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Eyes of the Guru Preseason, Part 4: AFC North

An overview of defenses in the NFC North with an emphasis on individual defensive players and their fantasy value.

Just as a reminder or for those who may have come in the middle of the series. For reference, when I mention where players finished in the rankings last season, my model will be the standard Footballguys scoring system. This is the standard stuff:

  • Tackles = 1.5
  • Assists = .75
  • Sacks = 4 
  • Forced fumbles = 3
  • Fumble recoveries = 3
  • Interceptions = 4
  • Passes defended = 1.5
  • Touchdowns = 6

Keep in mind that based on scoring systems, rankings will vary (sometimes greatly) from league to league. From time to time I will reference the "rookie corner rule". For those who are new to IDP or the EOTG, the rookie corner rule is basically the fact that in the NFL, starting a rookie at corner is like throwing chum to the sharks. Offensive coordinators will target young and inexperienced players as weaknesses, thus these guys have an accelerated number of opportunities. Most often these guys are the cream of the crop at the position (which is why they are starting so soon) and their numbers will begin to drop sharply after their rookie seasons. When I mention tackle numbers, I do not lump assists and solo tackles together. Unless I make a reference one way or the other, I am talking about solo tackles. When I talk about a total number of takeaways for a player, I am counting interceptions, fumble recoveries and fumbles forced since all of these score very similarly in most scoring systems.

Minnesota Vikings

Defensive Linemen

Wherever Mike Zimmer has coached the defense has been good and the defensive ends have been fantasy gold. In 2016 both Everson Griffen and Danielle Hunter were top ten linemen, with Hunter landing among the top three in most leagues. What makes Hunter's big season even more impressive is the fact he was not a starter. Griffen and Brian Robison held those jobs with Hunter rotating in. On the season Griffen played 888 snaps, Robison 836 and Hunter 598. This is significant because Hunter has finally passed Robison on the depth chart and is looking at a big jump in opportunity. Minnesota will continue to rotate the trio just like before, so the starter’s role figures to give Hunter about 40% more snaps. Having him in several dynasty leagues I am excited as anyone about this news. Still I have to throw out a word of caution before everyone starts comparing Hunter to J.J. Watt. There are a lot of historical examples of players being highly productive as the third man in a defensive end rotation or a third down rush specialist, then flopping when they get an opportunity to start. Now that I have pointed out the potential for Hunter to take a step back, let me tell you why I am not expecting it. He was not in a situational rotation where his success was tied to a select role or sub package. The Vikings rotation seemed to be based largely on snap count and/or series. As a result any two could be on the field at any time, so Hunter basically played a three down role when it was his turn. He graded out among the league's best at the position versus both the run and pass, and he turns 24 in October so Hunter is just entering the prime of his career physically. If we add 40% to his 2016 totals it looks something like 48-31-17.5 with 244 fantasy points. Watt broke 300 points in 2012 and 2014 but he had 245 in 2015 so yes, there is a chance Hunter could challenge for top billing among linemen, if not all defenders this year. With Watt's recent back issues there can even be an argument made for making Hunter the first defender off the board on draft day. I would probably not go that far yet, but I would seriously consider letting someone else step up for Watt, then making Hunter my first IDP pick a round or two later.

With all the expectation surrounding Hunter it is easy to lose sight of just how good and dependable Everson Griffen has been since becoming a starter in 2014. Over the last three seasons he has averaged 36-13-10, finishing among the top fifteen in all three years and the top ten twice. Having Hunter at the other end could actually help Griffen as offenses will have to adjust blocking Hunter's way often. Griffen may not challenge for either the tackle or sack lead among defensive linemen but he is rock solid in all aspects of the game. While his sack total was down a bit at 8 last year, Griffen made up for it with a personal best 5 turnovers and his third career score. I expect we will see him back in double digit sacks in 2017 and he may hit 40 tackles with more one on one blocking. If some astute owner punks you on Hunter, there is nothing wrong with waiting another couple rounds and picking up Griffen as a solid DL1.

Brian Robison is a class act. When he learned Hunter had passed him for the starting spot, Robison stood up in the meeting room, congratulated the young man and said he knew it was coming because Hunter is just too good not to be a starter. Robison has never been more than marginal depth for most fantasy owners. Losing some snaps may actually make the 34 year old a little more productive on a per play basis but his overall numbers will likely slip a bit.

The Vikings added former Packer Datone Jones in free agency. Heading into training camp it is hard to gauge exactly what his role will be in Minnesota. With Green Bay, Jones played both defensive end and outside linebacker, though he was never particularly successful at either spot. The former first round pick (2013) is not really an edge rusher. He can set the edge versus the run but lacks the quickness, up field burst and athleticism to get after the passer from that spot. He may however add some punch as an inside rusher or even a starting 3-technique tackle. Jones's skill set would seem to be a good fit at that position and with Sharrif Floyd continuing to have injury issues, the Vikings are looking for someone to produce in that role. There has to be a reason Jones was signed and there is certainly no room for him to get on the field much at end. Four years in the Packers 3-4 had Jones averaging about 14 tackles and 2.5 sacks a season. There will be a lot of competition for the job next to nose tackle Linval Joseph, but if Jones ends up there he could be a 35 tackle, 4.5 sack guy and a quality second starter in leagues breaking out the position.

Sharrif Floyd was the team's first round pick in 2013. As a rookie he was part of a rotation, playing in all sixteen games. Since that time Floyd has battled injuries and struggled to stay on the field. Things were looking good in 2014 when he was 28-14-5 in fourteen games. Floyd played 13 games in 2015 but was not completely healthy in several of them and ended up missing three. He missed nearly all of last season with knee and quad injuries that have his early 2017 status in question. Floyd is a big talent who all but certain to start when/if he can get and stay healthy. The organization seems to have prepared for a future with or without him.

Part of that preparation was drafting Jaleel Johnson in the fourth round. He is an active, high energy player that should be a good fit as a penetrating 3-technique tackle. His biggest asset seems to be as an interior pass rusher though at 316 pounds, run support is not a weakness. In two seasons as a starter for Iowa, Johnson totaled 52-49-11. He could be in the mix for rotational snaps as a rookie and has the potential to develop into a fine starter down the road.

In 2014 and 2015 Tom Johnson carved out a niche as an interior rush specialist. In the part time role his tackle numbers were not great but he combined for a respectable 12 sacks over those two seasons. Heading into the team's week six bye last year Johnson was right on pace for another 20 tackles and 6+ sacks. Coming out of the bye his role was diminished. Johnson failed to show up in the box scores at all for three games and had 8 tackles with no sacks in the final eight. With the additions of Datone Jones and Jaleel Johnson, he could be the odd man out for 2017.

