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Bob Wojnowski, John Niyo and Justin Rogers break down the Lions' offense after minicamps. The Detroit News

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Eric Coughlin of The Detroit News ranks the top 25 offensive players in the NFC North.

1. Aaron Rodgers: Packers, QB

A no-doubter. Rodgers will be motivated after having last season cut short due to injury. The odds-on favorite to win NFL MVP has averaged 7.9 yards per attempt over his career, putting him at the top of this list.

2. Matthew Stafford: Lions, QB

He's put up big numbers, even post-Calvin Johnson, and he hasn't won a playoff game yet, but there's no doubt Stafford is one of the top players in the division. He's cut down on his interceptions in the last two seasons and has never played a full season in which he's thrown for fewer than 4,200 yards. At 30 years old, Stafford's right in the middle of his prime for a quarterback.

3. Dalvin Cook: Vikings, RB

After only playing four games in his rookie season because of a torn ACL, Cook's appearance on this list is due more to his potential than NFL production. If he's healthy, Cook will be a huge threat out of the backfield, especially if new Vikings quarterback Kirk Cousins is on target. Michigan fans will remember Cook as the running back that tore up UM’s elite defense in the 2016 Orange Bowl when Cook was at Florida State.

4. Adam Thielen: Vikings, WR

A breakout star over last two seasons, Thielen joined the Vikings as an undrafted free agent. He had 91 catches for 1,276 yards last season, and if he improves on those numbers this season, he could be considered the best receiver in the league.

5. David Bakhtiari: Packers, LT

A Pro Bowler in 2016, Bakhtiari has been protecting Aaron Rodgers since 2013. Considered one of the most talented tackles in the league, he's started every game since he was drafted. Bakhtiari doesn't play a skill position, but he's definitely one of the most talented offensive players in the division.

6. Golden Tate: Lions, WR

As Matthew Stafford's favorite target, there might not be a better receiver after the catch in the entire NFL than Tate. Consistently productive, he's had more than 800 receiving yards in each of his four seasons with the Lions. Tate might never again get close to the career-high 1,331 yards he accumulated in 2014, but he's plenty talented enough to be on this list.

7. Jordan Howard: Bears, RB

If quarterback Mitch Trubisky improves in Chicago, it could give Howard extra room to operate – not that he needs all that much. The former Indiana back has 2,435 yards in two season with the Bears. At 23 years old he's coming into his prime years at running back.

8. Stefon Diggs: Vikings, WR

He hasn't put up huge numbers, but Diggs will always be remembered in Minnesota for his winning touchdown reception as time expired against the Saints last season in the playoffs. The 2015 fifth-rounder might never be a team's No. 1 wide receiver, but his game-breaking speed will always make him a sought-after asset. Plus, with the addition of Kirk Cousins under center, Diggs could be in line for his biggest season yet. 

9. Kyle Rudolph: Vikings, TE

Just two seasons removed from an 83-catch year, Rudolph has shown he has the skills to be a top-flight tight end. He'll have to develop chemistry with new quarterback Kirk Cousins, but he usually ends up being a security blanket for whoever is throwing passes in Minnesota. Pencil Rudolph in for 600 yards and six or seven TD this season.

10. Davante Adams: Packers, WR

The Packers made a major investment in Adams and it probably will pay off. He's set for a career year with Jordy Nelson gone and Aaron Rodgers healthy. At 25 years old, Adams is ready to become the Packers' No. 1 receiver. Expect him to eclipse the career-high 997 yards he put up in 2016.

11. Kirk Cousins: Vikings, QB

The former Michigan State star earned his whopping contract ($28 million per year) after carrying a 93.7 quarterback rating over a six-year career with Washington. Cousins will have all the weight of Minnesota on him where the Vikings are hoping to leap from the NFC championship game last season to the Super Bowl this season.

12. Taylor Decker: Lions, LT

Decker, responsible for protecting Matthew Stafford’s blind side, has established himself as a critical link in the Lions’ offensive line as he heads into this third NFL season. His injury in 2017, which kept him out of the first half of the season, was a void the Lions never really filled.

