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2012 Fantasy outlooks: Green Bay Packers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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The Packers would love it if their passing game looked as picture perfect in 2012 as it did this past season. So would Fantasy owners.

Aaron Rodgers led a prolific attack with 4,643 passing yards, 48 touchdowns and just six interceptions -- all in 15 games. He got amazing production from Greg Jennings, who was a Top 20 Fantasy receiver despite missing three games with a knee sprain, and Jordy Nelson, who had a breakout campaign with 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns, which made him the No. 2 Fantasy receiver behind Calvin Johnson.

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Jermichael Finley and James Jones were solid complementary options, and even Donald Driver danced his way to six touchdowns. If the Packers can repeat their passing prowess from a year ago then Fantasy owners should be giddy, but we'd like to see a few changes.

Rodgers remains the No. 1 quarterback in all Fantasy leagues, and he should be drafted in Round 1. He will likely come off the board by No. 4 or 5 overall in the majority of standard formats.

Jennings will likely be the next Packers player drafted, and he's a potential Top 5 Fantasy receiver. He's worth drafting toward the end of Round 2 or beginning of Round 3. Nelson should return as a Top 10 Fantasy receiver, and he has reached double digits in Fantasy points in 13 of his past 22 games, including the postseason. Anyone concerned about Nelson being a one-hit wonder should forget that idea, and he is worth drafting in Round 3.

Finley remains a No. 1 Fantasy tight end, but I'm concerned about his production falling off. Still, he's worth drafting in Round 6 after the elite tight ends come off the board like Rob Gronkowski, Jimmy Graham, Aaron Hernandez, Antonio Gates, Jason Witten and Vernon Davis. More on him later.

The Packers will still go with James Jones, who is worth a late-round pick in deep Fantasy leagues, and Donald Driver as the No. 3 and 4 receivers, respectively, but we'd like to see more of Randall Cobb. He could be a sleeper this year if he gets more playing time on offense. Cobb had just 25 catches for 375 yards and one touchdown last year.

We'd also like to see the Packers run the ball with more efficiency, but that will depend on how much James Starks, Alex Green and Brandon Saine touch the ball. The one thing we know is the Packers can throw the ball at will, and watching Rodgers work is a thing of beauty.

Fantasy Value Chart
Player Draft Day value Estimated round
Quarterbacks
Aaron Rodgers 1
Running Backs
James Starks 8
Alex Green ND
Brandon Saine ND
John Kuhn ND
Wide Receivers
Greg Jennings 2
Jordy Nelson 3
James Jones ND
Donald Driver ND
Randall Cobb ND
Tight Ends
Jermichael Finley 6
Kickers/Defense
Mason Crosby 14
Packers DST 13
ND - not expected to get drafted

Sleeper ... Alex Green, running back
The Packers made a surprising move this offseason by not signing or drafting a running back, and Ryan Grant is not expected to return. That leaves Starks, Green and Saine as the Top 3 options in the backfield -- with fullback John Kuhn to vulture some touchdowns. Starks is the only running back worth drafting in the majority of leagues, but we watched him struggle in 2011 when he had the chance for an increased role. He could improve this season, but he can't be considered a starting option. He is worth a mid-round pick at best. Green is coming off a torn ACL suffered in October and could be limited to start the year, potentially going on the PUP list. And Saine is really just there to provide depth, but he is someone to monitor once the season starts. If Starks struggles again, our guess is Green could have the most upside in this backfield. He might turn into a valuable addition off the waiver wire during the year.

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Late-round flier ... Randall Cobb, wide receiver
Cobb would be a great No. 3 receiver on most teams, but he's buried on the depth chart for the Packers. Not only is he behind Jennings and Nelson, but Jones and Driver will get plenty of playing time ahead of Cobb. That's too bad because we'd love to see what he could do with more targets (he had just 31 last year). He finished his rookie season in 2011 with minimal offensive production but proved valuable on special teams with punt and kickoff return touchdowns. He will continue to thrive in that role, but we hope the Packers find a way to get him more passes. He's not going to be a starting Fantasy option in most standard leagues, but owners in deeper formats could take a look at him with a late-round pick. If his playing time increases then his value will rise because he's talented enough to be a regular contributor on most rosters.

Bust ... Jermichael Finley, tight end
Finley was the No. 5 tight end in standard leagues last year, but his production was extremely inconsistent. He had just four games with double digits in Fantasy points and had three points or less in five games. The good thing about Finley was he played 16 games for the first time in his career and is motivated to play with more consistency this season. The bad news is he got a two-year contract extension, and this could just be the type of tight end he is. The talent is there, and he plays in a dynamic offense with an elite quarterback. But Rodgers spreads the ball around, and Finley may never reach the same heights of Gronkowski or Graham. He should continue to be drafted as a No. 1 option with a pick in Round 6, but don't reach for him thinking his production will continue to rise. Most likely he will have another year of around 55 catches for 750 yards and eight touchdowns, which makes him good, just not great.

