Around the NFC North: The All-NFC North Preseason Team

Who makes the preseason All-NFC North team? 

Most of the NFC North commentary this off-season has been unreasonably anti-Packers (and pro-Lions). If you just listened to a mainstream NFL podcast, you'd think the Lions had already wrapped up the division and the Packers were on their way to a top-10 pick. In reality, I think it will be more likely a 3-team race for first with Bears fans wishing their team would get out of Chicago already. Last time, I wrote about the blue chippers in the division to illustrate the relative talent levels; today, I'll nominate who I think would be on a preseason All-NFC North team. 

Offense

QB - Kirk Cousins

RB - Aaron Jones

WR - Justin Jefferson

WR - Amon-Ra St. Brown

WR - DJ Moore

TE - TJ Hockenson

T - David Bakhtiari

T - Christian Darrisaw

G - Elgton Jenkins

G - Teven Jenkins

C - Frank Ragnow

Quarterback was probably the hardest position for me. Do you go with the QB who played the best last year (Cousins)? Do you go with the QB in the best situation all things considered (Goff)? Do you go with QB with the most potential (Fields)? Do you take Jordan Love to piss off the Lions fans who comment on every article? 

I chose Cousins because for all his faults he's just the best option right now out of the 4 QBs. Goff is bad too often and any time he isn't in a perfect situation, Fields is just bad all the time (throwing), and Love has to have an incomplete grade. I don't like having Cousins as QB, but it's the clear option.

Running back and Wide Receiver are both easy. You could maybe make an argument for David Montgomery over Jones, but Montgomery had the 44th-best RB grade, per PFF, last season, and the team used a top-15 pick on a RB right after signing him. I'll take Jones. As far as wide receiver goes, I wouldn't be surprised if Watson is in this conversation halfway through the season, but these three are all-star-level receivers right now. 

Tight end is almost grosser than QB. Hockenson has to be the pick, but outside of maybe half the season last year, he's been a bust. It's hard to know what player you can count on being there from week to week. There is a lot of young talent in the division, Tucker Kraft, Luke Musgrave, and Sam La Porta could all flash this season and Cole Kmet is someone who exists. 

Offensive line is mostly just PFF grades and it has the most potential snubs. Penei Sewell, Taylor Decker, Braxton Jones, Nate Davis, Brian O'Neill, and Jon Runyan have all at least had stretches of great play. I just don't think any of those players quite hit the level of the five who I picked. And because I'm sure the Lions fans will hate the Bakhtiari over Sewell pick but Bakhtiari is a hall of famer, he's on this list until his play actually drops off (it hasn't) and Sewell isn't even playing the correct position.

Defense

Edge - Rahsan Gary

Edge - Danielle Hunter

iDL - Kenny Clark

iDL - Alim McNeill

LB - Tremaine Edmunds

LB - TJ Edwards

CB - Jaire Alexander

CB - Rasul Douglas

DB - Chauncey Gardner-Johnson

S - Eddie Jackson

S - Harrison Smith

This division is definitely full of trash defenses.  Edge was easy, Rash Gary and Danielle Hunter are the only pro-bowl-level players in the division at edge. Aidan Hutchinson might get there, he just isn't at that level yet. For example, when Rashan Gary got hurt last season, he had 10 more pressures, 1 more sack (and that includes a semi-flukey 3-sack game from Hutchinson), and 10 more hurries than Hutchinson.  

Interior d-line is real bad. Kenny Clark has had a rough couple of years as the Packers systematically removed any help from the d-line and he's still far and away the best defensive tackle in the division. We'll throw the Lions fans a bone by putting the up and coming McNeill at the other spot. 

Both linebackers are new to the division and both were overpaid by the Bears. Quay Walker or Jack Campbell could take over in one of these spots with a good season. 

Corner looks homerish, but Jaire is the only blue chip corner in the division and the competition for the other corner spot is Rasul Douglas, Cam Sutton, or Jaylon Johnson. Sutton and Douglas are basically the same guy and Douglas was far better in 2021. Johnson had a very promising start to his career and then Davante Adams murdered him in 2021 and he hasn't recovered. It would be nice for Packers fans if Eric Stokes had a good comeback season and was knocking on the door of this list next year. Chauncey Gardner-Johnson is the best slot corner in the division. 

Finally, safety is almost as bad as interior d-line. Eddie Jackson had one or two amazing seasons with Adrian Amos and Vic Fangio and has been just-a-guy since. He did look better last season so that's enough to make the list. Smith is older than me and is mostly an honorary selection to the list. Look for Jaquan Brisker, Kerby Jospeh, or maybe his teammate Lewis Cine to knock him off the list. The Packers depressingly have about 17 safeties who are all apparently good on special teams and none of them have a chance at making this weak list. Sigh. 

Conclusion

Based on my very scientific, expert, list the Packers have 7 all-NFC North players, the Bears have 5, the Vikings have 6, and God's gift to football, the Lions, have 4. I will say the Lions have the most guys snubbed from the list or knocking on the door. Sewell, Hutchinson, Joseph, LaPorta, and Gibbs could make it next year with a breakout season.    

