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Offseason Primers: Green Bay Packers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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An inability to slow down Colin Kaepernick in a Divisional Playoff loss at San Francisco will overshadow what was a pretty typical year for the Packers. And in this case, typical means very good.

Despite another season without a legitimate rushing threat and injuries hitting two star receivers from last year and tight end Jermichael Finley underwhelming, Aaron Rodgers was on fire. He didn't post eye-popping numbers like he did in 2011, but he still finished as the second-best quarterback in Fantasy thanks to eight games with at least 30 Fantasy points in standard formats. He had some weak outings as well, including five with 16 points or less, but no one is doubting Rodgers as a top-flight Fantasy option, especially since he can be had a full round later than where he was picked in drafts last August.

2012 Touches Leaders
807 total touches (rush attempts + receptions)
Alex Green 153 (135 car., 18 rec.) 18.9%
Randall Cobb 90 (80 rec., 10 car.) 11.3%
Cedric Benson 85 (71 car., 14 rec.) 10.6%
James Starks 75 (71 car., 4 rec.) 9.3%
James Jones 64 rec. 7.9%
Jermichael Finley 61 rec. 7.6%
Aaron Rodgers 54 car. 6.7%
Jordy Nelson 49 rec. 6.0%
Greg Jennings 36 rec. 4.4%
All Others 140 17.3%

Surrounding Rodgers is a receiving corps that figures to get a little thinner this offseason. Long-time Packer Greg Jennings left for better riches in Minnesota. But he leaves behind speedster Jordy Nelson, sure-handed James Jones and dynamo Randall Cobb as the primary players in the Packer pass attack. All four have intriguing Fantasy value but Cobb is the one who will draw the most attention on Draft Day. That's because he came on strong last season for the Pack, leading the team in catches with 80, receiving yards with 954 and total yards from scrimmage with 1,086. He caught 77 percent of his targets, easily the highest of any receiver with at least 30 targets last year. If there's something to get tripped up on it's that Cobb didn't start to shine until the Packers' run game went from bad to non-existent. Once they started to get something from the run game, Cobb began to slow down, and that includes during the postseason. But the Packers have said they're going to take Cobb off of special teams and focus on using him more on offense, so chances are he will be in a position to put up very good stats in 2013.

One thing is for sure, the Packers' commitment to throwing the football won't change. But what about their run game? Last season the team ranked 20th in rushing with 1,702 yards, 25th in rushing touchdowns with nine despite running the ball 433 times (the league average was 435 rush attempts). The Packers tried to run the ball more but couldn't be effective with it. Could that be the catalyst to make the team splurge on a rusher this spring, or will things stay the same? We'll find out.

James Jones -- Draft Day Value

2012 Target Leaders
558 pass attempts
Randall Cobb 104 18.6%
James Jones 98 17.6%
Jermichael Finley 88 15.8%
Jordy Nelson 73 13.1%
Greg Jennings 62 11.1%
All Others 133 23.8%

Randall Cobb is an exciting player to watch and Jordy Nelson is an elite receiver, but if there's one Packer receiver to aim for this summer, make it Jones. He quietly led the NFL in receiving touchdowns last year with 14, picking up career-highs in catches (64) and yards (784) along the way. This while playing in 91.5 percent of snaps for the Packers, according to Pro Football Focus, a monster number right up there with No. 1 receivers on other teams. Jones finished with nine 10-plus Fantasy point games in standard scoring leagues, tied for fourth-best among receivers. He also continued to be a red-zone hero, cashing in 12 of 20 regular and postseason targets for touchdowns. He made plays big and small for the Packers last year and will aim to keep it up entering a contract year in 2013. Assuming the Packers indeed thin out their receiving corps, you're looking at one of the best bargains on the board. If you're the type of Fantasy owner who loves to load up on running backs early, expect Jones to be available in Rounds 5 or 6 as a potential No. 2 receiving threat.

