GREEN BAY PACKERS
LOSE: CB Tramon Williams, LB A.J. Hawk, CB Davon House, LB Brad Jones, LB Jamari Lattimore, WR Jarret Boykin, QB Matt Flynn, RB DuJuan Harris
RE-SIGNS: WR Randall Cobb, DT B.J. Raji, DT Letroy Guion, OL Bryan Bulaga, FB John Kuhn
DRAFT: 1st round: S Damarious Randall, Arizona State 2nd round: CB Quinten Rollins, Miami 3rd round: WR Ty Montgomery, Stanford 4th round: OLB Jake Ryan, Michigan 5th round: QB Brett Hundley, UCLA 6th round: FB Aaron Ripkowski, Oklahoma DE Christian Ringo, Louisiana-Lafayette TE Kennard Backman, UAB
SUMMARY: The loss of one of the league’s best receivers in Jordy Nelson was a huge hit to the deadly Packers offense. However, if there’s any team that can overcome this loss, it’s the Packers. Aaron Rodgers, fresh off a league MVP and 38:5 touchdown-interception ratio, no longer has to face an elite Bears’ squad or a decapitating Lions’ defensive line. In other words, Rodgers is set for a huge year, Nelson or not. Eddie Lacy should expect more carries this year but I still remain skeptical of his production since he still stars for a pass-happy team.
The defense, however, remains awful. On paper, this team doesn’t look bad, but the defensive line is completely shot minus Raji. Imagine this defensive line if they hadn’t re-signed him.
Outside linebackers Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers are sure to pressure quarterbacks and add to the team’s 41 sacks, tied for ninth-best. The secondary, at least on paper, should be more than adequate. Sam Shields is a serviceable corner and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix is an emerging star. While the stats are middle of the road for this team, it’s worth noting the Packers played the weak NFC South last year. Against the NFC and AFC West, the Packers will have a much tougher time.
However, there’s no one in the NFC North that can dethrone Green Bay and they’re one of the few teams who can beat Seattle, so a division crown and a playoff run is a given.
For fantasy, Rodgers, Lacy, Cobb, James Jones and Davante Adams are all great pickups.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 11-5
Week 1: @CHI Week 2: vs. SEA Week 3: vs. KC Week 4: @SF Week 5: vs. STL Week 6: vs. SD Week 7: BYE Week 8: @DEN Week 9: @CAR Week 10: vs. DET Week 11: @MIN Week 12: vs. CHI Week 13: @DET Week 14: vs. DAL Week 15: @OAK Week 16: @ARI Week 17: vs. MIN
GET: WR Mike Wallace, CB Terence Newman, OLB Casey Matthews, QB Shaun Hill, TE Brandon Bostick, S Taylor Mays
LOSE: WR Greg Jennings, DE Corey Wootton, FB Jerome Felton, OT J’Marcus Webb, QB Matt Cassel, LB Jasper Brinkley, OT Vladimir Ducasse, QB Christian Ponder
RE-SIGNS: LB Chad Greenway, OL Joe Berger, OL John Sullivan, RB Matt Asiata
DRAFT: 1st round: CB Trae Waynes, Michigan State 2nd round: ILB Eric Kendricks, UCLA 3rd round: DE Danielle Hunter, LSU 4th round: OT T.J. Clemmings, Pittsburgh 5th round: TE MyCole Pruitt, Southern Illinois WR Stefon Diggs, Maryland 6th round: OT Tyrus Thompson, Oklahoma DE B.J. Dubose, Louisville 7th round: OT Austin Shepherd, Alabama OLB Edmond Robinson, Newberry
SUMMARY: The Vikings had a great year without their star player, Adrian Peterson, in 2014, going 7-9 with little offensive talent. Mike Zimmer’s squad finished 14th in total defense, including an impressive 7th against the pass and 41 sacks. However, they need to improve against the rush. Without Peterson, the Vikings averaged 20.3 points per game, 20th in the league, a stat that needs to be improved.
The expectations for the Vikings are high. The running game should be huge with the return of Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater’s inaugural highlight reel demonstrated potential. They should contend for a wild-card spot.
For fantasy, Adrian Peterson and Teddy Bridgewater catch my eye, although I don’t know if I’d select Bridgewater as a QB1.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 8-8
Week 1: @SF Week 2: vs. DET Week 3: vs. SD Week 4: @DEN Week 5: BYE Week 6: vs. KC Week 7: @DET Week 8: @CHI Week 9: vs. STL Week 10: @OAK Week 11: vs. GB Week 12: @ATL Week 13: vs. SEA Week 14: @ARI Week 15: vs. CHI Week 16: vs. NYG Week 17: @GB
GET: DT Haloti Ngata, C Manny Ramirez, DE Corey Wootton, WR Lance Moore, WR Greg Salas
LOSE: DT Ndamukong Suh, DT Nick Fairley, DE George Johnson, RB Reggie Bush, DT Andre Fluellen, DT C.J. Mosley, C Dominic Raiola, G Rodney Austin, FB Jed Collins, CB Cassius Vaughn, TE Kellen Davis, QB Kellen Moore
RE-SIGNS: K Matt Prater, CB Rashean Mathis
DRAFT: 1st round: G Laken Tomlinson, Duke 2nd round: RB Ameer Abdullah, Nebraska 3rd round: CB Alex Carter, Stanford 4th round: DT Gabe Wright, Auburn 5th round: FB Michael Burton, Rutgers 6th round: CB Quandre Diggs, Texas 7th round: OT Corey Robinson, South Carolina
SUMMARY: The Lions had one of the worst offseasons this year, losing Suh, Fairley, George Johnson, Mosley and Fluellen, all defensive line contributors. Haloti Ngata may be one of the league’s most dominant forces in the trenches, but he’s 31 and I don’t know how much gas he has in the tank. Either way, it’s a temporary fix and Detroit will need to address that in the draft. Jim Caldwell has a lot less to work with this year.
