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Fantasy players to watch in training camp, 2018: NFC North

DETROIT, MI - JANUARY 01: Ty Montgomery #88 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates a fourth quarter touchdown during the game against the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on January 1, 2017 in Detroit, Michigan. Green Bay defeated Detroit 31-24. (Photo by Leon Halip/Getty Images)

(As training camps draw near, Dan Schneier will spend the next few weeks highlighting some key players to monitor in each division. Whether it’s a rookie, a sleeper, a veteran, or something else, the series will identify the most important names fantasy owners need to keep an eye on in training camp for 2018. Track the whole series here.)

The NFC North lost a great deal of fantasy juice when Aaron Rodgers and preseason fantasy breakout candidate Ty Montgomery went down with injuries in 2017. It didn’t help that the Chicago Bears decided to gruel through another season under John Fox with a rookie quarterback tossed into the fire without any wide receivers creating separation. The Detroit Lions’ fantasy season went closest to what we expected from a Jim Bob Cooter-led offense. The biggest surprise was a Minnesota Vikings team that remained consistent — specifically via the ground game — despite injuries to Dalvin Cook and Sam Bradford.

In 2018, things have changed in the NFC North, with the additions of potential fantasy difference-makers on every roster. The Packers added tight end Jimmy Graham, the Bears added wide receiver Allen Robinson, the Vikings added quarterback Kirk Cousins, and the Lions traded up to draft running back Kerryon Johnson. Now, we’ll find out if these additions are enough to make the NFC North a more consistent source of fantasy football production.

Over the next few weeks, we will preview every division and pinpoint four to five players to track during training camp and the preseason. From now until the start of the season, the only real information we’ll need to gather is about a player’s role and chemistry within his offense. You can find all the previous divisions here. The goal is to provide you with players to add to your targets list now for season-long leagues, but also with players to target or avoid in best-ball drafts that are currently underway on DRAFT and MFL.

(Many of the stats and information here has been pulled from our Fantasy Playbook 2018 draft guide, available now for Edge subscribers.)

Ty Montgomery, RB, Green Bay Packers

Sometimes even the simplest fantasy concepts can get complicated. There was a time when being the running back on an Aaron Rodgers-led offense was enough to get you in the back-end RB1 conversation — just ask Ryan Grant. Entering 2018, there is a major logjam at the running back position, but if you can get it right, massive upside awaits. Not only does the winner get to be Rodgers’ running back, but the competition involves three high-upside options from a talent standpoint who have all been productive from a fantasy standpoint, albeit on a small sample size.

The narrative: Montgomery won’t see enough volume for fantasy relevance

It was definitely a wake-up call when Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said the team will use a committee at running back, but if you read a little further into his comments, he left the door open for one player to run away with the job. With Aaron Jones suspended for the first two games, this scenario becomes more likely. The good news is Montgomery doesn’t need to run away with the job for fantasy relevance. McCarthy has already said the revamped offensive scheme is suited to take advantage of Montgomery’s skill set, beat writer Rob Demovsky predicts a significant role, and there has even been talk of a hybrid receiver/running back role.

What to watch for: Montgomery’s role (and the role of fellow backs Jones and Jamaal Williams) is uncertain at this time. You’ll want to keep an eye on Montgomery’s role in two-minute offensive drills, red zone, and how many first-team snaps he sees early in camp. It is going to be important to make sure he’s also lining up with Rodgers’ unit at wide receiver.

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