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NFC North Bold Predictions for 2023 Fantasy Football

Every team in the NFC North brings something different to the table. Three of the four teams finished inside the top-14 in points per game last season. Two of them, the Detroit Lions and Minnesota Vikings, were inside the top-eight. Meanwhile, though the Chicago Bears ranked 23rd, their quarterback, Justin Fields, racked up the seventh-most rushing yards in the entire league. While there’s a wide variety of outcomes that could result from the NFC North in 2023, there’s going to be a heavy quantity of fantasy points to come out of this division. A bold prediction from each team could make a few players stand out, especially in their rookie seasons.

I am continuing to highlight one fantasy football-related bold prediction from each team, division by division, until the start of the 2023 NFL season. These predictions will hopefully get the gears in your head turning. Most are positive while others may be negative. The likeliness that every single one of these predictions hits is certainly not 100%.  However, they should generate some buzz or cause you to think twice about each player. Just be confident in your feelings when you’re on the clock.

Be sure to check out bold predictions from the other divisions all summer long on Fantrax as well as follow me on Twitter @Colin_McT for plenty more fantasy football content.

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NFC North Bold Predictions for 2023 Fantasy Football

Chicago Bears

McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Roschon Johnson leads Bears running backs in total touches

Don’t let rookie Roschon Johnson’s role at the University of Texas fool you. He is more than just “Bijan Robinson’s backup” from his time at college. Sure, once Bijan stepped foot on campus, he dominated the Texas backfield in touches. However, Roschon Johnson held his own with a 5.6 yards per carry average in 392 rushing attempts over four seasons.

Why Johnson figures to lead both Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman in touches is his expected role on passing downs. Johnson’s pass-blocking and pass-catching abilities should earn him more playing time over Herbert and Foreman. In four seasons at the University of Texas, Johnson averaged 14 receptions per season, including 23 in his final year. Neither Herbert or Foreman have more than 14 receptions in a single season at the pro level.

Johnson is 22 years old with just 448 total touches from his time at college. He’s an average of four years younger than the other two notable backs on the depth chart with fewer miles and injuries. Above all else, the new regime of general manager Ryan Poles and head coach Matt Eberflus invested a fourth-round pick in Johnson, as well.

Quarterback Justin Fields has to improve as a passer this season. After rushing 160 times for 1,143 yards, and passing for just 2,242 yards, there needs to be more of the latter in 2023. Adding wide receiver D.J. Moore via trade, and yes, running back Roschon Johnson in the draft will help. Unfortunately, the 2022 Chicago Bears running backs were targeted at the second-lowest rate last season.

Claiming Roschon will lead the Bears backs in touches as a bold prediction doesn’t mean he’s going to be a major fantasy asset. Rather, I’m knocking the value of Khalil Herbert and D’Onta Foreman instead. As last year’s touch leader out of the Bears’ backfield, David Montgomery finished as RB27 on a points-per-game basis. With the expectation that Johnson can haul in more than Montgomery’s 34 receptions last season, he could post solid RB2 numbers as a rookie this season.

Detroit Lions

McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Jahmyr Gibbs averages 20.0+ PPR points per game

This feat has only been done 33 times by running backs over the last 10 seasons that have played eight or more games each season. Just two rookies, Ezekiel Elliott (2016) and Saquon Barkley (2018) have accomplished this elite scoring average in their first season. So, history, specifically as a rookie, is not on Jahmyr Gibb’s side for this bold prediction.

Looking at the last four seasons, 2019-2022, 10 running backs, that played eight or more games, averaged 20.0 or more points per game. Nine of the 10 logged 40 or more receptions with eight of the 10 logging 50 or more each season. The only one who didn’t is Derrick Henry.

In the two seasons Henry averaged 20.0 or more fantasy points per game, he scored 27 total touchdowns in 24 games, none of which were receiving scores. In total, the 10 aforementioned running backs averaged 18 total touchdowns, both rushing and receiving, in seasons in which they scored 20.0 or more fantasy points per game.

So, with receiving and scoring touchdowns in mind, Gibbs has a legitimate shot to push for the 20.0 points per game average. With the departures of T.J. Hockenson, Jamaal Williams, D.J. Chark, and D’Andre Swift via trades and free agency, there are at least 55% of the Lions’ 2022 touches from last season up for grabs. Their 2022 first-round pick, wide receiver Jameson Williams, is suspended for the first six games, as well. Jahmyr Gibbs is one of the best receiving backs in the 2023 class. He should slide in comfortably behind wide receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown in targets this season.

