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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
Jaguars waive FB Bradie Ewing
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(11:22 am ET) The Jaguars waived fullback Bradie Ewing on Tuesday, according to ESPN. Ewing, 25, has not played since 2013 when he was a member of the Falcons. The moves leaves Jacksonville without a fullback on the roster.

Report: Buccaneers bringing in Dan Connolly for a visit
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Former Patriots offensive guard Dan Connolly will visit the Buccaneers on Tuesday, per a report by Fox's Ross Jones, citing a source. 

Connolly has played in 87 games for the Patriots in the last seven years and hasn't played in fewer than 13 games in a season since 2008. 


Steelers RB DeAngelo WIlliams says signing was easy decision
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) After playing his first nine seasons with the Panthers, running back DeAngelo Williams signed a two-year, $4 million contract with the Steelers this offseason. Among his many thoughts on the signing, he called it an easy decision, according to the Sporting News.

“I didn’t know they wanted me. I had never been on a visit before,” Williams said. “I was with the same organization for nine years. When I got the call and they said, 'hey we want to bring you in for a visit' I took it as that. Had they said we wanted to bring you in for a signing I would have had a different mindset. I had no idea what was going to transpire when I got here.”

Williams added that he is willing to do whatever it takes to get the team to the next level.

“It’s the opportunity to take maybe one or two reps or whatever it takes to make this team better,” Williams said. “That is what I will do. I want to make it to a Super Bowl and win it. I know this team has that potential and they can do it.

“Coming here was an easy decision. This is a Super Bowl contending team. Every veteran out there, veteran or rookie, they want to go to the Super Bowl and win it and get the best opportunity. I think the best opportunity is here in Pittsburgh.”

Williams has rushed for 6,846 yards on 1,432 carries with 46 rushing touchdowns in his career.


Lions WR Golden Tate doesn't feel pressure due to loss of Suh
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Although Lions wide receiver Golden Tate feels the loss of Ndamukong Suh is a blow to the team, he doesn't believe it puts more pressure on the offense, reports ESPN. 

When asked specifically about the subject, Tate was clear about his thoughts.

"No, I don't think it adds any pressure," Tate said by phone Monday. "We just need to be who we are. We know that we have a lot of weapons all over the field. We just need to reach our potential each and every week.

"We just need to go out there and play fundamentally sound football and I have no doubt our defense is going to be really good again this year and we just got to do our jobs. There's no pressure on anyone but to be ourselves and to play good football."

Additionally, Tate recognizes that Suh was a game-changing player for the Lions, but he likes the addition of Haloti Ngata.

"Obviously, losing Suh is a big hit," Tate said. "I don't care what team you are, he's the guy that can change the game. Change an opposing offense's game plan. He affects the game so much. But with that being said, I'm thankful to have [had] the opportunity to play with him for a year and be a part of something special. But the show must go on.

"The guy we got, [Haloti] Ngata, is a heck of a player. I think it's a good pickup for us. I know he has a past with coach Caldwell so he knows the ins and outs of the system, probably. But we're ready to move forward. We can't live in the past and football season must still go on. We're preparing to have a great year and build from last year."

The 26-year-old stated that he plans on focusing on the intricacies of the offensive playbook heading into this season.

"One thing I really want to focus on is learning the playbook a little bit better," Tate said. "I felt like I knew it for the most part, but details, running the plays exactly how Joe Lombardi draws them up, could help us win more games and create more opportunities for myself and our team."

Tate finished his first season with the Lions catching 99 passes for 1,331 yards and four touchdowns.


Report: LB Rolando McClain ends Patriots' visit without contract
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) After visiting the Patriots on Monday, linebacker Rolando McClain and the team did not agree to terms on a contract, according to NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport. The same report states that the visit was a positive one.

McClain played in 13 games last season for the Cowboys, collecting 81 total tackles and one sack. Over his four-year career, the 25-year-old has accumulated 327 total tackles, 7.5 sacks, 23 passes defensed, three interceptions and two forced fumbles.


Cardinals S Tyrann Mathieu looks forward to being healthy
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Cardinals safety Tyrann Mathieu believes that he is regaining his health and he's ready to make an impact this season, according to the team's website.

“It’s been a long time since I’ve been healthy,” Mathieu said Monday. “Last year I felt like I took a back seat. I played well my rookie year and then last year it was kind of, eh, I was there but I wasn’t there. This (year) is more important for me because I really want to let everyone know I’m back and I can still make some plays.”

Mathieu tore his ACL and LCL toward the end of the 2013 season. He recently said that the comeback was "way harder than I thought."

Head coach Bruce Arians talked about how Mathieu was not himself last season.

“You saw him fight through it last year,” Arians said. “He was not the player he was used to (being) and it was very frustrating for him.”

Mathieu was aware of the chatter from the outside world and he is using that as motivation going forward.

“You hear people talk and I had time to listen to them talk, so it’s like … I hear it,” Mathieu said. “Like I said, I didn’t feel like I made enough plays last year to help our team. I am looking forward to this year because I know I can do it.”

The 22-year-old has registered 106 total tackles, one sack, three interceptions and one forced fumble in 26 games played during his two-year career.


Saints plan to rework Jahri Evans, Cameron Jordan contracts
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Saints coach Sean Payton said that the team has a plan in place to rework guard Jahri Evans' contract to help create salary cap space, per ESPN's Mike Triplett

Evans is scheduled to make $6.8 million salary in 2015 and cost $11 million against the cap. 

The team might also extend defensive end Cameron Jordan's contract. Jordan is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make $6.969 million this year.


Rams have agreed to terms with OL Tim Barnes
by Dave Peters | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) The Rams have agreed to terms with offensive lineman Tim Barnes, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch. The one-year deal has a maximum value of $1 million. 

Barnes recently visited had a visit with the Chiefs before signing with the Rams. The 26-year-old spent all three of his previous seasons with the Rams, starting four of the 45 games he appeared in.


Report: Brandon Tate visits Chiefs
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Free agent wide receiver/kick returner Brandon Tate visited the Chiefs on Monday, according to a report from the NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, citing a source.

Tate had 17 catches for 193 yards and a touchdown for the Bengals last year. He also had a combined 571 yards in kick and punt returns. 


Lions' Riley Reiff open to playing right tackle
by Shawn Krest | CBSSports.com
(3/30/2015) Lions coach Jim Caldwell said that Riley Reiff might start at right tackle next season. 

Reiff has started 32 games at left tackle over the last two seasons. The Lions aren't sure that last year's right tackle LaAdrian Waddle will be fully recovered from knee surgery, and backup tackle Cornelius Lucas is better on the left side. 

Reiff told the Daily Republic he doesn't care where he plays. 

 "I like playing, and wherever they want to put me, that's fine. I'll play," he said.


 
 
 
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