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State of the Team by Fantasy Position - NFC North
David Dorey
July 18, 2007

This series of analysis on the 32 NFL teams takes a look at where teams have been over the last three years for each position - where they have ranked in the most notable categories and the hard statistics produced. This is to give a view of each team heading into training camp and what they most likely need to improve on this season and where their strengths lie that likely won't need any changes. Ending each team review is a brief summation of what to watch in training camp in August to uncover those developing situations that you can take advantage. Combining where teams have come from and what they have done in free agency and the NFL draft gives you the very same thing that NFL coaches are looking at as they attempt to improve their team for 2007.

Chicago Bears
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 38 138 1 470 249 53% 2641 10.6 9 15 31 32
2005 25 41 0 416 218 52% 2183 10 11 15 31 31
2006 30 -3 0 512 280 55% 3413 12.2 24 22 15 9


Quarterback
- After spending three years with never more than three games played, Rex Grossman finally remained healthy throughout 2006 and the Bears went to the Super Bowl. What's not to love about that? Nothing according to the coaching staff but Grossman started the year out red hot with 13 touchdowns in the first nine games but then ended the year much more like the Grossman we used to know. In the first month, he never had less than 230 passing yards and averaged two scores per game. By the final month of the season, Grossman was as good as 339 yards and two scores or as bad as only 34 passing yards in an entire game. He also had the frustrating tendency to either throw no interceptions (eight games) or throw multiple interceptions (six games). But he was good enough to keep Brian Griese on the bench and will start the year again as the unquestioned starter. His first full year performance would be more confidence inspiring had he reversed his season and done well at the end instead of the start of the year. No changes here and no new receivers to integrate outside of potentially the rookie tight end.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 369 1372 3.7 9 142 102 72% 714 4 28 23 23
2005 461 2025 4.4 11 74 53 72% 290 2 6 9 15
2006 472 1915 4.1 14 105 75 71% 458 0 5 14 10


Running Backs
- This will be a change, finally, only two years after the Bears made Cedric Benson their prized first round pick in 2005. Thomas Jones is a Jet now and Benson finally takes the reins as the starter. While Jones and Benson shared the load for the last two seasons, that should be greatly diminished this year if only because the best back-up now is just Adrian Peterson who apparently inspires confidence only in Lovie Smith during press conferences but then rarely plays. Benson has been hard at work preparing the finally start his NFL career and deserves attention in preseason though he'll be limited in preseason games. Another interesting noteworthy change in the drafting of Garrett Wolfe with the 3.30 pick. Wolfe is only 5-7 and 177 pounds so he's not going to be stealing carries from Benson but he was impressive in minicamp catching the ball and could turn into a third down back. That would spell Benson from having too heavy of a load since he's not capable of matching the 460+ carries the Bears received from Jones and Benson last season. In point per reception leagues, Wolfe is worth watching as a potential bye week filler..

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 69 36 52% 366 10.2 2 27 29        
2005 59 28 47% 250 8.9 3 28 20        
2006 98 55 56% 701 12.7 8 14 5        


Tight Ends
- The good news here is that Desmond Clark comes off a career best year with 626 yards and six scores on 45 catches in 2006. The bad news is that he stunk in most of the games and his stats came almost entirely from three big efforts. And that the Bears spent their first round pick on the first tight end drafted in 2007 of Greg Olsen who is nothing but a receiving tight end. Clark will get no better than last year and will decline in proportion to how quickly Olsen catches on. Rookie tight ends rarely have fantasy relevant seasons but he could do just enough to remove Clark from any fantasy significance. That's a shame too since Clark ranked highly for tight end touchdowns.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 256 111 43% 1561 14.1 3 30 31        
2005 282 138 49% 1661 12 6 30 32        
2006 316 153 48% 2309 15.1 16 16 10        


