LaMichael James (23) is tackled by the Green Bay Packers defense during the second quarter of the NFC divisional round playoff game at Candlestick Park. Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Here’s Your Early Fantasy Analysis for Key Packers Players


Hey, Packers fans, it’s not too early to participate in mock fantasy drafts as part of your research for the upcoming fantasy season. I like website features that keep track of where players are being drafted in all mock drafts and provide a ranking relative to other players at that position. You get the pulse of the fantasy nation on the fantasy value of each player.

For my first mock draft of 2013, I visited CBSSports.com. It was simply out of habit. I chose the option to join a 12-team standard scoring league. In a matter of minutes, I was grouped with fantasy team owners across Internet-land with names like Grinders, Pat-hand, and Lost Hope. When it came time to pick a draft slot, I chose number 4. Whenever I am faced with choosing a draft selection between 0-12, I pick 4. Not sure why. It may be the Brett Favre factor.

I know it’s early, but what’s the fantasy word on some of our favorite Packers? Let’s start at the top. As in, the NFL’s highest paid player, Aaron Rodgers.

The CBS player preview for Rodgers says you may be able to find him available in the second round in your draft. Anyone who has been reading the CBS fantasy league player analysis over the last decade, the stuff published in those player profile boxes by some nameless person, knows their track record. It sucks. While I understand why there may be a run on running backs in the first round, I really believe quarterbacks Rodgers and Drew Brees will be gone in round one.

The first three picks in my mock draft were Adrian Peterson, Arian Foster, and Drew Brees.

“You’re on deck!” That’s what you hear when it’s almost your turn to draft. It gives me an automatic, free shot of adrenalin. There’s good value in that for someone in their 50s, like me.

The online feature that ranks where players have been selected in other mock drafts identified Rodgers as the next best player available. I selected Rodgers. No brainer. The author of Rodgers’ CBS player preview may want to reconsider his comments.

What a delight it would be to have Rodgers at the top of my lineup every week. When I sit down at Buffalo Wild Wings with my brother and two hundred other fantasy players every Sunday this fall, I can hold my head high. Aaron Rodgers. That’s my man! Another order of wings, please. And where’s that free coffee refill?

It’s really debatable whether Rodgers’ production and fantasy points will slip due to the anticipated new emphasis on the run game. I think an improved running game will mean more scoring for Rodgers because it could create more “red zone” opportunities. More play-action on first and 10 from the 18 yard line. See where I am going?

Who was the next Packer taken in this mock draft? Let’s just say the arrow is way up for wide receiver Randall Cobb. It helps when Rodgers is quoted saying things like: “I think Randall Cobb is a guy who could be a 100-plus catch guy every year.”

In my mock draft, Cobb was chosen near the top of the fourth round at number 38, ahead of fantasy wideout stars from past years: Victor Cruz, Marques Colston and Wes Welker. Which receivers went ahead of Cobb? Calvin Johnson, A.J. Green, Dez Bryant, Brandon Marshall, Julio Jones, Larry Fitzgerald, Demaryius Thomas, Percy Harvin, Roddy White, and Andre Johnson.

If you are in a league that provides a point-per-reception, if Cobb lasts into the fourth round, he would be a steal. It is not a stretch to see Cobb amassing top five, franchise-tag statistics in 2013.

What are the so-called fantasy experts saying about Cobb?

Michael Fabiano, NFL Total Access:

He will be heading into his third year. A lot of wide receivers in the past have had their first big year in their third year. He was in the top 20 of fantasy points with wide receivers last year. I think he gets in the top 10 this year, and remember, Greg Jennings is no longer in Green Bay, so Randall Cobb is going to see many opportunities. And by the way, his quarterback is pretty good.

Chris Wesseling, NFL.com:

Cobb is not just a dark-horse candidate. He’s a legitimate threat to lead the NFL in receptions this season.

Speaking of Jennings, the former Packer-turned-Viking, a player now receiving a nearly franchise-tag contract of $9 million per year, where was he selected in the mock draft? He wasn’t in the top 10. Jennings was picked in round 10, the 113th pick. That means he will be a reserve on his fantasy team behind Vincent Jackson, Demaryious Thomas and Danny Amendola.

Welcome to Minnesota and the spiral of Christian Ponder. Better learn how to block for Adrian Peterson. Your sister wanted South Beach. Well, they got a nightclub in Minneapolis called South Beach. Be careful what you wish for.

Jordy Nelson was the next Packer selected 51st in the 5th round. That seems about right. I don’t think we will see a repeat of Nelson’s breakout 2011 season (1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns). With the evolution of Cobb and Rodgers’ renewed confidence in James Jones and Jermichael Finley, I think Nelson will be targeted about 60 to 75 times in the 2013 and score six to eight touchdowns.

Jones went with the 57th selection in the 5th round. That seems to be a safe area to select him. After last season’s breakout year when he scored 14 touchdowns, Jones no longer deserves fantasy reserve status and should be a solid number two receiver on a team. Jones says he is preparing to be the Packers’ number one receiver, however those recent statements by Rodgers and other fantasy experts place Cobb in that role in 2013.

Rookie Eddie Lacy went 59th, also in the 5th round. The team that drafted him will start him as their second back paired with LeSean McCoy. He went ahead of Ryan Mathews, Montee Ball and Bernard Giovanni, but after Leveon Bell and Darren Sproles. In my mind, picking Lacy as your number two back is a little bit of a reach until we get confirmation that Lacy is the primary back for the Packers. That will all shake out by the end of preseason. Better convince your league not to hold an early draft so you can see how the running back stories play out in Green Bay, Denver, Pittsburgh, and Cincinnati. If Lacy is the primary back, he’s a good choice at 59.

Besides Cobb, what other Packers player should be on the upswing in fantasy football? Finley. I grabbed him in the 8th round ahead of Antonio Gates. Finley became the 6th tight tend chosen, even though his stats last year were 17th among tight ends. I am sure there will be some experts who think he isn’t the 6th best. I see some very positive signs.

Since Finley stopped dropping the ball in the second half of last season, his receptions remained at a steady pace. He averaged six catches per game after the bye week. Maintaining that production through an entire season would translate into more than 90 catches. I expect him to get 70 to 80 catches if he stays healthy, with more touchdowns than the paltry two scores he had in 2013. Read more about Finley’s upside in Ray Rivard’s player profile.

I prefer to pick a defense in the later rounds and then watch the waiver wire in weeks two and three for a defense that is showing early season promise. In round 13, lo and behold, the Packers defense was there for me. A lot of people will downgrade the Packers defense because of the total yards given up in the playoffs to San Francisco. However, the Packers defense last year, despite their flimsy league ranking, had a nice scoring defense for fantasy. Forty-seven sacks helped. They averaged five defensive/special teams touchdowns and 20 interceptions a year in the last five years. If Desmond Bishop and Nick Perry can return strong from their injuries, and rookie Datone Jones can provide extra pressure and read-option containment, this defense should make a big improvement and score decent numbers for me each week.

Wow, I am psyched. My hypothetical fantasy team is looking good. Rodgers, Finley, and the Packers defense.

Which Packers do you want on your fantasy team?

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Tags: Aaron Rodgers Eddie Lacy Fan-Sided Fantasy Football Green Bay Packers Greg Jennings James Jones Jermichael Finley John Dewey Jordy Nelson Lombardiave Randall Cobb Ray Rivard