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Should You Draft Him?: Green Bay Packers

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It absolutely kills me when “old-school” football analysts insist that a team has to establish a running game in order to be successful. A few years back when I lived in Cincinnati, I watched the local pregame show for a Cincinnati-Pittsburgh matchup and a retired player turned commentator was like, “If the Bengals want to win they have to establish the run game and have Cedric Benson rush for 100 yards. I don’t care if it takes 30 carries to do it.” Huh? And then if you turn on ESPN you get Herman Edwards just champing at the bit to predict that an obviously superior pass-heavy team will lose just because their opponent runs a lot.

Obviously, having a great running game is a huge asset. We saw Adrian Peterson single-handedly drag all 52 of his teammates to the playoffs just last year. I don’t mean to say that running the ball doesn’t matter. I do mean to say that teams like the Green Bay Packers are living proof that when you have the best quarterback on the planet and some really good receivers, you really don’t need to play “smash mouth football” or “hit ‘em in the mouth” or any of the other dozen mouth-related phrases used by the human See ‘n Says known as in-studio football analysts.

It’s important to remember that the Packers have had a terrible rushing attack for the past three seasons and counting, because “starting running back for a high-scoring offense” is not necessarily synonymous with “reliable fantasy producer.” So do the Packers have any running backs worth drafting based on their average draft position? It’s one of many intriguing questions surrounding the fantasy prospects of this team. It’s also worth wondering if Rodgers is worth a high pick considering the depth at quarterback, as well as which members of the crowded Packers receiving corps will live up to their billing. Let’s stop speculating and start answering the $64,000 question: Should you draft him?

(Draft positions are based on a composite of the results of standard scoring 12-team drafts on fantasyfootballcalculator.com. Players with added or decreased points per reception appeal will be noted. Kickers and defenses will always be ignored because they are kickers and defenses.)

(ADP = Average Draft Position)


Aaron Rodgers (ADP: 18th Overall):

Let’s get this out of the way: Rodgers is the best quarterback in the NFL. The depth and talent of his receivers are outstanding, he’s in his prime, and losing Greg Jennings and Donald Driver will do very little if anything to stop him from destroying the world yet again in 2013. I love the guy, but I really can’t advocate drafting him in the middle of Round 2 when there’s so much quarterback gold so deep in the draft.

There was an interesting article on this website last week that used statistical analysis to argue that a quarterback should be drafted in Round 1. It was well-written and I enjoyed reading it as a college student majoring in statistics, but I couldn’t have disagreed more. Let’s compare a scenario where you go quarterback in Round 1 and running back in Round 5 to one in which you go running back in Round 1 and quarterback in Round 5. In the first scenario you’re getting Aaron Rodgers and Rashard Mendenhall. In the other you’re getting Ray Rice and Matt Ryan. I’ll let you decide which combo will score more fantasy points.

If Rodgers is available anywhere in Round 3 I’m snapping him up in a heartbeat, but I’m not messing up my running back situation when so many stud quarterbacks are available multiple rounds later.


Should you draft him?

NO


Eddie Lacy (ADP: Mid-Round 5):

I have to disagree with Lacy’s draft position. I agree with those who say that he’s the present favorite to be Green Bay’s main back, seeing as how he was drafted two rounds ahead of fellow rookie Johnathan Franklin, and the other three backs on the roster have failed to impress in the past. The thing is, over the last three seasons Green Bay’s lead rusher has put up statlines of 464 rushing yards, 125 receiving yards, no touchdowns; 578 rushing yards, 216 receiving yards, one touchdown; and 703 rushing yards, 342 receiving yards, four touchdowns.

In the last three seasons, every single Packers running back not named John Kuhn has put up a combined 12 touchdowns. To some extent I’m being unfair because the running woes in past seasons has a fair bit to do with Green Bay’s talent deficient rushers, but until I hear some reports about Lacy definitively beating out Franklin for the job, and the offensive line being able to run block worth a crap, I can’t begin to justify taking him this early.


Should you draft him?