13. Theo Riddick: Lions, RB

Surprised to see a member of the Lions' run game? It's not for his rushing stats, which are decidedly pedestrian; it's for his pass-catching ability out of the backfield. The former Notre Dame back has more than 300 receiving yards in each of the last three seasons, including an eye-popping 697 in 2015. Even if the Lions never handed him the ball, Riddick would deserve inclusion on this list.

14. Allen Robinson: Bears, WR

A new addition to the NFC North, Robinson comes over from the Jaguars, where he enjoyed productive seasons in 2015 and 2016. Robinson tore his ACL in Week 1 of 2017, ending his season with one catch. If the former Orchard Lake St. Mary's star can get back to his pre-injury production, Robinson will be one of the most feared wideouts in the division.

15. Marvin Jones: Lions, WR

If the Lions ever figure out their running game it could take pressure off Jones in the passing game. The deep threat had 1,101 yards last season, even with the extra attention. Jones has improved every year he's been in the league and just turned 28.

16. Tarik Cohen: Bears, RB

After catching 53 passes and rushing only 87 times in his rookie campaign last season, it will be interesting to see how new Bears coach Matt Nagy decides to use Cohen. He has plenty of potential as a runner, and after only one season those skills are still evolving, but as a pass-catcher he has already impressed. Cohen won't be the Bears' No. 1 back, but he'll produce one way or another.

17. James Daniels: Bears, LG

An Iowa product, Daniels was taken in the second round by the Bears, but they considered him a first-round talent. The Bears are entrusting him with protecting Mitch Trubisky, who they hope will make a big leap this season. Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton left in free agency, and Daniels will be counted on to replace him.

18. Frank Ragnow: Lions, G

As a first-round pick in 2018, Ragnow has huge potential. His selection wasn’t met with much excitement from Lions fans, but he could easily become the best interior lineman in the division. Ragnow played center at Arkansas, but he’s expected to be a guard in Detroit.

19. Randall Cobb: Packers, WR

Sure, he’s benefitted from having Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback, but Cobb and Davante Adams form an above-average receiver duo. He’s racked up more than 5,100 yards over his seven-year career, and he has great chemistry with Rodgers. Cobb may not have many seasons of elite production left, but for now he belongs on this list.

20. Kerryon Johnson: Lions, RB

Taken No. 43 overall by the Lions in this year’s draft, Johnson is the latest running back hoping to resurrect Detroit’s ground game. He averaged 4.9 yards per carry with 20 offensive touchdowns for Auburn in 2017. Johnson was considered a steal in the second round, but the Lions haven’t developed a star running back since Barry Sanders.

21. LeGarrette Blount: Lions, RB

The Lions’ most experienced option at running back, Blount has averaged 4.4 yards per carry with 51 rushing touchdowns over his career. The ninth-year player is fresh off a year with the Philadelphia Eagles that saw him win a Super Bowl, probably making him the Lion with the most success in the postseason. Blount won’t get the most carries in Detroit, but the Lions will appreciate his contributions.

22. Charles Leno: Bears, LT

After steadily improving over the last two years, Leno is now among the best offensive tackles in the NFL.  Since allowing 42 pressures in 2015, he improved to 36 in 2016 and 24 in 2017. If that rate of improvement continues, Leno will be an O-line star.

23. Aaron Jones: Packers, RB

The best Green Bay running back last season, Jones averaged 5.5 yards per carry in 2017. He had big games against the Cowboys (125 yards, one touchdown) and Saints (131 yards, one touchdown) and will try to improve on his 448 total rushing yards. The Packers' backfield is crowded, but Jones will probably emerge.

24. Mitch Trubisky: Bears, QB

In his rookie season last year, Trubisky showed good decision-making, accuracy and scrambling ability. He’s got a good shot to improve in 2018 with added weapons and a season under his belt. Trubisky has a long way to go in order to jump any other quarterback on this list, but the Bears would be happy with any improvement over last year.

25. Jimmy Graham: Packers, TE

Many think the Packers paid too much for the aging Graham (three years, $30 million), but if he can get back to an elite level, Green Bay’s offense will be much more potent. He’s still a viable red-zone target, hauling down 10 touchdowns last year for Seattle, but asking for the 99 catches he had with New Orleans in 2011 would be too much. As long as Graham can get up to around 60 receptions and double-digit touchdowns, the Packers’ offense will be improved.

 

 

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