Schedule breakdown

1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17
SF CHI @SEA NO @IND @HOU @STL JAC ARI bye @DET @NYG MIN DET @CHI TEN @MIN
How's this for a curveball: The Packers play five dome games, the most of any non-dome team. That's a nice perk for a team looking to exploit defenses with deep-speed receivers. They open with some tough matchups followed by a three-game road trip. It stinks that one of their bi-annual matchups against the Vikings comes in Week 17. Not much to fear here, and their Week 2 Thursday game means they get their short week out of the way early on.

Training camp topics

The Packers don't have many questions on offense aside from the health of Green, whether or not he can push Starks for the starting job and how the reserve receivers shake out with playing time. If there is a camp battle to watch it's at left tackle with Marshall Newhouse and Derek Sherrod competing for the starting job.

2011 Touches Leaders
Player Touches
James Starks 133 carries, 29 catches
Ryan Grant 134 carries, 19 catches
Jordy Nelson 68 catches
Greg Jennings 67 catches
Jermichael Finley 55 catches

That position is obviously important because the winner will protect Rodgers' blindside, and the Packers also get a new center in Jeff Saturday, which is a great addition. Hopefully we can see the Packers run the ball with a little more success, but we know this offense is designed to pass, pass and pass some more.

On defense, you can expect an emphasis on pass defense since Green Bay struggled to rush the passer (just 29 sacks) and allowed nearly 300 passing yards per game. That will happen at times with teams chasing points, but Green Bay expects more with a unit loaded with talent, including Charles Woodson, Clay Matthews, Tramon Williams and B.J. Raji.

Even though they struggled in 2011, we still consider the Packers DST a No. 1 option this year. They are worth drafting with a late-round pick in all leagues.

Injury update

Green (knee; questionable for the start of training camp) ... Andrew Quarless (knee; questionable for the start of training camp)

Stay in touch with the most passionate Fantasy staff in the business by following us via Twitter @CBSFantasyFB . You can also follow Jamey at @JameyEisenberg and on Facebook .

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Player News
Report: Torn pectoral sidelines Vikings CB Josh Robinson
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) The Vikings secondary took a hit last month when cornerback Josh Robinson sustained a partially torn pectoral muscle, a league source has told ESPN.

The nickel back played in 690 snaps last season and was expected to battle several others for playing time. The injury could sideline him from training camp and land him on the PUP list.


Report: Packers' Andrew Quarless arrested on gun charges
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(7/4/2015) Packers tight end Andrew Quarless was arrested for firing a gun twice in Miami on Saturday, per the Miami New Times.

Quarless was involved in a fight at South Beach and fired the gun into the ground. 


Titans receivers can thrive in YAC with Marcus Mariota's accuracy
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) The Titans wide receiving corps could gain more yards after the catch this season because of rookie quarterback Marcus Mariota and his accurate throws, per ESPN.com.

The Titans were 24th in the league in yards after the catch last season, but with Mariota under center that can all change.

“If you have an accurate quarterback, it allows us to get more yards after that catch,” wide receiver Harry Douglas said. “And that’s one thing that makes a receiver dynamic -- first being able to catch the ball and then being able to do some things with it after you catch it. I feel like [to this point] Marcus has done everything he needs to do to get the ball to his receivers.”


Saints RB Khiry Robinson doesn't feel he's on outside looking in
by Ruben Palacios | Staff Writer
(7/3/2015) Saints running back Khiry Robinson might be the least known of his backfield counterparts, but he doesn't feel like the off man out, per ESPN.com.

Robinson knows the team is heavily invested in the likes of Mark Ingram and C.J. Spiller, but he's still confident he can thrive in whatever role the Saints put him in.

“I’m the type of person, I’m gonna get what I get and do what I do with it. So whether it’s 20 carries or one carry, I’m gonna do the best of my ability every play,” Robinson said.

Robinson has shown flashes of success during his three years in the league. Injuries played a key role against him last season, which can ultimately put him as the third back on the depth chart. He will use the offseason to continue to improve and challenge his counterparts for playing time.

“I just gotta keep working,” Robinson. “It’s all love in the backfield. We all work together, try to help each other. So I think it’s a good thing we’ve got a full backfield again. So if anybody goes down, we’ve got another player right up there to do the same thing.”


Browns OL Michael Bowie itching to compete for starting spot
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Browns offensive lineman Michael Bowie is not required to report to training camp until the end of July. But never mind that - he's heading out after the last Independence Day firework explodes in the sky.

