Is Green Bay still the team to beat? Scouts give their take on the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings
Three different teams have won the NFC North the past three seasons with Green Bay entering 2020 as the defending champ. So can the Packers successfully defend their title or will it change hands yet again?
Minnesota appears to be the biggest challenger to Green Bay with Chicago and Detroit hoping to make it a four-team affair. Quarterbacks will be one of the primary storylines for the NFC North with Aaron Rodgers' future a hot topic following the Packers drafting Jordan Love in the first round.
Many are saying the Vikings will go as far as Kirk Cousins can take them and the Bears will have a quarterback competition in training camp between Mitchell Trubisky and Nick Foles. And while Lions general manager Bob Quinn and head coach Matt Patricia are probably under more pressure than Matthew Stafford, the team could be coming to a crossroads with its franchise quarterback. That's what happens when your last division title came way back in 1993 with just seven playoff appearances since.
In order to get an accurate assessment of how the four NFC North teams are shaping up heading into the 2020 season, Athlon asked NFL scouts to talk anonymously about the Bears, Lions, Packers and Vikings.
Note: These scouting reports come directly from NFL scouts and do not necessarily reflect the views of Athlon's editorial staff.
"The Windy City had high expectations for 2018 Coach of the Year Matt Nagy after the Bears made the playoffs in his first season. But their worst nightmare became a reality — missing the playoffs in 2019 and everyone questioning GM Ryan Pace on taking QB Mitchell Trubisky over Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson."
"They made an offseason trade for QB Nick Foles to compete with Trubisky for the starting spot."
"Expect more touches for playmaker Tarik Cohen and RB David Montgomery."
"Allen Robinson II once again played like a top-10 WR, and Anthony Miller is coming on strong, but look for a dark horse to emerge."
"This is the highest-paid TE group in the NFL but had one of the lowest outputs. Therefore, they signed TE Jimmy Graham, who hopes for a career revival, and drafted TE Cole Kmet — but what about Adam Shaheen?" [Editor's note: Shaheen was traded to Miami for a conditional 2021 seventh-round draft pick prior to the start of training camp.]
"The OL gets masked with their offensive style, but there was a glaring weakness at RG."
"With ILB Roquan Smith becoming a rising star, the return of DT Akiem Hicks and addition of pass rusher Robert Quinn to complement All-Pro edge Khalil Mack, this is one of the most dominant front sevens in the NFL."
"CB Kyle Fuller has made consecutive Pro Bowls, but who will start opposite of him?"
"Eddie Jackson is the best ballhawk safety in the NFL, but it will be a training camp battle to see who emerges as the opposite starter."
"It's a make-it-or-break-it type of season for Trubisky and this regime."
"They drafted star RB D'Andre Swift to help take the load off RB Kerryon Johnson after an injury-riddled season."
"Darrell Bevell dialed up a lethal passing attack that still finished top 10 with an underrated WR group featuring deep threat Kenny Golladay, veteran Marvin Jones Jr. and consistent slot WR Danny Amendola."
"This OL has improved drastically under GM Bob Quinn's tenure and got better with the signing of versatile OL Halapoulivaati Vaitai."
"Defensive-minded head coach Matt Patricia will be tasked with improving one of the worst defenses in the NFL last season. DE Trey Flowers is dependable, but they have no other dynamic pass rushers."
"ILB Jarrad Davis has been a huge disappointment, so they signed versatile ex-Patriot LB Jamie Collins to help."
"They traded away Pro Bowl CB Darius Slay, so they added veteran CB Desmond Trufant and Jeff Okudah, the best CB in the draft. They made a trade with the Patriots for rangy playmaker Duron Harmon — important considering they only had seven INTs as a defense."
"It'll be a big year for this organization. If they stumble again, we could see a new regime in Detroit."
"It was a near-perfect start for first-year head coach Matt LaFleur — NFC North champs and a 13–3 record (before getting annihilated in the NFC Championship Game by the 49ers)."
"QB Aaron Rodgers is still elite, but the Packers drafted his presumed replacement in the first round in Jordan Love."
"They also took rookie RB AJ Dillon with RB Aaron Jones entering the final year of his contract."
"Star WR Davante Adams is one of the best route runners in the NFL, and with the addition of 'bigger' WR Devin Funchess, this unit should improve this season. [Editor's note: Funchess has opted out of playing this season due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.]
"They released disappointing TE Jimmy Graham but re-signed veteran TE Marcedes Lewis with high expectations for second-year TE Jace Sternberger and rookie Josiah Deguara."
"They have an underrated LT in David Bakhtiari, a solid interior OL and they signed division rival RT Rick Wagner from the Lions."
"Defensive coordinator Mike Pettine had a top-10 defense with an athletic front four led by Kenny Clark, but they must get stouter vs. teams who can run the ball."
"This was one of the best edge units in the NFL last season with Za'Darius Smith and Preston Smith, who combined for 25.5 sacks, but last year's first-round pick, edge Rashan Gary, was disappointing."
"They need to find a leader at an ILB spot, and they signed veteran Christian Kirksey with expectations that Oren Burks or Ty Summers will be a reliable complement."
"CB Jaire Alexander is a rising superstar, and lengthy CB Kevin King stepped up last season, but they must keep adding quality depth to this unit."
"Expect a big jump from second-year safety Darnell Savage and veteran Adrian Amos."
"With the organization drafting Rodgers' replacement, it should light a fire for him to lead this team to the Super Bowl."
"Kirk Cousins got paid top-five QB money but hasn't played up to that level."
"Dalvin Cook is finally becoming the star RB he was in college, and the Vikings finished sixth in rushing last season."
"They had arguably the best WR duo in the NFL with Adam Thielen and Stefon Diggs but traded the latter to Buffalo and drafted dependable WR Justin Jefferson to be his replacement."
"The defense moved on from longtime DE Everson Griffen, DT Linval Joseph and former All-Pro CB Xavier Rhodes, who had the biggest decline of any player in the NFL."
"DE Danielle Hunter is one of the best pass rushers in the NFL, and the team hopes Ifeadi Odenigbo (seven sacks) can step into a starting role after being a role player last season."
"This is a top-three ILB unit with All-Pro Eric Kendricks and Anthony Barr."
"CBs Trae Waynes and Mackensie Alexander departed in free agency, so expect CB Mike Hughes and first-round pick Jeff Gladney to be their Day One starters."
"The unsung hero of this defense is Harrison Smith, who is one of the smartest, toughest and most instinctive safeties in the NFL."
"The Vikings are talented, but their ability to take the next step will depend solely on the consistency of Cousins."