Wide Receivers
- The Bears found a passing game last year with Grossman healthy and suddenly the wideouts in Chicago were no longer among the least productive in the NFL. They skyrocketed to being average as a unit - pretty heady stuff when they were #32 in touchdowns just the previous year. In fantasy terms, this was less impressive since the 16 scores were spread out among four different wideouts who all return this year. Muhsin Muhammad had 863 yards and five scores to lead the crew but at the age of 34 years his time in the NFL is drawing to a close. Bernard Berrian appeared to be having a breakout season when he caught four scores in the first five games but his production took a nosedive after week five when he injured his ribs and that lingered for most of the rest of the year. He started to come to life again later in the year but 2007 should be his season if he can remain healthy. He's the one to watch in this crew because of his ability to catch the deep ball and score touchdowns. Mark Bradley could help his case with a good training camp but really only to keep him in the running for when Muhammad finally steps down. The Bears also intend on using Devin Hester as a wide receiver this year after his impressive rookie season as a punt returner. Shades of Dante Hall, huh? While that may work out, it would hardly be the first time that such a move flops. In fact it may be the first time it ever succeeded if it does.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The only thing to watch for in training campo will be the progress, if any, of the two rookies. Wolfe Garrett was making inroads to being a third down back in minicamp by looking sharp and catching the ball very well. Benson will need some relief and Adrian Peterson won't concern any defenses. Greg Olsen should upgrade the tight end spot though that may not be apparent until 2008. If he can bring it in training camp, he'll buy himself more playing time in 2007 and thereby ruin anything that Desmond Clark might have done. Lastly, Berrian just needs to stay healthy because he could end up as a fourth-year breakout after an impressive but injury-marred 2006 season.

Camp starts July 26th; Preseason Games: 1-@HOU, 2-@IND, 3-SF, 4-CLE

Detroit Lions
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 51 193 0 504 285 57% 3124 11 19 13 24 21
2005 42 131 1 521 298 57% 3021 10.1 15 18 26 28
2006 34 156 2 596 372 62% 4208 11.3 21 22 5 13


Quarterback
- Say what you want about Mike Martz as a head coach but the man knows offense. Bringing in Jon Kitna last year, the Lions vastly improved their passing numbers and Kitna ended #1 in completions (372) and #4 in passing yardage (4208 yards). The touchdowns were not nearly as high with 21 but it was a far better passing game than seen in many years in Detroit. Kitna returns for the second year of the system and this time around he will have upgraded receivers and a better rushing game. Sure, Kitna had 22 interceptions last year but that happens in a Martz offense - ask Marc Bulger. And sure, Kitna will get banged around a good bit since most players are down field in a pattern instead of blocking but it is the price to pay in a pass happy offense that fantasy fans have come to adore. The Lions drafted Drew Stanton with their 2.11 pick but he'll spend at least this year watching Kitna once again challenge the record for most passes in the NFL again this year. Kitna needs this training camp since he has new weapons in Calvin Johnson and Shaun McDonald to add to Mike Furrey and Roy Williams.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 352 1578 4.5 7 131 97 74% 702 4 19 13 28
2005 361 1336 3.7 9 127 92 72% 654 1 25 23 21
2006 263 963 3.7 7 134 102 76% 832 3 32 28 26


Running Backs
- As usual, the Lions trailed the league in rushing stats and Kevin Jones, again, was injured. No team was worse in rushing yards and once again, the Martz-scheme worked to form since the pass is used to set up the pass. But Jones was being heavily used as a receiver for the first half of the season before he was injured. He never had less than four receptions in a game and went as high as nine catches in one week. His return from the Lis Franc injury will be determined in training camp where all the hype and "ahead of schedule" talk no longer counts. But even if Jones cannot play, the Lions are ready this time with Tatum Bell in the wings and even T.J. Duckett in case they end up on the six-inch yard line and forget to pass. A healthy Jones could post some nice fantasy numbers in this offense. Same for Tatum Bell. But what is likely to happen is some mixture of the two and enough injury concerns to make either hard to rely on. Training camp is critical to see if Jones will make it back in time for the start of the season. If that doesn't happen, then the guessing game starts that may never end knowing the history of Jones.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 90 51 57% 480 9.4 1 22 30        
2005 99 57 58% 561 9.8 4 20 16        
2006 66 43 65% 504 11.7 4 22 20        


