Every offseason, NFL fans around the world begin reading and preparing for the 2010 NFL regular season and that time-classic game, fantasy football.
Who will I take No. 1?
Who will be this year's "sleeper" pick?
Who will be this year's bust?
To help you in all your research and "number crunching", here's a look at the top prospects and picks from the NFC North Division.
1) Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers will be one of the top five quarterbacks by the end of the 2010 season, if not the top quarterback. Rodgers ranking should only be increased when it comes to fantasy football rankings. Over the past few years, the Green Bay Packers have loaded up their offense with unbelievable, young talent. Rodgers arsenal includes: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jermichael Finley, Ryan Grant and even the fullback John Kuhn from time-to-time. Rodgers is 41/53, 470 yards, 6 touchdowns, with 0 interceptions in the preseason. The skies the limit for Rodgers.
2) Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Where's Brett Favre? Favre is where he should be at number three. Number two fantasy quarterback this year in the NFC North will be Jay Cutler. With new offensive guru Mike Martz bringing his playbook to Chicago, look for Cutler to become more efficient and his numbers to flourish. Martz is notorious for his great offensive schemes and remembered most for his days with Kurt Warner and "The Greatest Show on Turf" in St. Louis. Martz loves speedy receivers, like Chicago's Johnny Knox and Devin Hester, and should be able to put together a system Cutler can become more comfortable in.
3) Brett Favre
The only reason Favre finds himself in the number three slot is because of the current wide receiver situation in Minnesota. The Vikings have been scrambling leading up to the regular season, attempting to bring in receivers to fill in for injured Sidney Rice and the shaky situation with Percy Harvin. Rice will miss at least half the season, and Harvin could be sidelined with one bad hit to the head. The Vikings have even gone the route of bringing in one of Favre's old targets, former Packers wide receiver Javon Walker. Look for the Vikings to rely more on running back Adrian Peterson this season, and less on "the ol' gunslinger's" arm.
4) Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
Lots of upside to the Lions young, up-and-coming quarterback Matthew Stafford. But, the team still does not have it all together yet. Stafford will have a new, electrifying running back in Jahvid Best, who he can dump the ball off to and watch the yards rack up. Receivers Calvin Johnson, Nate Burleson and Dennis Northcutt provide reliable targets, but the Lions need a complimentary piece to Johnson in order for Stafford to become an immediate threat to put up 4,000+ yards.
1) Adrian Peterson, Minnesota Vikings
A.P. is still "the cream of the crop" for running backs in the NFC North this season, and many would argue the best in the NFL this season. As mentioned with Brett Favre, look for the Vikings to return more to the running game this season and rely more on the legs (and hopefully secure arms) of Peterson.
2) Ryan Grant, Green Bay Packers
Ryan Grant is a bit of a puzzle case each season. Grant is notorious for starting the season slow, but becomes a reliable back for the Packers in the last stretch of the season. Not only does he make up for his slow starts by earning back valuable rushing yards, Grant is a great fantasy running back in late season matchups, when most running backs begin to slow down or save their best for the upcoming postseason.
3) Jahvid Best, Detroit Lions
Maybe a surprise for some, maybe an expected pick by others. Jahvid Best may be one of the most hyped rookies next to Buffalo's C.J. Spiller. You're probably "playing with fire" on this pick, but it could return huge gains for your fantasy team. Best is an explosive running back and has shown his flashes of big-play potential so far this preseason. He's still listed behind Kevin Smith as the Lions backup, but look for Best to push Smith for the starting roll and likely have more carries and receptions by the end of the season.
4) Matt Forte, Chicago Bears
Matt Forte was arguably one of the biggest busts in last year's fantasy football drafts. Many saw a big year coming for Forte in 2009 with the addition of Jay Cutler, but that was not the case. Forte should bounce back this year (hard not to with last year's performance) and put up some reliable fantasy numbers. By no means do I see Forte as a reliable starting, fantasy running back this season, but he could be a good backup or sub option.
