GREEN BAY, Wis. – Who has the best personnel in the NFC North?
We took that question to a high-ranking scout whose focus is pro personnel. He ranked each team’s position groups. Part 1 of this 10-part series focuses on the quarterbacks.
No. 1: Green Bay Packers
Yes, Aaron Rodgers hasn’t been as dominant as he was in the prime of his career. Since his scintillating second half of the season in the Packers’ run-the-table finish in 2016, he ranks 14th in passer rating, 30th in completion percentage and 22nd in yards per attempt among the 40 quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts. That’s mediocre, at best, production from the former face of the NFL. Nonetheless, in pinpointing the Packers’ problems on offense, most scouts agree that the issue is the supporting cast rather than the man slinging the football. He was excellent in the playoff win vs. Seattle but not nearly good enough in both losses to San Francisco. For all the conjecture about Rodgers’ willingness to mesh with coach Matt LaFleur, he happily handed the football to Aaron Jones as Green Bay went 13-3 and reached the NFC Championship Game.
Throw in first-round pick Jordan Love and talented backup Tim Boyle, and the Packers stand atop the heap at the most important position in sports.
No. 2: Detroit Lions
The Lions disintegrated after Matthew Stafford was lost for the season with a broken back. Through eight games, Detroit was 3-4-1 and Stafford was on pace for 4,998 yards and 38 touchdowns. Without him, the Lions went 0-8. He is one of the great fourth-quarter comeback artists in the league but is 0-3 in the playoffs in 11 seasons.
If Stafford can stay healthy, the Lions could be a surprise challenger in the NFC North. Unlike Rodgers, he’s got two top-shelf receivers in Kenny Golladay and Marvin Jones. However, as anyone who has a back problem can attest, health can be a day-to-day thing. Journeyman Chase Daniel is the backup.
No. 3: Minnesota Vikings
The Vikings, believing they were one player away from the Super Bowl after reaching the NFC Championship Game with Case Keenum in 2017, signed Kirk Cousins to a blockbuster contract in 2018. Of 33 quarterbacks to throw 500 passes the past two seasons, Cousins is No. 6 in passer rating, No. 5 in touchdowns and No. 2 in completion percentage. In fact, Cousins blows Rodgers out of the water in those key numbers: plus-6.5 in rating, plus-5 in touchdowns and plus-7.5 in completion percentage. However, in big moments, Cousins has struggled. In two games against the Packers last season, he had his lowest passer ratings of the season (both in the 50s), including a woeful 16-of-31 for 122 yards and five sacks in Week 16 in Minneapolis.
Sean Mannion and rookie Nate Stanley will battle to be the backup.
No. 4: Chicago Bears
Nick Foles will battle Mitch Trubisky to be the starting quarterback. The second pick of the 2017 draft, Trubisky has been a colossal disappointment. Of 40 quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts during his three seasons, Trubisky ranks 30th in passer rating and 34th in yards per attempt. Beyond the raw numbers is the fact Trubisky just hasn’t gotten any better. Chicago was a woeful 29th in scoring last season. That’s not good enough, no matter the power of the defense.
Enter Foles, who replaced injured Carson Wentz in 2018 and led the Eagles to a Super Bowl championship. He was absolutely sensational during that historic run, including going toe-to-toe with immortal Tom Brady in the Super Bowl. However, for as great as he was in 2018, he was as awful after getting a four-year, $88 million free-agent payday with Jacksonville last year. The Jaguars went 0-4 and cast their lost with Gardner Minshew, trading Foles to Chicago for a fourth-round pick.