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The Best Players of the NFC North: Ranking Each Offensive Position

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By Marc Lillibridge February 21, 2021 0 Comment
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Marc Lillibridge, former NFL agent and scout, ranks the players at each position to find the best players in the NFC North.

Today I’ll be ranking the best players in the NFC North by their position. This is an exercise I did every year after the season, heading into free agency while working in personnel for the Green Bay Packers and Kansas City Chiefs. To be able to get a sense of a team’s strengths and weaknesses, you need to be able to self-scout as well as know all the other team’s highs and lows, especially in your division.

Now understand, typically if I was doing this for a specific team, I would note if the player was an upgrade over who my team currently had on the roster. Example: The only upgrade in the NFC North over David Montgomery is Dalvin Cook.

The goal is to have the No. 1 guy at every position. That is impossible with the salary cap, but that is the ultimate peak. A team is a consistent playoff contender if they have a player in the top two spots at a majority of positions.

I will be breaking down each side of the football and going division by division before free agency. I am only ranking the most consistent starter. This is how I see them, but will love the debate from fans of all teams. But before you debate me, ask yourself this question: Does ‘Player A’ upgrade my team over current ‘Player B’? Here are my best players in the NFC North, by position:

Quarterback:

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: The premier QB in the entire NFL.

Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions: Is tough, has a cannon, and is a top-flight leader.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: Accurate passer but lacks elite starter qualities.

Mitch Trubisky/Nick Foles, Chicago Bears: This position needs an upgrade here and was the main reason for the Bears’ poor record in 2020.

Running Back: 

Dalvin Cook, Minnesota Vikings (669 snaps): Whether used as a runner or pass catcher, Cook is one of the premier players at the position in the NFL.

David Montgomery, Chicago Bears (795 snaps): When used correctly, Montgomery is a solid starter in the league. Very durable.

Aaron Jones, Green Bay Packers (608 snaps): When healthy, has high-end long speed. Durability is an issue. Needs to be in a rotation.

D’Andre Swift, Detroit Lions (398 snaps): Decent rookie campaign. Has upside but must be able to be counted on week to week.

Fullback: 

CJ Ham, Minnesota Vikings (405): One of the most used and effective lead blockers in the NFL. Strong at POA to move defender.

Jason Cabinda, Detroit Lions (131): Has steadily regressed each of the past three seasons.

Wide Receiver #1:

Davante Adams, Green Bay Packers (904): The most complete WR in the NFL.

Allen Robinson II, Chicago Bears (954): With a stable QB, would be up for All-Pro every season.

Adam Thielen, Minnesota Vikings (926): Quick, soft hands & excellent route runner. Days as No. 1 WR in Minnesota are over though.

Marvin Jones Jr., Detroit Lions (940): Needs to be more consistent with his hands. Gives average effort as a blocker.

Wide Receiver #2:

Justin Jefferson, Minnesota Vikings (886): Almost not fair grading him here. Will enter 2021 competing with Adams for most elite in NFC North.

Darnell Mooney, Chicago Bears (782): Outstanding rookie campaign. Has all the physical & mental tools to be a WR1.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Green Bay Packers (875): MVS is a big-play threat but inconsistent hands & lack of focus hold him back.

Danny Amendola, Detroit Lions (461): Solid veteran slot guy who has zero right being listed as a No. 2.

Tight End:

TJ Hockenson, Detroit Lions (766): Still ascending player who is above average as a run & pass blocker. Is a weapon in the pass game.

Robert Tonyan, Green Bay Packers (734): Breakout year in 2020. Needs to back up play in 2021. Run blocking needs to improve, especially sustain.

Kyle Rudolph (573)/Irv Smith Jr., Minnesota Vikings (545): The time has come for Smith to take the starter role. Last 3 weeks of the season, Smith was a major upgrade.

Jimmy Graham (649)/Cole Kmet, Chicago Bears (644): Graham is better served as a role receiving option. Kmet is the future but needs a strong offseason.

Left Tackle: 

David Bakhtiari, Green Bay Packers (758): Not just one of the best players in the NFC North, best in entire league. Smooth in kick set to anchor with power.

Taylor Decker, Detroit Lions (1048): Year after year, with no fanfare, handles his position.

Charles Leno, Jr., Chicago Bears (1115): Upgraded his play in 2020 after a tough 2019 season. Reliable & durable. Not appreciated as much as he should be.

Riley Reiff, Minnesota Vikings (1003): Always solid as a pass blocker, but stiff & slow as a run blocker.

Right Tackle: 

Brian O’Neill, Minnesota Vikings (1070): Only Bakhtiari is better in NFC North. Still an improving player who could be top at his position soon.

Billy Turner, Green Bay Packers (1030): His ability to play both tackle spots is vital for the Packers. An afterthought in 2017, Turner has turned his game around.

Bobby Massie, Chicago Bears (470): The once solid starter has regressed. The Bears will look to upgrade here.

Tyrell Crosby, Detroit Lions (657): Crosby is a below-average starter at tackle. Will be on a short leash with new staff.

Left Guard:

Lucas Patrick, Green Bay Packers (1086): Not dominant in one area, but gained confidence as the season progressed.

Jonah Jackson, Detroit Lions (1006): Got thrown into the fire early & struggled. Jackson is at least young but needs to improve.

Dakota Dozier, Minnesota Vikings (1083): Has gotten worse every year of his NFL career. Should not be a starter.

James Daniels/Alex Bars, Chicago Bears: Both struggled in 2020 (though Bars has upside) and the Bears will be looking to improve at interior OL in free agency & draft.

Right Guard:

Elgton Jenkins, Green Bay Packers (1184): Has the talent to be a top-four OG in NFL if he can stay at one position for an entire season.

Germain Ifedi, Chicago Bears (1115): Forced to move to tackle after Bobby Massie injury. Ifedi resurrected his career at guard in Chicago.

Oday Aboushi, Detroit Lions (662): Solid starter who handles his business on game day.

Ezra Cleveland, Minnesota Vikings (662): Room to grow as a pass blocker, especially with his ability to anchor. But solid run blocker.

Center:

Corey Linsley, Green Bay Packers (880): A born leader, Linsley has quick feet, pitter-patter hands & understands leverage.

Frank Ragnow, Detroit Lions (929): Tough as nails player who understands angles well & wears defenders down.

Cody Whitehair, Chicago Bears (942): Can also play guard. As good as he is as a run blocker, he is equally as poor as a pass blocker.

Garrett Bradbury, Minnesota Vikings (1082): A solid starter due to his propensity to run block, but always needs help in the pass game.

Keep an eye out for my Best Players of the NFC North: Defensive Edition!

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Marc Lillibridge has over 25 years in and around the NFL as a linebacker, scout, agent and media member. President of The Brawl Network.

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