5) Kevin Smith, Detroit Lions
Smith could be a good pickup to your fantasy team bench, especially if you draft Detroit's Jahvid Best. Smith is listed as the starter, but don't count on him to keep that job very long. Rookie halfback Jahvid Best is making a big push, and many fans and management may push to get him in the starting role sooner than later. But, if Jahvid Best does not turn out the player projected, Kevin Smith will be receiving the bulk of the carries and fantasy points for Detroit's ground game.
6) Toby Gerhart, Minnesota Vikings
A bench player in fantasy football at best. Gerhart should have chances to contribute with Minnesota, receiving carries and catches here-and-there. Look for Gerhart to fill into a role that Chester Taylor took on last season for the Minnesota Vikings. Toby will be used as in relief of Peterson, third-and-longs, screen plays and passing situations.
1) Calvin Johnson, Detroit Lions
Expect Calvin Johnson's numbers to go up in the 2010 NFL season. Last year, Johnson had five touchdown receptions in 2009, and 12 receptions in 2008, expect him to fill in somewhere in-between this season. I'd lean closer to the 12 reception production this season. Calvin Johnson is the most explosive and big-time receiver in Detroit, and will be Matthew Stafford's go-to-guy. With no threat lining up on the other side of Johnson, he'll be relied on more than any other receiver in the NFC North.
2) Greg Jennings, Green Bay Packers
The Green Bay Packers are loaded with offensive talent this season, Greg Jennings is the crown jewel. Rodgers will go to Jennings early and often, and is the deep threat in Green Bay's passing game. Because of all the options for Rodgers, Jennings touchdown numbers have diminished over the years (12 TD's in 2007, nine TD's in 2008, and just 4 TD's last season). Jennings can still be counted on for 1,000+ yards and some big weekly numbers in fantasy.
3) Donald Driver, Green Bay Packers
Donald Driver is running out of gas, and the reliable receiver is counting the seasons until he'll hang it up. Until then, he's still a very reliable receiver and great producer for your fantasy football team. Driver has eclipsed the 1,000 yard mark every season and last year led the Packers in touchdown receptions. The development of Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson cut into Drivers numbers more-and-more each season. Regardless, look for Driver to continue the trend and put up yet another 1,000 yard season.
4) Percy Harvin, Minnesota Vikings
Percy Harvin may be viewed by some as a risky pick, but take the upside with Harvin. Favre will be relying on Harvin more than ever this season, as Favre's favorite target last season, Sidney Rice, watches from the sidelines. Percy should see many opportunities to get his hands on the ball in open field, and display his play making speed.
5) Bernard Berrian, Minnesota Vikings
Bernard Berrian finds himself below fellow receiver Percy Harvin because of Berrian's inability to find chemistry with Brett Favre last season. Berrian found himself dipping below receivers Sidney Rice, Percy Harvin and tight end Visanthe Shiancoe, becoming the teams 4th option. Now more than ever, this season is Berrian's best chance to strike chemistry with Favre and return as one of the main options in Minnesota. Look for Berrian to have better numbers this season due to the puzzling wide receiver situation in Minnesota.
6) Johnny Knox, Chicago Bears
Mike Martz loves speedy receivers. Johnny Knox has plenty of speed for Martz, and should find himself a comfortable position in Chicago's passing game because of it. Knox is labeled as the number one receiver this year, and should put up number one receiver numbers. Only thing holding up Knox from having a breakout career and fantasy football season is his quarterback, Jay Cutler. Jay Cutler's development in Martz's system is key to Knox's.
7) Devin Aromashodu, Chicago Bears
Out of no where last season came a potential threat in Bear's receiver Devin Aromashodu. Aromashodu will be lined up as the number two receiver in Chicago, and should receiver a handsome sum of looks this season. Again, just like with Johnny Knox, Aromashodu's development lies in the arms of quarterback Jay Cutler's development.
8) Nate Burleson, Detroit Lions
The number two receiver in Detroit will be Nate Burleson. Burleson was acquired to become that "possession receiver" that Detroit lacked last season. With Stafford taking snaps for the Lions, Detroit is becoming more and more likely to rely on their passing game. This is great news for Burleson and fantasy football owners who take a chance on him.