As for scoring, there are 60% of last year’s offensive touchdowns scored available, as well. That includes 22 of 23 rushing scores from last season. Even with 17 rushing touchdowns in 2022, Jamaal Williams (12.9) averaged less points per game than D’Andre Swift (13.5). With his first round draft capital, I foresee the Lions feeding Gibbs the majority of both Swift and Williams’ workload from last season. Even if David Montgomery vultures touchdowns in the Williams role, Gibbs can still finish as an RB1 in PPR leagues with major receiving upside.

Green Bay Packers

McTamany’s Bold Prediction: A.J. Dillons logs 250 touches, rushes for 1,000+ yards, sets a career-high in rushing touchdowns

The breakout we’ve all been waiting for! Right? A.J. “Quadzilla” Dillon is overdue to run wild in this league. My bold prediction is that it finally happens in 2023.

Dillon is entering this season on an expiring contract. He’s averaging just under 220 total touches per season sharing the backfield with Aaron Jones. He’s 28 turning 29 years old in December with 1,277 total touches over six seasons. Given Jones’ age and the potential for Dillon to hit the free agent market next off-season, it’s conceivable the Packers are more inclined to give him more touches this season, specifically in the form of carries.

More importantly, this is Jordan Love’s first season as the starting quarterback since he was drafted in 2020. His projected group of starting pass catchers, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, Jayden Reed, and Luke Musgrave have a combined 27 games played in the NFL. Given the all-around inexperience, we could see a more run-heavy approach from Green Bay in 2023.

Lastly, looking at red zone usage, I think Dillon plays a more prominent role this season, as well. Aaron Jones just barely out-carried Dillon 29 to 27 inside the red zone last season. However, as the Packers got closer to the goal line, Dillon saw 17 carries to Jones’ nine inside the 10-yard line and 10 carries to his two inside the five-yard line. Dillon scored five touchdowns inside the red zone, all of which were from 10 yards and in, while Jones scored just two, none of which were from 10 yards and in. If the Packers get in striking distance, there’s good reason Dillon would get the first crack at putting points on the board over both Jones on the ground or Love through the air.

After nearly leading the team in receptions last season, I still expect Aaron Jones to have a major impact in the Packers’ passing game. However, establishing the run is going to be crucial in opening up the passing game for Jordan Love. Dillon should see an expanded role and have a career year as a result.

Minnesota Vikings

McTamany’s Bold Prediction: Jordan Addison repeats Justin Jefferson’s rookie season stats

Justin Jefferson’s 88 receptions, 1,400 yards, and seven touchdowns in 2020 yielded a WR11 finish in PPR formats on a points-per-game basis. His 1,400 receiving yards are the current NFL record for most ever by a rookie receiver. I’m definitely a little overzealous with this bold prediction for Jordan Addison. However, now that I have your attention, I do think he will finish as the best rookie wide receiver in fantasy football this season.

The Minnesota Vikings are moving forward in 2023 without Adam Thielen or Dalvin Cook. That’s two key studs that played a combined 16 seasons for the Purple and Gold. With the decision to move on from Thielen, there are 107 targets up for grabs from his 2022 season specifically. That includes the ninth-most red zone targets and seventh-most targets inside the 10-yard line among all players in the league.

When Jefferson posted his historic rookie stat line, the Vikings ranked 26th in pass attempts per game (32.3) in 2020. He also replaced Stefon Diggs after Minnesota traded him to the Buffalo Bills. Under new head coach, Kevin O’Connell, Minnesota ranks third in pass attempts per game (39.6) from last season. Furthermore, Thielen logged 108 targets that season with Cook commanding a career-high 356 targets, as well. Addison will now replace Thielen in this offense.

I expect the Vikings to remain one of the pass-heaviest teams in the league. O’Connell’s 2021 Rams, when he was the offensive coordinator, also ranked inside the top 10 in pass attempts with 35.7 per game. Jordan Addison has a history of handling heavy volume. Minnesota’s 2023 first-round draft choice should have an immediate impact with a large role from day one. He’s the top rookie wide receiver to invest in for the 2023 fantasy football season.

For more great rankings and analysis, make sure to check out our 2023 Fantasy Football Draft Kit!

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