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2011 Fantasy outlooks: Green Bay Packers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Packers overcame injuries, a lack of a run game, injuries, a tough schedule through the postseason, injuries, a loss to the Lions and some more injuries to win Super Bowl XLV. Now the champs are ready for more in 2011, and they're getting all of their hurt players back too.

Yep, another title run for the boys from Titletown is possible. But the injured players aren't the main reason why -- Aaron Rodgers has come into his own as one of the league's elite passers and as one of Fantasy Football's prized jewels, and as long as he's upright the Packers have a good chance. Rodgers totaled 5,016 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns, 13 interceptions, 410 rushing yards and six rushing touchdowns through 20 games last year and has been consistently great since taking over for ol' what's-his-name under center.

Of course, the Packers nearly pulled off two victories (including that blemish at Detroit) without Rodgers, and they won most of their games without a solid run game, so a lot of credit has to go to a receiving corps ripe with talent. Greg Jennings (14 scores in 20 games) is the star there, and Donald Driver (734 yards in 20 games) has moved into a supporting role. With Jermichael Finley returning from a knee injury and young talent in James Jones, Jordy Nelson and rookie Randall Cobb expected to chip in, Rodgers' arm should be in for another season of 520-plus pass attempts.

While the Packers' offense isn't as perfect as it's being made out to be (there is a run game to address), the defense more or less is. As the Packers lost player after player on defense last year, backups stepped into starting roles and made names for themselves. The likes of Desmond Bishop, Sam Shields and Charlie Peprah kept the Packers in games and the defense on top. Now they find themselves with a surplus of talent and only one free agent -- lineman Cullen Jenkins -- on the move. The pieces are there for Green Bay's defense to match, if not exceed, the talent on offense.

Bounce-back candidate ... Ryan Grant, RB

No one should look at Grant and call him over the hill or injury prone. And you'd have to have a selective memory to play the James Starks Card. Fact is, Grant missed 15 1/2 games and the postseason with a freak ankle injury, one that was healed by February. It was a curse for him to succumb to it last September, but it's a blessing now as Grant has basically had a year off and his body feels great entering a contract year. Starks had his moments when he finally got the chance to play late last season, but our hunch is that Grant will get several opportunities to land the Packers' starting job and take on the lion's share of carries. He's done it before, and done it consistently. Starks was in the golden spot last year and couldn't make defenses pay. Grant's a terrific choice as at least a tremendous reserve and at worst a very low-end No. 2 Fantasy rusher.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value
Quarterbacks
Aaron Rodgers
Running Backs
Ryan Grant
James Starks
Alex Green
Wide Receivers
Greg Jennings
James Jones
Donald Driver
Jordy Nelson
Tight Ends
Jermichael Finley
Kickers/Defense
Mason Crosby
Packers DST

Bust ... James Starks, RB

Kind of obvious since we like Grant to bounce back, but because so many Fantasy owners expect Starks to play like he did in, well, one or two games last year, we thought he needed to be addressed. Yes, he rumbled over the Eagles in a playoff game, and yes, he scored on the Bears in the NFC title contest. But otherwise Starks was very pedestrian when he was put in a position to excel. Grant's fine, so he'll provide serious competition for playing time, as could rookie Alex Green (Hmm, why would they spend a third-round pick on a running back if they were happy with Starks?). Tack on Starks' injury history (it would make Brian Westbrook blush) and there's plenty of proof that Starks shouldn't be on your wish list unless you grab Grant with a pick a round or two prior.

Keeper-league target ... Randall Cobb, WR

Cobb is already receiving favorable comparisons to (a younger) Donald Driver. He's got good quickness and hands, offering help not just on offense but on special teams as well. In fact, Cobb might wind up doing most of his damage on kickoff and punt returns this year but eventually drift to the offensive side of the ball where he'll have a shot to pick up a good amount of catches. Of the 144 catches he totaled at Kentucky, a whopping 84 came as a senior in 2010; between that, his speed, his maturity and his intelligence, he's an easy sell for Fantasy owners thinking long-term. Cobb is worth a middle- to late-round pick, probably ahead of a short timer like Driver in dynasty/keeper league drafts.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
NO @CAR @CHI DEN @ATL STL @MIN bye @SD MIN TB @DET @NYG OAK @KC CHI DET

Someone in the NFL's scheduling department likes the Packers. Aside from the first game of the year at home against the Saints, their double date with the Bears, a rematch at Atlanta as one of a handful of tricky road games late in the season, the Packers made out like bandits. Their home slate includes visits from the Buccaneers, Raiders, Broncos and Rams, and they'll also visit the Panthers during the season. One could argue that the toughest defense Rodgers will face this season will be the one he sees in practice every week. Bottom line: The Packers' schedule is not a detriment at all.

