NFC North: Team Tendencies & Trends
My 2017 NFL draft review on team trends continues with the NFC North. Two things to note. First, inclement weather (e.g. rain, sleet, snow) becomes more prevalent in this division later in the season. Stadium locations make this somewhat obvious. That’s not accounted for in the study, yet. Second, half of the teams play in domes. This limits their exposure to high wind conditions. However, scouting profiles and game reviews have helped in surmising each of their roles.
Drafted: Mitchell Trubisky – QB – RD 1, Adam Shaheen – TE – RD 2, Tarik Cohen – RB – RD 4
While Trubisky hasn’t played an NFL game, there are some clues as to how the Bears will approach his rookie season if their hand is forced. Multiple scouting reports indicate he struggles with the deep ball, but does well in the short-intermediate game. If he leans on this strength, games with increased wind speeds would benefit Cam Meredith or, possibly, newly acquired Markus Wheaton.
Trends show his yards per target decreased with increased wind speed while average targets remained consistent. His versatility makes him a weapon, but this could be hampered by Wheaton in three wide receiver sets. Meredith is the superior player, but his target share might diminish if Wheaton is afforded more snaps.
Adam Shaheen (basketball convert) is listed as the #3 tight end. Shaheen’s role will be predicated on the offensive scheme employed by the Bears. Mike Glennon’s single season as a starter provides some insight into his use of tight-ends if he keeps the job.
It’s notable that trends show TE targets declining with wind speed despite the modest usage at baseline conditions. His depth chart position and fuzzy QB situation make him a late dynasty stash.
Tarik Cohen was compared to Darren Sproles due to his size and agility. But, unlike Sproles, Cohen’s shown a lack of power and blocking that will keep him sidelined. He’s currently fifth on the depth chart and shouldn’t affect Jordan Howard’s sophomore campaign in any significant way.
Drafted: Kenny Golladay – WR – RD 3, Michael Roberts – TE – RD 4, Brady Kaaya – QB – RD 6
JJ Zachariason has already slated Golladay to be nicknamed ‘Babytron’ by Week 5.
However, scouting reports highlight a deficiency in route running. If Golladay is relegated to the outside, this could eat into Marvin Jones’ usage despite his superior talent in contested catches and separation.
Michael Roberts finds himself in a more favorable position than Golladay. If Anquan Boldin doesn’t return in 2017, Roberts could fill some of the 67-target void left by the veteran wide receiver.
Boldin’s 21% target increase in games with increased wind speed are worth noting. While listed behind Eric Ebron and blocking tight end Darren Fells, Lions OC Jim Bob Cooter is known for his preference of two TE sets on offense. Preseason trends might provide more clarity, but look for any red zone packages involving Roberts.
Brady Kaaya is listed as the third string QB behind Jack Rudock. Mechanically capable, but needs time to work on ball placement and velocity. He’ll benefit from working alongside Stafford to improve his skills in improvisation, off-balance throws, and passing into the defensive secondary.
Green Bay Packers
Drafted: Jamaal Williams – RB – RD 4, Deangelo Yancey – WR – RD 5, Aaron Jones – RB – RD 5, Devante Mays – RB – RD 7, Malachi Dupre – WR – RD 7
It’s difficult to draw any significant trends from Ty Montgomery’s 2016 season with respect to offensive shifts due to weather. Between the sickle-cell trait and injuries, his already limited samples are diluted with limited reps. He saw double digit targets in Weeks 5 and 6 (wind speeds over 5 mph), but was on a snap count when he returned. This explains the Packers attempt to create depth at the position. Of the trio of RBs drafted, Jamaal Williams looks to be the primary backup to Ty Montgomery. Williams isn’t the same dynamic runner as Montgomery and has a hard time breaking tackles and creating early yardage. TyMo’s Achilles heel is his pass protection. If he falters, that could be the opening for the rookies.
Aaron Jones and Devante Mays will have limited roles unless injuries propel them into the mix. Jones has adequate receiving skills, but lacks in pass protection and has fumbling issues. On the opposite end of the spectrum, Mays is a powerful runner that accelerates at the point of contact, but shows inconsistent vision.
Both wide receivers drafted will have a tough time seeing the field in 2017. Looking at the Packers’ roster, the newly added receivers provide depth at the position, but nothing more. Yancey at 6’2”/201 and Dupre at 6’2”/196 compare in stature to current WR 3 Geronimo Allison. However, both have marks against the for low success versus man/press coverage. Difficult to trust in an Aaron Rodgers’ led offense where he completed 56.3% of his tight window passes which was well above the NFL average.
Drafted: Dalvin Cook – RB – RD 2, Rodney Adams – WR – RD 5, Bucky Hodges – TE – RD 6, Stacy Coley – WR – RD 7
Dalvin Cook was considered the ‘safest’ running back of the 2016 class. With flashes of power, good balance, speed and pass catching ability, you can see some Giovanni Bernard to his game. But behind Latavius Murray, Cook’s usage is unclear.
Sam Bradford’s high volume, short passing attack trends indicate a steady reliance on the running backs. Everyone wants McKinnon to be a thing, but his athleticism hasn’t yielded more opportunity. But, Cook’s been hesitant to drop his pads to finish runs that could limit his goal line work. Overall, Cook’s landing spot could simultaneously hurt McKinnon and Murray until more clarity is provided
Look at some highlight videos on Bucky Hodges. At his best, he has Jimmy Graham upside if given the right opportunity. But, he needs to work on his route running. Luckily, he has a few things working for him.
First, Hodges has the benefit of working alongside Kyle Rudolph who’s improved his own game over the past few seasons. Second, Bridgewater and Bradford show similar traits when utilizing tight ends. So even if Teddy returns, we can expect similar positional usage. Finally, offensive coordinator Pat Shurmur was the tight ends’ coach who’s shown a desire for multi-TE sets in his play calling. While not a valuable fantasy on his own, he can bring a positive impact to the offense in 2016.
Both wide receivers drafted can be considered as team depth. Rodney Adams and Stacy Coley profile as speed merchants, presumably, to replace Cordarrelle Patterson. However, Adams is 30 pounds lighter with noted fumbles and drops issues. His smaller frame limits his ability as a blocker, but he could land a role on special teams. Coley needs to improve his route running. He’s shown issues with press overage, but could benefit from work from the slot.