Linval Joseph is settled in at the nose tackle position with Shamar Stephen penciled in as the starter next to him. Joseph is a seven year veteran and one of the league's best, most consistent interior linemen. At 329 pounds he an excellent anchor for the run defense, with a knack for getting off blocks and making plays. He has as much range as any nose tackle in the game and will get involved in plays both downfield and outside the tackle box. Joseph is not going to beat many pass blockers with speed or quickness but has an impressive bull rush, good technique and some moves we rarely see from guys his size. All these things show up in the box scores and add up to strong fantasy production for an interior lineman. Joseph has fallen short of 33 tackles once since 2011, has 17.5 career sacks. He had a career high of 40 assists last season which contributed considerably to his being the fantasy game's number three tackle. I am unsure if we can count on the high assist totals again though. His first two years with the Vikings yielded 32 combined. Even without them Joseph is a quality DT1 option.

Stephen is the starter for now but it may not last long. He did a solid but unspectacular job last season and the coaching staff is looking for more from the position. There will be a lot of competition for playing time with the best case scenario for Stephen probably being a part time rotational role.

DE Everson Griffen - Solid and dependable DL1
DE Danielle Hunter - Elite tier DL1
DE Brian Robison - Minimal value at best
DE/DT Datone Jones - Potential starter if he plays tackle
DT Linval Joseph - Solid DT1 with top 5 potential
DT Shamar Stephen - Minimal value at best
DT Tom Johnson - Reduced role ruined what value he once had
DT Jaleel Johnson - Dynasty sleeper
DT Sharrif Floyd - Injury probably negates serious value in 2017

Linebackers

There is not much guessing for us when it comes to the Vikings linebacker situation. Unfortunately there is not a ton of fantasy value here either. Middle backer Eric Kendricks is an ascending talent and the only real fantasy factor of the group. As a rookie the 2015 second round pick performed well on the field while his box score production of 73-20-4 with a pass defended made him a decent third starter in most leagues. Kendricks showed a lot of improvement in his second season. He was obviously more comfortable which allowed his leadership role to grow. It also helped Kendricks make a much more significant big play contribution. In fifteen games last year he was 70-39-2.5 with 8 passes defended, 3 takeaways and a score. He was a top fifteen linebacker with his average of 12.3 points per game ranking thirteenth. Kendricks is 25 years old and is set to be the centerpiece of the Vikings defense for most of the next decade. We have seen neither his best football nor his best fantasy production. I am not yet convinced he will ever make it to elite fantasy status but expect he will slip into the top dozen a few times before his career is over. This year may be his first journey into that group. I have Kendricks slotted on the cusp of the top twelve and see him as a priority LB2 with top ten potential for 2017.

What the heck happened to Anthony Barr last year? Strong side linebackers rarely put up big tackle numbers but the ones that stay on the field in sub packages usually have some value. This was the case with Barr who had 55 solo stops in twelve games as a rookie in 2014, adding 4 sacks, 5 turnovers, 3 passes defended and a score to post good LB3 range points. In his second season Barr tallied similar numbers in fourteen games and was again a decent third starter or quality LB4. In 2016 he played a full schedule for the first time, continued to work in the three down role and saw his production plummet to 38-33-2 with a couple of turnovers and 2 batted passes. Some of the decline, at least in terms of tackles, can be explained by the team's steady improvement since he joined them. In 2016 the Vikings defense was on the field for 993 snaps. Only five teams had fewer scrimmage plays. The entire linebacker corps had 138 solo tackles credited, so there simply was not a lot of opportunity. What happened to the big plays though? Generally when defenses play so well there are a lot of big plays involved. That part remains a mystery. I would like to call this a fluke and say Barr will have some value again but truth is I do not believe that is the case. Barr is not the only player on this squad to see his number crash over the last two seasons; I believe this is a trend we are going to see for a while in Minnesota.

With the retirement of career Viking Chad Greenway, the weak side linebacker spot is wide open. Emmanuel Lamur has been penciled in to open camp. He came over with Zimmer from Cincinnati and has been contributing mostly on special teams as he did with the Bengals. Lamur will compete with rookies Elijah Lee (round 7) and Ben Gedeon (round 4), and possible backup middle backer Kentrell Brothers for the starting nod. The two down role on one of the league's better defenses pretty much eliminates any fantasy potential from the position regardless who lines up there.

MLB Eric Kendricks - Quality LB2 with low LB1 upside
SLB Anthony Barr - Bounce back year possible but unlikely
WLB Emmanuel Lamur - No value
MLB Kentrell Brothers - Injury sleeper
MLB Ben Gedeon - Injury sleeper at best
SLB Edmond Robinson - No value
WLB Elijah Lee - No value at this time

Defensive Backs

Mike Zimmer defenses have always featured a talent heavy secondary. This year's group is no different featuring four former first round picks and one second rounder. Free safety Harrison Smith is the fantasy headliner. He is a mixed bag of big potential with a healthy dose of risk. The 2012 first round selection has completed a full schedule of games twice in his career, with the latest being 2014. When healthy he has been the fantasy game's most productive free safety. As a rookie Smith collected 73 tackles, 30 assists, a sack, 5 takeaways, 11 passes defended and a pair of scores to finish as the number three defensive back. In 2013 he had 46 solo tackles and 3 turnovers in eight games before landing on IR. The big numbers returned in 2014 with 71 solo stops, 3 sacks, 6 turnovers, 9 passes defended and a score. Since then Smith has been banged up a lot, missing games in each of the last two seasons and playing through injuries often. In 2015 his production was way down on a per game basis over all scoring categories. In 2016 Smith's tackle totals rebounded but the big plays were still hibernating. At this point I am wondering if something about Zimmer's scheme is hampering his big play production. It is not rare for a fantasy stud at safety to have his production decline as the team improves. This has probably been a contributing factor to the situation, but generally we see the decline in tackle totals more so than big plays. Smith has never been a high total tackle producer. What made him special early in his career was solid tackle totals with a lot of splash play production. If he stays healthy 70+ solo stops are basically a given, but that alone will not make Smith more than a solid DB3. Many fantasy owners are still living in the past when it comes to this player and will draft him among the first ten if not first five defensive backs. While there is certainly the potential for Smith to have that kind of value, it is far from a sure thing. If you can get him in the mid to late DB2 range Smith is a good gamble. I am letting others roll the dice on him as a DB1 at this point.

