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APC NFL Mailbag, Week 1: Defense, Running Backs, and Packers’ outlooks

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Pre-Week 1, I answer questions about fantasy rookies, how the Packers look, and who might break out this season.

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NFL: Houston Texans at Jacksonville Jaguars Logan Bowles-USA TODAY Sports

The rosters are officially down to 53-men and, although, it may take a lot of the drama out of Hard Knocks, we officially have an idea of what our teams will look like going into the 2017-18 season. Some surprise cuts and trades helped shape the current depth charts as we see them. So with Week 1 on the horizon, let’s open another mailbag!

As always, questions will be related to the NFL as a whole, or Green Bay more specifically. Let’s see what we got:

On the Packers or in the NFL? I love this question because I love defense. For the Packers, I wrote about Kenny Clark stepping up in a huge way here. After a relatively quiet rookie season, I expect that Kenny Clark will come through in a big way to help out the Packers.

On offense, the key place to look is obviously at running back with Ty Montgomery. Actually training and practicing as a running back will make a big difference for Ty this year. He’s been absorbing as much as he can when it comes to toting the rock out of the backfield and don’t think he’s forgotten how to be a pass catching weapon. He’s been learning from some solid backs this off-season in Joe Mixon, Melvin Gordon, and Adrian Peterson, so I hope some of that has a positive impact on Montgomery.

Workin' #gopackgo #runningbacks #beexcellenttoeachother

A post shared by Ty Montgomery (@ty_kingdomcitizen) on

Around the league, keep an eye on second-year corners James Bradberry in Carolina and Jalen Ramsey in Jacksonville on defense and Carson Wentz on offense.

At 6’1”, Bradberry is a big, physical corner who is continually developing his coverage skills. He was thrown into the fire last season after the Panthers lost Josh Norman, but as a rookie he started to show more promise towards the end of the season. He’s solidified himself as the team’s CB1 and his teammates really believe in him.

Ramsey isn’t an unknown player, nor did he struggle last year, but he’s in Jacksonville so it’s hard to breakout there. I also believe that we haven’t even come close to his ceiling as a defender. Another big corner (6’2”), Ramsey is the best defender on an improved defense. I put the Jags as the 11th best fantasy defense to start the season and if they outperform that ranking, Ramsey will be a big part of it.

Wentz is my long shot pick, but I’m sticking to my guns here.

According to ProFootballFocus, the Eagles had the #8 offensive line last year. However, their expected starting lineup only started on the field together 5 times. That kind of turnover on the line isn’t helping make a rookie QB comfortable. After a hot start, Wentz got uncomfortable back there and started sailing balls over his receiver’s heads. In the off-season, he’s worked on improving his footwork with Eagles OC and former NFL QB: Frank Reich. Combine the focus on mechanics with better weapons around him, a year of experience, and a consistent o-line will equal a jump in Wentz’ play.

This is always a good question for the Packers because their OLB’s tend to get injured quite frequently. Whether it’s Clay Matthews with some sort of strained muscle or Nick Perry wearing a club, depth is important here for the Packers.

If all are healthy over the course of the season, you’ll see Matthews, Perry, newly acquired Ahmad Brooks, and my guess would be Chris Odom. This isn’t based on any sort of news, but my guess is that they brought in Chris Odom from the Falcons because they weren’t happy with what they were left with after training camp. Meaning: Kyler Fackrell may take a back seat. Fackrell struggled during the start of training camp and we haven’t seen him make the plays that would be required of him as an edge rusher.

It’s hard to know what kind of impact Vince Biegel will have once he’s off the PUP list, but significant snaps don’t appear likely for the rookie in his first year and coming off an injury.

Two stand out match ups on the Packers schedule include the Falcons and Cowboys, but I’m not going with those games. The Cowboys will be without Ezekiel Elliott so it’s tough to know how they’ll look. The Falcons are a Week 2 contest and I believe a Super Bowl hangover is in Green Bay’s favor. I’m not sure how quick you shake off an epic collapse like that and combine it with losing your offensive coordinator that helped you reach record heights on offense.

I’m going Week 1 against the Seahawks!

These two teams are always talked about as contenders for the NFC crown. Seattle may now have the best defense in football and the Packers offense is always a threat with the King in the North behind center.

Great story lines all around, too. Eddie Lacy revenge game, Russell Wilson back in Wisconsin, #BennettBowl, and the Fail Mary game will each be brought up at least 4 times during the broadcast. If everything breaks right for these teams this season, an NFC Championship match up isn’t out of the question and this game could decide where it’s played.

How this game isn’t in prime time, I’ll never know.

Chance Hernandez on Facebook wants to know: Which rookie running back has the best year?

NFL: Jacksonville Jaguars-Training Camp Reinhold Matay-USA TODAY Sports

First, I looked at Fournette. Leonard Fournette is a beast and has been a big playmaker in college, but with Chad freaking Henne as QB for the Jags, it’s tough to imagine opposing defenses won’t just load 7-8 defenders in the box. Think Todd Gurley last year. So I don’t think it’ll be Fournette despite his pedigree and touches.

Second, I looked to Dalvin Cook. Been watching this guy since his Florida State days. He was a homerun hitter then and looks to take the ball the distance while running in Minnesota. But then I looked at the line he’d be running behind. And I got scared for his health. So I’m out on Cook having the best year.

Lastly, I landed on Christian McCaffrey and this is my pick. McCaffrey will not only get a few touches out of the backfield, but he’ll be spread out into the slot, too. Reports before the season state that he’ll have his own playbook that contains McCaffrey-specific plays to put him in the best position to succeed. I like McCaffrey to have the best rookie year (especially in fantasy PPR leagues).

Thanks for all the responses, sports fans! If you submitted a question, but don’t see it answered, fear not! I will hit those up in next week’s mailbag.

Until then, let’s FINALLY get to Week 1.