As training camp looms the Green Bay Packers are looking to answer a few questions with regard to their pass catchers. There are no new additions for Aaron Rodgers to throw to and this season sees both Donald Driver and Greg Jennings departed. Driver was scarcely used last season but has been a consistent contributor in Green Bay for years while Jennings, (when healthy) was a big part of the pass game last season collecting 58 targets in his eight games played.
This season the ball will need to be distributed differently. Aaron Rodgers ranks number one in our consensus fake QB rankings and he’s deadly effective in the real game as well as he graded out as Pro Football Focus’ 2nd best passer last season (while dropping back 639 times last year and throwing 552 balls). We know Green Bay is going to continue to put it in the air, the question from a fantasy perspective is about who will be catching the balls.
This year everyone is projecting a big uptick in targets and productivity from Randall Cobb, and it stands to reason. Last year he was on the field for just 65% of Green Bay’s snaps (including the playoffs and excluding week three where he played just nine snaps). Although he’ll still be lining up as a slot man, with fewer mouths to feed it’s hard not to anticipate that he’ll be spending more time on the field. If so, he’s a safe bet to build on his 102 targets from last year. The thing is, though, the word is already out on Cobb. His ADP (right around #10 wide receiver, depending on the source) is right about where it should be – this is a solid player with a big ceiling – he’s a draftable back end WR1, but, you’re not really getting a lot of value there.
Instead, however, let’s look at another player likely to benefit: TE Jermichael Finley. Finley finished strong in 2012 but has been wildly inconsistent throughout his career. He remains talented, just under-confident and drop prone. Reports suggest that Finley comes into the season both confident and in good football shape – things that he’s lacked in the past. Per Pete Dougherty at packersnews.com‘s discussion with Finley’s position coach Jerry Fontentot thinks that the TE looks good. “Physically, he’s put on a few pounds from last year, so he looks a little bigger, a little faster, a little stronger than last year,” Fontenot said. “Physically the guy has talent. We still have a ways to go in some areas of his game. We’re kind of happy with where we are, but we still need to get better.” Sure, it’s not exactly a rave review, but it does seem clear that the team is looking to work with him to make his strong 2012 finish a full season reality.
Finley caught just two touchdowns last season and endured a stretch of 11 straight games in which he saw five targets or less, but both of those numbers should prove to be anomalies. In each of his other two full seasons he hasn’t had fewer than five scores, and the 85 targets he received should increase, particularly if Jordy Nelson or James Jones miss any time.
If you don’t draft one of the top five tight ends, it’s worth waiting to see who is around in the later stages of your draft. Finley will probably be there; in fact, in many leagues he probably won’t be drafted at all despite that he has a chance to be a heavy target in a powerful offense. That sounds like a good situation to be tied to, to me.