In this penultimate entry in the Divisional ADP Breakdown, I visit the NFC North division. Some call it the “Black and Blue Division”, but I call it the Packers’ Division to lose. The only real threat to Green Bay this season is the Vikings again, but that Minnesota defense leaves a lot to be desired. While it has been fun to watch the Lions on Hard Knocks, they shouldn’t win more than 6 games this year. And the Bears might be one of the worst teams in football. But there’s still plenty of players to talk up from a fantasy perspective. So let’s dive in!
Green Bay Packers
As mentioned at the top of the post, the Packers are the favorite to win the NFC North. If they do, it would be 13th time in 21 seasons since the division realignment of 2002. The Packers obviously lost Davante Adams in the offseason, so someone else on this team will have to step up. The question is, are they being overdrafted at current ADP?
Aaron Rodgers (93rd Overall, QB12)
It is a scary position to be “down” on the back-to-back league MVP. Over the last decade, only Russell Wilson has more year-end finishes inside the top 12 at the QB position. Rodgers is as about consistent as you can get, and QB12 is probably a good value. But I’m not betting on him beating that draft spot this year, and if he does, it won’t be by much. His lack of trustworthy wide receivers is the main concern. Is Allen Lazard really a true WR1? Does Sammy Watkins have anything left? (Sidenote – Sammy is still only 29 years old, when I feel like he should be at least 34 with how long he’s been around.) Rodgers has already been criticizing his rookie wideouts for running poor routes and for their drops in camp. We know he doesn’t like to target rookie wide receivers, anyway.
So his only trustworthy options are Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon out of the backfield. Going to be hard for him to accumulate enough yards on a weekly basis for you to be happy. We also know his rushing ability has been on the decline in the last couple of years with his advance in age. On the plus side, he was a lock last season for at least 2 passing TDs a game, hitting that mark in 15 of his 17 starts. Is a top 10 finish out of the cards in 2022? No. But do I see a path to Rodgers sneaking into that top 5 at the position? Also no. And for that reason, I’m out.
Aaron Jones (17th Overall, RB10)
It’s amazing the shift in ADP from season to season. Last year, the top-7 players drafted by ADP were all running backs. Jones was the last of the bunch. This season, the Packers running back has fallen into the 2nd round, and I can’t figure out why. The Adams trade should only help bolster Jones’s numbers in the receiving game. In games without Adams in his career, Jones averages 4.5 receptions on 6 targets (102 target pace), 48 receiving yards, and 23 PPR points per game. As mentioned above, Jones is the number one look for Rodgers when Davante isn’t there. Now, those games have come midseason when Green Bay hasn’t had as long to gameplan, so that could possibly be the reason for the inflated numbers.
I am not expecting something ridiculous like 120 targets this year. But, Jones has week-winning upside and he will most likely be your RB2. Not bad for a guy who has finished the season as a top-12 running back in three consecutive years.
The Vikings are one of the teams I am most excited to see in 2022. Gone are the Mike Zimmer “run, run, run and rely on your defense” days. Hello to the Kevin O’Connell “intricate offense that gets your WR1 wiiiide open” days. O’Connell left sunny LA for blustery Minneapolis, but at least the Vikings play their home games indoors. With a pair of top talents going in the first round of most drafts, how do we find value on this team?
Adam Thielen (72nd Overall, WR30) vs K.J. Osborn (208th Overall, WR71)
Every year for the last two or three, I had a “Thielen” that Adam would fade into irrelevancy for fantasy football purposes. And every year I am wrong. But if I keep saying it, eventually I will be right… right? If we go back to 2020, when he finished as WR8, he put up 14 TDs… on just 925 receiving yards. Last season, we took Adam Thielen as the WR21 and he finished as the WR27. This year, we are taking him at WR30, which seems to be his ceiling, not his floor. Last season, Thielen was the only wide receiver between WR13 and WR41 to record double digit touchdowns while simultaneously recording less than 730 yards.