In 2014 Vikings strong safety Robert Blanton worked alongside Smith and also broke the 70 solo tackle mark. In 2015 Andrew Sendejo won the job and was on a similar pace had he not missed three games. Neither Blanton nor Sendejo made much big play noise, making both players were decent third starters or quality depth in their respective seasons. Sendejo returned as the starter last season but his useful production did not. In fourteen starts he was 45-24-.5. He did manage to double his turnover total from the previous year, finishing with 4. Sendejo scored 29.5 fantasy points in the first two games, and then reached double digits once over the next twelve. He is a solid tackler and a dependable player for the Vikings but his fantasy outlook is for depth or a marginal third starter at best.

There is reason for optimism when it comes to Minnesota's corners. The position has provided fantasy value on a fairly consistent basis dating back to the beginning of Antoine Winfield's career. Over the past couple of seasons it has been Xavier Rhodes picking up the torch. In 2015 Rhodes produced a career best of 55 solo stops, adding 11 passes defended but only 1 turnover. That season he was a marginal option as a bye week fill in for those in leagues starting two corners. Last year however, Rhodes stepped up his game considerably; especially in the turnover columns. After missing the first two games with injury and playing sparingly in week three, Rhodes went on to total 44 tackles, 8 assists, 6 turnovers, 11 passes defended and a score. He was the number ten corner at season’s end and his average of 10.9 points per game was best at the position. Year to year consistency among corners can be highly elusive for fantasy owners. The fact Rhodes was on pace for a second consecutive 50+ tackle season is a big plus. If he can keep up the big play production he likely has CB1 value in 2017. At worst he should be a good CB3.

Trae Waynes spent most of his second season as the Vikings third corner. As such his overall tackle totals and fantasy points were not particularly impressive but he did contribute 3 interceptions and double digit passes defended. If we take a closer look at his per game production from 2016, Wayne’s fantasy potential takes on a whole new light. He started the first three games while Rhodes was mending then made three more starts in weeks ten through twelve. In those six games Waynes averaged 5-1-0 and a pass defended while recording two interceptions. Watching Waynes last season reminded me a bit of Winfield at times. At 190 pounds he is not a particularly big corner but he is feisty in coverage and fearless as a tackler in run support. Being the eleventh overall pick in 2015 Waynes obviously has all the traits to be an outstanding cover man. He is in line to take over the starting job in 2017 and while we should not expect 80 solo tackles, he clearly has the potential to be a substantial box score contributor going forward.

Since their days together in Dallas, Terrence Newman has followed Mike Zimmer where ever he has coached. Newman will be 39 year old in September and father time is on his heels. He will be in the mix with last year's second round pick Mackenzie Alexander for the nickel corner role in 2017. Chances are this will be Newman's final year and it will come as no surprise if he is either released or retires before the season.

FS Harrison Smith - DB1 potential with a lot of risk
SS Andrew Sendejo - Depth with low DB3 upside
SS/FS Anthony Harris - Injury sleeper at best
FS Antone Exum - No value
CB Trae Waynes - Sleeper with high CB2 potential or better
CB Xavier Rhodes - Solid CB2 or quality depth
CB Mackensie Alexander - Injury sleeper at best
CB Terrence Newman - No value

Detroit Lions

Defensive Linemen

The Lions got a solid 20 sacks and 128 solo tackles from their defensive line last season. The problem for fantasy owners being those numbers were spread among too many guys with their best player not getting nearly enough. Ezekiel Ansah was the fifth overall pick in 2013. As a sub package pass rush specialist he had a solid rookie campaign that produced 8.5 sacks but only 18 tackles. Ansah worked hard on improving as a run defender and earned a three down role in 2014. His sack total stayed about the same at 7.5 while the additional early down opportunities more than doubled his tackle total. He put it all together in 2015 with a mark of 38-8-14.5, 5 turnovers and a top three fantasy finish among defensive linemen. With expectations of great things to come, Ansah was among the first defensive players off the board in last year's drafts. Unfortunately an ankle injury early in week two derailed his season. Ansah missed just three starts but was not fully recovered from the injury until late in the season. As a result he finished with a dismal 21-14-2 on the year. While the poor numbers may cause him to slip a little further than he should on draft day, they are not a reason to expect less of him going forward. Ansah has become an outstanding three down talent. He has continued to get stronger and is now up to 275 pounds which should bode well for his tackle totals, and his sack explosion in 2015 was clearly not a fluke. A healthy Ansah should be right back in the mix for a top ten or even top five finish among linemen in 2017.

If there was a silver lining to the Ansah situation for the Lions, it was the discovery of Kerry Hyder. Hyder made the team as an undrafted rookie and impressed the coaching staff enough to get on the field early. He started training camp as a tackle but was seeing some time at end during the preseason. Hyder recorded a pair of sacks on 22 snaps as part of the rotation in week one. That was his lowest play count of the season. When Ansah was injured, Hyder stepped up as the starting end for a few games then remained a significant member of the DL rotation the rest of the way, seeing time at both positions. The hold back for Hyder and the rest of Detroit's linemen is going to be opportunity. For starters, only the Texans defense was on the field for fewer scrimmage plays than Detroit's 964 last season. The second part of the problem is no lineman played more than 665 or 69% of those plays. Rotating a lot of players is not a new thing with the Lions. In 2015 Ansah did all his damage on 659 opportunities. The result in 2016 was ten linemen with at least 7 solo tackles and four with at least 21 while none exceeded 23. It was the same story with sacks as seven linemen landed at least 1 of the 20 sacks. Hyder led the team's linemen in both tackles and sacks at 23-14-8. With a year under his belt he should be more prepared for the long season and more productive down the stretch this year. Still the chances of Hyder reaching 35 tackles and 10 sacks seem rather remote. I like him as solid bye week depth with some upside.

Free agent addition Armonty Bryant and second year man Anthony Zettel will compete for playing time in the rotation at end. It is unclear at this point of former Bears end Cornelius Washington will see time at end or work mostly inside. Chances are he will play a little of both. All of these guys are likely to see a fair number of snaps but not enough to be a fantasy factor.

With Khyri Thornton suspended for the first six games, Haloti Ngata and last year's second round pick A'Shawn Robinson are the unquestioned starters inside. Ngata led the team's interior linemen with 527 snaps in 2016 but is no longer the fantasy productive player he was a few years back. Robinson is an interesting prospect. The big man played 409 snaps as a rookie and produced the second highest tackle total of the Lions front seven at 22-8-2. If he can get anywhere near 600 opportunities, he could be a surprisingly productive interior lineman with low end DT2 or strong DT3 value. Akeem Spence will likely be the third man at tackle.

