Packers Fantasy Preview: Sorting Out the Running Backs

Doug Pensinger

Since your draft is likely approaching fast, we break down the fantasy prospects for the key players on this year's Green Bay Packers squad.

With the third wave of the NFL preseason starting tonight, it's likely that many fantasy football leagues will be drafting in the next 10-14 days. Personally, my big league's draft is Saturday night, and with that in mind, now seems like a critical time to take a look at what value the Green Bay Packers' players have to your fantasy team. Note that rankings given come from Yahoo's ranking system in a standard (non-PPR) league.

Quarterback

Aaron Rodgers - #2 QB, #20 overall on Yahoo!
Obviously, Rodgers is as elite as they come at the quarterback position. His propensity to throw touchdown passes and avoid turnovers makes him an elite option in and of itself, but he's been good for 250-300 rushing yards and a couple of scores on the ground as well. In short, he will probably be the first quarterback off the board in nearly all formats, and we disagree with Yahoo! who ranked Drew Brees #1 (but who have Rodgers ranked higher overall in a strange quirk). The question though is how high to take him - with so many good QBs and so few bona fide #1 running backs who will be locks to get 250-300 carries or more, it makes sense to me to wait on Rodgers in the first and see if he falls to you in the second round.

Wide Receivers

Randall Cobb - #9 WR, #26 overall
Cobb will likely be the recipient of a lot of passes this season out of the slot. If you're in a PPR league, I see no way that a healthy Cobb finishes lower than 7th or 8th among all wideouts - and even in a standard league he's still a top-12 wideout.

Jordy Nelson - #22 WR, #59 overall
The injuries over the past year and his knee surgery in training camp cloud his true value, but I think that Nelson is still a solid play as a WR2 this season. You could do far worse than 750 yards and 7 scores in those middle rounds, but to justify a slot in the top 6 rounds or so he'll need to approach 900 and 10. I think that stat line is completely within Nelson's grasp - especially if his surgically-repaired knee allows him to be the deep threat he was in 2011.

James Jones - #25 WR, #63 overall
Jones is an enigma to me. He doesn't have elite speed, but he's still a great deep threat. He isn't a huge, physical receiver, but he was a touchdown machine in the red zone in 2012. He's not small, quick, and agile, but he's still effective over the middle. In short, he has built himself into a steady, reliable receiver who Aaron Rodgers can turn to in any situation, which makes him valuable. However, because he's a jack of all trades but master of none, he also won't be the focal point in the offense, and his touchdown total from last season is probably unsustainable. He'll be a good WR3, but don't expect too much more from him on draft day.

Jarrett Boykin - Not ranked
Boykin probably shouldn't be drafted, but he should absolutely be on your radar as an injury fill-in. If Cobb or Nelson's current issues linger into the regular season, Boykin will be the next man up. He showed good elusiveness with a long catch-and-run against the Rams last weekend and he appears to have a good rapport with Rodgers, so don't be caught surprised if he puts up a nice game or two.

Running Backs

Eddie Lacy - #19 RB, #41 overall
Since his performance last Saturday in St. Louis, Lacy has climbed up draft boards, and with good reason. He certainly looks the part of a three-down NFL running back, and he has the build to handle a 250+ carry season. He won't hurt you in a PPR league, either, an if there are any goal-line carries it seems that Lacy will be the guy getting them. The big question is how much of the running game will the Packers devote to him? With DuJuan Harris, Johnathan Franklin, and either Alex Green or James Starks likely to factor in, the team may want to keep Lacy's workload smaller to ease the physical toll on him in his rookie year.

Johnathan Franklin - #57 RB, #169 overall
Honestly, it's a bit of a surprise for me to see Franklin ranked above Harris at this point. If Lacy shares carries or if he were to be shelved with an injury, Harris would likely get the bulk of the carries, not Franklin. However, if you are in a PPR league or one where you get points for return yardage, Franklin could help you there, as he's likely to take some kickoffs and his best skill offensively (at least so far) appears to be catching the ball out of the backfield.

DuJuan Harris - #63 RB, #176 overall
If you're handcuffing Lacy, do it with Harris - and see the above paragraph. Franklin has shown little to make the Packers think that he'll be a truly capable running back so far, at least in a traditional sense. Harris, on the other hand, impressed late last season and has been splitting the first-team reps with Lacy. So while everyone expects Lacy to get the bulk of the work for now, Harris could be a valuable piece on your bench with a shot at some work in the red zone every once in a while.

Tight End

Jermichael Finley - #7 TE, #96 overall
I can't help that I still like Finley as a fantasy tight end, and his big first quarter against the Rams should remind everyone about what he's capable of doing. Personally, I like where he's ranked right now by Yahoo! among the tight ends - he looks ready to be a big part of the offense again this season and should be a solid fantasy starter.

Defense

#11 Defense, #207 overall
I'm a firm believer that the Packers will be a top-10 defense in 2013, both based on traditional statistics and in terms of fantasy points. The return of Nick Perry and the addition of Datone Jones should help the pass rush as a whole, and a young secondary has another year of experience under its belt to help it take advantage of more rushed throws. With the return positions still up in the air, it might be a lot to expect a big contribution from the special teams to your fantasy success, but the turnovers should return more than enough on your investment to make this a starting-caliber defensive unit.

Kicker

Ew. No. Just no. I wouldn't touch Crosby or Tavecchio with a 29-1/2 foot pole.

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