Aaron Rodgers and the NFC North All-Fantasy Team

Matt Sheehan@@MattSheehan333Analyst IAugust 10, 2012

Aaron Rodgers and the NFC North All-Fantasy Team

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    Back in the day when your grandpa was a kid, Sunday was a time to go to church, do some housework, and maybe watch a football game or two.

    These days, Sundays consist of lurching over a laptop while making late substitutions, last-second waiver pick-ups, and yelling at the TV. Lots of yelling at the TV.

    And why? All for the love of fantasy football, baby.

    We are closing in on draft day for millions of people who are going into the madness of fantasy football for the 2012 NFL season, so we figured we would help you rise to the top before the drafts have started.

    In the first edition of the division-by-division breakdown of the greatest fantasy players, we take a look at the competitive NFC North. Just like fantasy, teams in this division will be battling to the very end of the season to see the playoffs, and our job is to identify the players who will help you make your league's playoffs.

    We assumed a 10 team league for the "projected rounds" portion and included why this person might get the nod over someone else in the division.

    So take notes, prepare your draft, and take a peek at the NFC North All-Fantasy team.

Quarterback: Aaron Rodgers

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    Projected Round: Early first.

    Why you should pick him: Not to take away from the other quarterbacks in the NFC North, but Aaron Rodgers is the absolute man. Don't believe me? Draft him on your team, wait a few weeks and then come back and tell me what you think of him.

    Rodgers just might be the best fantasy quarterback to have, for a couple of reasons: First, he is coming off of a stellar season that included 45 touchdowns and only six interceptions.

    Second, and more importantly, the Packers are not known for pounding the ball between the tackles. Without an established run game, they will look to Rodgers to throw the ball and run the offense in the air. With more throws comes more yards and touchdowns, and with more yards and touchdowns comes more smiles on fantasy owners' faces.

    Plan B if you don't pick him: Draft Matthew Stafford. I mean, the guy threw for 5,000 yards last year and throws to Calvin Johnson for goodness sake, how can you lose on him?

Running Back No. 1: Matt Forte

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    Projected round: Middle or late second round.

    Why you should pick him: I know, I know, "what is this guy thinking—does he know Adrian Peterson is in the division?" is probably floating through someone's head right now. The answer is: yes, I do know he is in the division; but, I also know he has been beat up like a demolition derby car.

    Matt Forte will provide a bigger sense of security for fantasy owners, since he doesn't have a history as bruised as Peterson's.

    But let's not let that be the only reason to pick him. Let's also remember that Forte can flat-out play, and that was shown last year with his near-1,500 all-purpose yards. With his new contract he will be expected to handle the workload on the ground and put points on the scoreboard of Soldier Field and your fantasy league.

Running Back No. 2: Adrian Peterson

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    Projected Round: Middle or late second round.

    Why you should draft this guy: Like I said before, Peterson is nearly a ticking time bomb, but in the NFC North I like him more than I like any of the other remaining running backs.

    Peterson is so good that when you put him next to Kevin Smith, Jahvid Best, Michael Bush and James Starks, he still is the most attractive pick—even with his proneness to injury.

    Peterson put up nearly 1,000 yards of rushing and 12 touchdowns, but just think how high that number will be if he stays healthy the whole year. Right now it looks like he is on pace to return on Week 1, but you would have to be a gambler to take a chance on Peterson.

    Plan B if you don't choose him: If you don't pick Forte or Peterson, your best bet in the NFC North is James Starks. In light of the fact that the Lions' running backs are rotated more frequently than toilet paper rolls, it would be safe to stick with the Packers' starting running back.

Receiver No. 1: Calvin Johnson

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    Projected round: Early first round.

    Why you should pick him: Let's put it this way: If Calvin Johnson isn't the first receiver picked in your league, kick out the owner who skipped him for being so foolish.

    Johnson is hands-down the best in the league due to his size, strength and pure athleticism. With him on your team. you will assure that he gets thrown to many times per game, because he can be triple-teamed and still come down with the ball.

    Johnson had 1,681 receiving yards and 16 touchdowns last season and his numbers should be humming right around those marks this year. If you like dropping point bombs on your opponents, get Calvin Johnson right off the bat.

Receiver No. 2: Greg Jennings

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    Projected round: Late third or early fourth.

    Why you should pick this guy: At first, Jennings might not look like a wise pick, but dig deep and you will realize that he could be the steal of the NFC North.