DuJuan Harris -- Breakout

The NFL is a crazy place. Example: In the same year Knowshon Moreno was the first running back picked in the draft, Arian Foster went undrafted. We all know how Foster turned out, and late last season the Packers had an undrafted running back come out of nowhere and help them run the ball effectively. That back was DuJuan Harris, who was picked up off the street in October and logged significant carries for Green Bay by December. Playing in six games including the postseason (but really getting a lot of work in his last three), Harris tallied 257 yards on 62 carries (4.1 avg.) with four rushing scores. He picked up nine catches for 81 yards as well and basically looked like a sharp, physical back who displayed good cutting ability and quickness. It's been a while since the Packers have had a capable back to truly threaten defenses -- Cedric Benson was supposed to be that guy but he got hurt. With the work the Packers have done to try and become a better running team, Harris stands to see his career take off if he gets the chance to start in 2013. Any major additions to the roster made by the Packers this spring could jeopardize Harris' playing time.

Jermichael Finley -- Bust

Expected 2013 Draft Averages
Aaron Rodgers 15-25 overall
DuJuan Harris 85-95 overall
Cedric Benson Undrafted
Randall Cobb 40-50 overall
James Jones 65-75 overall
Jordy Nelson 65-75 overall
Jermichael Finley 115-125 overall
Mason Crosby Late-round pick
Packers DST Final-round pick

If you think Finley is still a great Fantasy tight end, you're strictly judging him by his reputation. In a Packers offense that registered 40 receiving touchdowns, Finley had two of them. He had his chances to make plays -- catching a career-best 61 passes on 88 targets -- but finished with 667 yards, 100 fewer yards than he had in 2011 (and he had six more catches in 2012). Drops were a problem for Finley, owning seven according to Stats, Inc., not including one in tight coverage in the Divisional Playoff loss to the 49ers. Spats with the team during the season didn't seem to help his workload either as he caught three passes or less in half of his regular-season games. Obviously there's potential for Finley to shine in the NFL, and it might come with another team, but with Finley in a contract year for the second time in three seasons he's truly at a crossroads in his career. At best he's a consideration to begin your year as your starting tight end but we'd take him and another high-upside tight end with mid- to late-round picks.

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

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Player News
Vikings CB Terence Newman has familiarity with Mike Zimmer
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Vikings cornerback Terence Newman won't have a steep learning curve now that he's with his new team. 

Newman played under Vikings coach Mike Zimmer when he was the defensive coordinator with the Cowboys. Drafted in 2003, Newman learned Zimmer's defense from his rookie season through 2006, before Zimmer left to take the same position with the Falcons. 

“I just know exactly what to expect from him as a coach, as well as everybody else in this locker room,” Newman told the Vikings' website. “You play your best football under him.”

In his career, Newman has recorded 741 tackles and 37 interceptions. Entering his 13th NFL year, Newman has already impressed his teammates with voluntary workouts underway. 

“I met with him and he seemed like a great guy,” cornerback Xavier Rhodes said. “Like he’s going to come in and teach us what we need to know about the technique of the game and about the defense because he’s been in it before, so he’s going to help us out a lot. He’s a big asset to this team and the defense.”


Chiefs pick up option on NT Dontari Poe
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Chiefs have exercised their fifth-year option on two-time Pro Bowl nose tackle Dontari Poe, per NFL.com. He is set in Kansas City through 2016, when he will earn $6.146 million.

The 350-pound Poe has earned the money. He racked up six sacks and contributed to 46 tackles in 2014.


Lions GM Mayhew OK with James Ihedigbo skipping workouts
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Safety James Ihedigbo was the lone absence from voluntary workouts this week for the Lions. But general manager Martin Mayhew understands. After all, Ihedigbo's agent has stated that he would not work without a new contract.

"I look forward to talking with James," Mayhew told ESPN. "I understand what he's going through. I've been through that myself as a player, when I felt that a time in my career that I was underpaid and I had to deal with that.

"So I have empathy for him. I understand what he's going through and I look forward to sitting down and talking with him. I have great respect for him as a player, as a man. I've gotten to know him a little bit away from football and I understand how he feels."

Mayhew declined to discuss whether the Liins will rework Ihedigbo's contract.

The 31-year-old Ihedigbo contributed 71 tackles and two sacks with a career-high four interceptions in 2014 despite missing three games at the start of the year with a nerve injury. He earned Pro Bowl alternate status.


Eagles withdraw qualifying offer to RB Chris Polk
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Running back Chris Polk is now a free agent. 

According to the NFL transaction wire, the Eagles rescinded their $1.6 million tender they offered this past March. The Eagles placed the tender on Polk, previously a restricted free agent, before signing both DeMarco Murray and Ryan Mathews in free agency. 

