Green Bay Packers - 2014 Off-season Overview
Green Bay Packers:
2013 Team Ranks: Offense (run 7th, pass 6th) / Defense (run 25th, pass 24th)
Season Recap: Aaron Rodgers' broken collarbone cost him seven games during the 2013 season. The 30-year-old Cal alum averaged 282 yards passing per game and finished with 17 touchdowns and six interceptions over nine games. Rodgers had missed just two games over the previous five seasons and should continue to challenge Peyton Manning and Drew Brees for the top spot among fantasy signal callers. Green Bay would be wise to upgrade from Scott Tolzien as A-rod's backup Matt Flynn is due to hit free agency and will be lucky to find a job.
Joining Rodgers on the sidelines for a large portion of the season was PPR dynamo Randall Cobb who missed ten games following a fractured leg in week nine. In 2012, Cobb burst onto the scene, finishing with 80 catches for 954 yards and ten touchdowns. This past season he had just 30 catches for 433 yards and four touchdowns over six games. The 23-year-old should be primed for a bounce back season, especially with James Jones expected to bolt via free agency. Those that targeted Jordy Nelson at a discount (missed four games in 2012) were rewarded with his career best season. In his sixth NFL season, the 28-year-old finished as the 11th best fantasy WR in standard leagues posting 85 catches for 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns. He's now hauled in 30 touchdowns over the past three seasons and should see even more red zone targets with James Jones and Jermichael Finley expected to play elsewhere in 2014. Undrafted second year WR Jarrett Boykin (Virginia Tech) filled in for Randall Cobb and was able to top 80 yards in five separate games. Boykin finished with 49 catches for 681 yards (43 YPG) and three touchdowns and should start the 2014 season as the Packers' #3 WR keeping him on the fantasy radar especially in dynasty leagues.,
The Packers might be forced to address the tight end position via free agency or the draft with Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless hitting free agency. Brandon Bostick enters his second season atop the depth chart and makes for an intriguing option, provided he proves to be healthy (rehabbing a broken foot). The Newberry college product had just seven catches for 120 yards in his first season and will need to improve his blocking to win a full time role.
Offensive rookie of the year Eddie Lacy proved to be a draft day steal as Green Bay selected the Bama alum in round 2 of the 2013 draft (pick #61 overall). The bruising back (5'11, 230) missed just one game in his rookie season and finished as the sixth highest scoring fantasy RB in standard leagues. Lacy amassed 1,178 rushing yards on 284 carries with 11 touchdowns and a 4.1 YPC. He also added 35 catches for 257 yards and Mike McCarthy has already stated he wants Lacy to be more a 3-down back in his second NFL season. James Starks is expected to leave Green Bay via free agency, so Lacy owners would be wise to monitor to camp battles between DuJuan Harris and Johnathan Franklin as Lacy battled injuries in college (which may have contributed to his draft day slide). Franklin was drafted in the 4th round of the 2013 draft, but finished with just 19 carries and was placed on IR after a November concussion.
Notable Free Agents: C Evan Dietrich-Smith (28), FB John Kuhn (31), RB James Starks (28)
WR James Jones (30), TE Jermichael Finley (27), TE Andrew Quarless (25), QB Matt Flynn (29), CB Sam Shields (26), DL Johnny Jolly (31), DL B.J. Raji (28)
Packers re-signed CB Sam Shields to a four-year, $39 million contract.
Team Needs / Cap Space: Green Bay has around $32 million in cap space available (sixth most in the NFL). http://overthecap.com/calculator/?Team=Packers
Safety: Much of the blame for the porous pass defense can be blamed on pedestrian safety play. M.D. Jennings and SS Morgan Burnett should be relegated to backup duty. Burnett's five-year, $26 million contract extension is looking like one of the bigger mistakes last offseason. Pro Football Focus ranked Burnett 63rd and Jennings 67th among 2013 safeties. If Louisville's Calvin Pryor or Bama's HaHa Clinton Dix are available at pick #21, the Packers would be wise to pull the trigger.
Defensive Line: BJ Raji has struggled the past two seasons and the free agent is not expected back as Green Bay is rumored to be targeting more athleticism at the DT position. NT Ryan Pickett is also a free agent. If DC Dom Capers expects to save his job, upgrading the D-line should take priority. The Packers selected UCLA's Datone Jones with 26th overall pick in 2013, but he played just 276 snaps as a rookie.
Tight End: Brandon Bostick currently sits atop the depth chart with Jermichael Finley and Andrew Quarless due to hit free agency. It's unlikely that Eric Ebron (North Carolina) is on the board when Green Bay's selects in round 1, but they should consider using their 2nd rounder (53rd overall) on Austin Seferian-Jenkins (Washington) or Jace Amaro (Texas Tech).
Quarterback: The musical chairs of Seneca Wallace, Scott Tolzien and Matt Flynn resulted in a combined eight touchdowns and 10 interceptions over a seven game stretch with Aaron Rodgers in street clothes (Packers went 2-4-1 in those games).