We had a gratifying taste of NFL Football during the 2011 Draft, but the fact remains that the NFL remains in a lockout. Even though the thought of regular season football seems so far away, it’s never too early to start talking fantasy football.
Whether it’s the Chicago Bears who improved their offensive line or the Minnesota Vikings who invested in a QB for the future, each team in the NFC North drafted players who could have an immediate impact on the game of fantasy football.
Keep reading to see whose fantasy stock is on the rise and whose is falling.
By: Nick Grays
1.) Chicago Bears
Significant Selections: OT Gabe Carimi (Wisconsin)
Fantasy Stock Report:
Matt Forte (UP)
Few people realize this, but Forte actually had a great bounce-back campaign with the Bears in 2010. In standard fantasy leagues, he ranked 11th at RB and averaged 12.4 points per week. With the addition of an excellent run-blocker like Carimi, I would fully expect Forte to see more than 237 attempts on the ground in 2011.
Bears WRs (DOWN)
Let’s be realistic, Carimi will help the running game, but he won’t be a savior for the Bears terrible offensive line. QB Jay Cutler will still have to deal with constant pressure and lacks any great receivers to bail him out. Cutler’s favorite target in 2010 was Johnny Knox who ranked 24th among fantasy wide-outs with only five touchdowns. Teammates Devin Hester and Earl Bennett ranked considerably worse.
Significant Selections: DT Nick Fairley (Auburn), WR Titus Young (Boise State) and RB Mikel Leshoure (Illinois)
Fantasy Stock Report:
Lions D/ST (UP)
If I had to go out on a limb, I would say that there’s not one person out there who drafted the Lions defense in their fantasy draft. But when the season was all said and done, they finished as the 12th best defense and served as a great situational play and even a dependable starter in a deep league.
They may give up a lot of points, but the fact remains that they create turnovers and rack up the sacks. Fairley should be productive along side Ndamukong Suh and the rest of the Lions defensive line.
WR Titus Young (NOT DRAFT-WORTHY)
Young most likely projects to battle with the speedy Stefan Logan for the third receiver spot. I wouldn’t recommend drafting the Boise State product because of the two receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. Calvin Johnson receives targets galore as he should and Nate Burleson is a decent flex option.
RB Mikel Leshoure (DRAFT-WORTHY)
Remember how valuable Maurice Morris was for the Lions when Jahvid Best was out with turf toe. I wouldn’t trust Best to stay healthy behind a bad offensive line in Detroit and even if he does, Leshoure has a great chance at being the Lions goal-line back. If you’re playing in a deep league, keep this guy on your radar.
Significant Selections: OT Derek Sherrod (Mississippi State) and WR Randall Cobb (Kentucky)
RB Ryan Grant (UP)
With the way QB Aaron Rodgers ended the year, you would have to think that defensive coordinators will key on stopping the Packers through the air. With fresh talent on the offensive line, I see no reason there won’t be big gaps for the halfbacks to hit.
However, Grant did endure a season-ending injury to his ankle last season and the question on whether he will return to form still lingers. On the flip side, Grant opted to have the surgery last year in order to come back healthy, so Grant could be a undervalued RB in this year’s fantasy draft.
WR Randall Cobb (DRAFT-WORTHY)
The second-round draft pick Cobb is what you call a scoring machine. At Kentucky, the wide-out holds the school’s all-time record with 37 trips to paydirt. He can catch, run and occasionally pass the ball as well. With the Packers, he is looked at as a replacement for the hard-working Donald Driver.
In a deep league, I think Cobb definitely has sleeper potential because he will get targets in the Packers’ offense and he returns kicks which is always a plus.
Significant Selections: QB Christian Ponder (Florida State) and TE Kyle Rudolph (Notre Dame)
TE Visanthe Shiancoe (DOWN)
TE Kyle Rudolph (NOT DRAFT-WORTHY)
Shiancoe saw a dip in production last year and I would expect much of the same with the very talented Kyle Rudolph coming aboard. Considering the mystery around the QB situation in Minnesota, I would stay far away from Shiancoe and Rudolph when looking at a fantasy tight end. If you’re desperate for a tight end, it’s still going to be a hard choice deciding which one will benefit more from sets containing both them in the game.
QB Christian Ponder (NOT DRAFT-WORTHY)
Everyone who seriously plays fantasy football knows how important a productive QB is. I’m not going to knock Ponder right away because I think he could have a bright future in the league. However, I feel he needs time to develop and come accustomed to the speed of the NFL. Adrian Peterson, arguably the best back in the league will be a great crutch for the kid. But in regards to fantasy, you’re practically committing suicide if you plan to rely on Ponder right away.
Is there something I missed or do you disagree with any of my fantasy advice? Let me know by commenting below!
Nick Grays is a senior editor at the Sports Bank where he covers the Wisconsin Badgers, Green Bay Packers, and Milwaukee Brewers. Follow him on Twitter by clicking here or visit his blog Nick Knows Best.
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