NFC North fantasy football preview: See top draft day targets, sleepers

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Detroit Lions wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown runs with the ball during an NFL football practice in Allen Park, Mich., Wednesday, Aug. 9, 2023. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya)

The NFC North isn’t as flashy now that Aaron Rodgers is out of the division, but there’s still enough talent to get excited about for fantasy football. The Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings all have intriguing offenses, and we’ve analyzed the key players for fantasy and identified four draft day targets and four deep sleepers.

Detroit Lions: The Lions’ offense took a step forward last season and could take another one this season with quarterback Jared Goff, who showed improvement down the stretch. While Goff and the passing game should thrive, the duo of veteran David Montgomery and rookie Jahmyr Gibbs should be productive and serve as an upgrade over last season with Gibbs thriving as a pass catcher and Montgomery a strong presence on early downs. Amon-Ra St. Brown is the clear leader of the receiving corps and is in line for another 100-plus catch season, and there’s not much depth behind him with field stretcher Jameson Williams suspended for the first six games. Veterans Marvin Jones and Josh Reynolds should be more involved early while Williams is out, but the name to keep a closer eye on is rookie tight end Sam LaPorta, who’s been a standout in camp so far and could be in line for a substantial receiving role.

Minnesota Vikings: Kirk Cousins has proven to be a solid option for the Vikings at quarterback, and he’s someone that can be relied upon most weeks even though he doesn’t have rushing upside. Alexander Mattison takes over as the leader of the backfield now that Dalvin Cook is gone, and while he should operate as the workhorse, young running backs Ty Chandler and DeWayne McBride are worth monitoring. Justin Jefferson has cemented himself as the No. 1 overall receiver in fantasy, and he’ll be complemented by dynamic rookie Jordan Addison, who should play a significant role as a rookie. K.J. Osborn is a solid No. 3 that could be involved more than some are thinking, and T.J. Hockenson proved to be a strong receiving option at tight end down the stretch and should be an elite option at the position having gained Cousins’ trust.

Chicago Bears: Justin Fields was a cheat code at quarterback for those who acquired him late in drafts last season, and he did enough to show that he’s worth selecting early as an elite dual-threat option. Fields hurts the upside of the Bears running backs since he racks up so many rushing yards, but Khalil Herbert could be worth a flier as the projected lead runner, but he’ll be in a committee early on with veteran D’Onta Foreman and rookie Roschon Johnson to where injuries could dictate who ends the most productive. D.J. Moore comes over from the Panthers and offers Fields a reliable weapon, and he should be productive as the No. 1 receiver in front of the oft-injured Darnell Mooney and Chase Claypool. Rookie Tyler Scott could factor into the mix at times, but tight end Cole Kmet should benefit the most from the injury-prone receiving corps and is worth taking a flier on late in drafts.

Green Bay Packers: The Jordan Love era is set to begin in Green Bay, but it likely won’t result in immediate fantasy production for the young quarterback since his wide receiver room is also inexperienced. The Packers will likely lean on the run as a result with veteran Aaron Jones leading the way, and while he should still be productive, he’s getting up in age to where AJ Dillon could get more work and eventually take over as the lead runner. Christian Watson is the most dynamic receiving option, and his big-play ability makes him worth targeting even though he might not see as many targets as training camp standout Romeo Doubs. Doubs doesn’t have the playmaking ability of Watson, but he could offer sneaky value in the later rounds along with rookie Jayden Reed. The tight end room is also inexperienced, but rookies Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft are worth watching depending on who wins the starting job.

TOP DRAFT DAY TARGETS

Amon-Ra St. Brown, Lions WR: St. Brown is working on becoming a more complete receiver, which is a welcome sight since he already has a strong floor and now offers a higher ceiling as he looks to take another step forward.

T.J. Hockenson, Vikings TE: Hockenson’s production improved after being traded to the Vikings, and he should be able to record his first 1,000-yard season in a dynamic passing offense.

Justin Fields, Bears QB: Fields was a fantasy force last season having recorded over 1,000 rushing yards, and he should improve as a passer to where he’ll still be elite even if his rushing numbers drop.

Christian Watson, Packers WR: Watson didn’t need volume to put up strong numbers last season, which is encouraging for his fantasy prospects since he should still be productive most weeks due to his elite efficiency.

DEEP SLEEPERS

Jared Goff, Lions QB: Goff has established himself as one of the top pocket passers in the NFL and should offer fantasy value even though he doesn’t run much since he’ll be leading one of the most high-powered offenses.

Cole Kmet, Bears TE: Kmet emerged as a red zone weapon last season and should retain that role to where he’s worth drafting late since he’s one of the few Bears weapons that has chemistry with Justin Fields.

Romeo Doubs, Packers WR: Doubs has been Jordan Love’s favorite target at camp according to reports, and it could result in quality fantasy production with Love needing to find a steady receiving option.

Ty Chandler, Vikings RB: Alexander Mattison has yet to handle a full season’s worth of carries, which makes Chandler intriguing since he appears to be the next in line if Mattison can’t handle the increased workload.

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