NFC North Quarterback Preview

Aaron Rodgers and Matt Stafford are for sure fantasy starters

Today, we take a look at the NFC North quarterback situations. There are two definite fantasy starters to be had from these 4 teams and another who could finally live up to expectations and become more than just a mediocre fantasy backup. The last one is on a thin line entering his third NFL season and is one of the weaker fantasy backup prospects.
Chicago Bears
Starter: Jay Cutler
Backup: Josh McCown
Cutler appeared to be on the verge of fantasy stardom his last season in Denver back in 2008. But since coming to Chicago in 2009, his best statistical season was that first year when he threw for 3,666 yards and 27 TD's. Since then he has basically been running for his life behind a shoddy offensive line and a system that required him to take a lot 5-7 step drops. It's hoped in 2013 that new head Coach Marc Trestman will finally be the one who develops Cutler into the QB he's always had the skills to be. Trestman is known for his quicker pace offenses and passing attacks so there is hope it means a bump up in numbers for Cutler while reducing the amount of sacks he takes. But Cutler's history so far suggests he shouldn't be relied on as an every week fantasy starter yet, he does possess high upside as a backup fantasy QB who could finally take the step up if he and the new offense click. McCown is an experienced but underwhelming backup NFL QB who would likely hold little fantasy value if he had to make starts.
Detroit Lions
Starter: Matt Stafford
Backup: Shaun Hill
Stafford nearly reached 5,000 passing yards for a second consecutive season in 2012, but what was disappointing was his TD passes dropping from 41 in 2011 to only 20 in 2012. However, a closer examination of the game logs shows that Lions WR's were tackled at the one yard line 7 times in 2012 while another 9 times they were tackled inside the five yard line. Stafford was really close to having 30+ TD passes in 2012 and I think that type of anomaly happening again in 2013 is unrealistic. The Lions are a passing team and with the best WR in the game (Calvin Johnson) there's no reason to think they won't be a heavily pass oriented team again. A return to near elite fantasy status is certainly attainable and I have no problem with Stafford as a strong starting fantasy QB. His backup, Hill, is certainly a very capable QB on his own who could have probably left two years in free agency and competed for a starting job elsewhere. Filling in when Stafford was injured in both 2009 and 2010, Hill put up a respectable stat line of 3,629 passing yards and 21 TD's in 17 games. Stafford has been able to stay healthy the last 2 seasons but if anything were to happen to him again, Hill would become a priority free agent add at QB in fantasy leagues.
Green Bay Packers
Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup: Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman
Turning 30 in December, Rodgers is in the prime of his career. He's exploded the last two seasons for a combined 8,938 passing yards, 84 passing TD's, and only 14 interceptions. He annually has 250+ rushing yards and scores a few rushing TD's each season as well. A down year for Rodgers would be to have fewer than 4,100 passing yards and under 33 TD's. When your floor is that high, your ceiling is ridiculous. And while everyone thinks the Packers are a throwing team, keep in mind that in 2012, 9 QB's had more passing attempts; in 2011, 15 had more passing attempts than him. The Packers are likely to have a better rushing attack in 2013 than they have had in recent seasons, but I doubt that will hurt Rodgers at all. He is an elite fantasy QB, if not the top fantasy QB. He's only missed one game in the last 5 seasons because of injury and that was back in 2010 when Matt Flynn was his backup, so we haven't had a chance to see Harrell get any meaningful playing time. There is also a chance that 2012 7th round pick B.J. Coleman could beat out Harrell for the top backup job.
Minnesota Vikings
Starter: Christian Ponder
Backup: Matt Cassel
Ponder needs to take a leap up in production or he could find himself eventually benched in favor of Matt Cassel. Losing Percy Harvin hurts, but I think the additions of Greg Jennings and rookie Cordarrelle Patterson give him the best WR tandem he's had yet. While the offense goes through Adrian Peterson (and rightfully so) Ponder still needs to show a lot better than what he has in 2 seasons now. This is a make or break year for Ponder, and while he can probably fare well enough to be a decent NFL QB in a conservative offense, that won't make him any better than a weak backup fantasy QB. Cassel is pretty much a clone of Ponder in terms of his game. An average arm and better game manager who is not likely to succeed if he has to throw a lot.