    Last year, Jennings was on pace to put up career numbers going into the last month of the season, then came the MCL sprain. Jennings had nine touchdowns, 67 catches and 949 yards—all of that while missing an entire month of the season.

    An unexpected component in Jennings' success could be the play of partner-in-crime Jordy Nelson. This year Nelson will get a lot more respect off the ball, freeing Jennings up enough to get the attention of Aaron Rodgers.

Receiver No. 3: Brandon Marshall

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    Projected round: Late third or early fourth.

    Why you should pick this guy: With Marshall's behavior on and off the field, he definitely comes with a warning label. With his antics, Marshall has a chance of getting himself into trouble this season, and whether or not it will lead to suspensions could be a deal-breaker for fantasy owners.

    While suspensions are an extreme and somewhat rare punishment, you also have to look on the positive side of Marshall's persona. The guy is a gamer, and he has gelled in just about any offensive scheme you can think of; so that makes him a flexible player.

    Reuniting with Jay Cutler also scores some bonus points when weighing the pros and cons of taking Marshall on your team.

    With the sheer uncertainty of Marshall, it will be hard to decide whether to take him or not, but if I was your general manager I would give him the nod and take him on my team.

    Plan B if you don't choose him: If Johnson, Jennings and Marshall are all off the board, your next best bet will be Jordy Nelson. Even though it is unlikely he will duplicate last year's numbers, he is still one heck of a player. Other options will be Nate Burleson or Titus Young, just in case Johnson goes down for the Lions, or Percy Harvin, even if it does seem like he misses every other week.

Tight End: Brandon Pettigrew

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    Projected round: Late sixth or seventh round.

    Why you should pick this guy: While you can't lose with either Brandon Pettigrew or the Packers' Jermichael Finley, you can win more with one than the other.

    Pettigrew was targeted 126 times, which put him second in the league behind Jimmy Graham of the New Orleans Saints. Yes, Pettigrew did have his problems catching the ball last season, but so did Finley with his 11 drops.

    Another reason I like Pettigrew is because he will reel in the receptions, making him a good PPR player. Pettigrew played alongside a receiving corps that was healthy for the majority of the season, unlike Finley, who played alongside a group which was missing Jennings for a month.

    This could mean that no matter who the Lions send out, Pettigrew will always be a bigger target for Stafford than Finley is for Rodgers.

    Plan B if you don't pick him: Jermichael Finley. In the grand scheme of things, both players are so identical that you might be better off taking a coin flip, but since Pettigrew is targeted more, his side of the coin is a little more weighted.

Kicker: Mason Crosby

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    Projected round: 13 to 15th round.

    Why you should pick this guy: Picking a kicker for fantasy is almost like picking a goldfish out of a pet store. You look for the best one, and in the end they all put up close to the same results. The only difference being that kickers won't float to the top of the stadium after three weeks.

    Crosby gets the nod for the NFC North because of the amount of extra points (68) he kicked last year. Expect the same production out of the Packers offense, and expect some decent points coming your way if you have Crosby on your team.

    Plan B if I don't pick him: Any other kicker in the NFC North. Robbie Gould is good for Chicago, but remember that Chicago isn't called the Windy City for nothing. Jason Hanson might be old enough to be Stafford's grandfather, but the man can still kick and he plays half his games in a climate-controlled stadium. Blair Walsh of the Vikings is a rookie, so just be a little cautious of picking him up.

Defense/Special Teams: Chicago Bears

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    Projected round: 11-12th round.

    Why you should pick these guys: The Bears defense is starting to age, but that doesn't mean the game has left their bodies at all.

    The defense is highlighted by run-stoppers Brian Urlacher and Lance Briggs, and with Julius Peppers gunning after the quarterback it is no wonder why they are so feared amongst league coaches.

    Now their league-high of nine returned touchdowns will be hard to duplicate, so don't look for them to drop an insane amount of points like last year. However, do expect to reel in some clutch points off of the work of return man Devin Hester.

    Plan B if you don't pick them: Green Bay (I'm starting to get tired of typing their name) is a solid pick in the late rounds too. They had a so-crazy-it's-not-even-funny clip of 31 interceptions last season, making them threats in the secondary. The Lions might seem like a steal, but just remember that they have close to no secondary as of now. And the Vikings, well, are the Vikings.