DE Ezekiel Ansah - Quality DL1 with top five potential
DE Kerry Hyder - Solid DL3 with some upside
DE Armonty Bryant - Injury sleeper at best
DE Cornelius Washington - No value at this time
DE Jeremiah Ledbetter - Project player
DT Haloti Ngata - No value
DT A'Shawn Robinson - Sleeper with low end DT2 potential
DT Akeem Spence - No value
DT Jordan Hill - No value
DT Khyri Thornton - Suspended six games

Linebackers

The Lions have been hurting at linebacker over the past several years. DeAndre Levy had a couple of big seasons before injuries derailed his career, and Stephen Tulloch was a serviceable middle backer for a while, but there has not been a consistent year to year stud on this roster since Chris Claiborne. Tahir Whitehead did a good job filling in as the team's three down middle backer last season, but he is not the long term answer. Whitehead would have reached triple digit solo tackles had he not missed a game, but the complete lack of big play production held his fantasy value in check. The Lions need a playmaker in the middle so they used the twenty first overall pick on Jarrad Davis who has already been inserted as the three down starter. The early spin on Whitehead has him competing with free agent addition Paul Worrilow and fourth round rookie Jalen Reeves-Maybin for the weak side job. The coaching staff is looking for a playmaker at that position as well, so in the end I believe Whitehead will go back to his original role as a two down strong side linebacker. Regardless where he lines up, Whitehead will not have much fantasy value as he is all but certain to be no more than a two down player.

Jarrad Davis has been my top IDP target in rookie drafts this summer. An ankle injury took its toll on his production for the Gators last year but as a junior in 2015 Davis had 94 combined tackles with 3.5 sacks and a couple of turnovers. He is a complete player with all the intangibles teams look for in a middle linebacker. Davis possesses excellent speed and strong cover skills. He has a motor that never quits and will run down plays all over the field. At 6'1" 238 pounds he has the size and toughness to take on bigger blockers with the strength and athleticism to shed and make tackles in the run game. Davis can blitz, rarely misses a tackle and will make some big hits. In short he has all the traits of a great NFL linebacker including work ethic, character and leadership. If he stays healthy Davis could be the leader of Detroit's defense for the next decade and best fantasy linebacker this organization has produced since Chris Spielman. It seems every year there is at least one rookie linebacker among the fantasy game's top twenty. Last season it was Deion Jones jumping into the top ten. This year we may see up to three rookies with LB2 or better production. I expect Davis to be the best of the bunch and will not be at all surprised if he slips into the LB1 conversation.

Whitehead led the team with 99 solo tackles in 2015, while no other Detroit linebacker totaled more than 26. As the NFL evolves we are seeing a lot more sub package situations and a lot fewer three down linebackers in general. Last year's Lions were short on talent at the second level; especially when it came to coverage abilities. To compensate the coaching staff used strong safeties Miles Killebrew and Rafael Bush at the position in many situations. We may continue to see Killebrew up in the box regularly but this year there are more options among the linebackers, so there is at least the potential for a three down option at weak side linebacker to emerge. Whitehead will be in that mix as will former Falcons starter Paul Worrilow. Both veterans are strong run defenders who have held three down roles in the past, but neither has been much of a playmaker. In three years as a starter in Atlanta Worrilow accounted for 2 picks, 3 forced fumbles and a recovery. Either of these veterans could put up respectable fantasy numbers if the opportunity is there, but I doubt it will be.

The intriguing player in the weak side mix is rookie fourth round pick Jalen Reeves-Maybin. The former Tennessee Volunteer missed much of his senior season with a shoulder injury that also contributed to his falling further on draft day than his talent would suggest. Reeves-Maybin broke into the starting lineup as a sophomore and put two quality seasons on film before the injury. In 2014-2015 he combined for 129 solo stops with 77 assists, 8 sacks and 7 takeaways. He is a little undersized at 6'0" 230 pounds but plays with great instinct and excels at coverage. There is still some concern the shoulder could become a chronic issue, but talent and production wise Reeves-Maybin has the potential to be a quality NFL starter. Redraft owners should slip him onto their sleeper/watch list. For dynasty owners Reeves-Maybin is a good late round taxi stash.

MLB Jarrad Davis - My top rookie IDP prospect
WLB/SLB Tahir Whitehead - Depth with LB3 upside at best
WLB Jalen Reeves-Maybin - Dynasty/sleeper watch
WLB/SLB Paul Worrilow - Depth with LB3 upside at best
SLB Antoine Williams - Special teams player
MLB Nick Bellore - No value at this time

Defensive Backs

Detroit's defense finished in the bottom third of the league against the pass in 2016, so there will be some new faces in the secondary. How many of the new faces start in week one remains to be seen. Darius Slay is locked in as one of the starting corners. He is not an elite tier cover man by NFL standards, but the 2013 second round selection is a three year starter for the Lions that has become a quality number one corner. For fantasy purposes Slay's year to year consistency makes him easy to project though he is not particularly valuable. As a starter he has been remarkably consistent year to year, producing or being on pace for between 48 and 52 solo tackles and 13-17 passes defended every season, with 2 interceptions in each campaign. That production puts Slay on the roster fringe in most twelve team leagues starting two corners. He is a decent spot play to cover a bye week or short term injury loss, but is not a player we want to count on every week.

The starting spot opposite Slay is going to be wide open entering camp. Incumbent Nevin Lawson will be in the mix but will have a hard time holding off veteran free agent addition D.J. Hayden, second round pick Teez Tabor and/or second year man Quandre Diggs. Haden is the early favorite for the job. A first round pick of the Raiders in 2013, he spent the last three seasons as a dependable starter for Oakland but has never lived up to the expectations of a number twelve overall selection. For a team looking to add playmakers the signing of Hayden is somewhat of a head scratcher as he has 3 career interceptions and has never recorded more than 2 turnovers in a season.

Quandre Diggs was a late round pick of the Lions in 2015 and has worked as the slot corner for most of his two years with the team. Like everyone else in this competition, Diggs has not displayed a great knack for the big play. In 892 snaps as a pro he has a couple of forced fumbles and a recovery but is still looking for an interception. He is a little short for a starting corner at 5'9", but is probably the most physical of the Lions corners.

The organization expects Tabor to eventually claim the job but may be reluctant to throw him into the lineup right away. Questions about speed and consistent concentration likely mean he will get more early consideration as the slot corner where the scheme can provide deep help. What the Lions like about the young man is his size, quickness and big play production. While three years as a starter saw Tabor give up some big plays at Florida, he also accounted for 12 turnovers (8 on interceptions), 28 passes defended and 3 scores.

