100 Questions: NFC North


(Knowing the right question to ask is as important as knowing the answer. In 100 Questions, FTN’s Daniel Kelley identifies the key fantasy football questions to ask heading into the 2021 NFL season. Today: The NFC North.)

I’m writing this Tuesday, which means I’m writing this after Aaron Rodgers reported to training camp, which means I’m writing this after the single biggest question around football for 2021 is (apparently?) resolved. Now we just have to see how the division shakes out after all the turmoil.

Chicago Bears

The last piece of the Aaron Rodgers drama was Green Bay bringing back former Packer Randall Cobb, which Rodgers apparently requested. And Cobb became expendable in Houston because they added a new slot receiver … ex-Bear Anthony Miller. So it appears the Packers were able to hold on to Rodgers thanks to help from the Bears, and that’s either extremely funny if you’re not a Bears fan, or excruciating if you are.

65. Was late-season David Montgomery a sign of things to come?

Through nine weeks last year, David Montgomery was the PPR RB14, a fine number that wasn’t going to excite anyone. In Weeks 12-17, he was RB1, just ahead of Derrick Henry and a big chunk ahead of everyone else. His average game down the stretch included 23.3 touches, 137.3 yards and 1.3 touchdowns per game

Best answer: Montgomery’s stretch schedule last year (GB, DET, HOU, MIN, JAX, GB) is just about the best schedule any running back could want. But hey, he produced. And now Tarik Cohen is set to return from a torn ACL and the team signed Damien Williams. But Cohen is opening on PUP and still recovering, and Williams is 29 with exactly one season of more than 50 carries. And you can get Montgomery as the No. 19 RB right now, per the FTN Fantasy ADP tool. He won’t be the RB4 again, but he doesn’t have to be for that to be worth it.

66. How much upside does Darnell Mooney have?

First off: Anthony Miller being in Chicago or not has no bearing on Darnell Mooney’s status, so when he briefly trended last week, that was meaningless. Mooney was held in check last year by Mitchell Trubisky’s struggles — he had the 10th-most unrealized air yards and was only 71st in catchable pass rate

Best answer: As true as it is that Mooney got held up by his QB situation, that doesn’t mean every deep attempt is going to become a 40-yard completion in 2021. The Bears have the potential for a big offense, but there is a wide range of outcomes here. You can get Mooney in the 50 range at wide receiver, which might be a tad low, but this is a player we need to see it from before we go all in.

67. Is it Cole Kmet breakout time?

The Bears slow-played Cole Kmet last year. He averaged 24.8 snaps per game through their Week 11 bye; that number jumped to 59.2 in the final six weeks. And it was a fairly steady progression: 

Best answer: If the Miller trade helped anyone in Chicago, it’s Kmet, and the Cohen injury situation could help too. There’s not much reason to expect Jimmy Graham to play ahead of Kmet much, though it’s worth being aware of Graham’s end-zone presence cutting into Kmet’s upside. Still, he’s TE19 by ADP but sits at TE15 in our FTN Fantasy rankings, and that means the public is probably too low on the second-year TE.

Detroit Lions

A new head coach. A new general manager. A new quarterback. Basically all new receivers. No team has had more turnover since last season than the Lions, and if you’re curious about the 2021 direction, DraftKings Sportsbook has their wins over/under set at 4.5, and they’re +350 to have the fewest wins in the league, second only to the Texans.

68. What is D’Andre Swift’s upside?

D’Andre Swift led the 2020 Detroit backfield in snaps. Of course, it was only 398 (38.1%), and Adrian Peterson (313) and Kerryon Johnson (295) were just behind. So it’s good news for Swift that both Peterson and Johnson are gone now … except the team signed Jamaal Williams and has been talking about him as a “classic ‘A’ back,” which some have read as damning for Swift’s potential.

Best answer: Williams is good, but if Swift can’t hold him off for the main RB job in Detroit, then the scouting reports and Swift’s draft stock were just wrong a year ago. That said, Williams is going to have a significant role in this offense, even if it’s as the No. 2, and the Lions aren’t going to be in many (any?) good gamescripts this year. You can get Swift 15th among running backs right now, and that’s a price I wouldn’t touch on a bet. Fade him at that price.

69. Are we set for a T.J. Hockenson breakout?

T.J. Hockenson was the first tight end drafted in 2019, eighth overall. In two years, he’s totaled 1,090 yards and 8 touchdowns and finished as the PPR TE5 last year, albeit more than 100 points out of second. He’s virtually guaranteed to be this offense’s No. 1 target this season, though that could be offset by (a) a stepdown at quarterback and (b) the Lions maybe being the league’s worst offense.

Best answer: Hockenson’s virtually guaranteed workload means it would be hard for him to fall out of the top couple tiers at tight end. But we haven’t seen the elite performance from Hockenson so far to give us any great reason to think he’s destined to outshine the team around him and rise to Tier 1. He’s probably well situated as the TE5(-ish) by ADP, but having to take him in the top 50 overall seems like a real reach.

70. Is there a receiver worth paying attention to?

Kenny Golladay is gone. Marvin Jones is gone. Danny Amendola is gone. The Lions now have free agents Breshad Perriman and Tyrell Williams, 2020 fifth-rounder Quintez Cephus and rookie fourth-rounder Amon-Ra St. Brown to support new quarterback Jared Goff.

