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2013 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman

Starting QB: Aaron Rodgers has been a stud quarterback for the last five seasons. He's been the No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy quarterback through that entire span, posting more than 4,000 passing yards four out of five years and 28 or more passing touchdowns in each season as well. Over the last two years, he has almost 9000 passing yards and 84 passing touchdowns compared with just 14 interceptions. He's also chipped in more than 500 yards rushing and five rushing touchdowns over the last two seasons as well. Rodgers is about as consistent of a quarterback as you can find. His No. 1 wide receiver, Greg Jennings was hurt for most of the season and Rodgers didn't miss a beat. That's important to note for 2013 because Jennings is now in Minnesota. Rodgers still has one of best group of wide receivers in the league. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and James Jones could each be a WR1 on most teams in the league, and all will line up for Rodgers again this season. Add in the fact that the Packers have added two solid rookie running backs to their backfield, and Rodgers will be captain of one of the most potent offenses in the league.

Backup QB: Graham Harrell completed two of the four passes that he attempted all season. Such is the life of a guy backing up a starting quarterback that has only missed two games in the last five years. Harrell will be the backup again this season, but he won't see the field unless the game is totally under control or Rodgers can't go due to injury. 2012 seventh-round pick B.J. Coleman could push Harrell in camp and the preseason and give the team a more talented backup.

Running Backs

Starter: Eddie Lacy [R], Johnathan Franklin [R]
Backup(s): James Starks, Alex Green and DuJuan Harris [IR]
Fullback(s): John Kuhn

Starting RB: DuJuan Harris was the star of many early free agency periods in dynasty and keeper leagues this season. He had 157 rushing yards and two touchdowns in the final four games of the regular season, but posted 100 yards rushing and a pair of scores in the playoffs. He also chipped in seven receptions for another 64 yards. Harris looked like a good candidate to take over the starting job in Green Bay this season. Then came the draft. The Packers took advantage of Eddie Lacy's free fall, grabbing him at No. 61 overall when many mock drafts had him going in the first round. Lacy made Manti Te'o look foolish in the NCAA national championship game, and Lacy is a guy who clearly has starting quality NFL talent. DuJuan Harris was placed on Injured Reserve due to a knee injury and Lacy will be handed the starting job. Johnathan Franklin has the most talent of the backs that remain, but he's a long way from pushing Lacy for carries at this point.

Backup RBs: Just to make things even more interesting, the Packers added Johnathan Franklin to their roster with a late fourth-round pick this season. Franklin has good potential, but his pass blocking is not great and he has had fumbling issues in the past. James Starks and Alex Green are known commodities and the additions of Lacy and Franklin should tell you all that you need to know about Green and Starks. Green is entering year two after an ACL tear, so he could be better than what we saw from him last year.

Fullback: John Kuhn is a staple of the Green Bay backfield, acting as the lead blocker and short yardage back that brings the crowd to their feet every time he touches the ball. His soft hands make him even more dangerous, and he managed 15 receptions on 18 targets last season as well. He even chipped in two short touchdowns in the playoffs against Minnesota this season, despite having less than 20 yards from scrimmage. Expect more of the same from him again this year, although his touchdown average should go up a bit.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb (KR/PR)
Backups: Jarrett Boykin, Charles Johnson [R], Kevin Dorsey [R], Jeremy Ross, Sederrick Cunningham.

Starting WRs: With Greg Jennings out for half of the season, it was up to the other guys on the team to make up the difference. They did not disappoint. Jordy Nelson missed four games himself, but still turned in an impressive 750-yard, 7-touchdown performance. Randall Cobb annihilated his rookie season, and led the team with almost 1200 yards from scrimmage and eight touchdowns. James Jones leap-frogged Donald Driver, posting career bests in receptions, yards and toucdowns, finishing as the No. 16 fantasy wide receiver last season. Aaron Rodgers spreads the ball around so well that it's hard to say which of these guys is the go to guy at any point in time. With a fresh running game to keep defenses honest, look for all three of these guys to post starter quality numbers this season. Nelson recently announced that he will have surgery to repair a nerve issue in his knee and he will miss the entire pre-season. Early reports put him at a 3-4 week recovery, and that would me that he would still be OK by the season opener. Hold steady on Nelson for now, but temper your expectations in case the recovery causes him to miss a game or two.

Backup WRs: With Donald Driver and Greg Jennings both leaving the team after many seasons, the backup group will have a brand new set of faces. Jarrett Boykin caught five of the six passes thrown his way last season, but that certainly won't guarantee him any playing time this season. Charles Johnson was a seventh round pick this season, but he has shown good athleticism and soft hands. Kevin Dorsey was another seventh rounder that the Packers hope can turn into a solid backup for their team. Even with Jeremy Ross in the mix, the entire backup group has very limited NFL experience. Any of these guys could emerge as potential long-term prospects for next season and beyond.

