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Packers Fantasy Preview: Judging top players' values heading into the preseason

Green Bay has a number of players with fantasy value, but several of them have question marks coming into 2016. APC takes a look forward at how to approach your fantasy football draft from a Packer-centric view.

Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

This weekend Packers fans (and Colts fans) will get their first chance to see their team on the field in a game setting.  It is not a full game, but it will be game speed and it will be an important chance for fantasy owners to watch their potential draft picks and see how the timing and quickness has developed.

The Packers have several players that show up as fantasy question marks this year.  It will be important to keep an eye on them and watch what happens.  Here are a few of the more fantasy relevant Packers as you get ready for your fantasy draft.

Eddie Lacy, RB

Now, some of the less fantasy-initiated among you are likely yelling at your computer screen, "Why are you starting with anyone other than Aaron Rodgers?!"  Well my friends, sometimes fantasy turns the world upside down.  A running back who can be "the guy" has more value than a quarterback because there are so few "featured running backs" and so many big yardage quarterbacks.

Lacy is one of those big question marks I mentioned.  If Lacy comes out like the 2014 Lacy, he could end the season as a top five running back.  If Lacy looks slow and tired, like the 2015 Lacy, then he might not be worth starting many weeks.  Lacy is consistently ranked just barely outside the top ten (see here, here, here and here).  Generally, Lacy falls in the 11-13 range.  If he comes off the ball and shows some burst over these first few weeks of preseason, move him into your top seven running backs.  If you are more risk averse, consider targeting Mark Ingram in this range.  Still, it's good to remember that Lacy is in a contract year.

Jordy Nelson, WR

Another of the biggest question marks for this team, Jordy had a major injury and was gone all of 2015.  Now we are hearing that we are not likely to see him this preseason at all.  This is more concerning than Lacy.  First, he is coming off an injury rather than just a down year.  Second, we are going to see Lacy run through tackles and get hit.  Jordy might not give us the game speed until Week 1, when you are going to be counting on production from the WR1 slot.

Some places are a little more bullish about Nelson's return.  Some have more concern that the unseen increases risk, and risk is generally to be avoided.  If this is your viewpoint, Nelson falls out of your top ten.  In the end, Nelson also gives you a chance at a top five player at his position, but the risk is he is really a WR2 now.  If you are strong elsewhere and Nelson is the one big chance you take, do it.  My guess is I will not own Jordy in many leagues as someone is going to jump and take him as a sure thing and I will hesitate until back end of the WR1 or early WR2 value.

Randall Cobb, WR

Cobb presents a few issues.  Running as the number one wide receiver last year clearly seemed to drain much of Cobb's fantasy value.  Moving him back to the second option on a team with many options, oddly, should increase his value.  In that role in 2014, Cobb had 91 catches and 1,287 yards.  Those are WR1 numbers.  Cobb is generally being ranked around the early 20s.  This means you should consider him either a low end WR2 whom you intend to start every week he is healthy or a WR3/Flex guy who you will rely on less, but gives you the huge upside of a possible big game and a touchdown.

It will be worth watching to see how Cobb performs.  Cobb did have several small injuries throughout the 2015 season, but none big enough to remove him from the field for huge chunks of time (other than the punctured lung thing in the last game of the year).

Aaron Rodgers, QB

No one doubts Aaron's ability, as he is ranked either the top fantasy QB (like here or here) or the second QB (here).  I think Rodgers is primed to have a big year.  The return of Nelson and the addition of Jared Cook should boost Rodgers' numbers.  If Lacy can help in the run game and even the dump off passing game, then Rodgers could be in line for a third MVP.  Rodgers is one of maybe five guys you should think of taking in the first two rounds (Cam Newton, Ben Roethlisberger, Drew Brees, Russell Wilson).

Jared Cook, TE

Interesting in that he is new to the system.  Starting the year on the PUP list does not help us poor fantasy owners.  Still, we should see Cook on the field this preseason.  Cook is someone you will want to put on your watchlist as the season starts.  He is not likely worth drafting as TE is a lower priority position and you are not likely going to be carrying a second TE on your roster (depending on the number of bench positions).  Watch Cook, though. He is in a contract year, on a "prove it" contract, and Rodgers is the first good quarterback with whom he has ever played.  If the Packers show any indication that Cook is going to be a big part of their plans and you are waiting on TE until very late, he could be worth the risk.  More likely than not, he will be available as a free agent pick up a few weeks into the season too (unless you are in a league of all Packers fans).

Packers Defense

Of all the listed fantasy roster fillers listed, this is the one where you will learn the absolute least during the preseason.  The defense will not be showing a great number of its blitz schemes.  You will get to see how the inside linebackers are growing and how the pass rush will look from the defensive linemen.  Those are the two areas of most concern.  The Packers were the 6th-ranked pass defense and if they can improve the run defense, they should be a top-10 unit overall.  Unfortunately, the Packers face few running threats in the preseason (Indianapolis, Cleveland, Oakland, San Francisco and Kansas City).  They will see Jamaal Charles in the final game and perhaps a good dose of Carlos Hyde in the penultimate game.  As a note, draft your defense last.