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Fantasy Targets And Avoids: NFC North

As the dust settles from the festivities of the NFL draft, team rosters are starting to come into focus as we head into the longest part of the offseason. It’s never too early to take a look at some players to target and avoid in fantasy football for 2023 – I do just that in the first part of an eight-part series covering one player to target and one player to avoid in redraft for the upcoming season.


Chicago Bears


One player to target: Roschon Johnson


Target him as your: Speculative Bench RB


No Bears running back is going to be valuable through the first few weeks of the season as we wait to see which player makes some headway over the others. However, if I had to place a bet on the player that could make some some waves as the season wears on, it would be on Roschon Johnson. His skillset never saw the light of day that it could have since he lived in Bijan Robinson’s shadow at Texas, but in a Bears backfield that features just two other notable RBs in Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman, Johnson can absolutely carve out a role for himself in the run-first Chicago offense. Faraz also recently compared Johnson to Dameon Pierce, and the similarities are pretty surprising; check it out over on Instagram @upperhandfantasy! Given that the Bears RB room is anything but solidified as we head into 2023, I’d be willing to take a swing at Johnson at the tail end of drafts. However, don’t expect Johnson to be a plug and play anywhere in your lineup in 2023, especially not early in the season.


One player to avoid: D’Onta Foreman


On that same vein, Foreman enters a running back room on a cheap contract with competition from two homegrown talents in Khalil Herbert and the aforementioned Roschon Johnson. All three RBs will thrive at the expense of each other in this backfield, with Justin Fields also vulturing opportunities in the run game. This is one of those ambiguous backfields I really prefer to keep my hands off of – the only situation that would warrant adding a Bears running back would be if one of your starters got injured and you need a quickl replacement off of waivers. But the one thought that keeps running through my mind with Foreman is this one: if Roschon Johnson creates a role for himself behind Khalil Herbert, will the Bears need to force Foreman onto the field? Of the big three backs in Chicago, Foreman has the best chance of any of them to see his work limited.

 

Detroit Lions


One player to target: QB Jared Goff


Target him as your: High-end QB2


One of the best-kept secrets in fantasy football is the very high level of fantasy production Jared Goff had last season, even after finishing as the overall QB10 in 2022. He might be getting more from the Lions offense than he’s giving to it, but he’s doing more than just being efficient and that’s reflected in his statistics last season. In the last seven weeks of 2022, Goff scored at least 17 fantasy points five times and finished as a top-7 QB on the week four of those times, as well. Consider also his absolutely pristine 14:0 TD:INT ratio during that stretch, where he also tied for the second-most 300+ yard passing games among all quarterbacks behind just Patrick Mahomes. His supporting cast has received a significant boost as well for 2023 compared to 2022, with Jahmyr Gibbs and David Montgomery spearheading a backfield that looks to be the most dynamic Detroit has had in a long time. The Lions also added Sam LaPorta, whose after-the-catch abilities will be a huge boon to Goff’s fantasy production. And let’s not forget to give the Lions offensive line their flowers – Goff is playing behind one of the best units in the league.


So, his supporting cast has improved, he’s shown shades of his 2018 Rams self, and he figures to be one of the most efficient quarterbacks in the NFL after being just that in the latter half of last year. He has to be going inside the Top-10, Top-12 at the absolute lowest, right?


Wrong.


He’s the current QB17 (!!!) on Underdog. For reference, that’s six spots and two rounds later than Dak Prescott (QB11) who, despite throwing one more touchdown than Goff from Week 12 on last year, also threw eleven more interceptions. Goff is severely undervalued, and the only thing I can think of that would be anchoring his draft price so low is his name association. He is an ideal target late and can allow you to prioritize skill positions while also offering an extremely solid floor with Weekly Top-5 upside.


One player to avoid: WR Jameson Williams


Listing Williams as an avoid makes plenty of sense given that he’ll be missing the first six games of the year on suspension, but this goes beyond that. The Lions dramatically bolstered their offensive weaponry in free agency and the draft, adding two RBs capable of handling 275+ touches if need be while also drafting an Iowa tight end to replace the Iowa tight end they traded away in the middle of the season last year. Plus, Amon-Ra St. Brown is an absolute target machine. Even once Williams makes his return presumably in Week 7, can we realistically expect him to earn a relevant share of the targets? He caught just one pass in 2022 that happened to be a touchdown, but the larger problem was his usage last season. Granted, he was coming off of injury, but 37 routes total over six weeks is not encouraging heading into 2023 with a suspension looming. If the Lions offense finds its groove early on, Williams might not be able to carve out a role for himself halfway through the season.