Tight Ends

Starters: Jermichael Finley
Backups: D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor, Andrew Quarless, Matthew Mulligan, Jake Stoneburner [R], Brandon Bostick

Jermichael Finley posted a career best 61 receptions last season, but his yards per reception fell to a career low 10.9 and he only reached the end zone twice in his 16 games. Although he may have lost a step, he's still a threat down the middle of the field, especially if opposing linebackers have to worry about a running game now. Of the other backup tight ends on Green Bay's roster, only Andrew Quarless has any meaningful playing time. However, he's never been a guy that the Packers could count on from week to week, and he'll compete with guys like D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor for a roster spot. Tom Crabtree has moved on to Tampa Bay, leaving a few goal-line looks behind for one of these guys to pick up this season.

Place Kicker

Mason Crosby: Brett Goode is back at long snapper as is punter/holder Tim Masthay. Kicker Mason Crosby followed up his career best 2011 season with a career worst in 2012 (21 of 33 field goals, 63.6%). Consequently he was not the lone kicker in camp this year as in year's past. The challenger for the job was initially Giorgio Tavecchio, who was in the 49ers camp last summer as a rookie following a college career at Cal with modest numbers. That changed late in preseason when he was swapped for rookie Zach Ramirez (aka Zach Brown) who had strong numbers at Portland State before being sidelined with an injury early in his senior year. That only lasted two days however. The Packers have ranked in the top ten in attempted kicking points in six of the past seven years, including 8th last year.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb, Johnathan Franklin, Jared Abbrederis [R]

An injury to Randall Cobb gave other players on the Packers a chance at the return jobs last season, and Micah Hyde made the most of the opportunity. He plucked the kick return job away from Johnathan Franklin and performed well enough he should enter 2014 as the favorite. Cobb may still be used in the return game, but the team may choose to use him as a spark plug when the game situation calls for it rather than regularly subject their receiver to the extra injury risk. Johnathan Franklin stands a good chance to stay in the mix at returner, though he may not be fully recovered from last season's neck injury by the time the 2014 season opens.

Punt Returners: Micah Hyde, Randall Cobb, Jared Abbrederis [R]

While Micah Hyde was solid as a kick returner, he stood out as a punt returner. Hyde held up a 12.3 yard average over 24 returns and took one punt 93 yards for a touchdown. Randall Cobb will likely see some returns where the team is looking for a big play, but a potential long term backup is rookie receiver Jared Abbrederis. The fifth round selection returned 55 punts in four years at Wisconsin, with one touchdown and a solid 10.7 yards per return.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT Bryan Bulaga, LG Josh Sitton, C Evan Dietrich-Smith, RG T.J. Lang, RT Marshall Newhouse
Key Backups: T Derek Sherrod, T Don Barclay, G Greg Van Roten, G J.C. Tretter, C Garth Gerhart

Currently, the Green Bay Packers line is in serious transition. The Packers have decided to move their right tackle and right guard to left side, and their left tackle and left guard to the right side. In addition, their starting center Jeff Saturday has retired. Going in the season, the Packers have no starters in the same positions as last season. That is the short story as to why they are ranked near the bottom of these rankings. In the long term, this could be a sound idea. Josh Sitton is a Pro Bowler and the team's best lineman. Putting him next to Bryan Bulaga (or whoever) on the left side is probably a smart move. T.J. Lang and Marshall Newhouse are more power players and could be more suited for the right side. Newhouse and Bulaga are not exactly being given their positions and there are several realistic options to compete with both tackles for starting jobs. Fourth round pick David Bakhtiari out of Colorado is an athletically gifted player who could compete with Bulaga on the left side. Don Barclay is a workmanlike player out of West Virginia who looked decent replacing Bulaga for part of last season. Derek Sherrod is a former first round pick from Mississippi State who has been snakebit by injury since his arrival. Andrew Datko is a gritty swing tackle out of Florida State who has been stashed by the team for a year. All of these players are relatively young, and offer something different to the coaching staff. These players will get a shot in preseason. In addition, another fourth round pick J.C. Tretter could compete with Garth Gerhart (brother of Toby) for the backup center spot behind Evan Dietrich-Smith. Perhaps these rankings are wrong and the Packers are making a genius move with the preseason flip-flop. If this is the case, I will publicly apologize for all Cheeseheads and update the rankings as quickly as possible. As most of these players will not have to learn a new system, it might be easier than it would seem. But usually this amount of change proves problematic for the offensive line in the short term.

Team Defense

While it could be argued that they underachieved a bit last season, the Green Bay Packers defense was a borderline starting unit in most scoring systems. They obviously missed inside linebacker Desmond Bishop who missed all of 2012. His return will certain give the Packers a boost, but that may be partially offset by the departure of stalwart cornerback Charles Woodson. Green Bay has a lot of young talent, so they should be able to overcome the loss of Woodson. You never know, however, until it happens. Up front, the Packers should be stellar. With Ryan Pickett and B.J. Raji, opponents will find it tough to attack the middle, while rush linebackers Clay Matthews and Nick Perry will attack from the edges. If Nick Perry establishes himself as another dominant rusher opposite Matthews, this unit could improve in 2013 and become an every-week fantasy starter.

