Over the next two weeks, we will unveil our preseason All-Division teams, as is our annual tradition around this time of year. As always, the rosters were compiled largely by a panel of one, though there was significant input from the writing and editorial staff at CBSSports.com after I took an initial run at the rosters on my own.
We began earlier this week with the NFC East, and will move through the rest of the conference this week. Next week, it's on to the AFC. Without further ado, the preseason All-NFC North Team...
Offensive skill positions
QB: Aaron Rodgers (GB)
RB: Dalvin Cook (MIN)
WR: Davante Adams (GB), Allen Robinson (CHI), Justin Jefferson (MIN)
TE: T.J. Hockenson (DET)
FLEX: Aaron Jones (GB)
Coming off an MVP season, Rodgers is positioned to once again be among the league's best quarterbacks. It'll be interesting to see how he transitions to some new offensive linemen, what with Corey Linsley leaving for a new contract with the Chargers and David Bakhtiari still working his way back from a torn ACL, but his combination of pre-snap knowledge, quick-strike instincts, and arm strength on and off-platform make him damn near impossible to stop. So long as he has Adams out there with him, he should be quite good.
Cook is the most well-rounded back in this division. He's stayed healthy in back-to-back seasons, totaling at least 1,600 yards and 13 touchdowns in each of them. He's an excellent pass-catcher and a big-play threat on nearly every tote of the rock, which is exactly what teams look for in their running backs these days.
Adams' connection with Rodgers is up there among the very best in the NFL. Adams is probably the league's best wide receiver at the moment, sporting an outrageous combination of size, strength, length, and body control that allows him and his quarterback to dominate in windows big or small, in all areas of the field. Headed into his age-29 season, he is smack dab in the middle of his prime. Robinson is one of the most underrated receivers in recent NFL history, routinely putting up 1,000-yard seasons despite considerably below-average quarterback play. If Justin Fields can unlock his ceiling, look out. Jefferson, meanwhile, is coming off one of the best rookie seasons of all time and his role in the Vikings offense should only grow as he ages into his prime and Adam Thielen ages out of his own.
It was tough to choose between Hockenson, Robert Tonyan, Irv Smith, and Cole Kmet. None has necessarily shown to be a dominant tight end yet in their career, and they all have their merits. Ultimately, we went with who we feel is the most talented player of the group, and the one that figures to have the largest role in his offense. Jones no longer has Jamaal Williams competing with him for passing-game work, so even if he cedes some carries to A.J. Dillon, he should get most of the high-value touches and be an extremely important, efficient, and explosive player in a high-octane offense.
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OT: David Bakhtiari (GB), Brian O'Neill (MIN)
G: Elgton Jenkins (GB), James Daniels (CHI)
C: Frank Ragnow (DET)
Bakhtiari may begin the season on the Physically Unable to Perform list, but he is the clear class of this division at left tackle. There was no way we were leaving him off the roster. There are, uh, some questions on the right side of the line in this division. Billy Turner is... fine. Penei Sewell is transitioning from the left side to the right. O'Neill is solid enough to earn the nod here, if only because there are more question marks about the other guys than there are with him.
I like the interior of this offensive line a lot. Ragnow has blossomed into a really good center. He's athletic and strong and deserving of his new contract. Jenkins is an extremely versatile player who can fill in at damn near every spot along the line. He seems to have settled in at guard, but that type of flexibility is valuable up front, where teams almost always need to plug injury-related holes. Daniels only played five games in what was a down season for him, but he looked solid in each of his first two years in the league. We're betting on a bounce-back year.
EDGE: Danielle Hunter (MIN), Khalil Mack (CHI)
IDL: Kenny Clark (GB), Akiem Hicks (CHI)
LB: Roquan Smith (CHI), Eric Kendricks (MIN)
FLEX: Za'Darius Smith (GB)
Hunter had to sit out all of last season, but he's healthy now and still in his physical prime. When we last saw him, he was coming off back-to-back 14.5-sack seasons. He still hasn't even turned 27 yet. Mack is getting into his 30s and is no longer the most dominant edge rusher in the league, but he is a damn good one, capable of wrecking an opposing offense's game plan on a weekly basis. New defensive coordinator Sean Desai should put him in position to succeed quite often.
Clark remains one of the NFL's most underrated defenders. He is a mountain in the middle of the defense, and he showed in 2017-19 that he's capable of more than just occupying bodies and stopping the run. He can get after the passer, too. Hicks bounced back from his injury-plagued 2019 season to again be a force on the inside for the Bears, and there's no reason not to expect another strong season for him.
Roquan Smith is just an absurd athlete, and his speed allows him to make plays all over the field in the run game and hang with running backs or tight ends in the pass game. Off-ball linebacker isn't the NFL's most valued position these days -- unless you can find a high-level athlete capable of doing everything. That's what Smith is shaping up to be, and largely what Kendricks already is, as well. He's always in the right position, he gets his hands on the ball, and he can make plays everywhere. Za'Darius Smith is a defensive coordinator's dream chess piece, capable of filling all kinds of roles, rushing from inside and out, stopping the run, and even occasionally dropping into coverage.
CB: Jaire Alexander (GB), Bashaud Breeland (MIN), Patrick Peterson (MIN)
SAF: Darnell Savage (GB), Harrison Smith (MIN)
Alexander is a true, shutdown, No. 1 corner. He was an easy pick for the first cornerback spot. Roster turnover elsewhere in the division made finding a third corner here pretty difficult. Breeland has been quite good for a while now, though, and veteran corners always seem to shine when playing for Mike Zimmer, so we're betting on Peterson having a bounce-back year after an at-times-very-tough 2020 campaign.
Savage is an emerging star safety, and got the nod over both his teammate Adrian Amos and the Bears' Eddie Jackson -- each of whom was more than deserving of a spot on this roster in their own right. Smith is still an elite do-it-all presence for the Vikings, making plays in and around the box, as well as down the field. He can do whatever Zimmer asks of him, which is often a whole lot. Special player.
K: Mason Crosby (GB)
P: Jack Fox (DET)
RET: Kalif Raymond (DET)
I won't lie, I deferred to our resident expert, John Breech, when it came to the kickers and punters. He told me that Crosby was the best kicker and Fox the best punter in this division, and I believe him. Raymond didn't have his best season returning kicks last year, but he averaged a very solid 9 yards per punt return. With Cordarrelle Patterson no longer in this division, he seems like the best bet to be the top return man.