receiving touchdowns
In the past 10 seasons, 47 rookies have received at least 80 targets, per Pro Football Reference. Roughly 60 percent of them surpassed 726 yards, and about half totaled at least six touchdowns. Considering we were being a little conservative with Jefferson’s projected targets, I’ll take the over twice here.
If Jefferson reached these conservative figures, he’d score 108.6 points in standard leagues, which would place him at WR40 last season.