2010 Touches Leaders
* includes postseason
Player Touches
Brandon Jackson 244
John Kuhn 111
Greg Jennings 98
Donald Driver 65
James Jones 61

Training camp topics

We know Greg Jennings will start, and we're pretty sure Donald Driver will get involved in the offense from the slot. So what about the receiver spot that's open on the other side of Jennings? James Jones is iffy to return to the Packers and Jordy Nelson, an unsung hero from Super Bowl XLV, could take over. Whoever is there will have a chance to put up some decent numbers since defenses will tilt toward Jennings' side of the field.

The running back battle is obviously worth watching too. Grant should be in line to win the majority of reps but if he's slow or if James Starks comes out hot in camp, that dynamic could change. Of course, there's a chance the run game in Green Bay could become a three- or even four-headed monster (with Alex Green and a fullback to be determined), though much of that will hinge on Grant.

Of course, there's a huge key to the Packers offense we haven't touched on yet: Jermichael Finley. The potential-laden tight end is coming off of a knee injury and should be OK for the start of the season. His productivity when healthy has been solid and his upside is well documented, but at what point will we actually see Finley reach the numbers of someone like Antonio Gates or even Owen Daniels? Finley has missed time in each of his two seasons with knee issues, which is something to be mindful of, as is the Packers' drafting of Arkansas tight end D.J. Williams, who is an athletic pass-catching tight end himself. If Finley can't stay healthy, he might not last much longer in Green Bay. Plenty of risk-reward in Finley -- if you find yourself drafting him, just make sure you pick up a backup or at least keep an eye on a few waiver-wire tight ends every few weeks.

Wow, for a team with such a potent offense, they sure have a bunch of issues to sort out before Week 1. Not a bad problem for the Packers, considering their depth and talent.

Injury update

Jermichael Finley (knee; probable for the start of training camp) ... Donald Driver (ankle; probable for the start of training camp) ... Jordy Nelson (knee; probable for the start of training camp).

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter . You can also follow Dave at @daverichard . Do you have a question or a comment for our Fantasy staff? Drop us a line at dmfantasyfootball@cbs.com .

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Player News
Packers' Aaron Rodgers named NFL MVP at NFL Honors
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(10:01 pm ET) Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers was named the 2015 NFL MVP at the NFL Honors awards show, held Saturday at the Phoenix Symphony Hall in Phoenix, Ariz.

Rodgers played all 16 regular-season games in 2014 for just the second time in the last five seasons, completing 65.6 percent of his passes while racking up 4,381 passing yards, 38 passing touchdowns and five interceptions. He also added two more touchdowns on the ground while gaining 269 rushing yards on 43 carries.

Several other awards were handed out at the ceremony Saturday, as follows.

AP Offensive Player of the Year: DeMarco Murray, Cowboys

AP Defensive Player of the Year: J.J. Watt, Texans

AP Offensive Rookie of the Year: Odell Beckham, Giants

AP Defensive Rookie of the Year: Aaron Donald, Rams

AP Comeback Player of the Year: Rob Gronkowski, Patriots

AP Coach of the Year: Bruce Arians, Cardinals

AP Assistant Coach of the Year: Todd Bowles, Cardinals

Walter Payton Man of Year: Thomas Davis, Panthers

Art Rooney Sportsmanship Award: Larry Fitzgerald, Cardinals

Salute to Service Award: Jared Allen, Bears

NFL.com Fantasy Player of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

FedEx Air Player of the Year: Aaron Rodgers, Packers

FedEx Ground Player of the Year: Le'Veon Bell, Steelers

Deacon Jones Award: Justin Houston, Chiefs

Greatness on the Road Award: Tony Romo, Cowboys

Bridgestone Performance Play of the Year: Odell Beckham one-handed catch

Don Shula High School Coach of the Year: Bruce Larson, Somerset (Wisconsin) High School

In addition, eight finalists were voted into the Hall of Fame: running back Jerome Bettis, wide receiver Tim Brown, defensive end/linebacker Charles Haley, linebacker Junior Seau, guard Will Shields, center Mick Tingelhoff and executives Bill Polian and Ron Wolf.


Seahawks' Kam Chancellor participates in Saturday walkthrough
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8:11 pm ET) Seahawks safety Kam Chancellor injured his knee late in Friday's practice but was well enough to participate in Saturday's walkthrough for Super Bowl XLIX, the Seattle Post-Intelligencer reports.

Coach Pete Carroll indicated optimism that Chancellor, who is considered probable to play Sunday, would be cleared to participate in the Super Bowl, per the Seahawks' pool report.

"He looked pretty good today," Carroll said. "We will make sure we test him in pregame, but he remarkably looked great today, and so that’s all we have to go on."

Chancellor is one of six Seattle players listed as probable to play in Sunday's game.


