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NFC North projected starters for 2024 NFL season: New era for Bears' offense; can Packers push Lions?

With the 2024 NFL Draft and most of free agency in the rearview, Gregg Rosenthal will project starting lineups for all 32 teams because that's his idea of fun. Check out the NFC North breakdowns below.

Table inside Article
QB Caleb Williams Edge Montez Sweat
RB D'Andre Swift DT Gervon Dexter Sr.
WR DJ Moore DT Zacch Pickens
WR Keenan Allen Edge DeMarcus Walker
WR Rome Odunze LB T.J. Edwards
TE Cole Kmet LB Tremaine Edmunds
LT Braxton Jones CB Jaylon Johnson
LG Teven Jenkins CB Tyrique Stevenson
C Coleman Shelton CB Kyler Gordon
RG Nate Davis S Jaquan Brisker
RT Darnell Wright S Kevin Byard III
  • I love the depth everywhere throughout this offense, except behind Caleb Williams. Tyson Bagent profiles as a fine long-term backup, but Williams could use someone who's more experienced in the quarterback room.
  • But seriously: the depth. It's hard to believe this is a Chicago Bears offense. Khalil Herbert and Roschon Johnson provide insurance at running back behind D'Andre Swift. The receiver trio could rival any in football. Tight end Gerald Everett is an experienced backup to Cole Kmet.
  • Even the offensive line has options, with trade acquisition Ryan Bates able to contribute at center or guard. Drafting Rome Odunze, a difference-making receiver who is also a future No. 1, ninth overall made sense, given that Chicago's tackle options were solid enough.
  • The receiver spots will be so flexible. Odunze, Keenan Allen and DJ Moore can all play inside and out, even if Allen ends up in the slot the most.
  • I have more concerns about the defense. It was fantastic down the stretch last season, but analysts and fans get fooled by hot defensive stretches every year. Such stretches are not that predictive -- or, at least, not any more predictive than the sub-mediocre marks that coach Matt Eberflus put up for the first year and a half of his tenure.
  • The defensive line is the biggest worry. The Bears need their 2023 draft picks (second-rounder Gervon Dexter Sr. and third-rounder Zacch Pickens) to step up at defensive tackle, and Montez Sweat, a great midseason acquisition last year, needs more help in a thin edge group.
  • T.J. Edwards and Tremaine Edmunds settled in as an excellent linebacker pair down the stretch last season. Since arriving on the job in 2022, Chicago general manager Ryan Poles has invested heavily in the secondary, and the young cornerback group should be awesome.
  • It was a surprise to see Kevin Byard III receive a generous contract (two years, $15 million) and presumptive starting role after he struggled for two teams last season.
  • Caleb Williams is worth the hype. He has enough help around him. But Eberflus still has to prove he can keep up before we put the Bears ahead of the Lions or Packers.
Table inside Article
QB Jared Goff Edge Aidan Hutchinson
RB Jahmyr Gibbs DT Alim McNeill
WR Amon-Ra St. Brown DT D.J. Reader
WR Jameson Williams Edge James Houston
WR Donovan Peoples-Jones LB Alex Anzalone
TE Sam LaPorta LB Derrick Barnes
LT Taylor Decker CB Carlton Davis
LG Graham Glasgow CB Terrion Arnold
C Frank Ragnow CB Brian Branch
RG Kevin Zeitler S Kerby Joseph
RT Penei Sewell S Ifeatu Melifonwu
  • Jared Goff's new contract extension solidifies his future in Detroit. I also love that the Lions have a quality backup option in Hendon Hooker, a third-round draft pick last year.
  • It's hard to accomplish everything in the offseason. The front office did a great job re-signing the Lions' core and addressing their secondary. That said, it's surprising that Donovan Peoples-Jones and Kalif Raymond are still vying for the third receiver job.
  • The team is also banking on Jameson Williams, who has shown enough to make one believe a breakout could be around the corner. His role is lessened somewhat by how good TE Sam LaPorta and RB Jahmyr Gibbs are in the passing game.
  • There's every reason to believe Gibbs will finish with more touches than David Montgomery this season, although Montgomery was even better than expected in 2023. The running back position will remain a committee.
  • The offensive line should continue to be a strength. The unit will have to work in new addition Kevin Zeitler, however, and the depth isn't quite what it was, which could be an issue if an injury strikes.
  • It's anyone's guess as to who starts opposite Aidan Hutchinson on the edge. Marcus Davenport has the talent to produce, but he can't stay on the field. James Houston gets to the passer, and John Cominsky is a great role player. And the Lions haven't given up on 2022 second-rounder Josh Paschal, either. For a while now, this group has looked better on paper than it does on the field.
  • Veteran signee D.J. Reader's recovery from his second torn quad is something to watch. The Lions are well-protected, though, with quality depth at defensive tackle: Brodric Martin, Levi Onwuzurike and possibly rookie Mekhi Wingo.
  • I'm projecting last year's other (non-Jahmyr Gibbs) first-round pick, Jack Campbell, to come off the bench as part of a solid three-man rotation at linebacker.
  • Cornerback in Detroit was addressed as aggressively as any position in football. The Carlton Davis experience can be a roller-coaster ride, but he's worth it. Both first-round pick Terrion Arnold and second-rounder Ennis Rakestraw Jr. have mature games that should transition to the pros well.
  • Brian Branch may play more pure safety this year, but he's proven so good as a slot corner that the Lions might not want to move him.
  • It's possible the offensive line declines a little and the defensive line doesn't step up. But I find it hard to see this team failing to maintain its level of excellence. Overall, the roster is among the league's best, with a mix of youth, continuity and talent.
