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2016 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): Brett Hundley

Starting QB: Aaron Rodgers enters his 12th season in Green Bay with two MVP's and a Super Bowl ring to his credit. Despite being decimated by injuries on the offensive side of the ball in 2015, Rodgers led the Packers to a 10-6 record and a NFC wild card berth. They beat Washington in the opening round of the playoffs and then were eliminated by Arizona, but not Rodgers led them on an improbable 99 yard game-tying drive to send the game into overtime. By his lofty standards, the 2015 season was not kind to Rodgers though. He threw for 3,821 yards with 31 touchdowns to eight interceptions. The yards and touchdowns were the lowest season total (in seasons where he played 16 games) since 2009, his second year as a starter. His turnovers (16 total, 8 interceptions, 8 fumbles) were the highest total since his first year as a starter in 2008. Rodgers completion percentage and quarterback rating plummeted to (60.7 %) and (92.7), respectively, down from (65.6%) and (112.2) in 2014. His yards per attempt (6.62) was also the lowest of his career. The injury to Jordy Nelson was a death blow, however the Packers also had injuries across the offensive line that contributed to Rodgers taking (46) sacks in 2015, trailing only Blake Bortles (51) among all quarterbacks. With that said, the injuries to his receivers and offensive line played a big part in his statistical decline, yet Rodgers still managed to score the 7th most fantasy points among quarterbacks. Rodgers level of consistency, even when things are falling apart around him, is what makes him a coveted fantasy option. With Jordy Nelson back at full strength and the offensive line healthy and bolstered by 2nd round pick Jason Spriggs, Rodgers looks poised to reclaim his spot among the elite fantasy quarterbacks.

Backup QB: The Packers allowed three year back up Scott Tolzien to walk away in free agency, where he signed with the Colts to be the back up to Andrew Luck. This leaves the Packers thin with 2nd year quarterback Brett Hundley as Rodger's backup. Hundley was drafted in the 5th round in 2015, and his only game action came in last year's preseason. To that end, Hundley looked the part of an NFL quarterback, completing 45 of 65 passes for 630 yards and seven touchdown to only one interception through four exhibition games. Hundley (6-3, 225 lbs) played in the spread formation during his college career at UCLA and is still learning the nuances of a pro-style offense.

Running Backs

Starter: Eddie Lacy
Backup(s): James Starks, John Crockett, Brandon Burks (R), Brandon Ross (R)
Fullback(s): Aaron Ripkowski, Alstevis Squirewell (R)

Starting RB: After starting his career with consecutive 1,000 yard seasons, Eddie Lacy took a big step backwards in 2015. He finished with the fewest rushing yards (758 yards), attempts (187), touchdowns (3), receptions (20) and receiving yards (188) of his career. Despite playing 15 games, Lacy was not the bell-cow back the Packers had relied on in recent years and struggled to be consistent from week to week. He had three games of 100+ rushing yards, but he also had four games of 10 rushing yards or less. He was drafted as a #1 fantasy option but finished the season as the 27th ranked running back, one spot behind fellow Packer, James Starks. Both Lacy and Starks averaged (4.1) yards per carry, but Starks was the preferred option on passing downs and the coaching staff seemed to trust him in key spots over Lacy. The Packers were snake bitten with injuries in 2015, most notably Jordy Nelson, who gave the offense a down field threat and reliable third down option. He also kept opposing defenses from stacking the box against the run, something that was sorely missing last season and contributed to the Packers ineffectiveness rushing the ball. While those are things that Lacy cannot control, he failed at the one thing he can control, his conditioning. Packers coach Mike McCarthy was candid when discussing Lacy's conditioning, or lack thereof, after the season ended. This led to Lacy enlisting the help of P90x creator, Tony Horton, to help him get in prime football shape this off-season, so it will be interesting to see what Lacy looks like when he comes to training camp. He plays in one of the most explosive offenses in football, and is capable of being a true three down back. Lacy has shown that he can excel in passing situations (42 receptions, 427 yards, 4 receiving touchdowns in 2014) and in the red zone (20 rushing touchdowns combined in 2013 and 2014) giving him upside that few running backs in the NFL have these days. His talent is not in question, but his drive to maximize his talent certainly is, and that drive will determine his fantasy value in 2016.

