Fantasy football team previews: NFC North

Credit: Mike De Sisti, Milwaukee Journal Sentinel

2021 records: 13-4

Notable coaching and system changes

Two-thirds of Green Bay’s brain trust returns in 2022: head coach Matt LaFleur is back for his fourth season, and Joe Barry returns for a second year as defensive coordinator. Changes abound elsewhere, though, as Nathaniel Hackett left to become the head coach of the Denver Broncos, and QBs coach Luke Getsy became OC in Chicago. LaFleur chose to elevate offensive line coach Adam Stenavich to offensive coordinator, and he lured Tom Clements out of retirement to fill Getsy’s spot. LaFleur still calls the plays, but this is an offense in flux.

Key free-agent additions

  • WR Sammy Watkins (Baltimore Ravens)

Key free-agent departures

  • WR Davante Adams (traded to Las Vegas Raiders)
  • WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Kansas City Chiefs)
  • WR Equanimeous St. Brown (Chicago Bears)

Key draft additions

  • WR Christian Watson (Round 2)
  • WR Romeo Doubs (Round 4)

Quarterback preview

It was certainly an eventful season for Aaron Rodgers, but it ended in some familiar places, both good (winning a fourth MVP award) and bad (another poor postseason showing). Despite that, Rodgers chose to sign an extension to presumably finish his career in Green Bay, which seemed unlikely before last season. While Rodgers is back, two of his top targets are gone, thrusting the back-to-back MVP into a situation with a lot of unknown commodities. It’d be tempting to predict a down year, but you doubt Rodgers at your own peril. He’s still a viable QB1.

Running back preview

Aaron Jones (1,190 total yards, 10 TDs) and AJ Dillon (1,116 yards, seven TDs) are as good as it gets in terms of running back tandems in the NFL. To date, Jones has been the headliner. While that might be changing, there’s no doubt that he is the most dangerous big-play threat left in Titletown. Jones has the speed to take it the distance at any point, the power to be effective in short-yardage and goal-line situations, and the hands to shine in the passing game. Despite some durability issues, he rates as a borderline RB1.

Barring injury, Dillon’s time as the featured back (or at least the 1a) is coming. It may not happen until 2023, but the bruising tailback has the talent to handle the role. Although the power is obvious, Dillon also has some shiftiness, and he’s a better receiver out of the backfield than he gets credit for. Dillon is an RB3/flex type for draft day with some moderate upside. If either player misses time, Kylin Hill would be a name to know.

Wide receiver preview

With Davante Adams traded to the Las Vegas Raiders, there’s no clear-cut No. 1 receiver in Green Bay. The most likely player to emerge looks to be Allen Lazard, who had received 513 yards and eight TDs last year. His blocking of him is excellent and should make him a fixture on the field, and more snaps means more opportunities. Lazard could be drafted as a WR4 with some juice.

Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins are the top veteran options. Watkins has bounced around and is a definite durability risk, but he has talent, speed, and blocking ability, so on paper he’s a nice find to replace MVS. Cobb has logged a million reps with Rodgers over the years and has shown an innate ability on extended plays to make something happen. Cobb deserves a slight edge over Watkins, but both players are final-round types.

On the youth side are rookies christian watson and Romeo Doubsand second-year pro Amari Rodgers. Watson is a physical specimen, and it wouldn’t be surprising to see LaFleur create ways to get him the ball as he develops his hands and route running. Again, Watson would be a late-round flier, at best.

tight end preview

Wide receiver isn’t the only position with a lot of uncertainty with Robert Tonyan (knee) working his way back from a torn ACL; he’s far from a lock to be ready to roll in the first month of the season, much less Week 1. Without him, the Packers will count on improvement from players like Josiah Deguara and Tyler Davis. Of course, given their reported interest in Raiders TE Darren Waller, perhaps adding a veteran is still in the cards. For now, Tonyan could earn a look in deeper leagues as a late-round stash.

Sleeper/breakout candidates

At 32, Cobb is not a breakout candidate. He could, however, be a sleeper. Trust and comfort arguably mean more to Rodgers than any NFL quarterback, and Cobb is light years ahead in those areas. Remember that James Jones once returned at age 31 to post a team-best 50-890-8 line.

Bust potential/overvalued players

Stop us if you’ve heard this a time or 50 in the last couple of weeks, but Watson is the highest drafted Packers receiver since Javon Walker circa 2002. That, along with Watson’s physical upside, is almost guaranteed to overinflate the rookie’s value. He’s exclusively flier material.

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