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Minnesota Will Run to the Top of the North with Dalvin Cook: NFC North Division Preview

Welcome to Part 2 of the NFL Division Preview Series. Each installment will include my prediction of each team’s record and divisional finish. Along the way I’ll point out fantasy studs, mid-round values, late-round gems, and a breakout player from each division.

Be sure to check out the NFC East Division Preview.

Next up, the NFC North

NFC NORTH

Minnesota (11-5)

Chicago (9-7)

Green Bay (9-7)

Detroit (5-11)

Minnesota is one of the few teams entering 2019 with elite weapons at every offensive position, with Kirk Cousins throwing to one of the best receiving duos in the league in Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs, while sharing the backfield with stud fantasy-second-rounder Dalvin Cook. This is an extremely competitive division and anyone could win it, but Minnesota looks to have the most firepower. The Bears and Packers are the bridesmaids of the division, with one of them hoping to earn a wildcard birth. Detroit should be improved but they just aren’t talented enough to keep up with the class of this division.

EARLY-ROUND STUDS

Davante Adams – Adams is Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guy and that is not changing anytime soon, new offense or not. Draft Adams in the first round and don’t look back. He is my No. 2 WR behind DeAndre Hopkins.

Dalvin Cook – (See above) Look for Cook to have his best year yet. Coach Mike Zimmer wants to run the ball. He fired OC John DeFilippo after Week 14 and long-time staff assistant Kevin Stefanski took over the play calling. Minnesota’s offense was much more efficient after Stefanski took over.

Stefanski will be calling the plays again this year but he won’t be alone. Minnesota added decades of experience in new Assistant Head Coach/Offensive Advisor Gary Kubiak and Offensive Line Coach/Run Game Coordinator Rick Dennison. It may be a tall task for Cook to maintain the efficiency he enjoyed late in the season, but the staff will give him every opportunity to do so. Draft Cook in the early to mid-second round and enjoy a great foundation for your fantasy team!

MIDDLE-ROUND VALUES

Geronimo Allison – The majority of preseason WR hype in Green Bay has centered around Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and he may step up nicely in his second year, but Allison should still be the top complement to Adams. Hamstring and groin injuries cut Allison’s season short last year. He basically played the first four games before his season was over. In those four games he had 19 receptions for 289 yards, and two TDs. Extrapolate those numbers over a full season and he has 76 receptions, 1,156 yards, and eight TDs. Those are about the numbers I am projecting for him this season. Given his ninth/tenth round ADP, I would be thrilled to draft him there. If Green Bay’s offense returns to the days of old there will be enough production for both Allison and Valdes-Scantling. But if I have to choose between the two, I’m taking Allison.

Tarik Cohen – There is no doubt that Coach Matt Nagy and the Chicago Bears will employ a running back by committee again this season. Jordan Howard is gone and the Bears drafted David Montgomery in the third round out of Iowa State. They also signed Mike Davis away from Seattle. Though this will definitely be a committee, Cohen’s role is pretty much carved out. He is the passing-down back and he should approach triple digit carries as well. Montgomery and Davis should battle it out for early down carries but as I mentioned, none of that should really affect Cohen. He had 71 catches last year for 725 yards and added another 444 yards on the ground with eight total TDs. Similar production should be in store this year and you won’t hurt your team taking that kind of value at his current fifth-round ADP.

LATE-ROUND VALUES

Anthony Miller – Miller led the Bears with seven touchdown receptions last year as a rookie. He played the majority of the season with a bad shoulder which required off-season surgery. It is rumored that his shoulder popped out of joint on several occasions. It’s admirable that he only missed one game! Miller was highly touted coming out of Memphis. He had 191 receptions, 2,896 yards, and 32 TDs in his junior and senior years. A step up in his second NFL season seems likely. The only concern is the number of mouths to feed in the passing game, and whether Miller can put up consistent numbers. He is currently being drafted between Rounds 12-15 so he is certainly worth the risk at that point in the draft.

Mike Davis – I discussed Davis earlier. Montgomery’s progress will have a lot to do with this situation. Davis is a good receiver out of the backfield and is excellent in pass protection. Rookies often struggle to pick up blocking schemes at the professional level. Keep an eye on this situation in training camp. If it is reported that Montgomery is struggling in this area, Davis could get the majority of snaps, especially early in the season. Davis could prove to be a value as he is being drafted in Rounds 15-18.

BREAKOUT PLAYER

Kerryon Johnson – Johnson is another rookie whose season was cut short due to injury after just ten games. He showed flashes of brilliance with two 100-yard rushing games. His first 100-yard game was the first such game for a Detroit running back since November 28, 2013 (70 games)! Detroit fans everywhere are hoping this is a sign of things to come. Johnson’s ADP is in the late third/early fourth round, although I expect it to increase after the news of Theo Riddick’s release. Riddick’s release is a sure sign that the Lions are fully behind Johnson and will likely use him more in the passing game, making him one of the leagues few three-down backs. Johnson is an excellent receiver. He managed 32 receptions last year while Riddick played the majority of third down passing situations and caught 61 balls himself. Detroit plays in an extremely talented and competitive division, but the sky is the limit for Johnson in Year 2.

Image Credit: Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Dalvin Cook.

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