With Darren Sproles on the roster, it didn't make much sense for Polk to stay with the Eagles. 

In 2014, Polk ran for 172 yards and four touchdowns. 


RB Bobby Rainey signs qualifying offer with Buccaneers
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Buccaneers have announced that running back Bobby Rainey has signed a one-year qualifying offer the team extended to him before the free agency period. He was a restricted free agent and was given an opportunity to negotiate with other teams.

Rainey will compete for playing time with Tampa Bay. He rushed for 406 yards in 2014, but faded at the end of the season with just two carries in the last six games combined.


Jaguars planning to play 2015 season without Justin Blackmon
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) As far as the Jaguars are concerned, Justin Blackmon will not be lining up at receiver for them this season. 

At least that's the approach Jacksonville is taking. Blackmon has been indefinitely suspended since Nov. 1 2013 for three violations of the substance-abuse policy under the old CBA.

"Our process hasn't changed," Caldwell said, via ESPN.com. "[We] plan to go without him, but if he emerges, he emerges, and he's going to go in with those top guys and compete with those other guys. Hopefully we're able to get some news, but if not we weren't planning on [having Blackmon]. We're just going to go [without him]."

Before he can re-join the Jaguars, he'll need to file an application for reinstatement, with NFL commissioner Roger Goodell making a decision within a 60-day window. The application letter would include details of the treatment he's received. 

Since being selected with the fourth overall pick in the 2012 draft, Blackmon has only played in 20 games. He has 1,280 yards and six touchdowns in his career. 


Cowboys' Greg Hardy called 'woman beater' by teammate
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy got into an altercation with teammate Davon Coleman during a voluntary offseason workout, according to a report from Yahoo! Sports

Hardy reportedly questioned Coleman's work ethic during a conditioning drill, which led Coleman to call Hardy a "woman beater."

Hardy was accused of domestic abuse and was found guilty by a North Carolina judge. On the subsequent appeal, prosecutors dropped charges against Hardy and the case was never presented in front of a jury. 

Hardy has been suspended by the NFL for 10 games due to what transpired in that case. According to FOX Sports, the confrontation between Hardy and Coleman remained verbal


Lions and Rob Sims' representation haven't spoken in 3 weeks
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) The Lions need a left guard and Rob Sims would be a solid option if the two sides can strike a deal for the veteran to return. 

However, talks have stalled between the Lions' front office and Sims' representation. Speaking to reporters on Friday, Lions general manager Martin Mayhew said it's been nearly a month since he's spoken to Sims' camp. 

"We've had some discussion with Rob," Mayhew said, via MLive.com. "I spoke to his agent probably about three weeks ago and we had an offer out to him. That's kind of where we are right now. We'll have to kind of wait and see what happens."

The Lions could still opt to draft a lineman early to fill the position, too. 

Sims, who entered the NFL in 2006, has been with the Lions for the past five seasons. 


Andre Ellington OK with Cardinals drafting another running back
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) If the Cardinals decide to draft a running back in one of the higher rounds, running back Andre Ellington would be OK with it. 

Ellington was a three-down back for Arizona last year that got plenty of touches in the running and passing games. But if the Cardinals use a high pick on a running back, that could cut into Ellington's touches. 

That's something that wouldn't bother Ellington. 

“It’s whatever will better our team,” Ellington told the team's website. “That’s most important. No one is going to hate any decisions. I’m sure those guys will make the best decisions to help the team. We’ll accept any guy who comes in.”

Another quality runner could help Ellington, who dealt with numerous injuries a year ago, in the long run. His season ended last December after undergoing hernia surgery. 


Dolphins haven't decided if they'll extend Ryan Tannehill's contract
by Jason Butt | CBSSports.com
(4/24/2015) Dolphins executive vice president of football operations Mike Tannenbaum said the club has yet to decide if it will extend quarterback Ryan Tannehill, according to the Palm Beach Post

The Dolphins could decide to pick up Tannehill's fifth-year option and wait on an extension. The deadline for doing so is May 3. Doing that would cost the Dolphins $15 million for the 2016 season. 

Previously, NFL.com reported that the Dolphins were hopeful that they could strike a long-term deal with Tannehill before Week 1 of the 2015 season. 

In 2014, Tannehill threw for 4,045 yards with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.


 
 
 
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