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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
Cordarrelle Patterson sits out as precaution
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:55 pm ET) Vikings receiver Cordarrelle Patterson did not practice Friday because of a "tweaked foot," reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune.

He was sitting out as a precaution, and the injury is not expected to be serious.


Carl Nicks, Bucs part ways
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:53 pm ET) Carl Nicks and the Buccaneers have agreed to an "amicable" injury settlement, ending the guard's tenure with the team, FOX Sports reports. Nicks developed turf toe two years ago and it ended up becoming a complicated problem that forced him to miss all but two games of the 2013 season. 

Nicks said in a statement that he's going to "step away from the game." 


Report: Lynch's holdout won't last long
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(4:17 pm ET) Marshawn Lynch's holdout from Seahawks training camp will "probably" last five or six days at the most says ESPN's John Clayton, who figures the running back will balk once he realizes he won't get any new money added on to his deal. Lynch has held out through the very early days of camp because he wants a new deal just two years after signing his current contract. 

Chiefs to keep feeding Jamaal Charles
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:43 pm ET) The Chiefs don't plan to lighten the workload for running back Jamaal Charles this season, reports ESPN.

"I think he's got a lot in the tank," coach Andy Reid said. “We're going to keep using him. He's a good football player and he enjoys playing the game, so we'll keep getting him the football." 


Jeremy Maclin headed for big year
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:40 pm ET) Eagles receiver Jeremy Maclin, who is coming back from last year's torn ACL, is expected to be the No. 1 option in the passing game with DeSean Jackson now gone, reports Comcast Sports Net.

And if that's the case, Maclin could post the best stats of his career. His best season to date was 70 catches for 964 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2010.

"As far as numbers and everything, I've never really got into numbers," Maclin said. "But if they plan on me being a big part of this offense like I think they are, I think the numbers will come. I'm not going to get wrapped up in all that. That’s how I'm going to approach the season."


Rob Gronkowski not yet 100 percent
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(3:19 pm ET) Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski said Friday he plans to make a fearless return to the field this season and put a string of injuries behind him, reports WEEI in Boston. Gronkowski is coming back from a torn ACL in 2013.

As for being at full strength, Gronkowski cautioned that there is still plenty of work remaining before that hurdle is cleared.

"If it were 100 percent, I'd be doing every single thing so no, I'm not 100 percent right now, obviously not," Gronkowski said. "I'm working my way to get to that and I'm working every single day to get to that and improving every single day. I'm preparing myself to my max ability right now for the first regular game. I can't really say anything from here on out because it's far away. Every single day, I'm just giving it everything I've got in the rehab room and out here on the field. I'm preparing myself and listening to my trainers, what they have for me so that I'm ready to go when it comes down to it. Hopefully, I am.

"No timetable at all. Just keep improving every single day and we'll see what the trainers want me to do. They've been through plenty of knee injuries throughout their years here."


Handful of Colts sit out practice
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:52 pm ET) In addition to Trent Richardson missing practice on Friday, the Colts have safety LaRon Landry, cornerback Vontae Davis and rookie guard Jack Mewhort all sitting out according to the Indianapolis Star. Landry and Davis' situations have been deemed precautionary. 

Trent Richardson not practicing Friday
by Dave Richard | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:49 pm ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson is not practicing Friday, their second full day of training camp, according to the Indianapolis Star. Richardson had trainers working on his left leg on Thursday but he was able to finish practice.

Richardson is coming back from a chipped collarbone and a separated AC joint in his shoulder he played with last season. 


Vick Ballard leaves practice with injury
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:46 pm ET) Colts running back Vick Ballard went down during practice Friday and had to be carted off the field, reports the Indianapolis Star.

It is believed to be a left ankle injury, and he wasn't putting any weight on the ankle before leaving. Ballard is coming back from last year's torn ACL.


Mikel Leshoure still part of team's plans
by Jamey Eisenberg | Senior Fantasy Writer
(2:25 pm ET) Lions running back Mikel Leshoure appears to be No. 4 on the depth chart to open the season behind Reggie Bush, Joique Bell and Theo Riddick, but the team has other plans, reports mlive.com.

"I think Mikel has a chance to be a big part of what we do," running backs coach Curtis Modkins said. "As a matter of fact, I'm anticipating him being a big part of what we do and a big role in our success."

While it would seem tough for Leshoure to get consistent work this year, the new offensive system in Detroit could help. Offensive coordinator Joe Lombardi developed his scheme while in New Orleans the past seven years, and New Orleans is known for using a fleet of tailbacks.

Four had at least 53 carries last year, compared to just two for Detroit. Given that context, Modkins' prediction doesn't seem so far-fetched.

Still, since he is behind Bush, Bell and Riddick, don't count on Leshoure to do much in 2014.


 
 
 
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