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2014 Fantasy Outlooks: Green Bay Packers

Senior Fantasy Writer
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While the Bears, Lions and Vikings have turned over their coaching staffs over the last two offseasons, the Packers continue to rack up accolades. Green Bay has won three straight NFC North titles and has made five straight playoff appearances. There's no debating the Packers' success in the division -- they're the cream of the crop.

Fantasy owners shouldn't be surprised -- this team has Aaron Rodgers, after all. Rodgers, who has 29 games with at least 20 Fantasy points in his last three seasons (39 games), is typically the centerpiece of the Packers offense. But he missed seven matchups last year and the Packers still managed to put up some numbers thanks to running back Eddie Lacy. It was his play in November and most of December that helped put the Packers in good shape for the playoffs.

So is it a certainty that Rodgers will help drive the Packers to the playoffs again? Nothing's certain in the NFL, but Green Bay is one of five teams with below-even odds to win their division (according to the Las Vegas Hilton). But given the Packers offense getting healthy again and the defense adding a bunch of talent including first-round pick safety Ha Ha Clinton Dix and pass rushing veteran Julius Peppers, it's probably a safe bet the Packers will keep doing what they're doing.

Think elite ... Jordy Nelson

What if the 85 grabs for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns Nelson had last year was on the low side? In breaking down Nelson's season, he averaged 96.9 yards per game with eight touchdowns scored in effectively nine games with Rodgers versus 63.0 per game and one score in eight games without Rodgers (the Packers' playoff game is included).

Moreover, Nelson has 21 games with 10-plus points in the last three years with Rodgers as his quarterback (35 games), a 60 pct. success rate. Nelson also has caught 68 percent of the targets Rodgers has thrown at him over this span, a great conversion rate. Tack on other factors such as the Packers' slightly thinned receiving corps, a potentially easy schedule and Nelson aiming to impress in a contract year and you've got the makings of a player who should finish the season well inside the Top 10 among Fantasy receivers. Run, don't walk, to draft Nelson as a No. 1 receiver as soon as early Round 3.

Late-round flier ... Jarrett Boykin

Boykin really proved himself last season, snaring 49 passes (on 82 targets) for 681 yards and three scores over eight starts. He'll enter training camp as the third receiver behind Nelson and Randall Cobb and probably take over the spot left behind by James Jones' departure.

We already figure Nelson will get his targets and Cobb won't get ignored either, so that does put Boykin in a tough spot. His lack of experience with Rodgers also could mean limited targets, potentially to the point of 6.8 per game like he had in the 12 games where he actually was targeted. But he'll also draw the lightest coverage of any Packers receiver and flashed some nice playmaking skills with 10 grabs for 20-plus yards over 12 games. Boykin's a bench guy deserving of a late pick.

Long-term sleeper ... Davante Adams

2013 Touches Leaders
825 total touches
Eddie Lacy 319 (284 car., 35 rec.) 38.7%
James Starks 99 (89 car., 10 rec.) 12.0%
Jordy Nelson 85 rec. 10.3%
James Jones 59 rec. 7.2%
Jarrett Boykin 49 rec. 5.9%
Randall Cobb 35 (31 rec., 4 car.) 4.2%
All others 179 21.7%

The draft was loaded with great receivers. Had Adams ended up on a roster with a team that could use him right away, he'd be mentioned as a sleeper for this season. But the Packers picked him with plans for the future, not the present, so he's not expected to be a choice in your typical seasonal league.

But if we're looking long term, Adams should be on your shopping list. He snared over 230 passes for over 3,000 yards in his last two seasons at Fresno State, displaying good size (6-foot-1, 212 pounds) and speed. Normally you'd assume a receiver like this would have a chance at making it in the NFL, but when Adams eventually cracks the lineup he'll do so catching passes from Aaron Rodgers. There hasn't been a regular starting receiver in the Packers offense since Rodgers took over who consistently struggled, save for those who got hurt or got old.

It's just a matter of time before Adams makes an impact. He's worth taking after the halfway point in dynasty/keeper league drafts and worth a Top 20 pick in rookie-only drafts as well.

Schedule analysis

The Packers start the year with three road games in their first four, but they're paid back after their Week 9 bye when they host four potent offenses at home over five weeks. That should mean big numbers for their offense, even if one of those opponents is the Patriots. Green Bay is also one of two teams to play in tough circumstances -- at Seattle and at New Orleans (San Francisco also must play in both spots).

Eddie Lacy particularly has a brutal start to the season with games at Seattle, vs. the Jets and at the Lions. All three finished among the Top 7 in run defense last year and should be stiff again this year.

