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Faceoff: Green Bay Receivers

June 27th


Clayton Gray: What are your thoughts on the Packers receivers? Specifically, how will Greg Jennings and Jermichael Finley coexist? Will they both be among the elite at their respective position?

Jason Wood: The Finley/Jennings scenario you're alluding to was certainly fascinating. For those who don't realize, Greg Jennings was 23rd among fantasy WRs through the first month of the season, at the same time Jermichael Finley was 5th among tight ends. Jennings had just 161 yards and 12 receptions while Finley had 21 receptions for 301 yards. After Finley was placed on IR, Jennings bounced back and was the second most productive fantasy WR over the final 12 games (64 receptions for 1,104 yards and 9 TDs in 12 games). That has led many to argue that Jennings is a risky bet as your #1 this year because Finley will cut into his productivity.

Frankly that's a ridiculous assertion. For one thing, people are basing this concern on a whopping 4-game sample size. And while Jennings certainly got off to a slow start, I don't see how anyone can blame Finley. They don't play the same position, they don't run the same patterns, and they're both part of Aaron Rodgers' passing progression. Jennings was targeted 26 times in the first four games, he just happened to only catch 12 of them. That's unusual for him, to say the least. With the bevy of other options in Green Bay, there are always going to be games when it doesn't make sense to target Jennings with abandon, but he's still the best wideout on that team, and Rodgers is going to utilize his vertical skills quite often.

Mark Wimer: I think Jason's analysis is right on here - Jennings was a bit fumble-fingered to start off 2010, but this team is pass-happy enough that there should be plenty of balls go around. In fact, with James Jones perhaps heading for greener ($) pastures during free agency, and Donald Driver starting to decline into his sunset years in the league, Jennings may actually command more, not less, passes during 2011 - despite Finley's reappearance on the field of play. I have zero concerns where Jenning's role on the Packers is concerned.

Jeff Pasquino: The Jennings - Finley debate was hotly contested this off-season in the Shark Pool, and I joined in several times to that discussion. At the risk of being redundant, here were a few things I pointed out back then:

Finley played the first 4 games. Targets were:

  • Jennings - 26
  • Finley - 26
  • Driver - 26
  • Jones - 16
  • Nelson - 9

After that point, the next 12 games:

  • Jennings - 97
  • Finley - 0 (Quarless 32, Lee 10)
  • Driver - 60
  • Jones - 71
  • Nelson - 55

So Jennings averaged 6.5 targets and right at 25% of the targets for the Top 5 targets over the first four weeks. For the next 12, Jennings had 8 targets and 30% of the targets for the top four WRs and the TE position. Hardly a huge difference. If anything, Finley's targets went mostly to the other 3 WRs, especially Jones and Nelson, who had been representing about 25% of the action before Finley got hurt and then had 39% of the targets combined after he went down.

So I stand by my belief that Jennings is a solid fantasy WR1 (Top 12) player who consistently finds himself right in that range every season. He isn't too flashy and does not have a huge upside, but he does have a "high floor". In other words, he is not likely to finish as a Top 3 wide receiver but odds are quite good that he will wind up being in that WR10-15 range when all is said and done this season.

The more interesting stories go beyond Jennings and Finley. We know Finley will put up solid Top 5 tight end numbers or better if he stays healthy. The bigger questions are WR2-WR4 for one of the best passing games in the NFL. Does Donald Driver have enough in the tank to put up one more solid year? Will Jordy Nelson move past him on the depth chart? Will James Jones re-sign with the team? Where does rookie Randall Cobb figure into all of this?

I think that Driver has one more solid year left as a Derrick Mason-type possession / go-to wideout for Aaron Rodgers. Nelson showed great potential in the Super Bowl last year, but it is one thing to beat up on nickel corners and quite another to start as the flanker and do everything that Driver can do. I expect Nelson to be the WR3 again for the Packers and rookie Cobb to learn everything he can from Driver before Cobb really pushes the savvy veteran next year. As for James Jones, I think he will go where the money is and sign with a WR-needy team like Jacksonville or Carolina as a starter there.

Andrew Garda: Let's also recall that it took the offensive line time to jell YET AGAIN for the Pack. Jennings does better when Rodgers has time and it took a while for the offensive line to get him that time. That it happened after Finely went down is almost an unintentional smokescreen.

As has been pointed out, there is more than enough to go around here and Jennings should see plenty of action as will Finley. I agree with Jeff that Driver has one more good season left. I like rookie Randall Cobb as the season progresses as I think he could be a good replacement for Driver. But ultimately his value is next year and beyond, moreso than 2011.

Matt Waldman: Wood and Pasquino's analysis of the Jennings/Finley situation is dead-on. Another thing to note is that I recall Jennings telling the media that he had a discussion with the coaching staff about his use in the system prior to his increase in production. Sometimes a slump in stats can do with an offense over-thinking its strategy and not aggressively targeting its best players.

I still see Jennings, Finley, and Driver as the first three options in this offense. I wouldn't be surprised if Cobb takes over Nelson's role by the end of the year because Cobb is a more versatile and explosive option and his run blocking will earn him brownie points with the coaches. If Jones sticks around, I think Cobb's production will be lower. If not, Cobb will see opportunities in special packages just for him.