NO


Johnathan Franklin (ADP: Mid-Round 10): Now this is more like it. If I draft someone in Round 5 I’m expecting him to start for me most weeks, and Lacy has to overcome multiple enormous question marks to hit that level. For Franklin, I’m not going to significantly mess up my season if my 10th-round pick doesn’t end up doing anything for me. While Lacy is the favorite for early down and goal line work, Franklin is the favorite for third down work with a chance to take the early down job from Lacy. The two have pretty similar upside, but the price of investing in Franklin is much more palatable.



Should you draft him?

YES

Alex Green/DuJuan Harris/John Kuhn (ADP: Undrafted):
Green is bad and should be ignored. Kuhn will inevitably grab lots of attention in fantasy circles, but that’s only because his sporadic 1-yard touchdown vultures will screw somebody over hard. He doesn’t have any actual starter value. As for Harris, a couple solid performances at the end of the season made him look like this year’s starter until Lacy and Franklin crashed the party. He’ll be a popular waiver add if something happens to either rookie, but he isn’t worth taking in most drafts.



Should you draft him?

NO

Randall Cobb (ADP: Mid-Round 3):
Rodgers once said that Cobb will go down as the best draft pick Ted Thompson has ever made. It’s probably a little early to confirm this statement, but so far so good. If your league gives points for return yardage, you’re borderline getting away with murder if you grab him in Round 3. In standard leagues, he’s worthy of the draft position because he’s just too talented. The Packers will get the ball in his hands however they can. Greg Jennings being gone will greatly increase Cobb’s targets, and the rushing attempts aren’t stopping anytime soon. The nature of being a slot receiver caps the touchdown upside, so I’m not expecting a similar improvement over the eight he scored last year, but he’s firmly locked in as a high-end every week starter.



Should you draft him?

YES

Jordy Nelson (ADP: Mid-Round 4):
Last season Nelson missed four games and saw nagging injuries significantly reduce his effectiveness over the back end of the season. Despite playing compromised, his 2012 stats extrapolated out to 16 games came out to roughly 1,000 yards and 10 touchdowns. Even when he’s hurt and gasping for targets on a crowded offense he produces like a high-end No. 2 wide receiver. Assuming his hamstring is OK, the value here is great, especially with Jennings gone. If you can tolerate the inconsistency inherent in deep threat receivers, he’s great value. However, in points-per-reception leagues he’s only good value as opposed to great in the middle of Round 4 because despite skin pigmentation similarities, the dude is the anti-Wes Welker.



Should you draft him?

YES

James Jones (ADP: End of Round 6):
I’m a complete broken record since I’ve mentioned Jennings in every paragraph, but it’s hard to overstate the significance. Three receivers who were already very good fantasy performers are now in a much less crowded field. Last year’s 14 touchdowns were kind of ridiculous and probably won’t be repeated, but he will still be a prime red zone target, and the yardage should climb since the Packers are down two receivers and Jones will only be seeing single coverage. Let’s keep this simple: Jones is being drafted as the 28th receiver off the board. If I had him as my third receiver in a 12-person league I would be more than satisfied.



Should you draft him?

YES

Jarrett Boykin (ADP: Undrafted):
I’ve already advised drafting three different Packers wide receivers. Not even the great Rodgers can support four viable fantasy wide receivers. If he has powers over time and space that are equal to his badness at making funny commercials, he could make football games last longer to allow for enough offensive snaps to make a fourth wide receiver viable. Unfortunately, I’m pretty sure he can’t do that. Get him off waivers if one of the three guys above gets hurt, but he isn’t worth a draft pick.



Should you draft him?

NO


Jermichael Finley (ADP: Late Round 9):


After being so highly drafted the past few years, Finley is now going as the 10th tight end off the board. His physical talent and quarterback give him huge upside, but his failure to consistently capitalize is frustrating to say the least. In a season with less tight end depth, I would tell you to never draft someone so horribly unreliable as a top 12 guy at his position, but drafting Finley and then Owen Daniels or Greg Olsen one round later is actually a pretty sensible strategy. Daniels and Olsen aren’t studs, but they’ll do enough to serve as adequate insurance if your Finley gamble doesn’t pay off. I’m going to give Finley a yes with an asterisk, because if you draft him as your only tight end you need your head examined, but if you appropriately back him up he’s a worthwhile gamble.



Should you draft him?

YES*

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