 

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Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan who recently moved form Utah to Stoughton (a Madison suberb). You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.

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5 points
 

Comments (12)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Leatherhead's picture

July 10, 2023 at 05:03 pm

Fields and Goff both have a better QBR than Cousins. Truthfully, I think Fields is the top offensive weapon in the division. Not Jones, not Jefferson. This guy got over 1100 yards on the ground despite being sacked a league high 55 times. This year, the Bears have strengthened their line, improved their depth, and brought some legitimate receiving targets. His passer rating last year was about 85, which is higher than many of Favre's seasons. This guy is the chief threat to the Packers, IMO.

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GregC's picture

July 10, 2023 at 06:00 pm

Justin Fields has potential, but I wouldn't put him in that category just yet. And it's misleading to compare passer ratings from different eras. Fields' passer rating was firmly in the bottom half of the league among starting QBs last year.

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Leatherhead's picture

July 10, 2023 at 06:31 pm

Greg, it's a little misleading, I'll admit, for the reason you stated. But it's not without a kernel of truth, either.

https://www.espn.com/nfl/qbr

This shows Fields as #17 in QBR by ESPN. Helped by the 1100 rushing yards . He also threw fewer interceptions last year...11...than the all-time best at not throwing it away. His rushing/passing put 25 TDs on the board in 15 games.

I think he's the best offensive weapon in the division. And Chicago added a legit WR plus they've strengthened that line. They are going to be better on offense than they were last year, and last year, they were the #1 rushing offense by quite a bit. They scored two fewer TDs than the Packers, which shows how close they came to having the weakest offense in the division last year.

Yeah, today, it's Goff/Cousins and Fields/ Love. I think Fields and Love are going to change the division this year, and put things back into the natural order of Packers and Bears and Vikings and Lions.

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GregC's picture

July 10, 2023 at 06:54 pm

Yeah, when you add Fields' rushing totals it changes things. I was just thinking of passer rating, not QBR, which factors in the rushing totals. I made the correction in my post.

I do worry about Fields a little, thinking of how Josh Allen's career has progressed: lots of running in the first couple years, then he got some receiving weapons and figured out how to be an all-around QB. I am still skeptical of the Bears overall, though. I'm skeptical of the Lions and Vikings too. I think all four teams are likely to finish within 3 games of .500 this season.

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Coldworld's picture

July 11, 2023 at 07:12 am

If you look at Fields as a weapon he is definitely a threat. If you look at him as a passer he’s probably the weakest in the division and dubiously adequate in the NFL. Neither are really valid assessments. However, to elevate Chicago, he’s going to have to be more than a threat with his feet and to remain that he’s got to stay healthy too: something he’s not managed consistently thus far.

If he can improve in the air and in terms of consistent accuracy and decision making then having a better receiving corps will start to make sense and their offense will expand exponentially. Without that, defenses will continue key on him and look to make him force him to throw. Over a season that’s not worked well for Chicago overall or his health, though he’s put up a lot of ground yardage.

It could as easily be that this is his last chance season to show he is the guy Chicago wants to build around as much as the one that shows him to be the great threat Leatherhead envisages here. If it doesn’t work for them this year, then next year is a year to seek a QB in the draft and where they are in rebuilding. It’s interesting that they were more cautious than many expected in FA this year given their huge amount of available cap. Hedging their bets at QB could be a reason for that, possibly.

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Bure9620's picture

July 10, 2023 at 07:12 pm

There is no doubt Fields causes issues with his legs but I don't think I would say he is the best weapon in the NFC North. Even with his rushing yards, he is still the worst QB in the league as far as pass efficiency. He is not Lamar Jackson or Jalen Hurts, you just have to be able to complete forward passes in this league. Jones, Watson, Jefferson, Amon Ra St. Brown are all better weapons

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White92's picture

July 11, 2023 at 01:35 pm

Hate to say it, but you are right. He had no receivers last year. He now has a legit #1 and 2 others that are at least capable. Sleep on these guys at your own peril.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

July 10, 2023 at 07:36 pm

I like that Packer D and it could have others.
Imagine if Love and Watson were to displace a couple names on offense.
It would mean a division title and deep playoff run.

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Coldworld's picture

July 11, 2023 at 07:19 am

To me it just illustrates how weak this division is in terms of proven caliber. There’s quite a bit of potential out there, a lot of which is in GB. It remains to be seen how many of these names would make an all North team in November and at season end. If the division is to be improved, not all that many I suspect based upon recent performance at least.

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Vachio's picture

July 11, 2023 at 08:52 am

"You could maybe make an argument for David Montgomery over Jones"

Only if you've never watched either of them play. :)

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Lphill's picture

July 11, 2023 at 09:12 am

This article reminds me of how little first round pick Devonte Wyatt was used by Joe Barry , he seemed to make an impact in his limited snaps .

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Doug Madigan's picture

July 11, 2023 at 05:52 pm

No Punter or Kicker or Returner?

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