Thursday, June 26, 2014

Packers 2014: Realistic Projections for Receivers

In the past few years, the Packers have parted ways with four of their top receivers (Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jermichael Finley). Despite all those changes, QB Aaron Rodgers consistently targets the same positions in the passing game no matter who's on the field alongside him.

A lot of different receivers will be involved, but the top three wide receivers will be targeted between 90-125 times with about 100 targets to tight ends. The number four wide receiver should be targeted about 50 times and the top running back will see another 50 (44 to Lacy in 2013). The total pass attempts should be around 550, so that leaves the final 50 for a collection of occasional targets like John Kuhn and Ryan Taylor.

Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Nelson led the team with 126 targets last season, but assuming Cobb stays healthy in 2014, Nelson won't repeat that high mark. 100 to 110 targets is more realistic, and using a slightly high 70% catch rate (Cobb was over 80% in his rookie season but under 70% last season), that's 70 to 80 receptions. That's not going to lead the league in receptions for either of them (the 2013 league leader, Pierre Garcon, was targeted 184 times in 2013). It could lead to another 1000 yard and double digit touchdown season for Nelson (Cobb's never reached either mark in a single season). They could be the two most efficient receivers in the NFL next season, but neither one should be considered as a 1st round fantasy draft option.

Jarrett Boykin. He seems to be a shoe-in for the James Jones role of trying to sneak into single coverage along the sidelines, which should be good for 90-100 targets in 2014. His 59% catch rate in 2013 is a concern, but hopefully it has to do with the fact that he was most active while Rodgers was hurt last season (Boykin barely played on offense until the Packers released Jeremy Ross in late September). The coaches love him, but I'm not completely sold on him yet.
I'm really intrigued by the battle among the group of receivers at the bottom of the depth chart, but those guys are going to have no impact on the offense once the regular season roles around (barring injury). And all of them are going to be hard pressed to beat out Davante Adams after the Packers just used a 2nd round pick to acquire him. Cobb only had 31 targets during his 2011 rookie season, but the receiving corps was deeper that year, and I'd expect Adams should expect closer to 50 targets in 2014. The only thing holding him back is that the Packers don't spend the entire game lining up with four wide outs. When he does get on the field, he's always going to see single coverage, which is what Rodgers wants to see. He's going to be a very tempting target.

Insert name of a tight end here. I guess Colt Lyerla and Richard Rodgers both have chances to earn playing time, but they're both going to have a tough time getting past Andrew Quarless because they still have a lot to learn. In the meantime, Quarless doesn't have much of a ceiling, but he was targeted 54 times despite only starting for half the season and being pretty useless as a weapon. He'll get 70 targets if he starts 16 games, and he'll earn more if he can show some of the promise he had before he injured his knee in 2011.

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