It’s preseason time, which means we get to see all 32 teams doing something at least relatively meaningful. It also means there are only a few weeks left until the rosters and depth charts are set for the start of the season. We are going to take a little trip around the league and take a look at all 32 teams and address one of the biggest fantasy questions about each of them. After all, in terms of dynasty leagues, if you aren’t thinking about these things now you’re already behind.
The ol’ “Black and Blue Division” is once again looking like a source of fantasy goodness this season. In addition to perennially powerful Packers and Lions offenses, there are also reasons for optimism in Minnesota and Chicago. Let’s take a look at one question facing fantasy owners for each team in the NFC North.
Green Bay Packers
Will Ty Montgomery be the feature back for the Packers?
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As a Packers fan, I believe the answer is… probably not. I love the talent of Ty Montgomery as another weapon for Aaron Rodgers, but I don’t believe he has true three-down running back ability. Montgomery has struggled with two things in his short time at the position; staying healthy and keeping his quarterback upright. He has missed the last week of practice with a lower leg injury, allowing rookie Jamaal Williams the opportunity to take the lead role and run with it.
When Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback, pass protection is priority number one. “His [Williams] attitude towards protecting the passer stands out,” offensive coordinator Edgar Bennett said. “He’s done a pretty good job of that, he really has. For a rookie jumping in there, understanding his responsibilities from an assignment standpoint and being fundamentally sound to pick up a blitzing or dogging linebacker, he’s done a nice job.”
For fantasy, it may not matter whether or not Montgomery is the lead back. If he can stay on the field, his ability as both a runner and receiver should put him in low end RB2 territory. For the price, however, I prefer putting my chip on Jamaal Williams who can be had 90 picks after Ty Montgomery in startups.
Which running back will have the most fantasy value in 2017?
I have loved Ameer Abdullah unabashedly since his days as a Husker. Thus far we have been robbed of the chance to really see what he can do in the NFL as the feature back over the course of an entire season, but I believe he can be a productive fantasy back. The real problem with Abdullah is that he probably isn’t as good as Zach Zenner or Dwayne Washington in short yardage and goal line situations and will share receiving duties with Theo Riddick. Riddick, in fact, is pretty good in the red zone himself. He scored five receiving touchdowns in 2016, all five came in the red zone and three came from the one-yard line.
All signs point to Abdullah leading the backfield with 200+ carries, but he may have to do most of his damage between the 20s. He will certainly get his opportunities in the red zone but week to week he may be frustrating to own. In cases like this, I prefer the cheaper option in fantasy and Riddick costs half as much as Abdullah as of August ADP.
Will Laquon Treadwell be fantasy relevant in 2017?
Stefon Diggs is locked and loaded as the number one in this offense for the foreseeable future, but behind him, things appear unsettled. For now, Adam Thielen appears to be slotted in as the WR2 with Treadwell as the three, but remember that the Vikings spent a first round pick on Treadwell and likely want to see him step up and contribute. 44% of Thielen’s 2016 yards and 60% of his touchdowns came in three games, so there is likely some regression headed his way if Treadwell brings anything to the table in 2017. With another off-season in the Vikings system and the opportunity to further develop with Sam Bradford, I’m betting on Treadwell to overtake Thielen by the end of the season.
Once again this is a case of the cheaper option being the most desirable and the draft capital the Vikings invested in Treadwell makes this an easy call. The gap has closed to just seven spots so this decision could come down to roster construction. If you are looking for safe points then take Thielen, but if you are chasing upside in this offense like me, Treadwell is the guy.
Which wide receiver will be the most productive in 2017 and beyond?
With Mitchell Trubisky seemingly ahead of schedule, we may have some attractive receiving options for fantasy in Chicago after all. You may be thinking this is a similar situation to the Vikings one because of the draft capital invested in Kevin White versus what the Bears spent to acquire Cameron Meredith, but in this case, I vastly prefer the UDFA to the former seventh overall selection in the 2015 NFL draft.
White has had trouble staying healthy throughout his short career and reports this off-season of wide receivers coach Zach Azzanni showing him his college highlight film to restore his confidence are reasons enough for me to avoid despite an ADP depite a full three rounds later than Meredith. Outside of a couple “just in case” shares that I acquired cheaply (I’ll move them as soon as he has a good game), I am completely off of Kevin White. I am excited to see what Meredith can do in a more defined role with a real NFL quarterback.