Each divisional preview will have a consistent structure—highlighting two each of the following: (1) undervalued players compared to average draft position (ADP), (2) overvalued players compared to ADP, (3) sleepers, (4) breakout candidates and (5) bold predictions.
With that said, let's get to the NFC North divisional preview.
Aaron Jones, RB, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 32, RB16)
Injuries and/or suspensions have cost Jones eight games (four each) in his first two seasons. When he’s been on the field, however, Jones has been electric with a 5.5 yards-per-carry average in each of his NFL seasons. A top-15 back during the stretch when he was active last season, Jones could perform as an RB1 if he's able to stay on the field for 14-plus games.
Mitch Trubisky, QB, Chicago Bears (ADP: 148, QB19)
Chicago's offense and Trubisky himself started 2018 slowly, but we got a glimpse of how productive he could be when things clicked. Blowing up for a 43.5-point fantasy performance in Week 4, Trubisky began a six-game stretch where he scored more than 27 fantasy points five times. From Weeks 4 to 10, no quarterback scored more fantasy points on a per-game basis than Trubisky (28.0). Especially if we see the consistency that eluded him last season, there is plenty of upside from Trubisky at minimal cost. He enters 2019 as my 15th-ranked quarterback.
Chicago Bears D/ST (ADP: 78, DST1)
Even though the Bears are my top-ranked team defense, taking a defense in the seventh round should be on your list of fantasy football draft don’ts. The players going before (Christian Kirk, ADP: 77) and after (Austin Ekeler, ADP: 79) are the type of players going in Round 7 and I’d much rather have either of them (or comparable skill-position players) there and then take a good defense (much) later in the draft.
T.J. Hockenson, TE, Detroit Lions (ADP: 159, TE16)
To be clear, Hockenson has the potential to be a really special player in the NFL and I like the selection—even in the top 10—in the NFL draft for the Lions. So, what’s the problem? There is a long history of rookie tight ends struggling to make impacts as a receiver in their first season. This will likely be too low for him in 2020, but for this year, I’ll take a wait-and-see approach with Hockenson.
Note: For our purposes, a sleeper is defined as a player with a current ADP of Round 10 or later.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 119, WR47)
Productive as a rookie, Valdes-Scantling saw expanded opportunities due to injuries and finished with 38 catches for 581 yards and two touchdowns. Among 72 qualifiers, he had the league's third-best separation rate (per PFF). Likely to start opposite Davante Adams on the outside with Geronimo Allison in the slot, MVS has intriguing upside as a 10th-round pick.
Geronimo Allison, WR, Green Bay Packers (ADP: 125, WR51)
Speaking of Allison, he’s also a receiver worth targeting later in drafts and it wouldn’t be a bad idea to draft both MVS and Allison with back-to-back picks later in your draft. Typically, the No. 2 wideout in an Aaron Rodgers-led offense has plenty of fantasy viability and that was the case with Allison before injuries cut his 2018 short. Allison had 64-plus yards every week through Week 4 as he compiled a 19/289/2 line on 29 targets.
Kerryon Johnson, RB, Detroit Lions
Playing just 10 games as a rookie, Johnson had exactly 150 touches—118 carries and 32 receptions. Averaging 5.4 yards per carry, Johnson was fantasy's RB16 through Week 11 before missing the remainder of the season. With the release of Theo Riddick, Johnson has true breakout potential and could approach or exceed 60 catches in his second season.
Anthony Miller, WR, Chicago Bears
If Miller can stay healthy, and he’s currently dealing with an ankle injury, there is breakout potential in his second season. Miller was one of my favorite receiver prospects coming out of Memphis and he had a productive rookie season (33/423/7) despite dealing with a shoulder injury that led to offseason surgery. He won’t convert 21.2% of his receptions into touchdowns again this year, but he should be much more heavily involved in the passing offense than he was in 2018 (54 targets).
Note: Perhaps it will take a best-case scenario for these predictions to become reality, but if that weren't the case, they wouldn't be bold.
Dalvin Cook will finish as a top-six fantasy running back in 2019.
After the top four or five running backs, it’s easy to see a path for a number of backs in the next tier emerge as a top-six or so fantasy back. The biggest challenge for Cook has been to stay on the field as he has missed more games (17) than he’s played (15) in his young career.
When he's been on the field, however, he's been efficient—4.68 yards per carry—despite a terrible offensive line. If Cook is able to stay healthy, the team's investment in their interior offensive line this offseason and the run-first approach they implemented at the tail end of 2018 could lead to a big season for Minnesota's featured back.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling finishes 2019 as a top-30 fantasy wide receiver.
As noted earlier, MVS had the league's third-best separation rate (per PFF). Valdes-Scantling is blessed with impressive measurable (6’4”, 4.37 forty) and quarterback Aaron Rodgers has talked up the second-year receiver this offseason.
Good luck in your league(s) and stay tuned for more divisional previews!