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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
Giants release final injury report for Week 17 against the Eagles
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(1:41 pm ET) Giants running back Andre Williams is dealing with a shoulder injury and listed as questionable for Sunday's game against the Eagles. Williams was limited in practice all week after rushing 26 times for 110 yards in Week 16 against the Rams.

The other running back in New York of interest, Rashad Jennings, was limited in practice all week with an ankle injury and is listed as probable.

Jennings missed Week 16 with the injury. 

Linebacker Devon Kennard (toe) will be out after missing practice all week and linebackers Paul Hazel (hamstring) and Jameel McClain (knee) are both probable.


Browns, Connor Shaw agree to terms on contract, will start Sunday
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:17 pm ET) Connor Shaw has agreed to terms on a contract with the Browns, according to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora on Friday. The team will make the announcement and add him to the 53-man active roster before Sunday's season finale against Baltimore. With Brian Hoyer sidelined this week with injuries to his right shoulder and biceps, Shaw will make his first career start, coach Mike Pettine told reporters, per the Akron Beacon Journal.

Cleveland opened as a 7-point road underdog. The line has now moved to 10 points in favor of the Ravens.


Colts rule out TE Allen, T Cherilus, LB Werner for Week 17
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:13 pm ET) Colts coach Chuck Pagano told reporters tight end Dwayne Allen (knee), tackle Gosder Cherilus (groin) and linebacker Bjoern Werner (shoulder) will all miss Sunday's regular season finale against the Titans, per the team's official website. The Colts have already clinched the No. 4 seed, and are taking a cautious approach with their injured players this week. 

The Colts remain a 7-point road favorite against the Titans.


Colts' T.Y. Hilton labeled questionable for regular season finale
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:07 pm ET) Colts wideout T.Y. Hilton was a participant in practice for the third consecutive day on Friday. Coach Chuck Pagano has designated him as questionable for Sunday's regular season finale against the Tennessee, per the team's official website.

Hilton sat out Week 16 with a hamstring injury -- the first game he's missed all season -- and Indianapolis got destroyed 42-7 at Dallas. He leads the team with 82 catches for 1,345 yards and seven touchdowns. The Colts have already clinched the No. 4 seed, and may take a cautious approach with Hilton this week. If he's unable to play, Hakeem Nicks and Donte Moncrief will each see an increase in playing time.

The Colts remain a 7-point road favorite against the Titans.


Bengals say TE Tyler Eifert had shoulder surgery two weeks ago
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(1:01 pm ET) Bengals coach Marvin Lewis told reporters tight end Tyler Eifert underwent shoulder surgery two weeks ago to repair an injury he suffered during training camp, per the team's official website. Eifert has been sidelined since suffering an elbow injury in the season opener. He was placed on IR after the opening-week injury and will not play again this season.

Panthers list DeAngelo Williams as probable for Sunday's game
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:52 pm ET) Panthers running back DeAngelo Williams is expected to play in Sunday's game against the Falcons and is being listed as probable. 

Williams has missed the last three games for Carolina while dealing with a broken bone in his hand. He has 219 yards on 62 carries in six games this year.

Linebacker A.J. Klein is considered questionable for the game with an akle injury.

The Panthers are 3-point underdogs against Atlanta.


Saints release final injury report for Week 17 against the Bucs
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:41 pm ET) The Saints have listed tackle Terron Armstead (neck), defensive end Akiem Hicks (ankle) and safety Jamarca Sanford (hamstring) as questionable for Sunday's game against the Buccaneers.

Armstead and Sanford were unable to practice all week after missing Week 16 against the Falcons.

Hicks was only able to practice Friday on a limited basis.

The Saints are 4-point favorites for Sunday against Tampa Bay.


Browns' Brian Hoyer skips practice Friday; Connor Shaw to start?
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:30 pm ET) Browns quarterback Brian Hoyer was unable to practice Friday because of injuries to his right shoulder and biceps, according to the Associated Press. Hoyer was ruled doubtful for the game, leaving the door open for Connor Shaw to make his first career start.

According to Adam Caplan of ESPN, Hoyer's bruised right bicep is what is keeping him from practicing and playing on Sunday. His season will likely come to an end with 3,326 passing yards with 12 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in 14 games.

Cleveland opened as a 7-point road underdog. The line has now moved to 10 points in favor of the Ravens.


Falcons list Jones, Jackson as questionable, White probable for Sunday
by Brandon Wise | CBSSports.com
(12:28 pm ET) Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones (hip) and running back Steven Jackson (quad) have been deemed questionable for Sunday's game against the Panthers.

Jones was able to practice Friday for the first time in two weeks, despite playing through the hip injury in Week 16. Jackson was unable to practice most of the week, but was seen Friday doing limited work on the sidelines.

Wide receiver Roddy White is also listed as probable after practicing both Thursday and Friday.

The Falcons are 3 1/2-point favorites against Carolina Sunday.


Chiefs' Alex Smith will sit out finale with lacerated spleen
by Igor Mello | CBSSports.com
(12:17 pm ET) Chiefs quarterback Alex Smith has been diagnosed with a lacerated spleen, an injury that will keep him sidelined for his team's pivotal Week 17 divisional showdown against the Chargers, trainer Rick Burkholde told reporters, per ESPN.

Smith sustained the injury after taking a brutal hit to the abdomen against the Steelers in Week 16. He noticed the discomfort following the game, but did not believe it to be serious.

Smith will not need surgery, although his injury will require a six-week timetable which will virtually keep him out for the remainder of the season, if Kansas City advances to the playoffs. The Chiefs will need to win against the Chargers and have the Ravens and Texans lose in order to clinch a spot in the postseason.

Smith signed a five-year, $76 million contract before the start of the season. In 15 games, Smith passed for 3,265 yards with 18 touchdowns and six interceptions. For the second straight season, Chase Daniel will make a start in Week 17. Daniels completed 21 of 30 passes for 200 yards and a touchdown in a last-minute overtime loss to the Chargers in 2013, which clinched San Diego a playoff spot.

Kansas City opened as a 3-point home favorite. The line has moved to 3 1/2 points, as of Friday.


 
 
 
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