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APC Mailbag, Week 3: Injuries, Packers’ defensive backs, and replacing Greg Olsen

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A new week means a new mailbag! This week, I answer questions about soft-tissue injuries, tight ends and, also, what if the Packers hadn’t drafted Randall and Rollins?

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at Carolina Panthers Bob Donnan-USA TODAY Sports

Mail time!

This week’s mailbag questions had a pretty consistent theme: injuries. We got a lot of questions about the Packers’ injury-riddled Sunday night matchup with the Falcons and many about injuries league-wide. The Packers were 15th in adjusted games lost last season and 9th the year before, per Football Outsiders. So they’re not doing too bad compared to some teams that are plagued with injuries. Sometimes it’s just bad luck and the trainers are not miracle workers. I’m confident the team can get healthier.

Now, let’s open some mail:

Injuries are a hot topic of discussion after the Packers loss to the Atlanta Falcons. I’m not going to pretend to be an expert on preventing muscles injuries, but it could be anything from poor warm up habits to just bad luck.

A thing to remember:

As deep as a team would like to be, you simply can’t replace a blue chip talent with someone who’s not good enough to start. Staying healthy requires a lot of luck. Like, a ridiculous amount of good fortune.

The NFL as a whole appears to be having problems with soft tissue injuries. Ankle sprains and hamstring issues seem to be the biggest problem. September, though, is a time in which players’ bodies are still adjusting to the season. The CBA forces players out of practice facilities to work on their crafts and that puts them in compromising positions both in performance and technique.

With that said, I think the best way to prevent injuries is to restructure the next collective bargaining agreement to allow players to be around the facilities and coaches more, not less.

There’s a bright side: if it were a playoff game, both Jordy Nelson and Mike Daniels would’ve likely tried harder to make it back on the field. In the meantime, just do ten Hail Marys to the football gods for a cleaner injury report next week.

Nate Campbell on Facebook asks: Seeing as Ted has done so poorly drafting cornerbacks, what are some names of guys we passed over (CBs) to take Randall and Rollins (or other picks like Spriggs)?

“What if” questions in sports are my favorite to ponder. What if the Pistons drafted Carmelo Anthony over Darko? What if — close your eyes Packer fans — the Niners drafted Rodgers instead of Alex Smith? What if Eli Manning was stuck in San Diego and not traded on draft day? (Would he win 2 Super Bowls? Would the Chargers move to Los Angeles? This one is league changing!) It’s an interesting thought exercise that can make a fan base feel relieved or terribly sad. Let’s take a deep breath here and look at the what ifs behind Randall, Rollins and Spriggs:

This first one hurts my feelings. What if the Packers passed on Damarious Randall to draft Landon Collins who went just 3 spots later? Strong safety wasn’t and still isn’t that glaring of a need for the Packers, as Morgan Burnett is a good player, but Randall was a top rated safety in the draft. Imagine, if you can, the All-Pro Landon Collins in the back end of the defense with Burnett in the Nitro package now? It’s a huge ‘what if’ because who’s to say after a Collins pick that Burnett would be on the roster in 2017? (I know you said cornerbacks in the question, Nate, but I’m going to loop in all defensive backs here.)

I don’t see a whole lot at corner behind Quinten Rollins, but there are guys like David Johnson, Jamison Crowder and Stefon Diggs. Every other team whiffed on them too so I don’t feel too bad about it.

Passing on Jason Spriggs means the Packers could’ve taken a long look at Atlanta linebacker Deion Jones and Carolina corner James Bradberry, who went not long after. Jury’s still out on that draft class, though, so I’m not counting Spriggs out just yet.

Ted’s been iffy on drafting for defense, but Kevin King might be really good.

Playing ‘what if’ is fun, but we have to live with the decisions that we make. Which brings me to the next mailbag question:

The Green Bay Packers can’t seem to figure out Julio Jones. And sometimes, that’s okay. There are transcendent receivers in this game that you can’t stop and only hope to contain.

For Randall and Rollins, there’s no way they have even learned the position of cornerback fully. Not saying they’re slow learners, but that they just haven’t played the position significantly. Randall played safety at Arizona State for two seasons and spent a good portion of his college career before that on a baseball diamond. Rollins played basketball at Miami University before playing for the football team for one year. It’s great that they have the overall athleticism to play multiple sports, but cornerback is a hard position at the NFL level.

I know they’re not rookies anymore, but if you take a collective step back and look at their careers, they have only put together five seasons worth of combined experience at the corner position, and they played most of last year hurt. A rookie corner could have more position experience than those two.

What we should expect from these two is more frustration. Still have faith that they will develop sooner rather than later, but these raw players still have room to grow through more reps.

Alex Jacobson on Facebook asked: Viable waiver wire targets to replace Greg Olsen?

Finding a tight end in fantasy is the worst. You’re looking at Rob Gronkowski, Greg Olsen, Jordan Reed, Travis Kelce, Jimmy Graham sometimes, and (insert highest drafted rookie tight end here). It’s a pretty shallow pool so replacing Olsen is going to be tough.

So optimistic, right?!

Benjamin Watson in Baltimore is an interesting piece. He hauled in 8 catches for 91 yards in Week 2 and is only owned in 1.4% of ESPN Leagues (!!!). This might because he missed all of last season with an Achilles injury.

Jared Cook is interesting, too. Owned in 27% of ESPN Leagues, he’s third on the team in Oakland for targets and their upcoming opponent (WAS) has allowed the most yards to the position so far this season. It’s hard to tell if he’ll replace the production that Olsen is capable of on your squad, but I love the target share he’s getting in the Raiders’ high-powered offense.