Tight Ends
- Dan Campbell came over from the Cowboys last year to be a blocker but surprisingly he had a decent fantasy year with 308 yards and four scores. But that mostly reflects the lack of receivers in Detroit last year which will not be the case in 2007. Fun while it lasted but a Martz offense never prefers to use a tight end. Expect this unit to be one of the least used in the NFL this year.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 279 135 48% 1888 14 14 27 16        
2005 296 148 50% 1810 12.2 10 28 24        
2006 395 225 57% 2857 12.7 14 7 14        


Wide Receivers
- This is where all eyes should be in August. Roy Williams already comes off a great season with 1312 yards and seven scores last year and should be better in 2007. Mike Furrey went from XFL player to St. Louis defensive back to being the #2 NFL wideout in receptions last year (98). Furrey's late career heroics signal just how badly this scheme needs wide receivers - it can make good ones out of just about anything if only because of the volume of passes (307 passes thrown at the two last year). The Lions then did the unthinkable by drafting a first round wideout for the third time in four years. But this time - they should be no worse off than when they took Roy Williams and could end up even better. Calvin Johnson is a perfect fit in the offense that just loves to throw. He has freakish size and speed and although he has not played in so much as a preseason game yet, he's already being taken as a stating fantasy wideout in many leagues. If any rookie wideout does much this year it would be Johnson who takes the best mixture of talent, situation and opportunity into his rookie year. And it doesn't even stop there since Martz went and got Shaun McDonald from the Rams to serve as a #4 wideout, a position that he gave fantasy relevance to back in 2005 in St. Louis. This unit - and Johnson in particular - must be followed in August because it should be very good in 2007. And maybe even scary good.

 

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Second year of the Martz offense deserves close scrutiny by fantasy team owners. Kitna should be more comfortable and there's some big fun coming up if Calvin Johnson can realize even half his hype this season. If he can't, and that seems unlikely, the Lions still have Williams and Furrey with McDonald to add into the mix. Camp will show just how ready Johnson is for the NFL. We also need to see what the health status of Kevin Jones is in his quest to return from a Lis Franc injury last year. If he cannot, then Tatum Bell's stock shoots up for at least the early part of the season. With all the likely fantasy points to come out of this offense, training camp and preseason games will be critical to evaluate Jones, Bell and Johnson.

Camp starts July 25th; Preseason Games: 1-CIN, 2-@CLE, 3-@IND, 4-BUF

Green Bay Packers
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 21 58 0 597 380 64% 4520 11.9 34 19 5 3
2005 20 69 0 623 381 61% 3946 10.4 20 30 6 16
2006 25 39 1 625 347 56% 3917 11.3 18 18 10 19


Quarterback
- Brett Favre returns in his quest to make the Packers the best that they can be. It has nothing to do with the fact that he is only 136 pass attempts, seven touchdowns, two career wins and 3862 passing yards away from becoming the #1 all-time quarterback in those categories. Much. Thanks to that hefty yardage total Favre needs to rack up, he'll be playing all year long. It will be the only positive way for the unimproved Packers to end the season.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 411 1812 4.4 9 143 118 83% 844 6 10 4 21
2005 367 1247 3.4 11 154 115 75% 873 2 28 16 16
2006 399 1643 4.1 8 147 114 78% 828 3 19 12 22


Running Backs
- Big change here with Ahman Green gone. While Green did have injury problems the last three years, he still provided the bulk of production for the Packers every year. In 2005 when Green only played in five games, the Packers slumped to only 28th in the league for rushing yards. The Packers brought in Vernand Morency from the Texans at the start of last season but Morency only had 91 carries for 421 yards as a Packer. But the Packers opted to promote Morency into being the starter this year and HC Mike McCarthy stands resolute that Morency can get the job done despite only having four touchdowns in the last two years and only 137 career carries in the NFL. Green Bay hedged their bets by drafting Brandon Jackson from Nebraska with their 2.31 pick. Since Morency so far has not appeared to be a high-quality NFL running back and the Packers did spend their second pick on Jackson, it stands to reason that both runners will get playing time this season. What should prop up the value of Morency even in the worst case is that the Packers love to throw to their backs and Favre is looking for anyone to help him get his records win games. Morency should be the most likely to take that receiving role despite only having 16 catches last year. The Packers always have one runner with more than 45 catches every year. Training camp should solidify Morency as the starter but Jackson could surprise in camp and preseason games and end up stealing time from Morency. Since the Packers like to throw to their backs, it's worth following in camp to see who that most likely will be and just as importantly, if it appears to be a committee approach this year.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 69 43 62% 491 11.4 7 20 11        
2005 130 85 65% 725 8.5 6 13 10        
2006 113 56 50% 580 10.4 2 17 26        


