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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
Chris Harris targeting midway point of preseason
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Broncos cornerback Chris Harris, who's coming back from ACL surgery, told ESPN he expects to be cleared for full participation by the midway point of the preseason. Harris said the exact timetable hinges on his upcoming visit to his surgeon, Dr. James Andrews.

"I’m doing everything, there’s really nothing I can’t do right now," Harris told the network. "I still have to go see Dr. Andrews at the end of the month and get checked up and he’ll pretty much let us know the plan from there."

Harris had 65 tackles and three interceptions last year before getting hurt in the playoffs.


Dimitri Patterson a starter by default
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Unable to land a high-end free agent cornerback, the Jets "were forced to settle for journeyman Dimitri Patterson as a consolation," notes The Star-Ledger. Patterson, who projects to start opposite Dee Milliner, is on his sixth team in 10 seasons and has played all 16 games just once in his career.

If Patterson falters, third-round pick Dexter McDougle could get a shot.


Fred Jackson in danger of losing carries
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Bills running back Fred Jackson might not approach the 207 carries he received last year. According to WGR550.com, Jackson will once again split time with C.J. Spiller but also potentially lose snaps to the team's additions at running back, Bryce Brown and Anthony Dixon.

The website said Jackson, 33, who's entering the last year of his deal, will be trying to prove how much he has left.


Teammate: Bitterness won't linger from Jimmy Graham standoff
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Saints tight end Benjamin Watson told ESPN that the the team's arbitration fight with Jimmy Graham over whether he's a receiver or a tight end won't have a longterm detrimental effect. Watson is hopeful the sides will reach a multiyear contract agreement by Tuesday's deadline.

"I’m very confident that it’ll be resolved the right way and guys can move forward," Watson said. "Obviously it’s always tough when you go through litigation with somebody, and it can probably get heated. And I’m sure there are emotions on both sides. But that is the business side of the game. 

"And it’s unfortunate that it came to that and that it was so public. But I really think -- I know, I don’t think -- I know that Jimmy loves New Orleans and I know that he loves our team and the organization and he loves playing here. And we love him, everybody wants him here, coaches included. So when it comes down to contract situations, that’s just a necessary evil ... not even evil, but just a necessary progression of getting a player here."


Dallas Thomas eyes starting job
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Dolphins coach Joe Philbin named Dallas Thomas one of the team's most improved players, and he has a good chance to start at left guard, according to the team's website. A third-round pick in last year's draft, Thomas played only four offensive snaps last season.

Thomas worked with the first team during spring drills and is much further along than he was in 2013. He stayed in South Florida throughout the offseason to get better prepared.

"You’ve got to know your material, you’ve got to know what you’re doing on the field because stuff happens so fast," Thomas said. "You’ve got to be able to just react to it and not even think about what’s happening on the field."


Spencer Nealy hit with four-game ban
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The NFL suspended Vikings defensive end Spencer Nealy four games for violating the league's policy on performance enhancing substances. An undrafted free agent out of Texas A&M, the 24-year-old Nealy did not play in a game last season.

Nealy apologized and took responsibility in a statement, saying he took a supplement containing a banned stimulant.


Jarrett Boykin will be 'hard to dislodge'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Jarrett Boykin improved dramatically last season and "will be hard to dislodge" from the Packers' No. 3 receiver job, reports the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel. Boykin will have to hold off second-round pick Davante Adams, fifth-rounder Jared Abbrederis and seventh-rounder Jeff Janis.

Boykin, 24, caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns last season.


Trent Richardson might not get long leash
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) Averaging 2.9 yards a carry, like he did last year, will get Trent Richardson benched quickly, reports ESPN.com. Richardson "will have to produce right away because it's unlikely the Colts will wait for him to get going" if running backs Ahmad Bradshaw and Vick Ballard are healthy and productive, the website said.

Richardson likely will get the first shot at the starting job. He has a much better grasp of the playbook than he did in 2013 and the belief is he'll be able to run on instinct as opposed to overthinking, the report said.


Bruce Ellington trying to overcome stature
by Jeff Borzello | College Basketball Writer
(7/11/2014) At 5-foot-9, Bruce Ellington is the shortest receiver on the 49ers' roster. But the fourth-round pick out of South Carolina should not be discounted, his high school coach, Jerry Brown, told the Sacramento Bee.

Brown said Ellington is relentless at finding open space and catching everything thrown his way. "Football's played on a big field and it's hard to track someone like Bruce who's got so much agility," Brown said.

Ellington believes he has lots of room for growth because he only gave up basketball last year. Also a former track competitor, Ellington clocked a 4.45 forty at the combine.

"I'm just going to work hard, give it a hundred (percent) every time I step on the field and keep on chasing the dream," he said.


Colts dump LaVon Brazill, sign Aaron Burks
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(7/11/2014) The Colts waived suspended wideout LaVon Brazill and signed receiver Aaron Burks, an undrafted free agent from Boise State. Brazill, 25, is suspended for at least a year for violating the league's substance abuse policy.

Burks caught 18 passes for 309 yards and three touchdowns for the Broncos last season, averaging 17.2 yards per catch.


 
 
 
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