1) Jermichael Finley, Green Bay Packers
The "cheesheads" in Packer Nation are raving about their breakout star, Jermichael Finley. Finley has emerged onto the scene for the Packers and has helped to evolve the passing game in Green Bay. Finley is a prominent target for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, as he is a tough matchup due to his size and speed. Too quick for linebackers, and too tall for corners, Finley will see the ball often. Based off last season and this year's preseason, Finley is going to be the number one target in the redzone for Rodgers. Look for big touchdown numbers and a hefty amount of yardage from Finley as your fantasy football starter in 2010.
2) Visanthe Shiancoe, Minnesota Vikings
Brett Favre hasn't needed tight end Visanthe Shhiancoe as much as he may this season. With the wide receiver situation becoming more and more of a question mark for Minnesota, Shiancoe remains the steady, reliable option. Shiancoe was a great redzone option for the Vikings last season, hauling in 11 touchdowns.
3) Greg Olsen, Chicago Bears
Greg Olsen may be one of the most consistent and reliable receiving options for Jay Cutler in Chicago. Cutler and Olsen seem to connect often and it has become a regular occurences. Olsen should get involved more this year in the passing game, opening up lanes and stretching defenses for the receivers and backs.
4) Brandon Pettigrew, Detroit Lions
Still recovering from an injury, Brandon Pettigrew will be an uncertainty in Detroit this season. If all goes well, he could become a nice target for Stafford this season. Pettigrew has lived up to his "tight end duties" and has shown himself to be a nice redzone target. Pettigrew would be a nice addition to your fantasy football bench in 2010.
1) Ryan Longwell, Minnesota Vikings
Ryan Longwell has established himself as one of the most reliable kickers in the NFL. Longwell finished 3rd in fantasy scoring last season, behind kickers Nate Kaeding and David Akers. Another nice bonus for Longwell: he kicks half his games in the controlled environment of a dome.
2) Mason Crosby, Green Bay Packers
Mason Crosby has never missed a kick from inside 29 yards, but has problems when he gets 40 yards or longer. Kicking in "the frozen tundra" of Lambeau Field can be cause for some frustration and obstacles. Regardless, Crosby would be good option for kicker in 2010 on your fantasy team.
3) Robbie Gould, Chicago Bears
The Chicago Bears may score more points this season with Mike Martz as offensive coordinator, and Bears kicker Robbie Gould could benefit from this. Kicking in "the windy city" isn't too much fun, but despite the conditions, Gould usually proves to remain a consistent and reliable kicker.
4) Jason Hanson, Detroit Lions
The Lions offense is expected to have more firepower in 2010, and Jason Hanson should benefit from this. Hanson is an old reliable kicker, who brings lots of experience to your fantasy team. As long as Hanson's knee is ok, he could become a number one kicker for your fantasy team. For now, wait on Hanson's development, as he'll likely begin the season as a number two fantasy option.
1) Green Bay Packers
It's said that the second year in the 3-4 defense is typically the "breakout year" for the defensive unit. Under defensive coordinator Dom Capers, the Packers are entering their second year in the 3-4 scheme. With the surprise dominance shown in just their first year, things could be even brighter in 2010. However, the defensive secondary for Green Bay is a big question mark. If injured cornerback Al Harris can return, it would be a nice boost in the secondary.
2) Minnesota Vikings
With Jared Allen doing his part, the Vikings had one of the best defensive lines in the NFL last season. However, Injury concerns are making themselves eminent in the defensive secondary. This defense was vicious against the run, leading the league in sacks and tying for forced fumbles. It was just too easy to pass on them. The Vikings will remain a nice defensive option in fantasy football this season, but if the Jets, Packers or Ravens are still there, pass.
3) Chicago Bears
With the acquisition of defensive end Julius Peppers, the Bears have added more "name notoriety" to their defense. How Peppers will impact the defense remains to be seen. Questions in the secondary do not add to the mix well. Depending on who they're playing, consider the Bears a nice substitute option on defense when your starting defense is on a bye week.
4) Detroit Lions
The Lions had the NFL's worst defense, and third-worst fantasy football defense.
Avoid, avoid, avoid.