Backup RBs: James Starks was resigned to a two year deal this off-season, and is listed as the #2 running back and backup to Eddie Lacy, but really he is the #1B option in Green Bay. With Lacy struggling last season, Starks stepped up and once again provided the Packers with a spark in the backfield. He led the Packers in yards from scrimmage (993), gaining 601 yards on 148 carries (4.1 yards per carry) with two rushing touchdowns. Where he shined brightest was in the passing game though, finishing with 43 receptions for 392 yards and three touchdowns. He was one of only five running backs to eclipse 600 yards rushing and 390 yards receiving in 2015. Starks has gained the trust of Aaron Rodgers and the Packers coaching staff, which in turn has tightened the leash on Lacy. If Lacy continues his woes in 2016, expect Starks to pick up the slack just as he did this past season, making him a viable fantasy option with upside to boot. Filling out the backfield for the Packers is John Crockett. Crockett (6-0, 217 lbs) was signed as an undrafted free agent in 2015, and spent much of the season on the practice squad. He did get a chance in the rotation during week 13 and led the Packers in rushing, gaining 22 yards on five carries while showing off agility and lateral quickness. Crockett was a work horse at North Dakota State and possesses the size to play at the NFL level. He will have to work to be active on game days though, as Lacy and Starks give the Packers a well-rounded skillset, so there is little need to add Crockett to the rotation. With that said, he is one injury away from seeing an expanded role in the Packers backfield. Brandon Burks and Brandon Ross are both undrafted free agents that the Packers signed to provide depth at the position during training camp. Ross was a very productive player at Maryland, finishing his career with the 4th most rushing yards in school history. Ross will have a hard time finding a niche on the Packers offense mainly due to his lack of an elite skill. He's not overly fast in pads (4.44 40 yard dash) and doesn't possess the type of skills that would allow him to beat defenders in the open field. At 5'9, 203 lbs, Brandon Burks has a diverse skill set that will greatly improve his chances of making the final roster. He has game breaking speed and runs with a low center of gravity, which allows him to break arm tackles and get to the edge quickly. He has also proven to have a reliable set of hands and can excel in the passing game. With that said, he still has a long way to go in pass protection, which is a skill the Packers covet in order to protect Aaron Rodgers and keep him up right.

Fullback: The Packers made Aaron Ripkowski (6-1, 246 lbs) the 206th overall pick in the 2015 draft, and he was immediately groomed as the successor to John Kuhn. Much like Kuhn, Ripkowski earned his roster spot by contributing on special teams and he was solid in that role throughout the 2015 season. Ripkowski was a true fullback at Oklahoma, spending four years as a lead blocker for some of the nation's top running backs. If Green Bay chooses not to resign Kuhn, they will at least have a player in a similar mold who can be a lead blocker in the run game and be effective as a pass blocker. The fullback plays an important part in the Green Bay offense, but for fantasy purposes, Ripkowski is a non-factor. In order to add depth to the fullback position, the Packers made an interesting move in signing undrafted free agent Alstevis Squirewell. Squirewell played some fullback in high school, but played on the defensive side of the ball throughout his entire collegiate career. He possesses the strength and athleticism to be a potential back up fullback, but the biggest question now is whether he is capable of grasping the nuances of the fullback position. John Kuhn (6-0, 250 lbs) has been a veteran mainstay for the last nine years in Green Bay. During that time he has gone from practice squad fullback to special teams gunner to backup fullback to starting fullback, and even a short stint at running back when the Packers were ravaged by injury at the position. He was voted to the Pro Bowl in 2012 and is widely regarded as one of the best fullbacks in the NFL. The Packers have taken advantage of his versatility, using him as a runner and receiver, but his real value has been paving the way for the running backs and keeping Aaron Rodgers upright. The Packers chose not to resign Kuhn, which gave him the opportunity to sign with the New Orleans Saints on 8/6/2016.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb
Backups: Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, Trevor Davis [R]