If he is healthy Glover Quin is a lock at free safety. Off-season ankle surgery kept him on the sideline during mini camps and may limit his availability early in training camp. Both the Lions and fantasy owners know what they have in Quin. He is a good deep defender that rarely makes mistakes, tackles well and will make a healthy big play contribution. Quin has 20 takeaways (16 on interceptions) in four seasons with the Lions but an average of about 53 solo tackles is going to hold his fantasy value to a minimum.

The fantasy value in Detroit's secondary comes from the strong safety position where Tavon Wilson quietly put up quality numbers in 2017. In fifteen games he totaled 74-15-1 with 3 turnovers, slipping just inside the top twenty five. It was the first shot at a starting role for the 2012 second round pick of the Patriots and he took advantage of the opportunity. Wilson enters camp as the favorite for an encore season but he is not a lock to keep the job. If he can hold off the challenge of Miles Killebrew, Wilson should again be a solid DB3 option with a little upside. That said the presence of Killebrew and improvement at linebacker could rob Wilson of some opportunity.

Killebrew will also get a look at strong safety this summer. The second year pro spent most of his rookie campaign working as the team's nickel linebacker. At 6'2" 222 pounds, he is an intimidating hitter who excels in run support but is a bit suspect in coverage. Killebrew passed the eyeball test last season but what stood out most about the young man was his level of production in limited opportunity. He was 23-5-0 with an interception on 149 plays as a rookie. That means he made a tackle on over fifteen percent of the snaps he participated in. To put this into perspective, at that rate if Killebrew were on the field 83% of the time (800 snaps) he would record 123 solo tackles. With the team's additions at linebacker it is unclear if Killebrew will hold the same role going forward but it is likely the coaching staff will find a way to get him on the field somewhere, even if it is not full time. There is a chance we could see the second year pro at safety on early downs and linebacker in sub packages. That would be the perfect scenario for fantasy owners as he would keep the safety designation and still reap the benefit of playing linebacker about half the time. This situation is a priority on my summer watch list. Stash the young man on you roster or taxi squad if you can.

FS Glover Quin - Marginal fantasy value
SS Miles Killebrew - Big upside if he earns a full time role
SS Tavon Wilson - DB3 if he continues to start
FS Don Carey - Special teams ace
CB Darius Slay - Bye week option in leagues starting two corners
CB Nevin Lawson - Minimal value at best
CB Teez Tabor - Dynasty potential
CB Quandre Diggs - Deep sleeper at best
CB D.J. Hayden - Minimal value

Chicago Bears

Defensive Linemen

The Bears were not a good football team in 2016 but their defense has some things to build on. They were seventh versus the pass and their 37 sacks ranked twelfth. On the other hand Chicago's run defense checked in at twenty seven and their meager 11 takeaways was worst in the league. Much of their struggle can be associated with the continued evolution in defensive philosophy from a 4-3 in previous years to a 3-4 under Vic Fangio. As is often the case in these situations the unit is experiencing growing pains as the organization works to align the roster with the scheme. This unit should begin to show significant improvement in the third season under Fangio but they still have a lot of work to do.

One player who had no issue with the scheme was Akiem Hicks who spent three plus seasons in the Saints 3-4 under Rob Ryan. Hicks was in New England for the final thirteen games of 2015 where he got a taste of the Patriots hybrid scheme that used both three and four man fronts regularly. The Bears were quick to move on him when free agency opened last off-season. It was a good call for both Hicks and the organization as he proved to be the lone standout among Chicago's defensive linemen last year. At 36-17-7 with three takeaways Hicks was top five among 3-4 linemen and top fifteen among all lineman in 2016. At 6'5" 336 pounds he has a rare combination of nose tackle size and power with the skill set and mobility of the league's better pass rushing 3-4 ends. The only question at this point being was his career high production a one year thing or is it something we can expect on a regular basis going forward? Prior to last season Hicks career best had been 29-27-4.5 with New Orleans in 2013. Both year to year and week to week consistency is often an issue when it comes to linemen in three man fronts. We have seen a lot of instances over the years of 3-4 ends having one big year and never coming close again. Hicks himself is a good example of the possible week to week issues. Last season he scored at least 8 points in half of the games but also put up 3 or fewer seven times. This season will either establish Hicks as one of the few productive and trustworthy 3-4 ends, or it will expose yet another one year wonder. All things considered I would target him as no more than a DL3 with a little upside.

Jonathan Bullard was the Bears third round pick a year ago, so he was a target of the current coaching staff. As a rookie Bullard was part of the rotation at end, getting on the field for 297 plays. His production in the limited role was nothing special at 15-3-1, but he has the right skill set to be in the mix for a starting job this year. Bullard will compete with veteran journeyman Mitch Unrein and former Chief Jaye Howard for the starting spot opposite Hicks. Unrein is a serviceable player with little upside and is unlikely to make much of a splash even if he wins a significant role. Howard on the other hand, is an interesting prospect. At this point he looks like a good example of a one year wonder having gone 37-20-6 with 3 turnovers for Kansas City in 2015, and following it by going 19-5-1 in the first half of 2016 before landing on IR. We have not seen enough of Howard since the big season to completely give up on him but there is no reason to use a roster spot unless he shows us something in September.

Nose tackle Eddie Goldman was the first defensive player drafted under the new coaching staff in 2015. At 6'4" 336 pounds he is prototypical 3-4 nose tackle. A big powerful road block that can anchor the run defense, eat up space and keep blockers off the second level. As a rookie Goldman played about half the defensive snaps. While his 16 tackles on 518 plays is not eye catching, a 336 pound nose tackle with 4.5 sacks is worthy of a little attention. At a glance Goldman seems to have regressed in his second season. His totals of 12-6-2.5 will make no one think twice on draft day unless they have taken a much closer look at the situation. Goldman dealt with a sore ankle nearly all of last season. As a result he played 183 snaps over five full games before being shut down for the year. There are two important points we can take from this; his playing time was up about 7% despite the sore ankle, and his production per play was up significantly. Because quality production from the interior positions is at such a premium in many leagues, we are always looking for sleepers at that position. If we average Goldman's production over the 585 plays he was on pace for, we get 38-19-8. That kind of production would make him a top five tackle. Yes it is a reach but is that not what we all do in the late rounds anyway? At the least Goldman needs to be on the radar of owners in tackle required leagues. If he is productive early in the season, waste no time in picking him up.