Best answer: The drafting community is all out, with St. Brown going first in PPR leagues as WR75, though all four of the above names are gone by WR100. So it’s worth noting that Jeff Ratcliffe’s FTN Fantasy projections actually have Perriman finishing as a top-50 WR, with a line of 52/840/3. The problem with Perriman is his almost complete lack of upside, but as a deep flex/fill-in, he’s got a role. And St. Brown could offer marginal PPR upside. No, you don’t want any Lions receivers, but there’s situational use in a pinch.

Green Bay Packers

The biggest question surrounding the Packers this season was answered earlier this week, and while who knows if Jordan Love could put up star numbers, we know Aaron Rodgers can, and that obviously raises the ceiling of this entire offense.

71. Are there any receivers we care about here after Davante Adams?

Anyone who drafted Davante Adams at a slight discount over the last few weeks during the Rodgers kerfuffle is likely happy now. With Rodgers locked in, Adams is a top-two fantasy receiver. But after him, we have Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Devin Funchess, Amari Rodgers and newly returned Randall Cobb.

Best answer: Rodgers reportedly pushed hard for Cobb’s return, which you would think would bode well. On the other hand, Cobb turns 31 next month and saw his PPR points per game drop each of his last five years in Green Bay. Valdes-Scantling has serious big-play upside, Amari Rodgers is an interesting rookie, Lazard has had spurts, Funchess also exists. But really, if you want a piece of this receiver room, it’s Adams or bust. Don’t waste a pick on this mishmash.

72. Is A.J. Dillon going to horn in on Aaron Jones?

Aaron Jones has played 30 games the last two years, reaching at least 75% of the team’s offensive snaps in exactly three of them — all games Jamaal Williams either missed or played sparingly due to injury. So with Williams now in Detroit, is Jones going to be free to garner all the snaps he can handle? Or is A.J. Dillon going to be the new Williams from a playing-time perspective?

Best answer: Dillon topped 16 snaps in a game only once as a rookie, playing 38 snaps (58%) in the Packers’ Week 16 win over Tennessee. He got 21 carries, ran for 124 yards and scored twice. Obviously, we can’t expect that every time he plays a lot, but given everything out of Green Bay says Dillon will play “a lot more this year,” we have to assume Dillon is the new Williams from a playing-time perspective. And that means Jones, going around 10th among running backs, is about right — Dillon might keep him from another RB2 finish, but he’s still a solid back-end RB1.

73. Can Robert Tonyan do it again?

If Robert Tonyan was drafted in your league a year ago, he was either a super-late complete lottery ticket or you are playing with members of the Tonyan family. So his fantasy TE3 season was basically a big shock to everyone, with his 11 touchdowns tying Travis Kelce for the TE lead.

Best answer: Tonyan scored 11 touchdowns on 59 targets (18.6%) last year. In the last 15 years (min. 50 targets), only Julius Thomas in 2014 (19.4%) scored on a higher percentage. That alone should tell you that we’ll see some Tonyan regression next year — players just don’t do that twice. Tonyan doesn’t have the same problem Logan Thomas has of his team bringing in a wealth of new pass-catchers, which is a point in his favor, but if Tonyan is a TE1 in 2021, it’ll be much closer to the back end of the group, and I’m likely to pass.

Minnesota Vikings

The Vikings have alternated between single- and double-digit wins every year since 2014 — 7, 11, 8, 13, 8, 10, 7. If you bet on trends, that means the team is in line for 10-plus wins and at least a shot at a playoff berth in 2021. Of course, betting on a trend like that is silly. But the Vikings do have a revamped defense and some interesting offensive pieces.

74. Can Justin Jefferson repeat his ridiculous rookie campaign?

Justin Jefferson set the rookie receiving yardage record last year, and only Randy Moss, Odell Beckham and Anquan Boldin have put up more PPR points as a rookie receiver since the merger. That’s really good. That sort of production in 2021 would make him a borderline first-rounder.

Best answer: Our Derek Brown went in depth on Jefferson in June, but the short version: Bet on him coming back to the field. Adam Thielen still has the red-zone role. The Vikings have a better defense, which means better gamescript, which means fewer plays and fewer passes. Jefferson is still easily a fantasy starter, but more of a WR2 than the surefire WR1 that he currently stands at per ADP (seventh among receivers).

75. Is it Irv Smith season?

Your head spinning? Mine is.

Best answer: Smith probably won’t crack the top six-ish at tight end, for the same reasons Jefferson probably won’t repeat his monster rookie year. But for a tight end you can get in the double-digit rounds, Smith has enough upside, with the chances he absorbs Rudolph’s role, to be worth a late pick.

76. Could Dalvin Cook challenge for the No. 1 overall running back?

Dalvin Cook was the RB9 after Week 1 last year, and never fell out of the top-10 all year long. He had only one week out of the top 20, only five out of the top 10. It was a magical year, especially given the injuries that had plagued him his first couple seasons.

Best answer: If you’re picking any back to supplant Christian McCaffrey as the RB1, it basically has to be Cook, who has more positives and fewer negatives than any non-CMC back. He’s very solidly the RB2 in drafts, and while McCaffrey’s promises-to-still-be-absurd usage means he should still go first overall, Cook is closer to supplanting him at the top than falling to third.

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