As part of the O’Zone’s launch, I’m putting together a four-part ‘Studs and Duds’ series. These won’t be obvious picks. Anyone can say Adrian Peterson is poised for a big season. I’m here to list players that might not come to mind when thinking of a particular team. I will list one stud and one dud for each NFL team; listing players from one division per article. In this column, I’ll take on the NFC North. Let’s get to it.
Stud: Kevin White, Wide Receiver
White was selected with the third pick in the 2015 NFL Draft but saw no action on the field because of a stress fracture in his left leg. This year, however, he’ll line up opposite of Chicago’s No. 1 receiver, Alshon Jeffery. White, the No. 2 receiver, will face off against opposing teams’ No. 2 cornerback. Standing at 6-3 with a 4.35 40-yard dash, not many defensive backs will be able to keep up with the second year man out of West Virginia. If he can stay on the field, White is in store for a huge year.
Dud: Jeremy Langford, Running back
When Matt Forte went down with a left knee injury against the Vikings in Week 8, Bears backup running back Jeremy Langford made the most of his opportunity. The rookie averaged 20.8 fantasy points in three games after Forte went down, showing Bears fans that they might have a future stud in the making. Be cautious when evaluating Langford. He’ll be sharing carries with Kadeem Carey and newly acquired Jacquizz Rodgers. John Fox loves rotating his running backs, and I expect more of the same this season with the Bears.
Stud: Marvin Jones, Wide Receiver
Jones has spent the majority of his career beneath the shadows of star Cincinnati Bengals receiver A.J. Green. Jones won’t be the No. 1 option in Detroit, but his main competition for targets, Golden Tate, isn’t nearly as dominant as Green is. Jones finished last season with eight less points than Tate, who is more of a screen and intermediate pass threat. Jones will be the primary deep threat in Jim Bob Cooter’s pass-heavy offense, so he will have an opportunity to build on his impressive 65/816/4 season.
Dud: Eric Ebron, Tight End
Last season, the Detroit Lions’ top three tight ends combined for 63 receptions. Nine tight ends finished last season with more than 70. Ebron has the talent, but the situation is far from ideal. Calvin Johnson is gone, so maybe Ebron will see more red zone looks, but the volume of targets simply isn’t there to justify ranking him as a top-15 option,
Green Bay Packers
Stud: Randall Cobb, Wide Receiver
When Jordy Nelson went down with a torn right ACL in the Packers’ preseason game against the Raiders last season, Cobb was forced into the No. 1 receiver role. Many expected the slot receiver to flourish, but he floundered. Instead of focusing on Nelson, opposing corners centered their focus on Cobb, who saw an immediate and extreme drop-off in production. After posting a line of 91/1,287/12 in 2014, he struggled to a line of 79/829/6 in 2015. With Nelson in tow, I expect Cobb to bounce back in a big way.
Dud: Devante Adams, Wide Receiver
Adams was another receiver expected to step up in Nelson’s absence, but amassed only 53 fantasy points in 14 games last season. Blessed with a 6-2, 215-pound frame, Adams has the physical attributes to be a legit outside NFL receiver. Quarterback Aaron Rogers has gone on record voicing his praises of the young receiver, but Adams has yet to grow into the perimeter threat he was drafted to be. I expect most of Green Bay’s offensive weapons to have a good season, but Adams is a player I remain low on, especially with Nelson’s return. If he can’t get it done as the No. 2 receiver, I doubt he’ll be able to as the No. 3.
Stud: LaQuon Treadwell, Wide Receiver
The Vikings went into the 2016 NFL draft stacked with speedy receivers. Charles Johnson, Stephon Diggs and Cordarelle Patterson are all burners on the outside, but they lacked the premier red zone threat to compliment their run-first attack. Treadwell excels at exploding up and reeling in the ball over defenders. The Ole Miss product has strength similar to Anquan Boldin, allowing him to absorb hits from hard-hitting safeties. The box will be loaded because of Adrian Peterson, leaving one less man out of opposing secondaries. I expect Treadwell to become a pivotal part of Minnesota’s play action game, especially in the red zone, where all eyes will be on Peterson.
Dud: Charles Johnson, Wide Receiver
A lot of buzz has surrounded Johnson in his young career, but that buzz hasn’t equated to results on the field. Athletically, Johnson is everything teams want in an outside receiver. He posesses a 39-inch vertical leap to go with his 4.38 speed. Johnson’s issues are a result of a combination of factors. First off, he hasn’t been able to stay on the field. He’s missed half of his games in two years in the NFL. More reliable options have been found to counter Johnson’s absence. Stefon Diggs dazzled as a rookie last season and the Vikings used their first-round pick on Treadwell in the 2016 draft. The combination of those three factors tells me the Vikings are becoming hesitant to heavily involve the third-year receiver.