DE Akiem Hicks - Depth with low DL2 potential
DE Mitch Unrein - No value
DE Jonathan Bullard - Deep sleeper worth keeping an eye on
DE Jaye Howard - Potential DL3
NT Eddie Goldman - Sleeper with DT1 potential
NT C.J. Wilson - No value

Linebackers

After last season it is hard to tell if the Bears need a talent infusion at linebacker or just need to keep the players they have on the field. Outside backer Willie Young was the only Chicago starter to play in all sixteen games, and he was a rotational guy who played about 70% of the time. Inside backer Jerrell Freeman is the best or at least most safe fantasy option of the group. He last played a full schedule of games with the Colts in 2013 so there have been some injury issues, but his four game absence last season was courtesy of the commissioner’s office for performance enhancing drugs. On the field Freeman was a tackling machine racking up 87 solo and 24 assists in twelve games. In half of those games he had at least 8 solo stops and Freeman fell short of nine fantasy points only once. Strong tackle totals and excellent consistency have been the norm throughout Freeman's career and have made him a dependable fantasy option when healthy. The only thing keeping him out of the LB1 conversation is a general lack of big play production. The one big exception was 2013 when Freeman was the fantasy game's number nine linebacker on the strength of 83-43-5.5 with a whopping 10 turnovers and 7 passes defended. The other four years of his career have produced a total of 5 takeaways and 6.5 sacks combined, including a lone forced fumble in 2016. He was on pace for 116 solo stops last year. With the Bears still in a year or two away from contending and Danny Trevathan recovering from a torn patellar tendon, Freeman may well reach triple digits in 2017. If he can add a sprinkling of big plays he could edge into the top twelve for the second time in his career. What we can count on is strong, consistent tackle production and a top twenty four finish. Target Freeman as a quality LB2 with some upside.

The story of Danny Trevathan's career has been largely about injuries. He broke into Denver's starting lineup in 2013 and had a huge year, finishing a couple slots behind Freeman on the strength of 87-41-2 with 7 turnovers and 10 passes defended. Trevathan was lost to a devastating knee injury early in 2014. He returned the following year but was not 100%. The coaching staff eased him back into the mix by limiting his snaps throughout the entire season. On 740 opportunities or roughly 73% of the plays, Trevathan was an impressive (for the situation) 75-38-0 with a pair of picks, 6 passes defended and a score. After the 2015 season he took the free agent rout to Chicago where he played in nine games before tearing his patellar tendon. Trevathan is working to get back on the field this fall but word out of Bears camp has him being limited at best during camp and preseason. The latest reports suggest he may even start the regular season on the PUP list. If he can get and stay healthy Trevathan is a quality fantasy option in the low LB2 range. With the injury situation redraft owners are probably better off to avoid him all together this year. For dynasty owners this is a good time to buy low if you have room to stash him.

With both Freeman and Trevathan out late in 2016, the Bears inside linebacker depth was exposed. Christian Jones, Jonathan Anderson, Nick Kwiatkoski and John Timu all had their chances to prove themselves. In the end the only thing any of them proved was they are backup quality NFL players. Kwiatkowski made the best impression of the group and will likely get the call if Trevathan is not ready in September. He started the final five contests producing a respectable 27-6-1 with a couple of broken up passes. Coach Fangio likes to keep four linebackers in the field in most nickel situations so Kwiatkowski could have LB3 value until/unless Trevathan returns.

After taking Leonard Floyd in the first round last spring, the Bears are in good shape at outside linebacker. Veteran Willie Young led the club in sacks with 7.5 but Floyd was right on his heels at 7, which is excellent production for a rookie pass rusher. Floyd was on the field for just over half the Bears defensive plays, serving mostly as a sub package rush specialist. Checking in at 244 pounds as a rookie, he has worked hard in the weight room over the off-season to add size and strength so he can take on a bigger role. Some reports have Floyd putting on as much as twenty five pounds since being drafted. While that bodes well for his chances of playing every down, it could also slow him down some as an edge rusher. Hopefully he will find a happy medium that allows for success in a full time role. Floyd has the potential to be one of the best young outside linebackers in the game and a quality option for fantasy owners in big play based leagues. Perennial double digit sacks are a real possibility if not likely from the talented young man. That said 23 solo tackles is not going to get it done even if he has 10-12 sacks. Floyd needs to improve versus the run and get on the field for around 75% of the plays. If he can do that his value could jump to priority LB2 status in 2017. For now big play owners should target Floyd somewhere in the range of mid LB3 to priority LB4.

Willie Young started some games last season due mostly to injuries, but his strength is getting after the passer off the edge. The Lions tried to make him a three down end in their 4-3 earlier in his career but ultimately realized he is not that player. The Bears seem content to play Young to his strength as a sub package specialist. They will eventually look to replace the soon to be 32 year old with a three down bookend to Floyd. For now we will continue to see a lot of Pernell McPhee and possibly Lamarr Houston on early downs. McPhee has missed a few games each season since coming to the Bears as a free agent in 2015. His first year with the team produced 41 tackles and 6 sacks in fourteen starts. Last season he played 274 snaps over eight games, recording 13 tackles and 4 sacks. If he can stay healthy McPhee could be that bookend to Floyd. He is a strong run defender who can set the edge or get after the passer. McPhee is not much threat to reach double digit sacks but 45 tackles and 7-8 sacks are not too much to expect.

The Bears continue to list and try to play Lamarr Houston at outside linebacker. After being a defensive lineman and checking in at around 305 pounds for the first five years of his career, Houston trimmed down to 274 pounds for the move to linebacker under Fangio. In 2015 he was the starting outside linebacker but shifted to end in some sub package situations. That season Houston posted 36 tackles and a career best 7 sacks. He completed one game in 2016, suffering a knee injury in week two and landing on IR. Houston has been participating in team activities this offseason but could be limited when camp opens. This is his second major knee injury in three years with the Bears. Houston has no guaranteed money in the fourth year of his contract and there is some speculation he will be released when healthy.

ILB Danny Trevathan - LB3 with upside when/if healthy
ILB Jerrell Freeman - Quality and consistent LB2
ILB Christian Jones - Injury sleeper with marginal value
ILB Nick Kwiatkoski - Low end LB3 while Trevathan recovers
ILB Jonathan Anderson - No value
OLB Leonard Floyd - Somewhere between LB2 and LB4 in big play leagues depending on role
OLB Willie Young - Bye week depth in big play leagues
OLB Pernell McPhee - LB3 potential in big play scoring
OLB Lamarr Houston - Marginal value at best

Defensive Backs

The Bears continue to invest draft picks and/or free agent money at the safety position nearly every year with basically the same result; they need to do it again the following offseason. The last three coaching staffs have all tried multiple combinations of players at the positions but none have been able to settle on a set of starters. The current regime is no different so far. In 2015 they drafted Adrian Amos round five, 2016 it was Deon Bush in round four and this year they picked Eddie Jackson in the fourth and signed Quintin Demps who played under Fangio in Houston. Bush had his chance last season and flopped while Amos is expected to return as the starting free safety. Demps has been penciled in at strong safety though Jackson and Harold Jones-Quartey may push the starters. In short the situation is clear as mud heading into training camp. The only thing we do know is not to count on any of these guys as fantasy players. Fangio has been the defensive coordinator in Carolina, Indianapolis, Houston, Baltimore and San Francisco. The one thing those teams all have in common is marginal at best box score production from the safety positions while running his scheme. Vic Fangio is to safeties what Marty Schottenheimer was to receivers. Unless one of these guys gets off to a big start, avoid them all like the plague in 2017.

