The Green Bay Packers have four elite fantasy football players on their roster - quarterback Aaron Rodgers, running back Eddie Lacy, and wide receivers Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Each of those four players should be drafted in the first three or so rounds of most standard fantasy leagues this year.
However, with the team's success in the past in the passing game, the Packers' third receiver (whether that's a tight end or third wideout) has traditionally been a productive fantasy player as well. Let's look back through the past few years at the Packers' third receiver and how they've produced.
The 2013 season was a bit of a mess, due to injuries to Randall Cobb, Jermichael Finley, and Aaron Rodgers himself. With Jordy Nelson and either Randall Cobb or James Jones occupying much of the targets, we chose to look at Jermichael Finley (until his injury in week 6) and Jarrett Boykin (after Finley's injury) as the #3 guys. Here's their combined stat line for 2013:
That line would have been good for 108 points in standard leagues a year ago, which was equivalent to about the 35th-ranked wide receiver or the 9th-best tight end. In other words, that's certainly a valuable flex play or a worthy depth receiver for a matchup-based or bye-week fill-in.
(It's also worth noting that I didn't include Boykin's stats in that week 6 game when Finley got injured - and that was actually Boykin's best fantasy game of the year with 103 yards and a score.)
In 2012, the Packers had a glut of wideouts, with Nelson, Cobb, James Jones, Finley, and Greg Jennings all vying for targets. Jennings missed half the season, and Nelson missed four games. Still, the trio of Nelson, Cobb, and Jones each had at least 745 yards and 7 touchdowns. The worst line was Nelson's in 12 games, if you were wondering, and he was still the 28th-best wideout in fantasy that year. Again, this proves that the third option in the Packers' passing game should be stashed on a fantasy roster and used frequently.
The 2011 season saw Jermichael Finley play the role as the third target, and he posted his best season as a pro. He caught 55 passes for 767 yards (an average of 13.9) and eight touchdowns, finishing as the sixth-best fantasy tight end. Those numbers would have put him in solid company at receiver as well, likely around 30th.
What does this mean for 2014?
Well, what I'm saying, if I'm saying anything at all, is that the Packers' third wide receiver this season should continue to be a useful tool for your fantasy team, and would be a smart target in the later rounds of your draft. The question, though, still remains about whether it will be Jarrett Boykin once again or if rookie Davante Adams will take over that mantle.
To this point, however, the coaching staff has been loath to give Adams too many opportunities with Aaron Rodgers and the starting offense. He saw no snaps with the starters in the team's second preseason game against St. Louis. This will be something to watch closely, as Adams probably has more physical upside, but Boykin is far more established with Rodgers.
Tonight's game could shed a little bit of light on the fantasy value of each of these players. If the coaching staff does not put Adams on the field with the starters at any point on Friday night against the Raiders, you can safely assume that Boykin has locked up the number three job and should be drafted safely as a WR3 for your team. But if you do see the two of them take an equal number of snaps with the starters tonight, that could be a sign that Adams ready to steal away some production from Boykin.
There have traditionally been plenty of targets to go around in the Packers offense, and an Adams emergence would not necessarily spell the end for Boykin as a productive fantasy player. However, the Packers have a running back who will contribute heavily in the receiving game this year, which they have not had in recent seasons, and that will take some targets away from receivers not named Nelson or Cobb.
It boils down to this for me: if I see Boykin and Adams splitting reps with the starters on Friday night, Boykin will drop down a tier into WR4 territory on my board. But if Adams still isn't running routes for Rodgers, draft Boykin as a confident WR3.
Editor's Note: SB Nation's partner FanDuel is hosting a $100,000 Fantasy Football Contest for Week 1's NFL games. It's only $10 to join and first prize is $10,000. Starts Sunday, September 7th at 1pm ET. Here's the link.