This weekend was the big fantasy football draft weekend for this writer. My league from back home, my league of friends from the town I went to college in and my work league drafted on Friday, Saturday and Monday. This last weekend of preseason games is a huge draft weekend nationally as well. One of the hardest things to do as a fantasy player, and especially one so closely tied to a single team is to avoid over-drafting players from that team. Don’t get me wrong, I love the Packers, and they have one of the best, if not the best offenses in the league. I also believe that my in depth knowledge of the team gives me an advantage in accurately placing the value of the Packers. I’m going to take a quick look at the Packers that are draftable in a standard 10-team league, offer my thoughts, a statistical project, and where I think they should be selected.
QB- Aaron Rodgers– #12 remains the standard for quarterback play in the NFL. He is the complete package from an NFL and fantasy perspective. He is the best pure thrower in the NFL. He can make plays from the pocket, and is second to none when things break down. Rodgers value comes not only from his ability to throw tons and tons of touchdowns, but also his ability to rush the ball occasionally. Rodgers has run for over 250 yards and multiple touchdowns in each of the last 4 seasons. QB is deep this year, but Rodgers remains the standard barer.
Bottom Line: I’m looking for a 4,600 yard season from Rodgers with between 40-42 TDs and between 7-10 INTs. Look to take Rodgers in the end of the 1st round or the early 2nd.
RB- Eddie Lacy- Lacy has shown quite a bit during this preseason. He had been shooting up draft boards after his performance against St. Louis. While this was all well and good, Lacy’s staggering lack of production against the Seahawks has caused his hype train to slow down, even if it’s not really all that much. Lacy is simply the most talented running back that the Packers have had since Ahman Green. His ability to be a better short yardage and goal line option alone makes him fantasy relevant, but his legitimate chance to be the first 1,000 yard rusher for Green Bay since Ryan Grant makes him a mid-round option.
Bottom Line: Lacy should be right around the 1,000 yard mark this season with 7-9 rushing TDs. I anticipate him catching between 25-30 balls as well. Start targeting Lacy at the tail end of the 5th round and he becomes a value anywhere in the 6th or 7th.
RB- DuJuan Harris- I understand that coach McCarthy says that the “used car salesman” is the starting running back for the Green Bay Packers. While this is all well and good I don’t really think that he has much fantasy value. Harris is a shift runner who, despite his stature, runs with very surprising power. He seems like an effective enough pass catcher and definitely would appear to be part of a rotation with Lacy. The problem for me is the complete and total lack of red zone work if Lacy’s healthy.
Bottom Line: Harris is a good back, but I think that Lacy’s special talent is going to make it so Harris, while valuable to the Packers, is going to have little value to fantasy owners. 400-450 yards rushing and 200-300 yards receiving with a handful of touchdowns is all I can foresee. If you believe Harris is worth owning in the event Lacy gets hurt (I’m not sure I necessarily do) he’s worth a late round flier.
RB- Jonathan Franklin- I’ve made it very clear writing for this site how I feel about Jonathan Franklin. Let it be known that one bad preseason playing behind Graham Harrel and the fighting Greg Van Rotens does not make me feel any differently about his long term future as a difference maker in the NFL. I will say. however, that I have soured on his ability to make a big statistical impact in 2013. Franklin appears to have fallen too far behind his draft classmate Eddie Lacy, and with DuJuan Harris getting the rotational work, I think it would take a rash of injuries for Franklin to be fantasy relevant this season.
Bottom Line: The Mayor might find a little work here and there on 3rd down, but I don’t see much more than 250-300 yards rushing and catching between 25-35 passes. I had a chance to take Franklin in all three drafts in the later stages, so unless you’re in a deep draft (12, 14 team) I would hold off unless and until someone gets hurt.
WR- Randall Cobb- Cobb enjoyed a breakout season last year, and much of that breakout happened on fantasy teams that I owned. Cobb led the Packers in receptions and yards, while using his versatility to be an effective returner and a rusher out of the shotgun formation. Cobb’s quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, has predicted a 100 catch season for him and an even bigger breakout in 2013. Cobb has always reminded me of a slightly taller Percy Harvin with more refined receiving skills and more of an ability to stay healthy and avoid
smoking weed encountering off the field troubles. I expect Cobb to continue his rise to superstardom, especially considering that the top 3 receivers should get a much bigger ratio of the snaps than any group of 3 WRs since Aaron Rodgers’ arrival.
Bottom Line: I see somewhere between 95-105 catches for a healthy (?) Randall Cobb with between 10-20 rushes for 1200-1250 total yards and 8-11 total TDs. I think that there are clearly 4 WRs that are truly elite (Calvin Johnson, AJ Green, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall) from a fantasy perspective and that Cobb (especially in point-per-reception formats) is the leader of that next tier of wide receivers. I would target Cobb at the beginning of the 3rd round.
WR- Jordy Nelson- Jordy Nelson had a monster (15 TD) season in 2011. He emerged as a clear deep threat for the Packers and Aaron Rodgers and received top 5 WR consideration in drafts before last season. Nelson fought through injury issues last season and was inactive on a semi-regular basis. He appears to be healthy this season and will be ready for week one after undergoing a nerve release surgery on his knee in training camp. There is certainly cause for trepidation when one considers than Nelson didn’t spend a whole lot of time in with Rodgers in camp.
Bottom Line: Nelson should have a bounce back season. I think that Packers fans should assume to get between 14-15 games from Nelson this season, totaling somewhere around 1100 yards with between 9.13 TDs. He’s still a 6’3″ red zone threat with great speed, and if he can stay healthy should be the benefit of the newfound play action game. I was able to get Nelson in 2 leagues this year finding value in him as a second receiver any where between rounds 5-7.
WR- James Jones- Jones had a big breakout year in his own right a season ago. He came out of absolutely nowhere to lead the NFL in touchdown passes. He dropped only 3 balls, putting to rest one of the big concerns about his game. Jones will now, for the first time in his career, be on the field almost constantly. His stature and ability to run block will keep in two receiver sets, and he will be on the field in every 3 receiver set if healthy. I fully expect Jones to have an uptick in catches, while taking the almost guaranteed regression in the TD category.
Bottom Line: I anticipate anywhere between 60-70 catches from Jones for between 900-1050 yards. He should still be able to provide anywhere between 8-12 TDs this season, making him an effective 3rd receiver for both the Packers and your fantasy team. Targeting Jones in rounds 7-9 will allow you to fill needs elsewhere before addressing receiver/flex depth.
TE- Jermichael Finley- “JMike” is claiming that he’s “playing faster but seeing a slower game”. That has been more than apparent this preseason. One of the oldest jokes about Jermichael Finley’s difficulties catching the football is that if Rodgers would tape a few $100 bills to it in the huddle, no one in the world would be able to keep Finley from snagging every pass in sight. While this is a funny commentary, there is actually some legitimacy to it. Finley is in a contract season that is either going to get him let go by Green Bay to check out other teams due to poor performance, or get him the fat, long term extension he’s always longed for. It’s a legitimate possibility that he could join the upper echelon of TEs after Jimmy Graham, and earn value similar to Jason Witten and Tony Gonzales 5-8 rounds later.
Bottom Line: Finley set the Packers TE reception record with 62 receptions last season, and I think that he beats that with a total between 65-72 balls for between 800-900 yards. His ability to stay on the field and be more connected with the game should yield him between 8-13 TDs, making him a steal anywhere that you feel the need to take him between rounds 9-13.
Happy drafting and good luck to all Packers fans this upcoming fantasy season!