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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
Seahawks C Max Unger not practicing Wednesday
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:15 pm ET) Seahawks starting center Max Unger, who's missed four straight games with knee and ankle injuries, was unable to practice Wednesday, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Lemuel Jeanpierre will start Sunday night at Arizona if Unger can't go.

Coach Pete Carroll said Unger had a "tough recovery" after participating in last Friday's practice.


Chiefs' Jamaal Charles puts in limited work on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:03 pm ET) Chiefs running back Jamaal Charles was able to practice on a limited basis on Wednesday. 

Charles was listed with both an ankle and knee injury. He's missed one game this season, but has been able to play through bumps and bruises for the most part. Charles' status will likely be determined based on how much work he can put in on Thursday and Friday.


DeMarco Murray to wear protective padding, not cast, if he plays
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(6:00 pm ET) If Cowboys running back DeMarco Murray plays less than a week after undergoing surgery, it will be with protective padding on his left hand, not a cast, reports the Dallas Morning News. Murray went through individual drills Wednesday wearing a glove enforced with a hard plastic shell.

"I think we need to see something where there’s a comfort level we all have and certainly a comfort level that he has," coach Jason Garrett told the paper. "Carrying the football is an important responsibility. You have to be able to do it."

Dallas is a 3-point home favorite over the Colts on Sunday. If Murray can't play, Joseph Randle and Lance Dunbar will share backfield duties.

Randle is averaging 7.0 yards per carry and would be the favorite to start, but he hasn't gotten more than two carries in a game since Week 10. Dunbar is a better receiver than Randle and would handle most of the passing downs.

Murray underwent surgery Monday, one day after breaking a bone in his left hand. He leads the NFL with 351 carries for 1,687 rushing yards and 11 touchdowns.


Chiefs' Dwayne Bowe unable to practice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:56 pm ET) Chiefs wideout Dwayne Bowe was unable to practice on Wednesday, according to the Kansas City Star.

Bowe is dealing with an illness. He's yet to miss a game this season, and his status will likely be determined by how much work he can put in on Thursday and Friday.


Vikings RB Matt Asiata limited with foot injury
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:50 pm ET) Vikings running back Matt Asiata was limited in Wednesday's practice due to a foot injury, reports the Minneapolis Star Tribune. Asiata has received at least 12 touches in four of the past five games entering Week 16 at Miami.

Ravens WR Torrey Smith not on injury report
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:40 pm ET) Ravens receiver Torrey Smith, who had been dealing with a sprained knee, is no longer on the team's injury report, ESPN.com. Smith played 51 snaps Week 15 against the Jaguars and caught two passes for 16 yards.

He'll visit the Texans on Sunday.


49ers RB Carlos Hyde does not expect to play Week 16
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:29 pm ET) 49ers rookie running back Carlos Hyde said that "barring a miracle," he does not expect to play Saturday against the Chargers, reports CSNBayArea.com. Hyde did say the MRI on his injured ankle came back with good news, though he wasn't specific.

Veteran running back Frank Gore could be in for a big workload if he gets cleared from his concussion. 


Bills' C.J. Spiller able to practice on Wednesday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:24 pm ET) Bills running back C.J. Spiller was able to put in limited practice on Wednesday.

Spiller has been medically cleared for contact, but has yet to be added to the team's 53-man roster. Spiller is attempting to come back from a broken collarbone, and said the team will likely make a decision on his status later in the week. "We’ll see how I feel [Thursday] when I come in," Spiller said. "If it is we’ll keep plugging away and I’m pretty sure they’ll consult with me and see how I feel and we’ll make a decision."

For what it's worth, the team has already cleared a roster spot for Spiller, releasing fullback Frank Summers. Head coach Doug Marrone admitted Spiller looked pretty good in practice as well. "I’m not going to sit up here and see he didn’t look good," Marrone said "He looked good."


Vikings TE Kyle Rudolph dealing with knee, ankle injuries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(5:23 pm ET) Vikings tight end Kyle Rudolph did not practice Wednesday due to knee and ankle injuries, reports 1500ESPN.com. Rudolph, who had sports hernia surgery earlier this season, is coming off his best game of the year, catching seven passes for 69 yards against Detroit.

If Rudolph can't play Sunday at Miami, Chase Ford would start. Ford has 22 catches for 236 yards and a touchdown in nine games played.


Chargers' Keenan Allen ruled out for Week 16
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:14 pm ET) Chargers wideout Keenan Allen has been ruled out for Week 16.

Allen broke his collarbone Week 15 against the Broncos, so the news is expected. Head coach Mike McCoy confirmed that Allen wouldn't play at a press conference on Wednesday. The injury will likely keep Allen out the rest of the season. If that's the case, Allen would finish with 783 yards on 77 catches. He scored four touchdowns in his sophomore year.


 
 
 
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