Starting WRs: If there was any question as to Jordy Nelson's value to the Packers offense, they were answered definitively in 2015. His injury (torn ACL) changed the dynamic of the Packers wide receiver core, shifting Randall Cobb and Davante Adams into #1 and #2 options, respectively. That shift turned out to be too much for both players, with Cobb receiving extra attention from opposing secondaries and Adams facing off against starting caliber cornerbacks as opposed to the nickel corners he faced as a rookie. Prior to missing the 2015 season, Nelson (6-3, 217 lbs) was coming off a 98 catch, 1,519 yard and 13 touchdown season in 2014. He had proven himself to be a complete receiver capable of taking the top off a defense downfield, while also working the sidelines on short and intermediate routes. What really makes Nelson special is his ability to get downfield where he utilizes his height, strength and incredible leaping ability to physically dominate opposing cornerbacks. From 2011-2014, Nelson scored 43 receiving touchdowns, four of which came on 73, 76, 81 and 90 yard receptions. When healthy, there is no doubt that he is a top 10 fantasy receiver with the upside to climb inside the top three. Nelson had some tendonitis issues with his "good" knee, but he has been activated from the PUP and appears to be full go to start the season. Nelson's health has had a domino effect on the rest of the receiving core, most notably Randall Cobb. In his two full seasons as a starter alongside Nelson, Cobb (5-10, 195) averaged 85 receptions on 115 targets, for 1,120 yards and 10 touchdowns. This past year, Cobb recorded 79 receptions on 129 targets for 829 yards and six touchdowns, with three of those touchdowns coming in one game. In those two season alongside Nelson, Cobb had eight total 100 yard games; in 2015, Cobb only had one. Plainly put, Cobb benefits from playing alongside a healthy Nelson. While some receivers might excel with the increase in target volume, Cobb's success is tied to quality, not quantity. His value is in his versatility and the ability to line up in different spots and create mismatches. Cobb did not have that luxury in 2015 because the Packers did not have the talent to keep defenses from focusing on him.

Backup WRs: Davante Adams (6-1, 215 lbs) was supposed to be the guy to fill the void in Nelson's absence, but he look severely overmatched in press coverage and struggled with drops last season. In his defense, Adams was preparing to be the #3 receiver, but after Nelson was injured he lined up against the opposing teams #1 cornerback much of the time. Adams got off to great start in his rookie year, recording 38 receptions on 66 targets for 446 yards and three touchdowns. His 2015 season was disappointing statistically though. He finished with 50 receptions on 93 targets for 483 yards and only one touchdown. He averaged two less yards per catch, and finished with a drop percentage of 6.4%, a high percentage for a player averaging 9.7 yards per catch who has Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball. Adams has the physical attributes to be a starting caliber receiver, but he has yet to grasp the nuances of the position and his mental mistakes have frustrated the Green Bay coaching staff. Due to Adams struggles in 2015, the #3 position in the Green Bay offense is wide open. Ty Montgomery, Jarred Abbrederis and Jeff Janis will be the guys battling Adams, with 5th round pick Trevor Davis expected to contribute on special teams as he learns the offense. Montgomery (6-0, 216 lbs) was showing promise through the first six games before injuring his ankle, which ended up costing him the rest of the season. He's a smooth route runner who can gain yards after the catch, a trait the Packers highly covet. Abbrederis (6-1, 195) is a polished route runner who fits very nicely inside the Packers offensive scheme. His biggest problem is his health, having missed all of his rookie season with an ACL tear before missing games with rib and chest injuries, as well as eventually injuring his ankle in the playoff game against Arizona. He is a natural slot receiver which limits his upside as Cobb's understudy, but Aaron Rodgers has repeatedly praised his talent as a route runner. The biggest mystery on the Packers is Jeff Janis. A physical specimen (6-3, 220 lbs), Janis has long been a scouts dream and a coaches nightmare. He had yet to capitalize on his physical talent until that fateful night in Arizona, when he became a Green Bay legend by recording two catches for 101 yards and a touchdown on the Packers last second, game tying drive. Up until that game Janis had a total of four receptions for 95 yards in his career. He finished the game againt Arizona with seven catches for 145 yards and two touchdowns. The biggest weakness among the Packers receivers is speed, and that is one area where Janis can help. He is no longer just a physical freak and will be given every opportunity to win the #3 or #4 job, but he is still raw as a receiver and will need to work on the details of his craft if he wants to beat out the players ahead of him. The Packers offense has proven that they can support two high level fantasy receivers, but hoping for anything more than that would be ambitious. (Update: August 16th) Janis has been told he will miss 4-6 weeks after breaking his finger. Doctors will need to insert screws around the bones of his index finger, so it doesn't look like we will be seeing Janis until at the very earliest, the first week of October.