Lions WR Calvin Johnson does not need offseason surgery
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(7:31 pm ET) Lions wide receiver Calvin Johnson indicated Saturday that he will not need to undergo offseason surgery, the Detroit Free Press reports.

Johnson had surgery on his ankle and finger last offseason, and while he missed three games due to injury in October, he played every game from November onward despite being limited by an ankle injury in practice. The Lions wide receiver finished with 71 receptions for 1,077 yards and eight touchdowns in 2014.


Patriots upgrade center Bryan Stork to probable for Super Bowl
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(5:31 pm ET) The Patriots have upgraded center Bryan Stork to probable for Sunday's Super Bowl, the team announced Saturday. 

Stork was considered questionable with a knee injury after missing the AFC Championship game and was limited in practice Friday. The Patriots are currently 1-point favorites against the Seahawks Sunday.


Geno Smith hopeful Jets bring back Percy Harvin in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:48 pm ET) Jets quarterback Geno Smith knows he can't make the ultimate decision, but he wants to see Percy Harvin back in New York in 2015.

"I would love for Percy to come back," Smith said. "Obviously I can’t make that decision, but from my short time with him he’s been a great teammate. He’s obviously a dynamic player and I’d love to see what he can do in this new offense."

Harvin played eight games with the Jets in 2014, catching 29 passes for 350 yards. 

However, Harvin is due $10.5 million in base salary in 2014, and is under contract until 2018.


Eagles' Nick Foles expecting to be starter in Philadelphia next year
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:06 pm ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles said he is expecting to be back in Philadelphia in 2015, leading the offesne.

"My expectation is to be out there and be the starting guy," Foles said, according to CSNPhilly.com. "I expect to be out there with my teammates leading them. I’ve never thought otherwise throughout this whole time. 


"I know there’s been a lot of things said, but the only thing I’m worried about is making myself the best player, the best person to help lead my team."

Foles, who threw for 2,163 yards and 13 touchdowns in an injury-shortened season, expects to be back at full strength by the time training camp rolls around.

"Completely healthy, ready to go," he said. "Just grinding away. Just can’t wait to get back out there."


Jets' Geno Smith doesn't know if he will start in 2015
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(3:00 pm ET) Jets quarterback Geno Smith said Saturday he is unsure of his status with the team and has not received a definitive answer from new coach Todd Bowles on whether he will be the starter in 2015, according to Rich Cimini of ESPN.

Smith, who threw for 2,525 yards with 13 touchdowns in 2014, also isn't sure if the Jets will try to draft a quarterback in the first round like Jamies Winston or Marcus Mariota, but he would welcome the challenge as more competition.


Cardinals coach Bruce Arians: 'It's really (Fitzgerald's) decision'
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(10:33 am ET) Cardinals coach Bruce Arians told reporters Friday he really wants to see wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald back in Arizona next season.

"I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t," Arians said. "We definitely, desperately want him to stay. He knows that. It’s really his decision."

Fitzgerald has a salary cap hit of $23.6 million for 2015 and the team will work to get that number down in the offseason. Team president Michael Bidwill said this week contract talks won't start fully until after the Super Bowl.

"I’m hoping and praying every day that it does happen," Arians said. "I’ve expressed to him personally how much it means to us."

Fitzgerald has not reached 1,000 yards receiving in the past three seasons and totaled 784 in 2014 on 63 catches with two touchdowns.


Seahawks corner Byron Maxwell set to test free agency
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(9:25 am ET) Seahawks cornerback Byron Maxwell is ready to hit the free-agent market during the upcoming offseason and feels the Super Bowl will be his last game in Seattle.

"I’m the prettiest girl at the dance right now," Maxwell said. "But yeah, it’s one of those things I’m excited about it. I would love to be here, but I’m ready to see what’s out there and see how things work out."

Maxwell, who was heavily targeted this year with the Seahawks secondary filled with Richard Sherman, Earl Thomas and Kam Chancellor, grabbed two interceptions and defended 11 passes.

"Coming into the season I already knew teams were going to try me," Maxwell said. "But it was cool. I accept that. That’s more opportunities for me to get the rock and put my name out there."


Report: Titans S Bernard Pollard wants to be released
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(12:52 am ET) Titans safety Bernard Pollard has requested a release from his contract, The Tennessean reports. He is scheduled to make $3.1 million in the final season of his two-year deal in 2015.

Pollard submitted his request to general manager Ruston Webster at the end of the regular season, per the report. He is recovering from a ruptured Achilles and wants to play in 2015, but said on The Tennessean's Bernard Pollard Show earlier this month that he was unsure of his future with the Titans.

"I am not getting any younger, so I want to win, I really do. I want to win,'' Pollard said. "Looking at how things took place this year, looking at where (the Titans) need to be for next year, that is a tough, tough question, and I don't even know if they can give me the answer. I have one year on my deal, but it is going to take some time."

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