QB Aaron Rodgers
(2012 QB Rank – #2, 25.6 FPts/G)
After a string of five consecutive seasons in which he has finished as the first- or second-ranked fantasy QB, Rodgers enters 2013 as the safest elite QB you can grab on draft day. And after a season in which he was considered a bit of a disappointment, the cost of adding him to your roster won’t be as punitive as it was last year. With defenses taking away the Packers’ ability to generate big plays by playing their safeties deep and using plenty of zone coverage, Rodgers was forced to throw underneath more than in previous seasons, finishing the year with just 4,295 yards despite attempting 552 passes. That’s a far cry from the 4,643 he put up in 2011 on just 502 attempts. His touchdown passes declined from 45 to 39 and he tacked on a pair of touchdowns and 259 yards on the ground. While Greg Jennings left as a free agent and Donald Driver retired, the Packers still feature one of the league’s best trio of receivers in Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson and James Jones, in addition to enigmatic tight end Jermichael Finley. With opposing defenses certain to replicate the strategies they used last season, Rodgers is unlikely to approach the 5,000 passing yards that some quarterbacks could hit this season. However, his rushing prowess and ability to avoid turnovers and keep the chains moving should ensure he finishes as the first- or second-ranked fantasy QB once again in 2013.
RB Eddie Lacy
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
After struggling to run the ball over the past few seasons, the Packers loaded up on running backs in the draft, taking Eddie Lacy in the second round and Johnathan Franklin in the fourth. Lacy, a 5’11”, 230-pound bowling ball of a runner out of Alabama, will get the first crack at earning the starting spot. Lacy fell to the second round of the draft due to injury concerns, but he was highly productive when healthy in college. Unfortunately, the Packers have been content to use a committee approach since Ryan Grant’s heydays ended, and that limits Lacy’s fantasy upside. Also not helping matters are reports that he came in to camp out of shape and carrying additional weight. There is potential here, especially as a short-yardage runner, but it’s unproven, so Green Bay seems likely to once again use a committee approach. Consider Lacy a lower-tier RB3 and flex option in leagues that use that position, provided he sends DuJuan Harris, James Starks and Alex Green to the bench or off the roster.
RB Johnathan Franklin
(2012 RB Rank – N/A)
Taken in the fourth round of this year’s draft, Franklin faces an uphill task in his attempt to earn a significant role in the Packers backfield as a rookie. The 5’10”, 205-pound Franklin may lack the size necessary to handle the lead role and appears best suited to handle a backup role. However, since the Packers love to throw the ball, he could emerge as a decent fantasy option in a change-of-pace, receiving-back role. Of course, he needs to show that he can handle pass protection duties, and that has been an issue early in training camp. Given the lack of a proven runners on the depth chart, Franklin does have an opportunity to emerge as a starter, but that seems unlikely. Consider him worthy of a flier in the later rounds of your fantasy draft.
RB DuJuan Harris
(2012 RB Rank – #104, 8.8 FPts/G; #112 PPR, 9.8 FPts/G)
Harris seemingly came out of nowhere to land the Packers’ starting running back gig by the end of last season. He started the final two games as well as both of Green Bay’s playoff games, scoring three touchdowns with his strong, determined running. While Harris ran hard and showed some decent chops as a receiver, it was clear that he lacks great speed and isn’t very shifty. While he will enter training camp third on the depth chart, don’t be surprised if he is overtaken by James Starks or Alex Green by opening day. Unless one of Green Bay’s running backs is injured or traded, Harris could be on the outside looking in by Week 1.
RB Alex Green
(2012 RB Rank – #55, 5.4 FPts/G; #51 PPR, 7.1 FPts/G)
Taken in the third round of the 2011 draft, Green suffered a season-ending ACL tear in Week 7 and was slow to recover from the injury. Although he led the team in rushing last season, he failed to top 70 rushing yards in any game and averaged a subpar 3.4 yards per carry. He failed to show much instinct as a runner and didn’t display any big-play ability. With a loaded depth chart at running back, Green will need to display his pre-ACL explosiveness to land a roster spot. He shapes up as a pass-receiving, change-of-pace back, but DuJuan Harris or rookie fourth-round pick Johnathan Franklin could snag that role. Even if Green earns a roster spot, we’re not excited by his fantasy prospects.
RB James Starks
(2012 RB Rank – #76, 5.8 FPts/G; #85 PPR, 6.4 FPts/G)
In the category of “the NFL stands for Not For Long,” we present James Starks. One year after entering training camp atop the Packers’ depth chart at running back, he is in a dogfight to win a roster spot. And most don’t expect him to make the cut. The Packers used second- and fourth-round picks on Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin, and DuJuan Harris may have been the team’s most effective running back in 2012, albeit in limited playing time. Alex Green also returns, and the Packers view him as a potential playmaker. Meanwhile, Starks hasn’t been able to replicate the string of solid games he put together as a rookie when he helped Green Bay roll to a Super Bowl victory. After three injury-plagued seasons during which he hasn’t always run with determination, Starks’s Green Bay career will likely come to an end some time this summer.
