2019 NFL Season Preview, NFC North Edition

As a part of our preparation for the upcoming NFL season, Dylan White and I decided to dive deep into every team’s offseason, picking the most interesting players and storylines to follow this season. Accompanying these players and storylines are draft class summaries, teams’ strengths, weaknesses, and record predictions. Here is my 2019 NFC North Season Preview. NFC West is up next!

Detroit Lions

2019 Draft Grade – B-, T.J. Hockenson is the obvious player to talk about here. Jesse James is not a valuable asset at TE, so adding Hockenson give Matthew Stafford a very solid option at tight end. If not for such a stacked Detroit defensive line, 4th round pick, Austin Bryant could be a starting caliber defensive end. Detroit also added some secondary depth with Will Harris (3rd) and Amani Oruwariye (5th) so they now have some more security on defense.

Players to Watch – Kenny Golladay, WR – With Golden Tate going to the Giants and Marvin Jones on the decline, Golladay has a real chance to become a highly regarded wideout. With a very competent quarterback in Stafford, and being a part of a balanced offense, Golladay’s name could be seen near the top of 2020’s best WRs.

Damon Harrison Sr., DT – in the 2018 offseason, Harrison was dealt from the New York Giants to the Lions for a 5th round pick. This was largely due to to his salary and age. Taking many by surprise, Harrison actually had his best year in 2018, landing his highest grade according to Pro Football Focus. Though he is entering his 30’s, Harrison can still play at a high level, the question is if he can remain as effective this year for Detroit.

Positional Strengths – Defensive Tackle, Defensive End, Safety

Positional Weaknesses – Guard, Linebacker

Projected Record – 6-10

Green Bay Packers

2019 Draft Grade – B+, I really liked the first few picks of Green Bay’s 2019 draft. Rashan Gary wasn’t the best option, but I think he’ll be a valuable piece of the Packers defense regardless. Darnell Savage Jr was a guy I liked a lot, so I’d have to say trading up for him was a good move. Elgton Jenkins is yet another quality piece obtained via the Draft, as quality centers are hard to come by. Overall I liked the Packers Draft, and while they don’t have a name that stands out as a perennial Pro-Bowl candidate, they added some very quality players just under the “star” threshold.

Players to Watch – Rashan Gary, LB/Darnell Savage. S – I picked this pair of 2019 1st rounders for the same reasons. The youth among the Packers defense is exciting. Gary and Savage will be nice additions to a young defense already including Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Josh Jackson, and Kenny Clark. If both (or even one) of these guys perform anywhere close to their potential, the Packers could have one of the best defensive cores in the NFL.

Positional Strengths – Offensive Tackle, Quarterback, Safety

Positional Weaknesses – #2 Wide Receiver, Tight End, Middle Linebacker

Projected Record – 9-7

Chicago Bears

2019 Draft Grade – B+, Landing All-Pro, Khalil Mack, cost Chicago a lot of its draft capital, but its hard to complain when you land one of the best defenders in the NFL. With only 5 picks in total it is hard to make a “splash”, but the Bears managed to add a couple quality players to their roster. David Montgomery has been a nice find, and he could wind up playing a larger role than expected. Cavin “Riley” Ridley was another good pickup, as the Bears could use all the help at WR they can get. Don’t expect too much from this class, but remember that Chicago didn’t have a 1st or 2nd round pick.

Player to Watch – Mitch Trubisky, QB – In my opinion Trubisky has one of the worst supporting casts in the entire NFL. Without an above average offensive line, a true #1 wideout, or a “work-horse” running back, there is not one player Trubisky can rely on to make big plays. I’d expect Trubisky to wind up outside of the top 20 fantasy quarterbacks this year, potentially winding up in the high 20’s.

Positional Strengths – Linebacker, Safety, Defensive Tackle

Positional Weaknesses – Wide Receiver, Running Back

Projected Record –  8-8

Minnesota Vikings

2019 Draft Grade – C+, The Vikings sure did have a lot of picks in the Draft, but the majority of those resided in the last couple rounds. Their first two picks are the only ones I see as having a impact this season. Garrett Bradbury fills a weakness at center, though adding a OT would have been ideal. Irv Smith Jr. is a very athletic tight end who will complement Kyle Rudolph nicely until he winds up as the #1 TE. Minnesota did add an additional 10 players via the Draft, but as of now, I wouldn’t expect much from that bunch.

Player to Watch – Dalvin Cook, RB – After being drafted by Minnesota in 2017, Cook looked like he was primed to be one of the best running backs in the NFL. Injuries have really limited his opportunities though, as he has appeared in just under half of his team’s games. 2019 looks like it could be Cook’s year if he can stay healthy. Both Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen are extreme threats so defenses can’t just focus on the run versus the Vikings. If healthy, all signs point towards to a top 10 season for Cook.

Positional Strengths – Defensive End, Safety

Positional Weaknesses – Guard, Center

Projected Record – 9-7

STORYLINES

Breakout RB’s – Aaron Jones, Dalvin Cook, and Kerryon Johnson are all running backs with the potential for breakout years. All three have been limited by lack of opportunity or injuries, but at least one of these guys should take a huge leap forward in 2019. Although the NFC North is one of the best divisions in terms of defense, expect to hear all three of these guy’s names a lot more frequently this year.

ALL DIVISION TEAM

QB: Aaron Rodgers, GB RB: Aaron Jones, GB

WR: Davante Adams, GB   WR: Adam Thielen, MIN

TE: Kyle Rudolph, MIN  C: Corey Linsley, GB

OT: David Bakhtiari, GB OT: Taylor Decker, DET

OG: Graham Glasgow, DET  OG: Cody Whitehair, CHI

DE: Trey Flowers, DET  DE:  Danielle Hunter, MIN

DT: Kenny Clark, GB  MLB: Eric Kendricks, MIN

LB: Khalil Mack, CHI  LB: Anthony Barr, MIN

CB: Darius Slay, DET CB: Kyle Fuller, CHI

FS: Eddie Jackson, CHI  SS: Harrison Smith, MIN