The other issue that won't deter Fantasy owners but will make Aaron Rodgers nervous is the glut of pass rushers he'll go up against through the first nine matchups. Rodgers already gets sacked a bunch as it is, but defenses will come for him early and often and test that offensive line. Normally we wouldn't care since Rodgers produced big numbers in the past despite getting sacked (once every eight pass attempts over the last three years), but he missed time with an injury on a sack in 2013. Taking too many hits typically leads to bad things.

Training camp battles

Who's backing up Lacy? Odds are James Starks, who was re-signed this offseason, will be the back to get in a lot of work in the event Lacy misses time. But the Packers missed DuJuan Harris for all of 2013 after he tore his ACL and was a guy the coaching staff liked a lot. There are already reports that Harris looks good at practice, suggesting he'll push Starks for the No. 2 role. Whoever wins the job is a very important player to handcuff with Lacy.

Who the heck is the tight end?! The tight end that Fantasy owners have long associated with the Packers -- Jermichael Finley -- is still without a team following neck fusion surgery. Maybe he's back with the Packers, maybe not. But if he's not, Green Bay's tight end is someone from Andrew Quarless, Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers, Ryan Taylor and maybe even Colt Lyerla will get a pretty good opportunity. The name to watch, for now, is Rodgers, the rookie out of Cal.

Bold prediction

Frankly, there isn't anything bold to say about the Packers that wouldn't come off as obnoxious. Expectations for all the key offensive players are sky-high as it is. But Fantasy owners are wondering about Randall Cobb and whether or not he'll return to form. The feeling here is that he will -- and in a big way.

A broken leg kept Cobb off the field for 10 games last season, though he came back with a big touchdown to put the Packers in the playoffs in Week 17. When he did play he averaged 85.2 total yards per game and scored four touchdowns. That average compares very favorably to what he did in his breakout 2012 season when he averaged 72.4 total yards per game and scored in eight of 15 games.

There is no reason to believe Cobb will be limited or held back in camp this summer because of an injury that has long healed. And there is no reason to believe his role will be altered. The Packers should merely hit reset on their 2013 plans for him and aim for him to stay healthy. Cobb will finish as a Top 10 Fantasy receiver, which means that between him and Nelson the Packers will have two elite receivers.

Injury report

Andrew Quarless (undisclosed), probable for start of training camp. ... Clay Matthews (thumb), probable for start of training camp. ... Casey Hayward (hamstring), probable for start of training camp. ... Nick Perry (foot), probable for start of training camp. ... Chris Harper (hamstring), questionable for start of training camp. ... Jumal Rolle (undisclosed), probable for start of training camp.

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Player News
Eagles WR Jeremy Maclin back in action Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:06 am ET) Chip Kelly has announced that Eagles wide receiver Jeremy Maclin, who was sidelined from practice Tuesday with no explanation, is back on the field Wednesday.

Maclin has been on a roll all season with 20 catches for 353 yards and three touchdowns in just four games. He's on pace for career-highs of 1,412 yards and 12 scores.


Bishop Sankey to get more playing time
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(11:01 am ET) Titans coach Ken Whisenhunt said rookie running back Bishop Sankey will get more playing time, starting Sunday against the Browns, reports The Tennessean. Sankey was on the field for 29 snaps Week 4, compared to 22 in Week 3.

In those two games he ran for 95 yards on 16 carries and caught three passes for 32 yards.

"You will see [more reps for Sankey]," Whisenhunt told the paper. "That's coming. And I think you'll see more of that earlier in the game this week.

"I think one of the things that does get lost is that he had more snaps in the game last week than any of our running backs. That game got a little one-sided quickly, so maybe it wasn't as evident, but he was in there earlier."


Eagles FS Malcolm Jenkins earns kudos from coach
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(11:01 am ET) Eagles free safety Malcolm Jenkins, whose thievery has resulted in one interception in each of the last three games, has earned the praise of Chip Kelly.

"We've said since day one, (he) can play anywhere," Kelly told Eagles Insider. "He's been unbelievable since he arrived here."

Jenkins has shown off his range this season. Each of his picks have been snagged on a different part of the field. The veteran has more interceptions in four games this year than he has in any of his five previous full seasons.


So you added Eli Manning. Now what?
by Scott White | Senior Fantasy Writer
(10:59 am ET) Understandably, Giants quarterback Eli Manning was a popular pickup on the waiver wire this week after throwing four touchdown passes at Washington. He has multiple touchdown passes in three of four games and was considered a Fantasy mainstay just a couple short years ago.