Tight Ends

Starters: Richard Rodgers, Jared Cook
Backups: Justin Perillo, Kennard Backman

Richard Rodgers (6-4, 257) came into the 2015 season battling Andrew Quarless for the spot atop the Packers depth chart. While Quarless struggled to stay healthy, Rodgers was busy having a break out year and catching Aaron Rodger's Hail Mary's pass to beat the Lions on the last play of the game. It was that play that looked to give Rodgers the confidence he needed to become a pivotal piece in the passing game. Jordy Nelson's injury opened the door for someone to step up, and despite Rodgers being a long shot to fill that void, he finished 2nd on the team in catches (58), third in yards (510) and 1st in touchdown catches (8). Rodgers knows the Packers offense, has Aaron Rodgers trust and offers a reliable set of hands with the size to catch passes in traffic. That should be enough to guarantee him the starting spot to begin the season, but he will have competition. The one area that Rodgers is lacking in is speed, something that Packers have not had since Jermichael Finley retired. They addressed that need in Free Agency by signing former Rams tight end, Jared Cook. McCarthy has been vocal about how the rule changes in the NFL have created a need for speed in the middle of the field, and the normally stingy-in-free-agency Packers made it a point to add that dimension to their offense. Cook is a good player, but how good remains to be seen. He's played his entire career with a revolving group of quarterbacks that include Jake Locker, Vince Young, Sam Bradford and Nick Foles, and those are the most notable signal callers. Cook now finds himself in one of the top offenses in football, catching passes from perhaps the best quarterback in the game. There are a lot of mouths to feed in the Packers offense, so it would be unwise to expect Cook be a top 10 tight end right away, but it certainly isn't out of the question given McCarthy's comments. The most likely scenario will be a time share, which effectively lowers the value of both Rodgers and Cook as fantasy options. If one of the two were to get injured though (a likely occurrence in today's NFL), that would open the door for the other to be a top 10 tight end, with Cook having the highest upside of the two. Cook's offseason foot surgery that has kept him sidelined to open training camp could figure into the initial outcome of this position battle. After missing time with an injury,learning a new playbook and chemistry to develop with Aaron Rodgers, Cook has his work cut out for him if he wants to challenge Rodgers for the starting tight end position.

Place Kicker

Mason Crosby: The once beleaguered Crosby made all 36 of his extra point attempts, and his 24-for-28 field goal accuracy performance actually tied for second best in his career. The Packers haven't brought in anyone to push Crosby, and the return of Jordy Nelson should get the Packers offense back to the production levels that made Crosby a top five scoring kicker in 2013 and 2014. He's worth a look as one of the last kickers off of the board.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Micah Hyde

While he famously didn't receive much playing time at wide receiver until the playoffs, Jeff Janis was a fixture on special teams and led the team in kickoff returns in 2015. With Janis injured to start the season, expect the Packers to use fellow receiver Jared Abbrederis or versatile return man Micah Hyde.

Punt Returners: Micah Hyde, Trevor Davis, Randall Cobb

With Jordy Nelson injured, Green Bay thought better of risking Randall Cobb in his usual role as a punt returner in 2015, giving the job instead to Micah Hyde. Hyde returns in 2016, but with Nelson back, Cobb might be a factor on special teams once again.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT David Bakhtiari, LG Josh Sitton, C Corey Linsley, RG T.J. Lang, RT Bryan Bulaga
Key Backups: Jason Spriggs [R], J.C. Tretter, Don Barclay, Lane Taylor

The Packers' offensive line is led by All-Pro and Pro Bowl left guard Josh Sitton. Sitton is regarded as one of the most fearsome and effective blockers in the entire league. He is the most talented player on the line but the line doesn't actually have many weaknesses. Center Corey Linsley and right guard T.J. Land are well above average, and right tackle Bryan Bulaga is an effective run blocker when healthy. The team drafted Jason Spriggs in the second round to compete at left tackle against starter David Bakthiari. Bakthiari started his career hot but opposing defenses attack him as the weak spot of the unit. The Packers have other depth options with actual game experience in Don Barclay, J.C. Tretter and Lane Taylor. Overall, the Packers' offensive line is a very good unit, and benefit from the cohesion that is building between these same five starters from last season. Tier Ranking: Top Tier.

Team Defense

The Packers tied for 7th in sacks, 9th in interceptions, and 12th in scoring defense in 2015 despite a struggling offense that dealt with inconsistency in the backfield and poor play in the wide receiver corps. Jordy Nelson is back from his 2015 preseason ACL tear, Eddie Lacy has lost weight in the offseason, and the Packers open the season at Jacksonville, so this season could get off the right foot. The team added depth at linebacker and on the defensive line in the draft after a typically quiet free agency period. If they return to their 2014 competitiveness, they could be a bargain going outside of the top 12-15 in early drafts, because they were a top 4-6 D/ST option in 2014 on the back of some very strong efforts at Lambeau Field.

