The champ is here. Make way, make way, the champ is here.
It's true, the Packers find themselves with the Lombardi trophy once again. While not as dominant in football as the Yankees are in baseball, the Packers have long been thought of as one of true powerhouses of the NFL. Their return to the top was not paved with gold however.
Remember, this team was 8-6 after week 15. They squeaked into the playoffs with a modest 10-3 victory over the Bears in the final week of the season, but after three straight road playoff victories and a win over the Steelers in the Super Bowl, the Packers will be remembered as the best team in 2010.
Nobody can ever take that title away from them, but this team isn't without its flaws. The Packers finished 24th in the NFL in rushing yards and 10th in scoring. The "dominating" offense we perceive them to be isn't necessarily the case. Do they have the league's best QB, best TE, and a top 5 WR? Are they too thin on offensive line depth? Do the Packers have a running back worth owning?
If you're ever watching the NFL draft and start to feel sorry for a player who is slipping, remember Aaron Rodgers. There was speculation that he would go 1st overall in the 2005 NFL draft, but instead he slipped to 24th. He then sat for three full years behind Brett Favre. Now he's being talked about as the NFL's best quarterback, he's a Super Bowl champion, and he still hasn't turned 28 yet. Oh, and the millions of dollars. Let's not forget about the millions of dollars as to why you shouldn't feel sorry for NFL players.
In three years of play, Rodgers has completed 64.6% of his passes for an average of 4,131 yards, 29 TDs and 10 INTs for a 99.4 QB rating. He's been a top 3 fantasy QB each season and he's potentially only going to get better. Tom Brady was great, and then he exploded for a huge season. Peyton Manning was great, and then he exploded for a huge season. The Packers aren't a running team, so expect that one of these years Rodgers could throw 50 TDs. Really. I'd probably never use a first round pick on a QB, but he's certainly worthy of being the first QB drafted. If there is an area of concern, its that he led the NFL in sacks two years ago, then he had the concussion problems in 2010. Rodgers was sacked six times in the pre-season, and he barely played. The line has to do a better job of protecting the franchise. If all that goes well, 35-40 TDs isn't out of the question this year.
The rest after the jump...
He's considered to be one of the best backups in the league. He made one start last year, on the road against New England, and he completed 65% of his passes for 251 yards and 3 TDs. He's going to be a starter somewhere, some day. If he has to play this year, he could be a really interesting fantasy play.
It's commendable that Grant has made it this far in his football career. From undrafted, to a freak injury that nearly cost him his life, to leading the Packers in rushing for three straight seasons, Grant has come further than anyone could have imagined. That being said, he missed basically all of last season with injury, he's now 29-years-old, and he's in a 50/50 split for a team that doesn't run the ball. Grant is being drafted about 25th amongst running backs, and I would rather have Cedric Benson, Beanie Wells, or Reggie Bush just to name a few.
Grant isn't a truly exceptional running back, and neither is Starks. His best game of the year came in the Wild Card game against Philly (23 carries for 123 yards and 2 TDs) but otherwise he was good for less than 4 YPC. I just don't recommend drafting these guys because you're basically just hoping that one or the other gets injured. I don't play roulette with my fantasy teams. Or in real life. Roulette is a suckers game.
He's almost the most interesting RB in GB because he's a rookie. He was a third-round pick out of Hawaii, and it wouldn't be the first time an unknown led the Packers in rushing yards. He's a deep sleeper as the season goes on.
The 2006 NFL Draft was considered weak in wide receiver options, and only Santonio Holmes went in the first round. Still selected ahead of him were Chad Jackson and Sinorice Moss. For Jennings, he can eclipse Jacksons career numbers in two games (14 catches for 171 yards) and Moss's career numbers in maybe four (39 catches for 421 yards)
Over the last four seasons, Jennings has averaged 69 catches, 1,148 yards, and 9 TDs while playing in every game the last three years. Jennings started slow last season, then caught fire when he nearly average 100 YPG over the last 11. He twice topped 100 yards in the playoffs and caught 2 TDs in the Super Bowl. His name still doesn't carry the same cache as Larry Fitzgerald or Andre Johnson, but he's an elite NFL wide receiver. Him and Hakeem Nicks are going neck and neck in fantasy drafts near the end of the 2nd round. If you get him in the third round, that's pretty good value. He's a WR1.
Going off next in drafts amongst Packers WR options is Nelson, but how much of that is predicated off of his 9 catch 140-yard Super Bowl performance and how much based off of his expected 2011 performance? That game was by far the best game of his three-year career after being a 2nd round pick in 2008. The problem with Nelson, and with any Packers wideout not named Jennings, is that the rest of the yards will get spread out just like they are in New Orleans. It's not really a reach to put Nelson on your bench, whether he can elevate his game to the next level is unknown and potentially unlikely. If things continue like they did last year he'll catch 50 passes for 600 yards.
Did you know Nelson, Jones, and Donald Driver all finished within 100 yards of each other in 2010? Play Jones on the right day and you could get 100 yards and a score. Play him on the wrong day and you could get 2 catches or less, something he did 5 times in 2010. 50 catches for 600 yards.
Will this be the year of the breakout for a young receiver or the comeback of Driver? He fell short of 1,000 yards for the first time since 2003. Driver has driven over the hill and he's probably not coming back. Find yourself somebody else. 50 catches for 500 yards?
Ahead of at least Driver and Jones in terms of breakout potential this year is Cobb. He was a 2nd-round pick out of Kentucky who will handle some return duties this year. He's an exciting player to watch and I'd put my watch list on Cobb before I'd put it on the known quantities in Green Bay. Jennings is a star, the rest have star potential, and Driver is a red dwarf. Return leagues might fall in love with Cobb though.
I can't remember the last time there was this much love for a 4th-year player with 82 career catches. Since early in his 2nd season, Finley has been a very productive tight end when healthy. Over his last 16 games, including a 2009 playoff game, he's had at least four catches 13 times, at least 70 yards eight times, at least 100 yards four times, and six touchdowns. If it were a 16-game season his totals would be 81 catches and 1,130 yards. Those are "#1 TE in the League!" kind of numbers. Problem being that it's not a full season because Finley has never played a full season. He's probable for week 1, but the problem is that he's listed as anything on the injury list at all. Dude needs to stay healthy if he ever wants to prove his elite status. I admit I drafted him in one of my leagues but that's only because he slipped 2 rounds further than he normally gets drafted. I take him on the slip-n-slide, but I am not that guy that drafts him in the fourth round.
And thats it! We're done! 32 teams down, 0 teams to go. Are you ready for some football? After looking over the roster of every team in the NFL to prepare and write these articles, I'm either more excited for a season than I've ever been or I want to blow my brains out. The good news is that those brains are filled with more third-string running backs and tight ends than a Vikings boat party.
Follow me on twitter @casetines for more Tiajuana strip club references.