Defensive Line

Starters: NT Ryan Pickett, DE B.J. Raji, DE Datone Jones
Backups: DE Jerel Worthy, DE C.J. Wilson, DE Mike Neal, DE Mike Daniels, NT Josh Boyd

Starting DL: The Packers run the 3-4 defense and have a pair of starters on their defensive line that can play either the nose tackle position or one of the defensive end spots. Veteran Ryan Pickett is currently penciled in as the starting nose tackle. Pickett does not bring much to the table in terms of pass rushing ability, but he is a premier run stuffing nose tackle. Despite tipping the scales at close to 340 pounds, B.J. Raji is tentatively scheduled to start at one of the defensive end spots. Although he did not record a sack last year, Raji is a much better pass rusher than Pickett. The other defensive line spot is up for grabs and will likely be determined in preseason. Datone Jones, a first-round draft pick out of UCLA, is currently considered the front-runner for the job. Jones offers a strong inside pass rushing presence that was sorely lacking for the Packers last year.

Backup DL: Jerel Worthy, a second-round pick out of Michigan State in 2011, suffered a torn ACL late last season and could begin the regular season on the Physically Unable to Perform (PUP) list. When healthy, Worthy has the size to play nose tackle in a pinch and is a solid pass rusher for a lineman his size. With Worthy's status in doubt, the depth on the Packers defensive line is questionable at best. Mike Neal, who missed the first four games last year due to a suspension, racked up 4.5 sacks in 11 games last year. C.J. Wilson has starting experience at defensive end and along with Jones and Neal will compete for the starting defensive end spot opposite Raji. Rookie Mike Daniels will compete for playing time along with fellow rookie Josh Boyd. Boyd is capable of playing both the nose tackle position and defensive end.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Brad Jones, ILB A.J. Hawk, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Nick Perry
Backups: ILB Rob Francois, ILB Terrell Manning, OLB Dezman Moses, OLB Jamari Lattimore, OLB Nate Palmer, ILB Sam Barrington

Starting LBs: Lining up at one of the starting inside linebacker spots is veteran A.J. Hawk. There were rumblings that Hawk might be released but he agreed to restructure his contract and thus returns as a starter. Hawk racked up 81 solos and three sacks last season. With the release of Desmond Bishop, Brad Jones will be the other starter at inside linebacker. Jones was a part-time starter last season because of injuries and played solid football for the Packers. Jones is a versatile player who had played exclusively at outside linebacker prior to last season. Clay Matthews, who signed a five-year, $66 million contract extension during the offseason, returns as a starter at one of the outside linebacker spots. Matthews is one of the best pass rushers in the league and racked up 13 sacks in only 12 games last year. Matthews has had double-digit sacks in three of his four years in the league. Nick Perry is currently penciled in as the starter at the other outside linebacker spot for the Packers. Perry only played in six games last year and recorded two sacks.

Backup LBs: With Jones being inserted into the starting lineup, Rob Francois will be the top backup at inside linebacker. Francois has a few spot-starts under his belt. Terrell Manning and Jamari Lattimore will compete for reserve inside linebacker spots. Dezman Moses is the primary backup at outside linebacker and could push Nick Perry for the starting job. Moses was part of a rotation at outside linebacker last season and racked up 27 tackles and four sacks. Rookie Nate Palmer will compete for playing time at outside linebacker and will contribute on special teams. Rookie Sam Barrington will likely see most of his playing time on special teams this year.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Tramon Williams, CB Casey Hayward, FS Morgan Burnett, SS M.D. Jennings
Backups: CB Sam Shields, CB Davon House, CB Jarrett Bush, SS Jeron McMillian

Starting DBs: The Packers secondary will have a different look this year as veteran Charles Woodson was not signed following the 2012 season. Tramon Williams will start at one of the cornerback spots. Williams suffered a shoulder injury in 2011 and has struggled to regain the form he showed prior to being hurt. Williams only had two interceptions last year, which was his lowest total since his rookie year in 2007. The other starting cornerback job is up for grabs and the leading contender is second-year player Casey Hayward. Hayward was impressive last year, racking up six interceptions to go along with 21 passes defended. Morgan Burnett, who racked up more than 120 tackles last year, will start at one of the safety spots for the Packers. Burnett is one of the best all-around safeties in the league and is capable of playing both strong and free safety. Burnett has averaged 81 solos in his last two seasons. M.D. Jennings, who started ten games last year, is the favorite to start at the other safety spot.

Backup DBs: The Packers have one of the deepest group of cornerbacks in the league. Sam Shields missed time with an injury last season but still managed to pick off three passes in 10 games. Shields had four interceptions as a rookie in 2011. Davon House is another capable cornerback who was being considered for a starting job in 2012. After a strong preseason, House was injured and only played in nine games last year. Both House and Shields could be considered for the starting job opposite Williams. Jarrett Bush brings versatility to the Packers bench, having played both cornerback and safety in his tenure with the Packers. Jeron McMillian is expected to compete with Jennings for a starting safety spot.

Last modified: 2014-05-15 16:55:32