Defensive Line

Starters: DT Kenny Clark [R], DE Mike Daniels, NT Letroy Guion
Backups: DE Christian Ringo, DE Dean Lowry [R], DE Mike Pennel, DE Datone Jones

Starting DL: Daniels is one of the best in the game and provides a Geno Atkins-esque presence on the Packers defensive line. BJ Raji retired this offseason (he said it could be a hiatus), so the team will rely on Letroy Guion, who was re-signed this offseason after providing depth last year. Guion played mostly end last year, but the team will give him a chance to replace Raji at nose tackle. Rookie first-round pick Kenny Clark can play nose tackle or five-technique end, and the Packers will likely be forced to use him heavy in the rotation, if not as a starter. With the exception of Daniels, the Packers defensive line could be a problem because of lack of experience and quality.

Backup DL: Fourth-round pick Dean Lowry will likely be asked to play as soon as he is ready, as will practice squad star Christian Ringo. Mike Pennel is a player the Packers like as an up and coming defensive end, but he will serve a four-game suspension to begin the season. A number of undrafted free agents will have a chance to win a roster spot because of the Packer thin depth on the defensive line to begin the season. Datone Jones is listed as a defensive end, but the Packers seemed more inclined to use him as an edge rusher last year and declined his fifth-year option this offseason.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Jake Ryan, MLB Sam Barrington, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Julius Peppers
Backups: ILB Blake Martinez [R], ILB Joe Thomas, MLB Carl Bradford, OLB Kyler Fackrell [R], OLB Nick Perry

Starting LBs: The Packers continue the search for stability at the inside linebacker spots. Jake Ryan battled through early hamstring injuries to replace Nate Palmer and have a strong finish to his rookie season. Due to a foot injury, Sam Barrington was lost for the 2015 season, but had played well prior to that point. He is now healthy and ready to take the other interior spot. Clay Matthews spent most of last season playing inside linebacker due to injuries and the ineffectiveness of his other teammates. He will now be bumped back outside to his natural position. Julius Peppers is on the final year of his deal and has continued to play at a high level, despite being age 36.

Backup LBs: The Packers bolstered their linebacker depth in this Draft, taking Blake Martinez in the fourth round and Kyler Fackrell in the third round. Martinez excels as a coverage linebacker and will see the field in passing situations. The Packers likely see third-round selection Kyler Fackrell as an eventual starter at one of the outside linebacker spots. Joe Thomas spent some time on the Cowboys practice squad after being cut by the Packers last season, but was brought back by the team when Sam Barrington was injured. After failing to transition from defensive end to outside linebacker, Carl Bradford will do his best to stick on the roster as a backup at one of the inside linebacker spots. Given the choice to keep Mike Neal or Nick Perry, the team cut Neal and extended Perry for one year. Their former first-round pick has been slow to transition from end to outside pass rusher, but the light did appear to come on for Perry during the Packers' recent playoff run.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Damarious Randall, CB Sam Shields, SS Morgan Burnett, FS Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Backups: CB/FS Quinten Rollins, CB/FS Micah Hyde, CB Demetri Goodson, SS Chris Banjo

Starting DBs: Casey Hayward moved on to the Chargers, but the rest of the starting unit stayed intact. After playing very well in his rookie year, Damarious Randall was promoted to the starting corner spot vacated by Casey. There is a slight possibility that Randall could face league discipline for being in the vehicle of Texans wide receiver Jaelen Strong, who was cited for marijuana possession. Veteran corner Sam Shields suffered a concussion in December and was unable to appear for all but the last game of the Packers' playoff run. There have been no reported recurrent symptoms and he should be ready to go for the 2016 season. Morgan Burnett and Clinton-Dix continue to arguably be the best safety tandem in the league. Burnett has been getting snaps at dime linebacker in practice, an intriguing development for his IDP value.

Backup DBs: Secondary depth continues to be an area of strength for the Packers. Quinten Rollins played exceptionally in his rookie season and will see significant playing time in year two. Micah Hyde enters his contract year with the team and figures to also continue handling punt return duties. After being convicted of using performance enhancing drugs, developmental corner Demetri Goodson is suspended for four games. Reserve safety and special teams captain Chris Banjo was retained after he signed his tender offer with the Packers in late April.

Last modified: 2016-08-29 19:29:36