The only reason Chicago's pass defense looked decent statistically is opponents did not need to throw. Former first round pick Kyle Fuller missed the season with a knee injury leaving Tracy Porter with a cast of former middle to late round picks and bargain basement free agents at the corner positions. The Bears only had five draft picks this year and their only defensive selection was a safety, so they used free agency to address the need. Porter is gone and Fuller is back but that may not be much if any improvement. Fuller showed promise as a rookie in 2014, recording 50 tackles and picking off 4 passes. Unfortunately he failed to show any improvement in his second season and some will say he actually regressed. The organization elected not to pick up the fifth year option making 2017 a prove it year for Fuller.

Free agent addition Prince Amukamara is a near lock to start opposite Fuller. The 2011 first round pick of the Giants is a talented cover man who will certainly be an upgrade providing he can stay healthy. This has been a major issue with Amukamara who has missed twenty seven games over his career and has not completed a full season since 2013. From a production standpoint he makes a lot of tackles for a corner but is light in the big play columns. Amukamara was 76-9-0 with a pair of forced fumbles and 14 passes defended in 2013, but recorded 1 interception. In his final year with New York (2015) he had 55 solo stops, a forced fumble and a recovery in eleven games but again 1 interception. Over his career Amukamara has averaged 63 tackles, 9 assists, 12 passed defended and 2.5 turnovers per sixteen games. If he can stay on the field and produce at about the same rate, Amukamara can be a quality CB2. There is a lot of risk involved though.

Marcus Cooper is another injury prone free agent addition with some potential. He was the 49ers seventh round pick in 2013 but ended up with the Chiefs as a rookie after being released. Cooper earned a significant role as the slot corner in Kansas City. He played twelve games recording 36 tackles, 3 assists, 5 turnovers (3 on picks), 18 passes defended and a score. Over the following two seasons Cooper battled injury and played sparingly. He landed in Arizona last season where he won the starting job opposite Patrick Peterson in week two and went on to produce 63-6-0 with 11 passes defended, 4 interceptions and a score in fourteen games. Cooper will at least be in the mix for the nickel corner job and if he stays healthy, may end up one of the starting corners for Chicago. There is no need to use roster space on him at this stage but owner in corner required leagues should have Cooper on their radar.

Cre'von LeBlanc ended up starting several games as an undrafted rookie last year. He gained a lot of experience and performed well enough to earn a shot at playing time in his second season. At worst LeBlanc should earn a roster spot as a developmental player and possible dime corner. The Bears have a slew of young/fringe guys to look at during camp, so the competition will be heated for the last couple roster spots at corner.

FS Adrian Amos - Marginal value at best
SS Quintin Demps - Marginal value at best
SS Harold Jones-Quartey - Injury sleeper with limited upside
FS Eddie Jackson - No value at this time
CB Kyle Fuller - Minimal value
CB Prince Amukamara - Possible CB2
CB Marcus Cooper - Deep sleeper with good upside
CB Cre'von LeBlanc - No value at this time
CB Bryce Callahan - No value

Green Bay Packers

Defensive Linemen

Since going to the 3-4 scheme in 2009 the Packers have used three first round picks, two second rounder’s and a pair of thirds on defensive linemen. While most of those players have been quality contributors on the field, Green Bay's defensive line has given fantasy owners nothing since Aaron Kampman was 47-15-8 in 2008. Defensive end Mike Daniels came closest with a career high of 29-12-5.5 in 2014. He has been the best of the group in each of the past three seasons including a mark of 25-8-4 last year. In some deeper drafted fourteen or sixteen team leagues Daniels might be roster worthy. Most of us need better production even from our backup linemen.

Nose tackle Letroy Guion was second among Packers linemen with 20 tackles and then rookie Dean Lowery was the only other lineman to record a sack in 2016, he had 2. Free agent addition Ricky Jean-Francois has 12 career sacks entering his ninth year and the only other addition to the unit is rookie third round pick Montravius Adams who will probably fill in for the suspended Letroy Guion for a few games then rotate with him the rest of the season. What the Packers have is a group of big strong space eaters that are not expected to make a lot of plays. Their responsibilities are to hold ground and eat up blockers so the linebackers can make plays. Any other contributions are considered a bonus.

NT Letroy Guion - No value
NT Montravius Adams - No value
DE Mike Daniels - Depth in 14-16 team leagues
DE Kenny Clark - No value
DE Ricky Jean-Francois - No value
DE Dean Lowery - Marginal value at best

Linebackers

The Packers may not give us much at inside linebacker either. Not because they have no one capable, but because they will not give anyone an opportunity to play three downs; at least that was the case last season. On early downs Jake Ryan and rookie Blake Martinez were the inside backers. In nickel situations both went to the bench and Joe Thomas paired with one of the safeties, usually Micah Hyde. Green Bay's defense faced the fourth fewest scrimmage plays in 2016 at 987, so there was already a shortage of opportunity. In 2016 the playing time broke down like this: Thomas 609 snaps, Ryan 558 and Martinez 438. To get an idea what kind of value these guys would have in an every down role I figured their per snap production and factored it over the full 987 plays. Now granted, very few players league wide play every down over a season but many play more than 95%; especially among three down linebackers. This is what I came up with: Thomas 89-24-0, 8 passes defended and 4 turnovers for 182.7 points. At 95% his points would be 173.5 and rank twenty third. For Ryan; 99-44-0 with 5 passes defended and 192.25 points, at 95% his 183 points would rank fifteen right behind Sean Lee. Martinez is the real eye opener here at 105-50-2 with 9 passes defended a pair if picks and 232 points, at 95% his 220.5 points would land second behind Kwon Alexander. We may well get another season of divided opportunity from this trio but if the Packers were to give anyone a three down role it would probably be Martinez. Not only was he more productive on a per snap basis, he was a rookie which may have factored into the time share decision. With a year of experience under his belt, maybe, just maybe Martinez will become a quality fantasy starter. It is certainly something we will be watching for as the 2017 season approaches.

