NFC North review

CHICAGO BEARS

Head coach: Lovie Smith (31-21 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 3rd easiest; Run -- 10th hardest

The Bears decided to start the Cedric Benson era after the trade of veteran Thomas Jones (Jets), so the former first-round selection out of Texas will take on a more featured role next season. While injuries have been an issue for him at the NFL level, Benson does have the potential to post nice numbers and will be a viable No. 2 fantasy back across the board. Adrian Peterson and rookie Garrett Wolfe will battle for the second spot on the depth chart, and the eventual winner will be well worth a late-round pick as insurance for owners who land Benson in larger leagues.

BEARS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Cedric Benson
    1. Bernard Berrian
    2. Chicago defense
    3. Muhsin Muhammad
    4. Rex Grossman

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Bernard Berrian and Muhsin Muhammad will continue to be two of the more prominent options in the pass attack for Rex Grossman, but he'll also have a new weapon added to the offensive arsenal in Devin Hester. One of the NFL's most explosive athletes, Hester was moved from cornerback and will now be used out of the backfield, as a receiver and in the slot, not to mention his continued role as a return man on special teams.

Grossman will also have Desmond Clark and rookie Greg Olsen at the tight end position, but the inconsistent quarterback is still no better than a fantasy reserve. As for Clark and Olsen, neither will be worth more than a late-round choice in most cases.

The Bears defense will remain one of the more coveted units in all of fantasy football, but it will have some new components after the departure of veterans like DTs Alfonso Boone (Chiefs) and Ian Scott (Eagles) and FSs Todd Johnson (Rams) and Cameron Worrell. DT Anthony Adams was added as a free agent out of San Francisco, SS Adam Archuleta was acquired from Washington, and a list of rookies that include DE Dan Baziun, LB Michael Okwo, FS Kevin Payne and CBs Corey Graham and Trumaine McBride were all selected in the draft.

DETROIT LIONS

Head coach:Rod Marinelli (3-13 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 2nd easiest; Run -- 1st hardest

The Lions haven't roared between the white lines in what seems like forever, but the team hopes their offseason moves will alter its fate. The offensive attack could be more than explosive under the guidance of coordinator Mike Martz, who now has Kevin Jones (when 100 percent), Tatum Bell and T.J. Duckett in the backfield and a talented bunch in Roy Williams, Calvin Johnson, Mike Furrey and Shaun McDonald in the pass attack.

The team also added help on the offensive line with the addition of OT George Foster and OGs Zach Piller, Edwin Mulitalo and Manuel Ramirez, all of which bodes well for the potential success of Jon Kitna. The team did add rookie Drew Stanton in the second round of the draft, but he is considered the quarterback of the future, not the present.

LIONS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Roy Williams
    1. Tatum Bell
    2. Calvin Johnson
    3. Jon Kitna
    4. Kevin Jones

The biggest question mark on offense is Jones, who continues to recover from an injured foot. There seems to be less of a chance now that he will be available for the start of the regular season, so Bell looks like the most attractive choice. He could even emerge as a viable No. 2 fantasy runner in some formats.

Williams will remain the team's main threat at the wide receiver position, but Johnson's immense statistical potential will excite owners and makes him a viable No. 3 fantasy wideout. The rookie's presence will hurt the overall value of Furrey, who will now find it far more difficult to duplicate the success he found last season.

The Lions also made some wholesale alterations on defense after the trade of Dré Bly (Broncos) and the addition of veterans such as CB Travis Fisher and DE Dewayne White. The team also selected rookies such as DE Ikalka Alama-Francis, FS Gerald Alexander, CBs A.J. Davis and Ramzee Robinson and LB Johnny Baldwin in the draft in an effort to reverse the unit's fortunes, but the Lions will still be rated as one of the least attractive on most fantasy football rank lists.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

Head coach:Mike McCarthy (8-8 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 9th easiest; Run -- 3rd hardest

Much of the talk in Packerland this offseason has surrounded Brett Favre, who was not thrilled with the team when it didn't make a more concerted effort to add controversial but talented wide receiver Randy Moss (Patriots). The future Hall of Fame quarterback still has weapons such as Donald Driver, Greg Jennings and rookie James Jones in the pass attack, however, so he will remain a borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy quarterback in most leagues with 12-plus teams.

PACKERS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Donald Driver
    1. Brandon Jackson
    2. Vernand Morency
    3. Brett Favre
    4. Greg Jennings

The Packers also field one potential rookie sleeper in Brandon Jackson, who will have a definite chance to pass Vernand Morency on the depth chart and start in the backfield for head coach Mike McCarthy. Jackson could be worth as much as a fourth- or fifth-round choice with an impressive preseason, but Morency would fall into that position if he were to win the more prominent role.

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Another rookie with upside is Mason Crosby, who has a cannon for a right leg and will have a chance to open the regular season as the team's No.1 kicker ahead of veteran Dave Rayner. He won't be chosen in most drafts, but Crosby could be a nice addition off waivers in larger formats.

An underrated unit for most of last season, the Packers defense fields talented studs such as DE Aaron Kampman, LBs Nick Barnett and A.J. Hawk and CBs Al Harris and Charles Woodson and should be even more formidable after it added CB Frank Walker as a free agent and DE Justin Harrell, SS Aaron Rouse and LBs Korey Hall and Desmond Bishop in the draft. A borderline No. 1 or 2 fantasy defense, this unit will be worth a late-round selection for owners in all formats.

MINNESOTA VIKINGS

Head coach:Brad Childress (6-10 overall record)
Offensive schedule vs.: Pass -- 6th easiest; Run -- 11th hardest

One of the players to experience the greatest decrease in draft value this offseason is Chester Taylor, who will lose about half of his carries to rookie Adrian Peterson. Once a solid No. 2 fantasy runner, Taylor is now considered more of a No. 3 back or flex starter and will even be taken after Peterson in countless seasonal drafts. This will be a true backfield committee, however, so it will be difficult for either back to produce consistent numbers week in and week out.

VIKINGS TOP FIVE FANTASY PLAYERS

  1. Adrian Peterson
    1. Chester Taylor
    2. Troy Williamson
    3. Minnesota defense
    4. Tarvaris Jackson

The Vikings decided not to pursue the likes of David Carr, Matt Schaub or Brady Quinn at quarterback due to their confidence in Tarvaris Jackson, who is the favorite to start for head coach Brad Childress. Still, Jackson has much to prove on the field before he will warrant much attention in fantasy football. Part of the reason for his lack of value is his inexperience, but the other is that the team doesn't have a true No. 1 wide receiver in the pass attack.

In fact, the likes of Bobby Wade and Troy Williamsson are expected to placed into prominent roles. Only Williamson warrant draft consideration. Rookie Sidney Rice will have some value in the late rounds, but he won't become a regular starter for owners. The team added Visanthe Shiancoe to replace Jermaine Wiggins at the tight end position, but he won't be chosen in most drafts.

The Vikings defense will remain one of the more formidable units in fantasy football even after the departure of coordinator Mike Tomlin (Steelers) and is worth a late-round choice. The team will see the return of LB Chad Greenway, who missed all of last season with an injured knee, and the addition of SS Mike Doss, who worked with new coordinator Leslie Frazier in Indianapolis and will have a definite chance to start right out of training camp. The team will also look for instant impacts from rookies CB Marcus McCauley, DE Brian Robison and LB Rufus Alexander.

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