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GREEN BAY PACKERS
Stadium: Lambeau Field (Outdoors)
Schedule Strength : 7th
Postseason Weather issues: vs. Detroit (Week 14), at Chicago (Week 15), vs. Tennessee (Week 16)
Offensive Line Ranking : 1
Head Coach – Mike McCarthy
Evaluating McCarthy’s coaching history, we find he has spent his entire career on the offensive side of the ball, but oddly enough all under the tutelage of strong defensive-minded head coaches who preferred a solid running game. Hired as the Packers head coach in 2006, McCarthy inherited the classic Bill Walsh West Coast offense, the same offensive system he still utilizes today. McCarthy is amongst a handful of head coaches who both design the weekly game plan and conduct all offensive play calling (except when Aaron Rodgers audibles). Entering 2012, we should expect more of the same as the Packers will continue to utilize a high-octane/pass-oriented West Coast system.
Offensive Coordinator – Tom Clements
Clements was hired by McCarthy in 2006 as the Packers quarterbacks coach. The recent hiring of former offensive coordinator Joe Philbin as the Miami Dolphins’ head coach has allowed the promotion of Clements into the role of offensive coordinator. But make no mistake, this is McCarthy’s offense to run, as very few changes will be made.
QB – Aaron Rodgers
The easiest player in all of fantasy football to evaluate because no evaluation is necessary. He has a player rating of 9.9 (nobody’s perfect). To be drafted immediately after the top-tier running backs come off the board.
RB – James Starks
Considering a strong history of a running back by committee system used by McCarthy in Green Bay, under normal circumstances we should be highly skeptical of any Packers running back. However, the Packers chose not to resign Ryan Grant this offseason, and backup running back Alex Green is recovering from offseason ACL surgery. A lack of running back depth indicates the Packers are ready to roll with James Starks as the primary ball carrier; a rare commodity in fantasy football. Starks has proven the ability to be a three-down running back possessing excellent vision, speed and power, but also displaying solid pass blocking skills, precise route running and excellent hands. Starks has the added benefit of playing in one of the league’s most prolific passing offenses, meaning NFL defenses will be in nickel most of the game constantly dealing with the pressure generated by Aaron Rodgers and the aerial attack. The lone knock on Starks is an injury history, dating back to college, as he should be downgraded accordingly. However, the three-down running back is becoming a relic of the past, meaning digging up the limited few in the middle-to-late rounds will pay substantial dividends in fantasy football. All told, we should project Starks with a player rating of 8.4, currently possessing excellent sleeper value.
WR1 – Greg Jennings
On most NFL teams, Jennings would be an average wide receiver, but his value is greatly increased playing alongside the best young quarterback of this generation, combined with the attacking style of his head coach. Jennings is on the smaller side, and not exceptionally fast, but what he lacks in stature he makes up for in precise route running, amazing hands, agility and a mental connection with his quarterback. Jennings has also displayed a knack for breaking tackles after the catch, resulting in big gains with the possibility for long touchdowns (best word in the English language). On the downside, Jennings’ smaller size reduces his red zone targets, slightly decreasing his pre-draft value. However, we should expect another solid season with a player rating of 9.1.
WR1 – Jordy Nelson
Nelson exploded onto the scene in 2011, finishing the season second in wide receiver scoring, a tremendous value considering he was drafted in the seventh round of most leagues. With Donald Driver one year older, and James Jones' roster position now in question, there’s no reason to think Nelson can’t follow up last year’s amazing performance with another solid season. Don’t expect a repeat of 2011, but factoring in the talents of Rodgers in combination with McCarthy’s offensive system, Nelson carries a very good value with a player rating of 8.5.
WR3 – Randall Cobb
Cobb is an exciting young talent, displaying amazing ability both as a wide receivwer and kick returner. However, examining the history of fantasy football, I couldn’t find a single offensive system that has showed the ability to sustain four viable fantasy passing options (Jennings, Nelson and Jermichael Finley all rank ahead of Cobb). Furthermore, although Donald Driver is older, and James Jones is less talented, each will continue to garner targets, drawing away opportunity from Cobb. I’ve seen his name kicked around as a possible “sleeper,” but only if Jennings, Nelson or Finley go down with injury (with the former being likely). Cobb should be considered more of a late round flier with a player rating of 7.0.
TE – Jermichael Finley ;
Finley very quietly finished last season fifth in fantasy scoring amongst all tight ends. A solid player in his own right, Finley is fortunate to be playing in the classic West Coast system whereby a tight end is utilized as a receiver over the middle on 80 percent of the play calling. Although Finley played all 16 games in 2011, he missed 15 games the previous two seasons, equaling a “yellow flag” injury risk. Playing with the best quarterback in the game of football, should Finley remain healthy, he will once again end up amongst the Top 6 scoring tight ends in 2012 deserving a player rating of 8.6.
K – Mason Crosby
Crosby is the perfect example of a solid fantasy kicker playing alongside one of NFL’s most prolific offensive systems. The one knock on Crosby is adverse weather in the fantasy postseason including two home games, and one game being played in Chicago, aka the “Windy City.” If Crosby should land on your team, start make preparations late in the season, just in case.
D/ST – Green Bay
The Green Bay defense is one of the more talented units at multiple positions including outside linebacker Clay Matthews, defensive tackle B.J. Raji, cornerback Tramon Williams and cornerback Charles Woodson. However, we should always be skeptical of any fantasy defense that plays opposite a prolific offense because any team playing against the Packers will we forced to put up more yardage and points in order to win games. Also, playing opposite a fast-scoring offense means the defense is on the field for an extended period of time. The one benefit to rostering Green Bay’s defense is the ability to intercept footballs, increasing the potential to score more touchdowns. All factors considered, I foresee the Green Bay defense barely inside the Top 12 within rating of 7.5.
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