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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
James Harrison scheduled for Cardinals physical Friday
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Free agent linebacker James Harrison is scheduled to take a physical for the Cardinals Friday, the Arizona Republic reports.

While it appears the sides are working towards a deal, it "isn't a foregone conclusion" Harrison signs with Arizona. He visited the Cardinals Wednesday.


Wes Welker cleared to travel with team
by R.J. White | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Broncos wide receiver Wes Welker has been cleared to travel with the team for Thursday's preseason finale against the Cowboys, the Denver Post reports.

Welker is recovering from a concussion and has yet to be cleared to engage in contact. He was wearing a more-padded helmet when he took the hit that led to his third concussion in the last 10 months. The receiver's status for Week 1 is still up in the air.


Titans work out a trio of kickers
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Veteran kickers Garrett Hartley, Jay Feely and Rian Lindell all worked out for the Titans, reports the Tennessean.

49ers undecided about No. 3 receiver
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
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Johnson told the paper he's still working to build chemistry with quarterback Colin Kaepernick.


Jurrell Casey gets lucrative four-year extension
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Titans defensive tackle Jurrell Casey signed a four-year contract extension worth $36 million, including $20.5 million guaranteed, his agent told ESPN's Adam Schefter. Casey had 10.5 sacks and 55 tackles last year.

Morris Claiborne expected to miss entire preseason again
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Cowboys cornerback Morris Claiborne probably won't play in Thursday's preseason finale, marking the second straight preseason in which he has not played a down, reports ESPN.com. Claiborne missed this year's preseason opener with knee tendinitis and the past two games due to a sprained AC joint in his shoulder.

Claiborne returned to practice this week, but likely will be held out against the Broncos. "Just not worth the risk to go backwards," Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones said.

Mark Ingram 'healthy, fit and decisive'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Saints running back Mark Ingram, a 2011 first-round pick, "is ready to put together his best NFL season," reports the team's website. "Ingram is healthy, fit and decisive as a runner."

Ingram has rushed for 148 yards on 21 carries (7.0 ypc) this preseason while catching two passes for 27 yards and scoring two touchdowns. "We saw a snapshot of the player Ingram could be at the end of last season," the website said. "He looks even better than he did then."


Cowboys claim Jemea Thomas
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) The Cowboys claimed rookie defensive back Jemea Thomas off waivers from the Patriots. Thomas was a sixth-round pick out of Georgia Tech.

Pete Carroll: Paul Richardson is 'very consistent'
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said rookie wideout Paul Richardson has "done really good stuff" and been "very consistent on the practice field," reports the Seattle Times.

"He shows that he understands the offense and can make adjustments to the routes and can read things and all that," Carroll added. "It’s always hard for all those young guys to be exactly right all the time. They’re going to miss some things, which he’s done in really typical fashion. But he has shown toughness, he’s shown route running ability, he’s caught tough balls underneath, he’s got open deep. We really think he’s got a chance to help us, so we’re real excited about his progress."


Report: Tom Brady 'not happy' with Logan Mankins trade
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(8/27/2014) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady was "not happy" with the trade of guard Logan Mankins to the Buccaneers, reports Bleacher Report's Jason Cole. He added that Brady had an "emotional reaction" to the move, which landed New England tight end Timothy Wright and saved the team more than $5.7 million.

 
 
 
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