Clay Matthews was a home run as the Packers first draft choice after changing to the 3-4 in 2009. He has been an outstanding scheme fit as both an edge setter versus the run and a pass rusher. Matthews has 71.5 career sacks and would have a few more had he not been pressed into service on the inside for a couple of seasons. He suffers a shoulder injury in week two last year and struggled with it the rest of the season. Matthews missed four games and was clearly not his normal aggressive self in ten others. The shoulder has healed so we can expect the normal 40 or so tackles and near double digit sacks in 2017. For owners in big play based scoring he is a quality LB2 with some upside.

After spending four unimpressive years as mostly a rotational player, 2012 first round pick Nick Perry broke out in 2016. Previously he had averaged about 17 tackles and 3.5 sacks per season. Last year Perry's playing time nearly doubled and he exploded for 35-17-11. The coaching staff will continue to keep their pass rushers fresh by rotating but now that he has moved up in the pecking order, we could start seeing sack totals in the double digit range from him on a regular basis. Like most players at the position, he will continue to produce low tackle totals, limiting Perry's value to big play based leagues.

The Packers lost Datone Jones to free agency so they drafted Vince Biegel in round four to fill the void. Biegel will compete with last year's third round selection Kyler Fackrell to determine the pecking order behind the starters. Both of these young players have upside but the only way they will be a factor in 2017 is if Matthews or Perry are injured.

ILB Jake Ryan - Two down thumper with marginal value
ILB Blake Martinez - Our best hope for quality production from the Packers front seven
ILB Joe Thomas - Nickel backer with marginal value
ILB Jordan Tripp - No value
OLB Clay Mathews - Solid LB2 or excellent LB3 in big play based leagues
OLB Nick Perry - Priority LB3 with upside in big play leagues
OLB Vince Biegel - Dynasty watch list
OLB Kyler Fackrell - Dynasty watch list

Defensive Backs

We may or may not get quality production from the Packers front seven but there is little doubt their secondary will produce some fantasy starters. Morgan Burnett is the top target of the group. He was the numbers six defensive back in 2016 despite missing a game and a half with injury. Burnett gives us both quality production in nearly all scoring categories and excellent week to week consistency. He finished fourteen games last season, reaching double digit points ten times and never falling short of five. Had he not missed some time last year Burnett would have reached the 70 tackle plateau for the fourth time in six seasons. The only times he has fallen short are 2013, 2015 and last year. In 2013 he missed three games and in 2015 Morgan missed five. His splash play contributions have been strong throughout his career as well. In six seasons as a starter Burnett has forced 6 fumbles, recovered 9, intercepted 9 passes, recorded 7.5 sacks and averaged 7 passes defended. He is 28 years old and in the prime of his career, so we can expect him to keep doing it for a good long while. Burnett falls slightly below the elite first tier of defensive backs but is a perennial top ten DB1.

When Burnett missed time in 2015 Ha Ha Clinton-Dix stepped up both on the field and in the box scores. His 83 solo tackles, 3 sacks and 3 turnover that year had fantasy owners expecting huge numbers in 2016. With Burnett back, Clinton-Dix moved back to his free safety role, playing off the ball. The result was a sharp drop in tackles to 62 but more turnovers. In the end he scored about ten fewer points on the season but maintained value as a quality second starter. What we can safely expect from Clinton-Dix is tackle totals in the mid 60s with 5-7 splash plays and 6-7 passes defended. Week to week consistency is some concern with players like Clinton-Dix who score a lot of their points on big plays. It was not a major problem last year though as he exceeded eight points in ten games, falling short of six only three times. All things considered I have him slotted in the mid DB2 range.

The Packers third safety always has a big role though it is usually not enough for provide consistent fantasy value. Micah Hyde was that player for a few years before bolting for Buffalo and a chance to start. Green Bay drafted Josh Jones in the second round to take over the role. Jones has the speed and cover skills of a corner with size of a big strong safety and the mentality of a middle linebacker. He is far more than just a height-weight-speed prospect and is not just a traits based pick by the Packers. As one scout put it "Jones has the appetite for hitting that NFL teams want around the box and he has the speed and ball skills to range". As a starter for North Carolina State in 2016 Jones was 64-47-1 with 3 picks, a forced fumble, a recovery and 8 passed defended. The one area of concern scouts agree on is discipline. Jones will sometimes get out of control going for the kill shot an whiff. We saw Hyde produce starter numbers at times, particularly in 2015 when Burnett was out. Jones is more than capable of that level of production and has NFL starter written all over him. If Burnett is hurt again and misses any length of time, he may have trouble getting his job back. Jones is clearly a player to watch and one dynasty owners may want to tuck away for safe keeping.

Even the corner position in Green Bay holds fantasy value, though you could not tell it by glancing at last year's totals. From 2008 through 2014 Tramon Williams averaged 54-11-0, 12 passes defended and 5.5 turnovers while with the Packers. Over that span he was one of the few corners that could be counted on as a strong CB2 or better year in and year out. Damarious Randall has taken over that role and is now carrying the torch. As a rookie in 2015 he was 53-5-0 with 3 picks, 14 passes defended and a score. Randall was the number thirteen corner that season. In 2016 he was 35-4-0 with 3 picks and 9 passes defended in ten games. Averaged over a full season that is right around 56-6-0 with 5 picks and 14 passes defended. I expect a healthy Randall to be right on the cusp of the top twelve again in 2017.

Some people assume Davon House will be a starter for the Packers this year; I am not one of them. House was never more than a nickel corner or spot starter the first time around in Green Bay. Providing he can hold off second round pick Kevin King, Quintin Rollins should continue to start opposite Randall with King, House, LaDarius Gunter and possibly Demetri Goodson competing for the third spot in the pecking order at corner. In the long run we will likely see King in the slot where he played much of the time at Washington. At 6'3" and 200 pounds King is a tall lanky corner who lacks great speed or physicality as a tackler, but can match up with bigger receivers and most tight ends. He was not particularly productive as a tackler over his college career but did account for ten turnovers and 22 passes defended in three years as a starter.

SS Morgan Burnett - Consistent mid to late DB1
FS Ha Ha Clinton-Dix - Solid DB2 or excellent third starter
SS Josh Jones - Dynasty/injury prospect with huge potential
S/CB LaDarius Gunter- Minimal value
CB Damarious Randall - Quality CB2
CB Quinten Rollins - Marginal value
CB Davon House - No value
CB Kevin King - Deep sleeper with CB3 or better long term potential
CB Demetri Goodson - No value

That is going to do it for the NFC North. Next up the AFC South.