Fantasy Football: Reviewing Preseason Team Previews NFC North

Did you ever notice there are a lot of quarterbacks named Matt?

Before the season began I spent many, many hours researching every player and then writing about it here on FakeTeams.  What resulted was a "Fantasy Football Offensive Evaluation" series that covered all 32 teams.

It was an excellent way for me to recognize sleepers, guys I loved, and guy that I was quite wary of.  I think it really helped me in preparing for my draft and staying ahead of the game when new names popped up on the waiver wires and so far I'm 3-2 in both of my super-competitive pay leagues with 2nd highest scoring totals in both.  I hope that if you followed along on my team previews (as well as everything else here on the site) that you've had similar success.

I don't know if five weeks is too early to start looking back, but I don't see why it would be.  By now you've got a pretty good idea of how your team is, and as every week passes it becomes less and less relevant because there will be less players popping up in free agency unless there's an unfortunate injury.  Also, I'm not doing all of the reviews today or this week because last time I checked (2 seconds ago) there are eight divisions and I just don't have that kind of time.  It's going to be a process.

This is just a good way for me to find out how good I did, and also because I went pretty deep on each offense, how many of those names became relevant.  Starting with the NFC North:

(Note: Clicking on the team name headers will take you to my preview articles, not their team page)

 

Green Bay Packers

 

What I said about Aaron Rodgers:

He's been a top 3 fantasy QB each season and he's potentially only going to get better.  Tom Brady was great, and then he exploded for a huge season.  Peyton Manning was great, and then he exploded for a huge season.  The Packers aren't a running team, so expect that one of these years Rodgers could throw 50 TDs.  Really.

Even after becoming perhaps the most respected quarterback in the league after last years Super Bowl, I felt that Rodgers could still get better.  A lot better.  Manning and Brady each had a super season.  So far this season Rodgers leads the league in touchdown passes (14) completion percentage (71.7) and average yards per attempt (9.6)  He is on pace for 47 touchdowns and is one of a handful of quarterbacks on pace to break Dan Marino's passing yardage record

Here are the rest...

What I said about Ryan Grant:

Grant is being drafted about 25th amongst running backs, and I would rather have Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells, or Reggie Bush just to name a few.

Grant has played in four of five games this year with 200 total yards and 0 TD's meaning he's just about the same as Bush, but much much worse than Wells and Benson, players he was being drafted ahead of on average.

What I said about James Starks:

I just don't recommend drafting these guys because you're basically just hoping that one or the other gets injured.  I don't play roulette with my fantasy teams. 

Starks hasn't scored a touchdown since week 1 and is averaging 50 yards per game.  Not good.

What I said about Greg Jennings:

Him and Hakeem Nicks are going neck and neck in fantasy drafts near the end of the 2nd round.  If you get him in the third round, that's pretty good value.  He's a WR1.

No surprises here.  We knew he was an elite wide receiver and with 448 yards and 4 touchdowns this year, he still is.

What I said about Jordy Nelson:

It's not really a reach to put Nelson on your bench, whether he can elevate his game to the next level is unknown and potentially unlikely.  If things continue like they did last year he'll catch 50 passes for 600 yards.

Nelson saved himself with an 84 yard touchdown catch in the fourth quarter of week two.  His other four games are split between good and bad and he's still an inconsistent option.  The passing madness will increase him over 600 yards and he has 309 already.

What I said about James Jones:

Play Jones on the right day and you could get 100 yards and a score.  Play him on the wrong day and you could get 2 catches or less, something he did 5 times in 2010.

Jones had 5 catches for 140 yards in week 5, and 6 catches for 40 yards in the first three games combined.  So I feel pretty good about this.

What I said about Donald Driver:

Driver has driven over the hill and he's probably not coming back.  Find yourself somebody else.

9 catches for 76 yards in five games.

What I said about Randall Cobb:

Ahead of at least Driver and Jones in terms of breakout potential this year is Cobb.

Cobb was my sleeper pick in week 1 and he had a touchdown in the return game and through the air.  The rookie hasn't done anything since worth noting.  But the rookie has 9 catches for 174 yards which is more than Driver can say and close to Jones.

What I said about Jermichael Finley:

If it were a 16-game season his totals would be 81 catches and 1,130 yards.  Those are "#1 TE in the League!" kind of numbers.  Problem being that it's not a full season because Finley has never played a full season.

