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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
Darren McFadden a worthy start?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(6:13 pm ET) Thanks to a season-high 80 rushing yards in one game and a rushing touchdown in the other, Raiders running back Darren McFadden has been at least passable in Fantasy the last couple weeks. In Week 8, he has a rare opportunity to be something more than that.

The Raiders are visiting the Browns, who rank dead last against the run, allowing 155.5 yards per game and 5.0 yards per carry. They were responsible for Denard Robinson's breakthrough 127-yard performance in Week 7 and Lorenzo Taliaferro's 91-yard effort that got everyone so excited back in Week 3. The Browns also don't have such an explosive offense that the Raiders will be forced to pass all day.

McFadden has a good enough chance of delivering respectable numbers that you should at least pay him a second thought as a flex option in a standard 12-team league. Both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard rank him among their top 24 running backs for this week.


Raiders looking to get Maurice Jones-Drew more snaps
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(6:03 pm ET) The Raiders are looking to get running back Maurice Jones-Drew more snaps, according to the San Francisco Chronicle

Coach Tony Sparano said the club needs to start involving Jones-Drew more. Jones-Drew had hand surgery earlier this season, but Sparano said he's "as healthy now as he's been." Jones-Drew received just three carries Week 7. 


Colts RB Trent Richardson unable to go Thursday
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:59 pm ET) Colts running back Trent Richardson was unable to practice Thursday.

Richardson was expected to be back on the practice field, so the move comes as a surprise. Richardson is dealing with a hamstring injury. His status will be determined based on whether he can get out on the practice field Friday. 


Doug Martin at least has matchup going for him
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:55 pm ET) Chances are most Doug Martin owners didn't really miss him with the Buccaneers on bye in Week 7. He has yet to rush for more than 45 yards in the four games he's played this season, and he's scored just one touchdown.

But for better or worse, he remains the Buccaneers' go-to running back, and that role keeps him relevant enough in Fantasy that you shouldn't ignore him when he has a favorable matchup. And he has such a matchup Week 8 against Minnesota.

The Vikings rank 19th against the run, allowing 118.1 yards per game, and have surrendered the sixth-most Fantasy points per game to running backs. Like the Buccaneers, their offense is a work in progress with an inexperienced quarterback at the helm, so they may not force the Buccaneers' into catchup mode so early, allowing Martin to get more than his usual dozen or so carries.

You're probably still not excited about starting Martin this week, but if you don't like your other options for the flex spot, he may be your best choice.


Texans refuse to rule out Brian Cushing yet
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:53 pm ET) The Texans have not ruled out linebacker Brian Cushing just yet, according to ESPN.

Cushing missed practice for the second straight day Thursday, but coach Bill O'Brien wasn't willing to rule him out for Week 8. "He's day to day," O'Brien said. "We'll see how he is tomorrow. We'll bring him to Tennessee and see how he is before the game."

O'Brien also denied a previous report that Cushing would be out until after the team's bye week. Cushing is dealing with a knee injury.


Jerick McKinnon a clear start for once
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:45 pm ET) You may have been tempted to start Vikings running back Jerick McKinnon in Week 7 after he appeared to wrestle the starting job away from Matt Asiata in Week 6, but a bad matchup coupled with a shortage of information made it too risky to justify in most leagues. But after he once again carried the load with 19 rushes for 103 yards -- and against the Bills, no less -- the time has come to activate McKinnon in Fantasy.

And you couldn't ask for a better matchup for it. In Week 8, the Vikings visit the Buccaneers, who rank 25th against the run, allowing 128.3 yards per game. Prior to their bye in Week 7, they gave up 172 yards to the Ravens' trio of Justin Forsett, Bernard Pierce and Lorenzo Taliaferro in Week 6 and 124 yards to the Saints' duo of Khiry Robinson and Pierre Thomas in Week 5. Not exactly household names there.

McKinnon might have more potential than all of them, if only because he has the role mostly to himself. Of course, you'd like to see the Vikings put him in a position to score, but the yardage potential alone makes him worth starting in all Fantasy leagues. Keep in mind the Buccaneers have surrendered the fourth-most Fantasy points per game to running backs this season.


Denard Robinson looking more like a Week 8 sleeper
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(5:32 pm ET) With the news Thursday that Week 7 breakout Denard Robinson will get the bulk of the carries Week 8 against Miami even with the return of Toby Gerhart from a sprained foot, Robinson goes from a shaky start in Fantasy to at least a decent one.

Working behind the same offensive line with the same supporting cast that has reduced Toby Gerhart, Storm Johnson and Jordan Todman to a combined 2.7 yards per carry this season, Robinson had 127 yards on 22 carries in Week 7. Granted, that was with an especially favorable matchup against the Browns, who rank 32nd against the run, and this is with a not so favorable matchup against the Dolphins, who rank 10th. But still, a running back with a big workload is a valuable thing.

Before that news, Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard barely had Denard Robinson in their top 30 running backs for Week 8, but with it, he jumps to about 20th for me, ahead of Doug Martin, Tre Mason and Chris Ivory, among others.


Report: Broncos cut safety Boyett from practice squad
by Chris Cwik | CBSSports.com
(5:31 pm ET) The Broncos have parted ways with safety John Boyett, according to the Baltimore Sun.

Boyett was arrested for misdemeanor battery, and the team quickly decided to part ways with him after looking into the situation. Boyett was on the team's practice squad, and did not appear with the club this season.


Vikings C John Sullivan passes concussion protocol
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:28 pm ET) Vikings center John Sullivan passed the league's concussion protocol and is on track to play Week 8 against Tampa Bay, according to ESPN. Sullivan was a limited participant in practice Thursday, but coach Mike Zimmer told reporters he "did everything."

Cardinals DE Calais Campbel limited in practice Thursday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(5:20 pm ET) Cardinals defensive end Calais Campbell practiced in a limited capacity Thursday, according to the team's official website. He has missed the last two games after suffering a Grade 2 MCL sprain against Denver in Week 5. Campbell, who practiced for the first time since the injury, told reporters earlier in the week that he's hopeful of playing Week 8 against Philadelphia.

 
 
 
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