From the Gut: The NFC North
By Sigmund Bloom
August 30th, 2012

This is a good time to review where we are at on offenses as a whole, and the possible downstream effects on the players within those offenses. The height of draft season is upon us and sometimes the level of quality and risk in an offense can be a good tiebreaker between similar players when you are making decisions on the clock.

Chicago Bears

Jay Cutler is singing "ding dong, the witch is dead" now that Mike Martz is out and Mike Tice is in. QB coach Jeremy Bates and number one receiver Brandon Marshall have rejoined Cutler - the three were together for his fantasy heyday in Denver. Alshon Jeffery and a healthy Earl Bennett will only help matters. As long as the offensive line doesn't turn Cutler into a sitting duck, he'll be an excellent QBBC member.

Matt Forte is still going in the late first/early second, and he should in PPR leagues, although I am convinced he won't approach elite numbers this season. Michael Bush will take some touches and most, if not all, of the goal line opportunities, and the improved wide receivers will steal some targets from Forte, who was arguably the team's best receiver last year. The fact that Forte's ADP has not dropped in light of these developments is more about the erosion in the stock of running backs outside of the top five than a steadfast belief in Forte. Think of him an adequate RB1 who may look more like an RB2 week-to-week.

Speaking of Bush, I'm not a fan of taking him at his 8th round ADP. Forte is pretty durable and Bush will only have matchup flex value as long as he is healthy.

I would pass on Brandon Marshall in the third for a running back, but you can still get a piece of the Bears passing game in the late rounds. Earl Bennett's chemistry with Cutler was very apparent in the three games they played together last year, and he was a co-lead target with Marshall in the third preseason game. Make him a last round target in PPR leagues.

Alshon Jeffery may have some big plays (and in turn big fantasy days), but I don't see him being consistent enough to merit a pick earlier than his 13th/14th round ADP. Kellen Davis is going undrafted, although he will have the opportunity to work his way into waiver wire consideration. The raw athletic talent is there, but I'm not sure the natural receiving ability is - keep him on your waiver wire watch list.

Detroit Lions

Matthew Stafford's steady 2nd round ADP shows that people still believe the Lions passing game will be huge, so I have to wonder why Titus Young hasn't crept up from his 9th round ADP. He is well on his way to becoming the Jordy Nelson of this pass offense with Nate Burleson losing a step and Ryan Broyles being a year away from being the player we saw at Oklahoma. He's an outstanding WR4 pick, especially in leagues that give bonuses for long touchdowns.

Burleson did post an astounding 47 receptions in the second half of the season, so he is worth a very late pick in deep PPR leagues to see if that trend carries over into 2012. Chances are it won't, but it is always good to have some players that you might be able to drop early without remorse. Ryan Broyles is still weeks away from making any kind of impact for the Lions.

Brandon Pettigrew is a rip off at his 7th round ADP. If you stop looking at his 83 receptions and focus on his game-to-game production, the picture is much less attractive. Pettigrew had four or fewer catches and 50 or fewer receiving yards in over half of his games. He is not an explosive play maker or go-to red zone target. Don't be the one that takes him in your draft.

The Lions backfield might be even messier than Washington's. Kevin Smith is harder to like at his 6th/7th round ADP with his twisted ankle and Mikel Leshoure looking pretty good in limited preseason action. I'm very interested to see which of Joique Bell and Keiland Williams make the roster, because I think that any competent back can put up numbers in spread attack.

Green Bay Packers

I was glad to see Greg Jennings back on the field after his two-week absence due to a concussion, but it is still a red flag on his draft stock in my book. The news out of Green Bay hinted at frustration on Jennings' part and a longer than expected recovery time. I have a feeling his next concussion will sideline him for a lot longer than two weeks. I wouldn't take him until the 4th, or maybe even 5th round.

The flip side of that is that James Jones should be on your late round target list. Jones was the second best receiver in camp, according to some reports, and he could even have value with Jennings in the lineup as the third receiver in a potent pass offense. Randall Cobb has more raw talent, but he didn't look ready for a bigger role in the preseason.

I chuckled at Cedric Benson's rise up the boards when Green Bay signed him. He was running in wet cement in Cincinnati and the Packers do not commit to the run. Benson's strong running and the Packers installing him as the lead back made me open to the idea that Benson will have value this year. I still wouldn't take him in the 7th/8th (his latest ADP), but perhaps he really is a changed man after having watch camps open from home. He might be the Packers version of Benjarvus Green-Ellis, who replaced him with the Bengals.

Minnesota Vikings

Christian Ponder hasn't gotten much publicity, and he isn't even getting drafted in the top 200, but he could have decent fantasy backup value this year with a full offseason under his belt. He'll have an improved set of weapons once Jerome Simpson's three-game suspension is over.

Simpson could be a valuable player to stash in deeper leagues, but in short bench leagues, he's not worth drafting and costing yourself an important roster spot to have for churning through early season waiver wire wonders.

Kyle Rudolph might be the single best value on the entire tight end draft board. You can get him in the 13th round, making him the easy target in the 11th or 12th if you go without a tight end in the first 10 rounds. Rudolph has tremendous size and ball skills, and he is finally 100% after a gnarly hamstring tear that pulled the muscle away from the bone in 2010. He is going to be the #2 option in the passing game.

It's so hard to bet against Adrian Peterson. Unless he has a setback and is forced to miss games, I have a feeling everyone who took him in the third round will be very, very happy. All Day has one setting, All Out. Toby Gerhart is going to be a wasted pick unless Peterson re-injures the knee. If you trust Peterson enough to take him in the 2nd/3rd, then spending a 10th/11th on Gerhart contradicts that belief. Take someone who can be productive while Peterson is also producing for you.

As always, thanks for reading. Questions, comments and suggestions are always welcome to bloom@footballguys.com.

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