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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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