Bowie is itching to get started. He missed all of last season due to a shoulder injury after starting for Seattle on its Super Bowl title team in 2013. He is seeking to stay in tip-top shape in an attempt to land a starting spot on a Cleveland line that is the strength of the team.

"It's up to them to decide who is the best five," Bowie told the team website. "All I can do is take care of my business. Hopefully I can get a shot. That's what I'm working for."

Bowie participated fully in the offseason program, working mostly with the second team at right tackle. That will likely be the spot at which he competes for a starting job. Incumbent Mitchell Schwartz has not performed particularly well there and Mike Pettine has vowed there will be competition all over the field in camp.


Redskins OLB Ryan Kerrigan nearly recovered from knee surgery
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(7/3/2015) Redskins outside linebacker Ryan Kerrigan appears to be on target to join the team for training camp after undergoing arthroscopic knee surgery that prevented him from participating in earlier offseason activities.

Kerrigan, who registered a career-high 13 1/2 sacks a year ago, had the operation to alleviate pain in the area.

"My leg feels really good and I'm glad I got the surgery - not just for football but it makes my everyday life feel better so I'm glad I got it done," he told CSN Washington. "Now it's just a matter of getting stronger and getting into shape."

Kerrigan added that he's been running and now only needs to regain strength to insure his place at training camp.


Texans waive DT Brandon Ivory
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Texans waived rookie defensive tackle Brandon Ivory on Thursday, according to ESPN.com

Ivory was arrested on first degree burglary charges in Tuscaloosa, Ala. just one day ago. Ivory's agent Jeff Guerriero said Ivory is not guilty of the charge. 

"I spoke to Brandon he is not guilty and his name will be cleared of all charges," Guerriero said. 


Chargers TE Antonio Gates suspended 4 games for PED use
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Chargers tight end Antonio Gates has been suspended four games for violating the NFL's performance-enhancing drugs policy, the team announced. 

It's unknown at this time what drug Gates tested positive for. Gates, in a statement, said he was unaware that he took a banned substance

"In my 12 years in the NFL, I have taken tremendous pride in upholding the integrity of the NFL shield and all that it entails," Gates said. "I have taken extreme care of my body with a holistic approach and I have never knowingly ingested a substance that was banned by the NFL. In an effort to recover from this past season, I used supplements and holistic medicines, and unfortunately, I have now learned that those substances always present a risk because they may contain banned substances even if the ingredient list doesn’t reflect them.

"As an NFL veteran and team leader, I should have done my due diligence to ensure that what I was taking for recovery was within the NFL guidelines. I understand that I am responsible for what is in my body and I have always believed that ignorance is no excuse when it comes to these issues. I take full responsibility for my actions. I’d like to express my sincere apologies to the Chargers, my teammates, coaches, fans and the league who have always supported me and expected and gotten nothing but the highest level of integrity from me."

With Gates out for four games, the Chargers will turn to Ladarius Green as the team's top tight end, though it was expected for Green to continue getting more looks in the passing game. Green is entering the final season of his rookie contract. 

The Chargers expressed disappointment in Gates for his suspension but plans to stick with the longtime veteran through the suspension. 

"We are tremendously disappointed for our team and our fans as well as Antonio, but no more disappointed than Antonio is with himself," the Chargers stated. "Antonio is a member of the Chargers' family and we will continue to support him 100-percent. We have the utmost confidence he will stay in excellent shape for the season and be ready to go when he returns in Week 5. While it's unfortunate to not have him to start the season, we have complete confidence our tight end group will continue to play at a high level."  


Packers' Datone Jones out 1 game for substance-abuse violation
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) Packers defensive lineman Datone Jones will be suspended for one game for violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy, according to NFL.com. 

Jones will miss Green Bay's season-opener against the Bears. In 2014, Jones totaled 22 tackles and 1 1/2 sacks in 13 games played. 


Cowboys LB Rolando McClain suspended four games for 2015
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(7/2/2015) The Cowboys announced that linebacker Rolando McClain has been suspended for the first four games of the 2015 season due to violating the NFL's substance-abuse policy. 

McClain hasn't been able to participate much in offseason workouts due to going under offseason knee surgery. McClain will be eligible to practice in training camp and is expected to be healthy by then. 

"I apologize to my family, the Cowboys organization, my teammates and Cowboys fans for my mistake. I will not break the rules of my profession in the future, and I regret my error," McClain said in a statement, via CSN Bay Area. "I look forward to returning to the field on week 5, when I hope to help my team beat the Patriots.

In 2014, McClain, who had previously retired twice before being traded from the Ravens to the Cowboys, totaled 81 tackles and a sack in 13 games played.


 
 
 
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