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Fantasy Football: Who's the best draft sleeper on the Packers, and more NFC North questions

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One of the most common ways to get started on your fantasy football preparation for the season ahead is to not only look at positional rankings but also at the state of each NFL team's offense.

Which teams are most set up for success? Which teams are set to struggle? Which of those expected bottom-feeder teams have latent fantasy talent to mine from? Which of those top teams could actually disappoint fantasy managers?

Over the coming weeks, fantasy football analyst Liz Loza will sift through every division and highlight the biggest fantasy issues facing each team within. Next up, the NFC North!

NFC North Pressing fantasy Questions.
Will we get answers to the NFC North's most pressing fantasy questions? (Photo by Erick Parra Monroy/Yahoo Sports)

Is Darnell Mooney up to the WR1 challenge?

Volume is king in fantasy. And Darnell Mooney is in line for the crown.

Mooney managed a top-11 target share (26.7 percent) in 2021. He averaged just over six looks per contest in games Justin Fields started. Efficiency proved to be a major obstacle for the duo (and the offense as a whole) as the number of conversions dropped to 3.4 per game. Despite this, Mooney leaned on his 4.3 speed and after-the-catch ability (391, WR18) to clear 1,000 yards and close out the year as fantasy’s WR23.

From the front office to the coaching staff to the receiving corps, much of the Bears offense has been gutted heading into 2022. Mooney and Fields have reportedly been inseparable throughout the offspring, using the opportunity to improve their rapport. With a rebuild apparently shelved until 2023, Mooney will have to morph from a complementary deep threat to a true alpha. Given the surrounding talent — Byron Pringle, Equanimeous St. Brown, Dante Pettis, Taje Sharpe and 25-year-old rookie Velus Jones — Mooney figures to draw the bulk of the defensive attention. He did manage a top-11 route win rate in 2021, indicating solid growth potential.

From a fantasy POV, however, expecting anything more than WR3 numbers from the former fifth-round pick wouldn’t be prudent. FF: 75-980-5

Can Amon-Ra St. Brown deliver WR2 fantasy value to drafters?

Amon-Ra St. Brown beasted down the stretch of 2021, carrying throngs of managers to fake football victories. His ascent came as a result of addition by subtraction. By Week 13 — after Anthony Lynn was absolved of his play-calling duties and T.J. Hockenson went down with a thumb injury — St. Brown emerged as Detroit's mightiest offensive threat.

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Younger brother to fellow NFC North wideout Equanimeous St. Brown, Amon-Ra was an immediate (60-750-3 as a true freshman in 2018) and regular producer at USC. His crisp route running, natural hands and excellent body control was lauded in college … and on full display last winter.

Recording 435 yards after the catch (WR11), St. Brown largely worked as the Lions slot receiver (488 slot snaps, WR6) before moving to the outside in the double-digit weeks of the season.

With Ben Johnson — who was instrumental in revamping the team’s passing game last season — holding the offensive clipboard, St. Brown is expected to work all over the field and remain Jared Goff’s favorite target in 2022. But with Swift and Hockenson back to health, D.J. Chark added and first-round pick Jameson Williams eventually part of the equation, it’s unlikely that St. Brown will retain the monster volume he managed over his rookie campaign.

But that doesn’t mean he won’t eat. St. Brown has already demonstrated an ability to carry this offense. Drawing a reasonable seven looks per contest, he’s still in line for 120 targets on the season. Noting a catch rate above 75 percent (WR6) and modest 11 YPR, he’s looking at a 90-990-6 stat line. Those are low-end WR2 numbers.

Who is the best sleeper on the Packers?

Robert Tonyan recorded a whopping 11 scores (tying only Travis Kelce) in 2020. A converted WR who excelled in red-zone situations at Indiana State, the Illinois native converted 10 of 11 RZ looks, closing out the year with the same number of scores as Aaron Jones (and seven fewer than Davante Adams).

Interestingly, Tonyan scored his first TD of 2020 in Week 2 versus Detroit (the team that had initially signed him as an UDFA) when Adams was in-and-out of the game with a hamstring issue. Over the next pair of outings — with Davante sidelined — Tonyan would go on to corral four additional spikes.

Robert Tonyan #85 of the Green Bay Packers
When healthy, Robert Tonyan is a touchdown-scoring force. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

Heading into last season, it was predicted that Tonyan’s numbers were likely to regress. What no one foresaw, however, was that he would tear his ACL in Week 8 @ Arizona. Up to that point, the team’s TE1 had drawn six RZ targets, putting him on pace to beat his 2020 total.

Re-signed by the Packers in March and reportedly “ahead of schedule” in his recovery, Tonyan possesses massive rebound appeal in 2022. Over 200 targets have been vacated via the exits of Adams and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. While the fantasy community has been falling over themselves to draft Christian Watson (with his limited route tree and 12.7% career drop rate), Tonyan has remained largely ignored.

Understanding that Aaron Rodgers is a (as my colleague Scott Pianowski so aptly puts it) “a circle of trust guy” and noting how much he trusted Tonyan before the knee issue, the 28-year-old TE is a steal in the 15th round of 12-team exercises. I’ll take the over on 5.5 touchdowns.

Can Dalvin Cook record career receiving numbers under Kevin O’Connell?

As discussed on the Yahoo Fantasy Forecast, news out of Minnesota is that Kevin O’Connell intends to revamp the Vikings offense, making it a high-flying operation. Beat reporters are estimating upwards of 4,500 passing yards and 40 passing scores for Kirk Cousins.

That would vault the Captain into QB1 territory, but it also bolsters the stock of his pass-catching weapons — most interestingly, Dalvin Cook.

The Vikings workhorse and an elite fantasy producer since 2019, Cook’s receiving chops have made him one of the virtual game’s most sought-after players at the position. The 26-year-old has averaged nearly three catches per game (his numbers dipped to 2.6/gm in 2021), recording at least 40 grabs in three of his five seasons as a pro. His most prolific pass-catching effort occurred in 2019 when he posted 53 receptions (RB10).

With O’Connell — who hails from Sean McVay’s coaching tree — installed, Cook figures to flirt with career numbers in 2022. The opportunities, however, don’t figure to be as voluminous as some fantasy managers might believe.

Only Leonard Fournette, Austin Ekeler, Najee Harris and De’Andre Swift managed over four catches per contest last year … and none of those backfields featured an RB2 as capable as Alexander Mattison. Assuming the Boise State product is utilized more consistently and noting Irv Smith’s anticipated return, Cook figures to average 3.5 catches per game. He’s likely to touch the ball 16-18 times per game and flirt with 50 grabs in his sixth professional effort.

Engage with Liz on social @LizLoza_FF

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