Tight Ends
- The Packers liked to use tight ends a couple of offensive schemes ago but not so much anymore. The loss of David Martin means the only tight end with a touchdown last year is gone. Don't expect too much here despite Favre's need to throw. The Packers hold them in to block or just throw to a running back most often.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 379 221 58% 3213 14.5 23 3 3        
2005 328 182 55% 2358 13 12 14 18        
2006 376 180 48% 2540 14.1 13 11 17        

Wide Receivers
- Despite the urgings of Brett Favre, the Packers did little to upgrade the wideouts this year other than draft James Jones with their 3.14 pick (14th wideout drafted last April) and later getting David Clowney with the 5.20 pick. That means Donald Driver once again takes the lion's share of action as he did in 2006 when he set career marks with 91 catches for 1288 yards. The wideout most worthy of attention here will be Greg Jennings who had 632 yards and three scores in his rookie season but faded drastically in the second half of the year when he nursed a nagging ankle injury. Jennings had scored three times in the first five games and had two efforts top 100 yards but then never scored or had more than 50 yards the rest of the way. Favre will need more than just Driver and Jennings is easily the best bet here. Camp could uncover a surprise if Jones or Clowney exceed expectations, but mostly this training camp should be used to get Jennings comfortable as a starter in his second year.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - The rushing game without Ahman Green will likely be less effective and Morency will have to hold off the rookie Jackson in order to produce much fantasy impact this year. That should be fairly apparent by the end of August and the role as a receiver should not be discounted for the starting running back in Green Bay. Otherwise, camp needs to get Favre comfortable relying on more than just Driver all year and that will mean Greg Jennings has to take the next step. Lastly, keep an eye on Clowney and Jones to see if either can offer something as a slot receiver this year. Unlikely either will have fantasy value themselves, but any production from the #3 wideout will help Favre get his records the team win games. Unfortunately, the critical third game where starters get their most time goes against the tough Jaguars secondary so it could be tough to forecast the roles based on that game.

Camp starts July 27th; Preseason Games: 1-@PIT, 2-SEA, 3-JAX, 4-@TEN

Minnesota Vikings
QB Carries Rush YD Rush TD Pass Comp Comp % Pass YD YPP Pass TD Int Rank YD Rank TD
2004 89 406 2 550 379 69% 4717 12.4 39 11 2 2
2005 43 199 1 509 322 63% 3449 10.7 18 16 18 20
2006 46 161 2 538 330 61% 3371 10.2 11 20 17 31


Quarterback
- The first year of Brad Childress offense started out with veteran Brad Johnson went none too well and eventually Tarvaris Jackson closed out the final three games of the season. Johnson is now gone and with only Brooks Bollinger as back-up, this is Jackson's team now. The Vikings were nothing short of horrible in the passing game with only 11 passing scores against 20 interceptions but at least Jackson managed to to throw two scores in those final three games (and four interceptions). The body of work is too incomplete to expect a good read on what Jackson will do this year and training camp will be critical to get the passing game back into gear. The Vikings have plummeted from the days of Culpepper to Moss but the second season of the new scheme should start to see results.

