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Each NFL team is its own fantasy football organism. Will they thrive or die in 2018? This series outlines the critical questions for each team across their skill position depth charts. In this edition: NFC North
Will Allen Robinson and Trey Burton reach their expectations?
Allen Robinson and Trey Burton were both splash free agent acquisitions for the target-depleted Bears offense. Including a factory reset of the offensive infrastructure, Chicago is one of the trendy uptick team choices for 2018.
Verdict: The price points for each are Allen Robinson around WR15 and Trey Burton around TE9 by early July positional ADP. Historically for Robinson, the presumed WR1 for the Bears, to meet his ADP, Mitchell Trubisky would need to finish at QB9/10 in fantasy. The same projection holds true for Trey Burton to hit the Top 10 for tight ends, a finish in the QB10/11 zone for Trubisky. While Matt Nagy looks to be a breath of fresh air for the outlook in Chicago, this is a historically high bar for Trubisky to improve from QB39 in PPG a year ago into QB1 land of a crowded position. For a reference point, Matthew Stafford was QB10 last season in PPG, throwing for nearly 4,500 yards with 29 touchdowns. In addition to limitations of the offense, the two individual players in question have histories to pick apart. Robinson has essentially one big year on his record, a garbage-time-infused 2015 season of 1,400 yards and 14 touchdowns. Robinson enters 2018 off ACL surgery plus a team change, which has historically translated to tempered productions compared to expectations. For Burton, he lived in Zach Ertz's Philadelphia shadow during his rookie contract, averaging a paltry 10.0 yards-per-reception and yet to eclipse 350 yards in a season. Adam Shaheen was a second round pick for the franchise last offseason, a draft status which leads to strong opportunity as a starter during their rookie contract. Both Robinson and Burton are priced aggressively by the market to even hit value. At a minimum, the odds are against both of them and even more assuredly is one of them will struggle to approach expectations.
Kerryon Johnson was a top-50 draft pick this offseason, adding to a Detroit depth chart filled with name value.
Verdict: The Lions depth chart looks like a mess on paper with receiving maven Theo Riddick, thumper LeGarrette Blount, and now incoming rookie Kerryon Johnson all with top-70 positional ADP. Johnson has the uphill task of being by far the most expensive around RB26 of July ADP. The past 15 years of rookie classes have only 22% of Round 2 backs of 210+ pounds posting at least 200 carries their rookie season, a threshold which would lock Johnson into a profit zone compared to his cost. Johnson also has to face Theo Riddick, who has averaged 4.4 catches per game over the past three seasons. LeGarrette Blount has some a step from his Tampa Bay and New England peak periods of his career but still presents a committee role presence to start the season. A best case for Kerryon Johnson is emerging late in the season for the fantasy stretch run. However, spending a pick in the same range as Alex Collins, Mark Ingram, and Lamar Miller for Johnson is a losing proposition.
Is there value in the Detroit tight end situation?
Verdict: Historically the winning combination for finding strong tight end production is a quality quarterback and lackluster wide receiver depth chart. Detroit has the first part with Matthew Stafford. However, the Lions sport one of the better trios of wide receivers in the NFL with Marvin Jones, Golden Tate, and a developing Kenny Golladay. About the maximum targets for the tight end position as a whole to expect would be in the 90-100 range. Outside of one option dominating the targets to an extreme level, matchup TE2 production is the upside available. The good news is Luke Willson (the most athletic and most NFL productive) is the most expensive of the bunch outside the top 30 tight ends in early July ADP, offering some value for deeper best ball formats and especially start-two-tight-end formats.
Who is the running back to own for Green Bay?
Verdict: All three Packers running backs are affordable in the RB35-50 range of early July positional ADP. The 2017 starter to begin the season, Ty Montgomery, is the cheapest, and both Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones saw games as the starter last year. Ty Montgomery profiles as the best fit for the Packers, providing flexibility to align as a wide receiver and traditional back on a snap-to-snap basis. Jamaal Williams profiles as a true workhorse but lacks the athleticism to be a high upside option. Aaron Jones is in between the two, offering a blend of both (more athleticism than Williams but less chess-piece flexibility than Montgomery). The Footballguys staff choice is Jamaal Williams, offering an 8-10 spot upgrade over his positional ADP in the consensus rankings with Aaron Jones an avoid moniker and Ty Montgomerry a slight target recommendation by comparison.
Should fantasy owners be all in on Jimmy Graham?
Verdict: The quick answer is yes. The Packers wide receiver depth chart is more uncertain for 2018 than in years with a reclamation project (Randall Cobb) the best bet beyond incumbent No.1 Davante Adams. Cobb has dropped in yards-per-game each season since his 2014 peak and his middling athleticism has slowed to the point of averaging a shade over 10 yards-per-catch over the past three years. With Jordy Nelson gone, the path is cleared for Graham to see 100+ targets as well as strong red zone numbers. Graham has been one of the strongest tight ends near the end zone and Green Bay fell off a cliff in tight end targets in scoring range last season. This was the perfect blend of addressing a need area with a strong talent in this offseason.
Do we finally see progress from Laquon Treadwell in Year 3?
The former first-round pick has largely been labeled a bust and discarded by the fantasy community. Is there anything to see with Laquon Treadwell for 2018?
Verdict: In a top-heavy Minnesota passing game, Laquon Treadwell was actually the WR3 in targets for the Vikings last year with a paltry 35. Kendall Wright was a notable addition to the depth chart, who has thrived in the slot over his career, including notable seasons with the Titans and Bears. Wright fits a slot role far between than Treadwell unless Stefon Diggs or Adam Thielen will slide inside on three-receiver sets and Treadwell sticks outside. The historical look at Laquon Treadwell is abysmal as he has the lowest athleticism score of any receiver drafted between No.10 and No.40 overall since Michael Clayton in 2004. Treadwell joins a lackluster group of busts in said draft range who did not eclipse 5.0 PPR PPG in each of their first two NFL seasons. The best case scenario of this subset has been Brian Quick, who produced one marginally-relevant season before fading into the fantasy backdrop.
Can Mitchell Trubisky crack the top 12 fantasy quarterbacks?
Matt Nagy offers the potential for a 2017 Rams-type turnaround for the Chicago Bears offense. Despite minimal weapons around the rookie quarterback, Mitchell Trubisky exhibited traits of a successful NFL quarterback last season.
Verdict: As mentioned above in the Allen Robinson and Trey Burton section, the quarterback position is highly contested for a top fantasy spot. Matthew Stafford was QB10 in PPG with nearly 4,500 yards and 29 touchdowns. Second-year Sean McVay creation Jared Goff zoomed from the 2016 ashes to QB12 in PPG, fueled by 3,800 yards and 28 touchdowns (to only seven interceptions). The Goff turnaround is the best case for Trubisky, except Trubisky lacks the same level of weapons around him. A Blake Bortles stat line (300+ rushing yards, 20-25 touchdowns, 3,600 yards) is a more reasonable upside, which would produce a mid-QB2 season in 2018.