Table inside Article
QB Jordan Love Edge Rashan Gary
RB Josh Jacobs DT Kenny Clark
WR Jayden Reed DT Devonte Wyatt
WR Romeo Doubs Edge Preston Smith
WR Dontayvion Wicks LB Quay Walker
TE Luke Musgrave LB Edgerrin Cooper
LT Rasheed Walker CB Jaire Alexander
LG Elgton Jenkins CB Carrington Valentine
C Josh Myers CB Keisean Nixon
RG Jordan Morgan S Xavier McKinney
RT Zach Tom S Javon Bullard
  • It hurt to initially leave Dontayvion Wicks off this list for Christian Watson, so I changed the projection in the end. Wicks' route-running and ball-winning pop off the screen and had to get the nod.
  • Jayden Reed's role is the most locked in. He can develop into an Amon-Ra St. Brown-type player for Matt LaFleur, starting now. Romeo Doubs was the most consistent outside option last year and was a monster in the playoffs. Watson might never be a complete receiver, but he can add an explosive element if he stays healthy.
  • The Packers are similarly young and deep at tight end, where both Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft flashed by the end of their rookie season last year.
  • First-round pick Jordan Morgan will work at left tackle initially; he was presumably drafted to take over the spot eventually. But I wouldn't be surprised if, in typical Packers fashion, they wind up making him a guard this year as they search for the best combination.
  • Injuries happen to every offense. Few teams are better equipped to deal with them than the Packers, except at quarterback. Seventh-round pick Michael Pratt has a chance to be Jordan Love's backup.
  • With Kenny Clark (28) getting older, the Packers could use more consistency from his tag-team partner, Devonte Wyatt, after a big uptick in usage for Wyatt last year. T.J. Slaton also gets starter snaps.
  • The edge group is mostly the same. The workload of last year's first-round pick, Lukas Van Ness, increased late last season, and he could take Preston Smith's job eventually. Smith is somehow the only player over 30 on this roster.
  • If second-round pick Edgerrin Cooper starts as a rookie, the Packers will have a linebacker group as fast as any in football.
  • They believe in Carrington Valentine, a seventh-round pick in 2023 who played well late last season. There are more options on the bench (Eric Stokes, Corey Ballentine), but cornerback is the most vulnerable position on the team. The Packers need Jaire Alexander to rebound from an injury-riddled season.
  • The biggest personnel change on defense comes at safety. I love the Xavier McKinney signing. Second-round pick Javon Bullard has a shot to start as a rookie.
  • The biggest change overall is at coordinator. New DC Jeff Hafley is a relative unknown, with his most recent experience coming at Boston College and Ohio State. This group underperformed relative to its talent for years under Hafley's predecessor, Joe Barry.
  • It's hard not to get excited about this offense, which could still be the youngest in football. The Packers got closer to the Super Bowl last season than anyone expected and can absolutely unseat the Lions in the division.
Table inside Article
QB J.J. McCarthy Edge Jonathan Greenard
RB Aaron Jones DT Harrison Phillips
WR Justin Jefferson Edge Andrew Van Ginkel
WR Jordan Addison Edge Dallas Turner
WR Trent Sherfield Sr. LB Blake Cashman
TE T.J. Hockenson CB Byron Murphy Jr.
LT Christian Darrisaw CB Mekhi Blackmon
LG Blake Brandel CB Shaq Griffin
C Garrett Bradbury S Harrison Smith
RG Ed Ingram S Camryn Bynum
RT Brian O'Neill S Josh Metellus
  • J.J. McCarthy landed in the perfect situation. The line is mostly settled, the receivers are elite and the coaching is inventive.
  • His competition at quarterback (Sam Darnold) is also too inconsistent in game action. Even if Darnold gets to Week 1 as the starter, McCarthy figures to overtake him early in the season.
  • Keep an eye on Justin Jefferson's contract talks, which could drag into the summer.
  • Jordan Addison can be one of the best No. 2 receivers in football. I'm less concerned about the No. 3 spot (Brandon Powell is also an option), because T.J. Hockenson essentially will serve in that role once he's back from a torn ACL.
  • Aaron Jones finished his final year in Green Bay looking like Aaron Jones. Still, I hope Kevin O'Connell uses backup Ty Chandler liberally, to keep Jones fresh.
  • The guard spots could be better, so don't be surprised if the Vikings add another veteran in free agency.
  • Coordinator Brian Flores' inventive defense showed cracks late last season. That's why I love the pass-rush investment the team made. Flores shouldn't need to send the house as often this year as he did in 2023.
  • I listed three edge players as starters because Andrew Van Ginkel should find a way to get more snaps than any true nose tackle. With that said, the Vikings aren't great at defensive tackle.
  • Can the trio of Jonathan Greenard, Van Ginkel and rookie Dallas Turner be special? If so, this defense has a chance.
  • If the team doesn't generate enough pressure up front, the questions on the back end could have an impact.
  • Blake Cashman was a fun signing at linebacker. Ivan Pace, not included in the lineup above, had a strong rookie season in 2023.
  • I listed six defensive backs as starters because Flores lined up that way so often, and the coordinator loves his three safeties. The cornerback room could be a problem, as is true for so many teams.
  • The Vikings won seven games last season despite starting four quarterbacks. This roster is built for playoff contention in Year 3 under this regime, but being stuck in the NFC's best division will make living up to that potential difficult.

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