 

RB Carries Rush YD YPC Rush TD Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD Rcv TD Rank YD Rank TY Rank TD
2004 289 1360 4.7 6 131 106 81% 1081 4 30 10 29
2005 326 1217 3.7 8 95 72 76% 515 4 30 30 24
2006 393 1648 4.2 10 138 106 77% 901 1 18 10 19


Running Backs
- Perhaps it could be considered a small surprise that the Vikings opted for take Adrian Peterson in the NFL draft since Chester Taylor was the only part of the offense that succeeded last year. Taylor rushed for a career high 1214 yards on 304 carries in his first (and likely last) season as the full-time primary back. He also added 42 catches for 288 yards for a total of 1502 total yards with six scores. Were it not for finding Peterson there at the 1.07 pick, Taylor would still be the unquestioned starter this year. But Peterson brings a great pedigree to the team and very high expectations as the first back drafted last April. Training camp will need to show just how good Peterson will be and if he really shines in August, he could cut deeply into Taylor's workload starting week one. Given that Peterson has so much potential, his progress will be of utmost interest in camp and he should get plenty of play in preseason games as well. Taylor is not going to disappear in any case, but expectations are that Peterson will end up with the primary role sooner than later.

 

TE Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 112 87 78% 840 9.7 4 6 22        
2005 127 93 73% 768 8.3 1 10 29        
2006 104 67 64% 518 7.7 3 20 25        


Tight Ends
- The new scheme in Minnesota didn't make much use of the tight end position last year and what little did happen mostly went to Jermaine Wiggins (46-386, 1 TD). But the Vikes dropped Wiggins in the offseason and brought in Vishante Shiancoe from the Giants. This scheme will use a tight end and Shiancoe should be interesting since he was pretty highly touted by the Giants when he started playing there but was always stuck behind Jeremy Shockey. Shiancoe now gets his chance to show he should be a starter because none of the other tight ends on the roster had more than 50 yards total last year.

 

WR Target Rcv Catch % Catch YD YPR Rcv TD Ranks YD Rank TD        
2004 308 184 60% 2797 15.2 31 6 2        
2005 301 157 52% 2166 13.8 13 19 16        
2006 291 159 55% 1983 12.5 9 19 24        


Wide Receivers
- The wideouts were a far more ugly crew than the total numbers suggest. Combined, they were just below average but to get there required six different players. The best of the lot was Travis Taylor (57-651, 3 TD) who now is a Raider. The next best was Marcus Robinson (29-381, 4 TD) who is now a Lion. That leaves not a lot of veteran hands. Troy Williamson comes off a career year with only 37 catches for 455 yards and more than a couple outright drops. The Vikes brought in Bobby Wade from the Titans who looked good in minicamps unlike most any other player. But Wade is a smallish journeyman wideout. This is Williamson's magic third year but so far there have been no signs that any breakout is underway. Perhaps the most interesting player of the bunch that includes Billy McMullen and Cortez Hankton is the rookie Sidney Rice. Taken with the 2.12 pick, Rice was the only other wideout who impressed in minicamps and with such a huge door of opportunity opened for anyone to step up, Rice could be one of the surprise rookie wideouts this year. At 6-4, he towers over most the other receivers and in very brief glimpse has shown everything that Williamson was supposed to have. Training camp should either solidify the depth chart here or signal that everyone should stay away from yet another year of minimal results of a committee approach to the wideouts. Jackson's first season as a starter will naturally limit the group as well.

Training Camp Fantasy Angle - Jackson must have a great camp to show he is the leader and that the bottom is not going to fall out of a passing attack that cannot get much lower. All fantasy eyes should be on Adrian Peterson to see just how impressive he is in August. With a very strong camp, he'll be very hard to sit while Taylor plays. Lastly, there is a big opportunity with the wideouts since the depth charts are only written in pencil and camp must determine who can step up and make a difference this year. Unfortunately, considering what we know about the candidates there makes Sidney Rice look the most intriguing because he hasn't proven to be sub-par like the rest. The rushing game should be good enough to take most of the snaps here but there will be a need to pass. Lastly, Shiancoe needs to show that he deserves to start or the team will also be using tight end by committee. Lots of opportunity and upside here but also a ton of risk that the team could merely repeat a rather unimpressive 2006 season.

Camp starts July 25th; Preseason Games: 1-STL, 2-@NYJ, 3-@SEA, 4-DAL

Related Articles

State of the AFC East
State of the AFC North
State of the AFC South
State of the AFC West
State of the NFC East
State of the NFC North
State of the NFC South
State of the NFC West
a d v e r t i s e m e n t