Detroit might have been 13th against the pass last year, but I’d like to emphasize that ranking did not come because of the play of Darius Slay, James Ihedigbo, Glover Quin and 35-year-old Rashean Mathis. Without the insane amount of pressure the Lions were able to cause up front, there is no way Detroit replicates its 20 interceptions last season, tied for third-most, or its 42 sacks. Detroit was 28th in rushing last season and there’s no way that total with prove adequate this season. Matthew Stafford has thrown more than 600 passes for four consecutive seasons, a trend that must change in Detroit. Do you know when the Lions were last in the top-half of the league in rushing? 1998. Do you know who the star running back was that year? Barry Sanders.
That’s correct. It has been 17 seasons, nearly two decades, since the Lions were ranked 15th or better in rushing. During those 17 years, Detroit has ranked 28th or lower in rushing nine times, including dead last twice. Hopefully newcomer Ameer Abdullah can be the franchise’s back of the future because Detroit hasn’t had one since Sanders left. With the loss of its defensive line and with a one-dimensional offense, expect the Lions to fall, especially given their schedule of the AFC and NFC West.
I’d avoid everyone on the Lions with the exception of Calvin Johnson. Stafford is trending down and the Lions defense won’t be dominant nor Tate as efficient as he was last year.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 6-10
Week 1: @SD Week 2: @MIN Week 3: vs. DEN Week 4: @SEA Week 5: vs. ARI Week 6: vs. CHI Week 7: vs. MIN Week 8: @KC Week 9: BYE Week 10: @GB Week 11: vs. OAK Week 12: vs. PHI Week 13: vs. GB Week 14: @STL Week 15: @NO Week 16: vs. SF Week 17: @CHI
GET: S Antrel Rolle, LB Mason Foster, DE Pernell McPhee, WR Eddie Royal, LB Sam Acho, CB Alan Ball, OT Vladimir Ducasse, DE Ray McDonald, C Will Montgomery, RB Jacquizz Rodgers, TE Bear Pascoe,
LOSE: WR Brandon Marshall, CB Charles Tillman, LB D.J. Williams, LB Lance Briggs, C Roberto Garza, C Brian De La Puente, S Chris Conte, S Danny McCray, DT Stephen Paea, WR Josh Morgan, LB Darryl Sharpton, K Jay Feely
RE-SIGNS: TE Dante Rosario, QB Jimmy Clausen
DRAFT: 1st round: WR Kevin White, West Virginia 2nd round: DT Eddie Goldman, Florida State 3rd round: C Hroniss Grasu, Oregon 4th round: RB Jeremy Langford, Michigan State 5th round: S Adrian Amos, Penn State 6th round: OT Tayo Fabuluje, TCU
SUMMARY: If you want to know why the Bears have been struggling, I give you two stat lines: 16th and 27th. That’s how Chicago has finished in rushing the last two seasons under Trestman. Matt Forte, still underrated after all these years in the league, is the guy who defines the Chicago offense. As dominant as Brandon Marshall was as the number one receiver and now number one Alshon Jeffery, Forte has been the cornerstone in the offense. My favorite stat from last season: Guess who was fourth in receptions last year? Matt Forte. That’s right, a running back last year had more receptions than everyone not named Antonio Brown, Demaryius Thomas and Julio Jones. Forte was second in the league in rushing in 2013 with 1,339 yards. Last year, he was 12th with 1,038. If the Bears want to succeed on offense, the Bears need to make Forte the figurehead again. As for the defense, there’s not many positives here. They were third-last against the pass last year. Kyle Fuller is an emerging star as is new OLB Pernell McPhee, but the team is aging with Jared Allen and Antrel Rolle expecting to lead this team. They can still ball, but this team needs to find some franchise players on defense quick.
Forte should be a huge pickup this year and I think Jeffery, if he can get healthy, should have the targets to become a top-15 receiver.
SCHEDULE PROJECTED RECORD: 4-12
Week 1: vs. GB Week 2: vs. ARI Week 3: @SEA Week 4: vs. OAK Week 5: @KC Week 6: @DET Week 7: BYE Week 8: vs. MIN Week 9: @SD Week 10: @STL Week 11: vs. DEN Week 12: @GB Week 13: vs. SF Week 14: vs. WAS Week 15: @MIN Week 16: @TB Week 17: vs. DET