But I'm not sure I buy him as more than a backup in Fantasy. The inconsistency, both from week to week and year to year, is too well established. Honestly, apart from the 2011 season, when he threw for a career-high 4,933 yards and 29 touchdowns, I never thought he was hot stuff anyway. His bad games tend to be really bad and not always so predictable.

Of course, I'd put his chances of having a bad game this week at pretty close to nil. He's home against the Falcons, who just allowed 558 yards of offense to the Vikings, of all teams, and rank 30th against the pass, allowing 276.3 yards per game. If I was a betting man, I'd bet on Manning keeping his multi-touchdown streak alive.

But I'd bet even more on Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, Andrew Luck, Aaron Rodgers, Matt Ryan Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford, etc. I don't see how you start Eli Manning over any of that group, so I think Jamey Eisenberg's and Dave Richard's ranking of him, even with the favorable matchup, is more or less appropriate.


Bears face solid matchup for Week 5
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:57 am ET) The Bears DST unit has had an up-and-down season so far, with the lowlight coming with a miserable 1-point effort against the Packers in Week 4. They are looking to bounce back in Week 5 with the Panthers on the schedule.

The Panthers have lacked a big-play element to their offense, and opposing defenses have taken advantage of that recently. Over the last two weeks, the Steelers and Ravens have combined for 27 Fantasy points against the Panthers, who will likely be without their top two running backs this Sunday as well. That should work out well for a Bears defense that has struggled against the run.

The Bears aren't a great team to rely on defensively, though their greatest weakness might not be exploited this week. They have some appeal as a low-end Fantasy sleeper for Week 5. 


Jay Cutler has a chance to bounce back
by Chris Towers | CBSSports.com
(10:55 am ET) Bears quarterback Jay Cutler will look to bounce back from his worst game of the season when he takes on the Panthers in Week 5.

Cutler tossed six touchdowns without an interception in Weeks 2 and 3, before his two-pick performance against the Packers last Sunday. Still, he came out of the game with 18 Fantasy points, and has tossed at least two touchdowns in each game so far, so it isn't all bad.

He gets to take on a Panthers defense that was badly victimized by the pass last week, as Joe Flacco tossed three touchdowns and racked up 31 Fantasy points against them. The Panthers have yet to hold a quarterback below 15 Fantasy points this season, while allowing multiple touchdowns in three of four games.

As hard as it can be to trust Cutler at times, this is not the time to turn away from him. Both Jamey Eisenberg and Dave Richard consider him a top-12 quarterback for Week 5, so consider him a solid No. 1 option.

 


Titans add Lache Seastrunk
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:48 am ET) The Titans signed rookie running back Lache Seastrunk to their practice squad. The sixth-round pick out of Baylor was cut by the Redskins, then the Panthers.

Eagles QB Nick Foles: Bruises no big deal
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:45 am ET) Eagles quarterback Nick Foles has denied that a bruised left (non-throwing) shoulder has affected his mechanics or weakened his performance recently.

"Just a couple bruises, it's as simple as that," he told Delaware Online. "You get hit a couple times, there's definitely some soreness in the body. ... That's football. You're going to get hit. You're going to have bruises. You're going to have soreness. But I feel good."

Foles performed well the first three games before a clunker Sunday in San Francisco in which he completed just 21 of 43 for 195 yards, no touchdowns and two interceptions.


No elixir for Tom Brady's woes
by Larry Hartstein | CBSSports.com
(10:38 am ET) Patriots quarterback Tom Brady realizes there's no quick fix to the team's offensive problems. New England's offensive line is in disarray, the team lacks explosive receivers, and Brady is making a surprising number of poor decisions.

"There’s no magic play, there’s no magic scheme," he told WEEI. "It’s us as players playing a lot better than we’re playing. This hasn’t been an isolated incident. I don’t think offensively we’ve played well all year. I don’t think we’ve played well for a long time. We’ve got to figure out the reasons why we’re not playing as well as we’re capable and try to improve them."

Brady is averaging under 200 passing yards per game and has accounted for more turnovers (5) than touchdowns (4).


LB Jon Beason a no-go for Giants on Wednesday
by Marty Gitlin | CBSSports.com
(10:37 am ET) A nagging foot/toe injury has Giants middle linebacker Jon Beason on the pre-practice injury report for Wednesday, the New York Daily News has reported.

Beason has been inactive for the last two games. He was scratched after being deemed doubtful for the Week 4 game at Washington.


 
 
 
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