WR Randall Cobb
(2012 WR Rank – #17, 10.4 FPts/G; #16 PPR, 15.8 FPts/G)
After a breakout season in which he caught 80 of his 104 targets (a remarkable completion percentage of 76.9) for 954 yards and eight touchdowns while chipping in 132 yards on the ground, Cobb has risen to the top of the Packers depth chart at receiver. A dynamic playmaker, the Packers’ 2011 second-round pick could be in line for an even better statistical season in 2013 with the departure of veteran Greg Jennings. Of course, Cobb will also have to deal with the extra attention that comes from being a team’s top threat. At 5’10”, 192 pounds, Cobb has the ability to line up outside but does his best work out of the slot, using his speed and elusiveness to generate big plays. Cobb rates as a low-end WR1 with upside in standard scoring leagues; and move him up slightly in PPR formats, as he has an outside chance of hauling in 100 receptions if the Packers curtail his use on special teams.
WR Jordy Nelson
(2012 WR Rank – #30, 9.7 FPts/G; #38 PPR, 13.8 FPts/G)
After a remarkable breakout performance in 2011 in which he caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns, Nelson crashed back to earth last year as an assortment of injuries derailed his season. Starting around midseason, Nelson caught the injury bug and couldn’t make it go away, missing four games and receiving just a single target in another contest. By season’s end, he had accumulated 49 receptions for 745 yards and seven touchdowns, an impressive haul given the number of full games that he appeared in (11). While the impression seems to be that Nelson wasn’t very effective in 2012, the numbers show otherwise. The biggest reasons for his lack of production were his low target count (just 73) and injuries. Nelson’s 2013 preseason is already cloudy, as he’ll miss the entire preseason after undergoing a procedure to correct a nerve issue in his knee. The team is hopeful Nelson will be ready for Week 1 but there’s no guarantee. While a return to his 2011 form is unlikely, a season of 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns could be in the offing, thanks to the departure of Greg Jennings. Consider Nelson a solid WR2 in 2013 is he’s able to step on the field to start the season.
WR James Jones
(2012 WR Rank – #16, 10.8 FPts/G; #17 PPR, 15.1 FPts/G)
After putting together five solid seasons as a backup, Jones morphed into a nice fantasy producer in 2012. He reached career highs in targets (98), receptions (64), yards (784) and touchdowns (14) as he stepped into the starting line up for an injured Greg Jennings and never left it. By season’s end, he had amassed a very solid 10.8 PPG. Now that Jennings has signed with the Vikings, Jones figures to start once again in 2013, and he should reach a career high in targets. However, another 14-touchdown season is highly unlikely, so he is going to need to increase his yardage total to once again approach 10 PPG. While it is nice that Jones is in a contract year and should be motivated, he rates as a lower-tier WR3 since his 2012 season looks as though it might have been the pinnacle of his career.
WR Jarrett Boykin
(2012 WR Rank – N/A)
An undrafted free agent in 2012, Boykin failed to catch a pass despite appearing in 10 games. Of course, when you sit sixth on the depth chart, you aren’t going to generate many targets. Boykin has a chance to leapfrog to fourth on the depth chart with the departures of Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. While the Packers like his potential, he will have to beat out rookie seventh-round picks Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey. Since this is the Green Bay offense, there is a chance that their fourth receiver could have some fantasy value in 2013.
TE Jermichael Finley
(2012 TE Rank – #17, 4.9 FPts/G; #14 PPR, 8.7 FPts/G)
Five years into his career, Finley has failed to reach his potential despite playing in one of the league’s top-rated offenses in each of those seasons. He disappointed once again in 2012, catching a career-high 61 passes but failing to deliver much in the way of big plays. He averaged a career low 10.9 yards per reception and caught just two touchdown passes, after emerging as a solid red zone option in 2011 with eight touchdowns. With Greg Jennings having left town, there is one less mouth to feed in Green Bay, but that positive is offset by the fact that the team seems ready to re-dedicate itself to the running game, having used two draft picks to replenish the position. Perhaps the truth is that the Packers’ offensive scheme just doesn’t utilize the tight end position enough for Finley to maximize his immense potential. Or maybe he’s just an enigma. Either way, he rates as a lower-tier TE1—one who will drive you mad with his inconsistency (consider his five-game stretch in which he failed to top 3 fantasy points).