This article is part of our ADP Analysis series.
If we're betting on a division that won't have a representative in next year's Super Bowl, the NFC North is near the top of the list. In some ways, these four teams are in transition. Of course, the Lions and the Bears have a lot of excitement as each team has hope of improvement. Meanwhile, the Vikings and the Packers still have core players who should help them remain competitive, but they both would need some breaks to be considered top teams. When thinking about teams going into 2023, check out the current Super Bowl odds on the RotoWire Gambling page . This week, we'll look at some interesting players for fantasy in this division.
Fields was electrifying player last year, his production fueled by his running ability. He ran for 1,143 yards and eight touchdowns. After the offense lacked an identity through the first four weeks, the Bears began to call more designed runs for Fields. He was a high-end performer the rest of the way. Once his top receiver, Darnell Mooney, was injured with five games left in the season, Fields was left with one of the least impressive receiver groups in recent memory, so his passing yards weren't necessarily an indication of his passing ability. With the Bears trading for DJ Moore, they now have a true alpha receiver. That will allow Mooney to be a No. 2 option while tight end Cole Kmet should find space to operate underneath due to the speed of the outside receivers challenging secondaries deep. This is the year we should find out about Fields' passing ability since he has adequate weapons:
- Fields threw for more than 190 yards twice last year.
- He didn't attempt more than 28 passes in any game.
- After not throwing a TD pass in three of the first four games, he threw at least one in 11 of 13 games.
- He also rushed for 7.1 yards per carry.
Fields should continue to be a dominant runner. The question is how good will he be as a passer. If he proves to even average, he could challenge for the overall QB1. But even if he has similar passing numbers compared to last year, his rushing gives him a scoring floor that's comfortably inside the top-10 fantasy quarterbacks. I'll target him in drafts after the top-3 quarterbacks are off the board.
It doesn't take a trained eye to see that Swift is a special talent. Maybe coach Dan Campbell agrees, but it hasn't led to a serious workload for his running back. Maybe his lack of work is due to durability issues. It's also possible that he doesn't meet the expectations of the coaching staff. Whatever the reason, after handling 213 touches in 2021, that number fell to 138 last year. Fortunately, he was targeted 70 times in the passing game. As a result, he recorded at least 12 PPR points in eight of 15 games. However, the Lions brought in David Montgomery in free agency. With the Bears, Montgomery was an effective receiving back. Swift can stand to lose carries in a committee, but he can't afford to lose targets. If Montgomery takes on the role Jamaal Williams had last year, which resulted in just 16 targets, that would be the best-case scenario for Swift. But unless there is clarity regarding the division of work, his uncertain situation will make it difficult to project him accurately.
- Swift missed three, four and three games the last three years.
- His yards per target in 2022 was a career-low 5.6 but 8.1 yards per reception was a career high.
- His receiving yards were often earned on an 82nd-percentile yards after the catch rate.
- He had a career-low 99 carries but had a career-high 5.5 yards per carry.
- In three seasons, he's scored 7-10 TDs.
His ADP in early drafts is about RB24. In the last two years, he was commonly drafted as a top-12 running back. It would be surprising if the Lions' coaching staff cut back his receiving work based on his value as a receiver. That makes this a buying opportunity. In roster builds that start out heavy on wide receivers, Swift could be a perfect option to build the running back position around.
Green Bay Packers
Last year, Jones was typically drafted as a top-10 running back. He ended the season with 1,516 scrimmage yards and seven touchdowns, which made him a good early pick. So what happened this offseason? He took a $5 million pay cut. And it looks like Aaron Rodgers might not play for the Packers next season. In early drafts, Jones is being selected outside of the top-15 running backs. Jones' stock might be dropping because he's entering his age-28 season. In addition, fantasy managers might not be excited about the direction of the offense if Rodgers leaves. Regardless, Jones has averaged more than five yards per carry over his career, including a 5.3 mark last year. In addition, he's posted at least 355 receiving yards in the last four years:
- Jones had 213 carries last year, his highest total in three years.
- He rushed for a career-high 1,121 yards.
- His yardage was helped by a 97th-percentile broken-tackle rate and 89th-percentile yards after contact.
- He also had an impressive 65th-percentile yards after the catch.
Jones should retain the lead back role while AJ Dillon is the clear No. 2. After the duo split work more equally in 2021, Jones was the clear leader in 2022, and their performances showed that was the best decision for Green Bay. Assuming Rodgers is gone, the Packers might have to lean on Jones as the engine to the offense. And his ability as a runner and receiver should make him immune to game script. There is no concrete reason that he should be devalued in fantasy leagues in 2023. The market adjustment is one to capitalize on. Jones can be acquired without reaching for him, and that's exactly what I've done in my early drafts.
Cook has been one of my most-rostered running backs the last few years. The market has soured on him this year, and I'm firmly in line with that thinking. The Vikings had very good blocking from their offensive line last year, which they hadn't had in recent years. Despite the improvement from the line, Cook posted a career-low 4.4 yards per carry. And his 69 rushing yards per game was his lowest since 2018. He played reasonably well in the first half of the year. Through 10 games, he posted at least 90 yards six times. But in his last nine games (including playoffs), he surpassed 72 yards just twice:
- Cook was in the 49th-percentile in yards after contact.
- He recorded 42 or fewer rushing yards in four of the last seven games.
- He rushed for at least 20 yards on just 1.8 percent of his carries.
Going into his age-28 season, Cook looked like he was starting to lose a step last year, and with running backs, that trend often continues on a downward path. If that's the case, the end of the line is rarely pretty for a running back. I'd rather be a year too early than a year too late in fading him. If he falls too far, like outside the top-20 running backs, the value may be too hard to pass. But it's likely he continues to be selected in the top-12 at his position, and that's too much of a risk for me.