My only hesitation with Finley was injury and he's stayed healthy so far this season.  Finley played in five games in 2010 and he had 21 catches for 301 yards and 1 touchdown.  He has played in five games this year and he has 22 catches for 301 yards and 3 touchdowns.  Eerie.  Frustratingly, he has been inconsistent with all 3 scores coming in one game.

 

Chicago Bears

 

What I said about Jay Cutler:

Last season he was sacked an NFL-high 52 times.  I'm okay with that.  He's a back-end QB1, solid backup QB in fantasy.  Even in a Mike Martz offense, the Bears aren't going to conjure up memories of the 1999 St Louis Rams.  That should be obvious by now.

Cutler leads the league in sacks again with with 18 and he's been really unimpressive, not the guy you want starting with only a 6/4 TD/INT ratio in five games.  He's not on pace to even top 4,000 yards like the rest of the league is.

What I said about Matt Forte:

He isn't in the upper-echelon of RBs, but he has the potential to get there this season and he's one of the strongest RB2s in fantasy football, and a good RB1 if you decide to snag a WR or QB first. 

Forte is sixth in the league in rushing yards (440) and he's actually 21st in receiving (345) but unfortunately he only has 2 total touchdowns.  Still, in PPR leagues his 30 catches = 30 points that you are happy to have and Forte serves as a RB1.  He has 321 rushing yards over the last two games.

Some people drafted Marion Barber but that was silly and he has been a total non-factor and I only recommended him as a handcuff to Forte.  That's not even necessary now.

What I said about Earl Bennett:

It doesn't make him a fantasy stud by any means, and he doesn't have the big play caliber wheels of Johnny Knox, but Bennett could emerge as a solid WR3 in PPR leagues.

Bennett was injured (chest) this season and has only played in two games.  GM Jerry Angelo feels the loss of Bennett has really hurt the offense and once he returns he should replace Dane Sanzenbacher in the slot again.  I didn't say anything about the undrafted Sanzenbacher, seen as one of the best undrafted free agent wide receivers after the draft this season, but he's had a decent year with 2 touchdowns and he also had 6 catches in the last game.

What I said about Johnny Knox:

Knox topped 80 yards 6 times last year, but he's not nearly as valuable in PPR leagues whether he starts or not.  In leagues that count kick return yards, Knox will be a much better play.... Even with the new kickoff rule, Knox has said he's going to be taking it out of the end zone whenever possible.

Knox has 4 kick returns for 104 yards and its clear that the new rule is affecting the numbers.  On offense he's been wildly inconsistent, catching 2 balls for 17 yards in the last game.

Basically, I think you should have stayed away from all wide receivers and taken a flier on Bennett.  The injury hurt that and Knox has been a decent emergency option most weeks.

 

Minnesota Vikings

 

What I said about Donovan McNabb:

In Minnesota he's got a stud RB, a decent offensive line, a budding young wide receiver that could be great, and a QB-friendly coordinator.  He's also losing a battle with father time and is turning 35 in November.  He shouldn't be your QB1, but he's a decent option as a backup, as its a little too early to call it a career after one down season.

Here is an interesting fact I saw on twitter: This season after five weeks, an NFL record 30 teams had started the same quarterback in every game.  Donovan McNabb is 29th in passing yards.  He has 4 TDs in five games.

"Buzz, your girlfriend, woof!"

What I said about Adrian Peterson:

I made my statement on Sunday when I drafted Peterson with the #1 pick.  For me, I didn't really know who for sure was #1 on my draft board until the moment arrived and I was put to the test.  It's not longer conjecture at that moment, its put up or shutup.  I went with Peterson because of all the factors involved, he came out just ahead of anybody else.  He's more of a safe pick for me, but he still has "2,000 rushing yards" kind of ability and is only 26 years old.

Peterson is 2nd in the NFL in rushing yards (498) tied for 1st in rushing TDs (6) and has been all-around the safest pick in the fantasy drafts first round.

What I said about Percy Harvin:

With Rice officially out of the picture, Harvin becomes the go-to guy, but with a new OC and a new QB, it's hard to predict exactly what Harvin will do in his third year.  Luckily, Harvins game relies more on what he can do when he's given the football, rather than just the players around him.  He's being drafted 23rd on average amongst WRs, which could make him a steal as he does have WR1 ability.  Or, he could just be a solid WR2/WR3. 

Or he could have the worst quarterback in the league and do nothing.  Harvin has almost as many rushing yards (153) as he does receiving yards (183) and zero touchdowns.  I was off on Harvin and he's been almost useless.  He could be a good buy-low right now.