Players with 726 receiving yards, which is what Thielen had in 2021, are expected to score around 5 touchdowns. If we subtract 5 TDs from his total last season, he finishes at… wait for it… WR34, which is coincidentally one spot ahead of emerging teammate K.J. Osborn… who is currently being drafted at WR71 and is basically free at the end of drafts. I think a changing of the guard is in store for 2022 and would be drafting Osborn ahead of Thielen this season. Maybe Thielen is just really good at scoring touchdowns, but scoring is not a sticky enough stat for me, so I’m passing on him in redraft. In best ball, that’s a different story…
Matt Nagy was finally fired after an abysmal 2021 season. Nagy was actually 34-31 in his four year stint with the Bears, but that was mainly bolstered by his 12-4 record in 2018. Unfortunately for us, defensive-minded new head coach Matt Eberflus should bring more of the same fantasy football disappointment to the Bears in 2022.
David Montgomery (33rd Overall, RB18)
Do we even know if David Montgomery is good? I mean, I think he is, but we usually only see it in the fantasy playoffs. As a refresher, from Weeks 12-17 in 2020, he was on a 17-game pace of 403.5 half point PPR points. Dude dominated against inferior run defenses. Which is great, if you made it there. But he might be the reason your team missed out on a playoff bid. He’s had injury concerns over the last couple of seasons, which could be a big reason I am down on him. There have also been reports of Montgomery ceding work to his backfield mates in more of a timeshare, which is concerning to me. He needs volume to return fantasy value, and at this current draft price, I am letting him pass me by.
Darnell Mooney (73rd Overall, WR31)
I get it, the Bears should struggle on offense, but come on! There is literally no other wide receiver for Justin Fields to throw the ball to this year. LOOK AT THIS DEPTH CHART. Pure garbage, respectfully of course. Mooney could easily see a 25% target share. Justin Fields definitely needs to improve this year for that to mean anything to us fantasy footballers, though. 81 catches on 140 targets last season… not great!
Last year, Mooney finished as the WR24. That was with Allen Robinson there, for whatever that’s worth. He seems to have a true connection with Fields, as they connected on many deep passes in 2021. But he should be ascending heading into his third year, not declining. I believe another top-24 finish at the position is firmly in the cards for Mooney.
As mentioned above, I am absolutely loving Hard Knocks. Dan Camplbell is a lunatic, and I mean that in the nicest way possible. You can tell he just loves football and wants to see his guys succeed. I think most of America wants to see that too. C’mon Lions, win 6 games this year!
T.J. Hockenson (67th Overall, TE7)
We all know about the running back “dead zone”, but did you know there’s also a tight end version? And Hockenson is firmly entrenched in it – those middle rounds when you should be loading up on RB/WR or snagging your first QB. Tight ends in this range rarely return value.
He had a great 2020 with Matt Stafford, finishing as TE4, but that was before Amon-Ra St. Brown arrived on the scene. St. Brown did most of his damage while T.J. was out, but I think the receiver from USC is here to stay. The Lions also drafted Jameson Williams despite injury, who might be ready to return in the second half of the year, and signed D.J. Chark in the offseason. Don’t forget about D’Andre Swift out of the backfield. There is a lot of competition for targets now, and I don’t think its a guarantee that Hockenson is at the top of that list anymore. He also was not consistent last season with Jared Goff. He finished just as many games as TE13 or worse as he did in the top 12.
Jamaal Williams (159th Overall, RB55)
Lost in the D’Andre Swift hype train this offseason is the fact that Jamaal Williams is still a member of the Detroit Lions. As evidenced in the first episode of Hard Knocks (I promise we aren’t sponsored by HBO, but hey if they’re listening…) Williams is the emotional leader of this offense. He always runs hard when in the game. He was the perfect counterpunch for Aaron Jones during his time in Green Bay. At just 27, he definitely has enough left in the tank. Former OC Anthony Lynn probably used him too often last season, but I think this new regime wants to be smart about how they utilize their star, Swift. If Swift were to miss any time, Williams would be the feature back and leap into RB2/flex territory. Plus, he’s just a fun guy to root for.