 

Green Bay Packers


One player to target: RB Aaron Jones


Target him as your: RB2


On a weekly basis, Aaron Jones is one of the more frustrating fantasy players to have in your lineup: his six finishes among the weekly Top-12 stand in stark contrast to his eight weekly finishes outside the Top-24. However, when we take a step back and view his production on a season-by-season basis, his production stands out as some of the most consistent at the RB position. He’s finished as the RB7, RB11, RB5, and RB2 in each of the past four seasons, and a big part of what made that possible is his ability in the passing game. He’s garnered over 60 targets in each of the past four seasons and established himself as the clear pass catching back in Green Bay. With Jordan Love largely a question mark and a very young receiving room likely to experience growing pains in 2023, Jones will be leaned on heavily not just in the ground game, but in the passing game as well. Anything short of 60 targets for him once again this season would be an utter surprise. A.J. Dillon slightly complicates the backfield, but if you can grab Jones as your RB2 in the 5th round, that risk will be offset by his very high weekly upside.


One player to avoid: QB Jordan Love


With great unknown comes great intrigue, and that’s precisely what Jordan Love brings to the table for fantasy football in 2023. Based purely on NFL experience alone, he’s a rookie signal caller, and outside of Christian Watson and Aaron Jones, he doesn’t have any other weapons that can help ease him into the starting role. Now, let’s not discount the fact that he’s essentially been Aaron Rodgers’ understudy for the past three years; he’s definitely picked up a thing or two from him in his time in Green Bay. But the odds are that the Packers will be a bottom-16 offense in the NFL in 2023, and without any real tape to analyze, things are just too ambiguous for me to consider making Jordan Love my QB1 or even QB2 for 2023. A brief analysis of the quarterbacks going in the same range as Love also reveals the myriad alternate options available with arguable better floors and upsides at their respective prices:

  • Jared Goff, DET: 11th Round, QB17

  • Derek Carr, NO: 12th Round, QB19

  • Jordan Love, GB: 13th Round, QB20

  • Trey Lance, SF: 16th Round, QB25

  • C.J. Stroud, HOU: 16th Round, QB26

  • Sam Howell, WAS: 17th Round, QB28

  • Desmond Ridder: 18th Round, QB29

Regardless of when you take your QB2 (or in some cases, even your QB1), by the time you reach the 12th round of drafts, it’s going to be considered late. Goff is an ideal QB2, hence his 11th round price, but I’d be happier taking a shot on C.J. Stroud – three rounds later than Jordan Love – than I would be rolling the dice on the Packers QB. Both of them are rookies, and Stroud is undoubtedly the better prospect slated to play on a similar offense in terms of firepower. Love’s price is far too high, especially considering that we haven’t seen anything close to a true debut performance.

 

Minnesota Vikings


One player to target: WR Jordan Addison


Target him as your: Low-risk WR2


Minnesota has allowed Adam Thielen to leech fantasy value off its perennially strong offense for the past few years, and his departure couldn’t have come at a better time for Jordan Addison. Thielen dominated as the WR2 in each of the past three seasons, and Addison now steps right into that role which has featured at least 85 targets in each of the past three seasons (106 targets exactly in both 2022 and 2020) and 30 touchdowns combined in that same three-year span. Those are gaudy numbers, of course, but Addison just has to scrape the surface to return on investment at his WR35 price on Underdog. Let’s frame it this way: will a first-round wide receiver on an offense as fantasy-condusive as the Vikings’ be able to finish as at least a low WR3 / high WR4? I’m willing to bet that he has enough boom weeks to well exceed that bar, which is extremely low – lucky for us, that’s how he’s actually being drafted.


One player to avoid: TE T.J. Hockenson


This assumes that Dalvin Cook is off the Vikings roster and onto greener pastures come Week 1. There aren’t any players I’m going out of my way to avoid on the Vikings offense, but since I have to pick one for the sake of this article, I’ll go with the current TE3 on Underdog fantasy. There’s lots to like about the way Hockenson was used last season once he landed in Minnesota (82 targets, 60 receptions, and 519 receiving yards were all 2nd in the NFL from Week 9 on), but with the addition of Jordan Addison into the mix as a more than capable WR2, that volume isn’t necessarily secure heading into 2023. This is obviously nitpicking, but given the choice between Hockenson at a 5th round price and a player like Dallas Goedert almost two whole rounds later – he’s Underdog’s TE6 as of this article’s writing – I’d certainly give it some thought before taking a tight end as early as Hockenson is going.

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