What I said about Bernard Berrian:

Now at age 30, he's expected to take on a big role again and should be the #2 WR in Minnesota with Frazier saying he'll be an important part of the offense this year.  You don't need to draft Berrian, but do keep an eye on him starting in week 1.

Leslie Frazier, your pants are on fire.  Berrian has 2 catches.

Michael Jenkins is 2nd on the team in receiving yards, which was a surprise to me, but he's still not of fantasy value because the Vikings have no passing game.

What I said about Visanthe Shiancoe:

 In 2009, Shiancoe had 56 catches for 566 yards and 11 TDs in a very hot offensive season for Brett Favre.  Last season he caught 47 for 530 yards and 2 TDs in a very bad season for Favre.  What's he going to do this season?  Probably catch 50 passes for 500 yards and some amount of TDs to be determined. 

Shiancoe will even fall short of those numbers, like everybody else not named Adrian Peterson in Minnesota.  He has 11 catches for 114 yards and 1 TD.

 

Detroit Lions(My 2nd favorite team! 5-0!)

 

What I said about Matthew Stafford:

Stafford is the real deal.  Its only a question of health.  Stafford is going 90th overall in drafts, 12th among QBs, just ahead of Eli Manning.  So the respect is there and unless he jumps into the top 5 in QBs, the value is pretty much even stevens.  That's still pretty good and he might be the QB steal of 2011.

He's the breakout player of the season perhaps, leading the Lions to a perfect record and fantasy owners to glory.  He is 7th in the league in passing yards (1,436) has the 2nd most TD passes (13) and only 4 interceptions.  His numbers are actually very similar to Eli's, but slightly better.  I have him starting in two of my leagues, including easily beating out Matt Ryan in one of them.  He's perhaps the 4th best QB in fantasy (or the league) this year, behind only the big three of Brady, Rodgers, and Brees.  Is he going to join that group?

What I said about Jahvid Best:

The Lions just can't catch a break when it comes to injuries but maybe Best will be just fine.  In PPR leagues, he could be a beast.  I could see a healthy Best as a 1,500 total yards kind of back, if not more.  If you can grab him after the 4th round, do it.  In the 4th round or earlier, I see it as a bit of risk, even though he's one of my favorite players.

Best is actually on pace for 1,814 total yards this season and is 13th in the league in rushing yards with 353 on 4.9 yards per carry.  His 21 catches are a nice little bonus, with the only complaint being that he's scored just 3 touchdowns total this season.  One of those came on an NFL-best 88 yard run on Monday night.  He's enjoying a wonderful breakout and could perhaps be very similar to Matt Forte as he improves.

What I said about Calvin Johnson:

He's being drafted late 1st round, just behind Andre Johnson.  You can't really lose with either one, but Calvin is 5 years younger.  Which might mean something, but also might not.  A full year of Stafford could help him put up some ridiculous numbers.

Grabbing an NFL-record 9 TDs in the first five games is pretty ridiculous.  Johnson has been a fantasy owners dream by scoring 2 TDs in each of the first four games and added another on Monday.  He's absolutely unstoppable to the point of it being comical.  I think he would probably do worse things to Revis Island than what Nedry did to Jurassic Park.  It's not often that you can say a player can have almost 300 less yards than another player yet be vastly superior, but that's what you said about Johnson and Wes Welker.  Johnson is maybe the most valuable non-QB in the league.

What I said about Nate Burleson:

Between weeks 5 and 10 last year, he caught 35 passes for 410 yards and 4 TDs over a 6 game stretch.  So there's potential there, but he's really a long shot to be anything more than your #4 WR.

Burleson had 12 catches in the first two weeks but only 5 catches since.  He's really inconsistent and I didn't recommend any Lions wide receivers outside of Johnson really.  I also spoke of Titus Young, a player I think you should keep your eye on as he gets used to the NFL.  Youngs catch totals this year are 5, 4, 3, and 2, and in that order, so he'll definitely have 1 catch this week.

What I said about Brandon Pettigrew:

So Pettigrew is being drafted as TE1, ahead of Hall of Famer Tony Gonzalez.  That's fair.  I would just upgrade him a lot more in a PPR league than a non-PPR league.  Pettigrew gains a lot of value because of the amount of receptions he makes, but he only caught 4 TDs last year and for whatever reason, he hardly put up any numbers in the games that Stafford started. 

Pettigrew looked elite when he had 11 catches for 112 yards in week 3, but he's been only "whatev's" in the other four games.  I'd buy low on him, because he's a good backup for bye weeks and injuries but I have a hard time recommending on a weekly basis unless the rest of your team is just stacked.

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