Fantasy football leagues are activating across the country and draft dates are being set and obsessed over. Last season, one offenste everybody loved owning and a defense they loved playing against was the Green Bay Packers. The Pack are looking to bring back the offense and overhaul the defense. Ray Rivard of Lombari Ave. was willing to join us and help us get some insider information on the cheeseheads’ outlook for this season.
Zach Thompson, FantasyCPR: The Packers offense was awesome last year. Aaron Rogers emerged as one of the top QB’s in the league to be sure. Is there any reason to think he won’t reduplicate that statistical performance this year?
Ray Rivard, Lombardi Ave.: If Aaron Rodgers doesn’t match or exceed hisperformance of 2011, it will be a huge disappointment. Rodgers has the same weapons coming back with him in 2012 and there isn’t any reason why this team can’t continue to produce huge numbers on the ﬁeld. In fact, without injuries, you can be sure to see Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson continue to put up 1,000 yard-plus seasons. When those two players have backups like James Jones and Donald Driver behind them – players who could be starters on most other teams - this is one high-powered offense. And it’s all led by Rodgers. His skill and uncanny ability to avoid pressure has made Rodgers a step above the best QBs in the league. I can only see him improve in 2012.
Z: Last year, virtually any Green Bay WR was worth owning just because he was on the same ﬁeld with Aaron Rodgers? Jordy Nelson made the leap to a top 20 WR. Do you see Randall Cobb or any other receiver emerging this year as a every-week go-to guy?
Ray Rivard, Lombardi Ave.: Many, including myself, see this as a breakout year for Randall Cobb. I believe the league has only seen a scratching of the surface with this receiver. His work on special teams is known, but he will bring much more to the ﬁeld this year. You will see him on the ﬁeld more often this season and his touches rise signiﬁcantly. If the Packers can’t get the ball into his hands at least 5-10 time per game, it will be disappointing. And depending on how much Donald Driver contributes, you might see either Diondre Borel or Tori Gurley make the 53-man roster and make contributions. They are young guys with huge upsides. I would also like to say that tight end Jermichael Finley will work to improve his play this year and will continue to stretch the ﬁeld for a
Packers offense that will be difficult to stop.
Z: While we’re on receivers, was Jordy Nelson’s breakout a ﬂuke or do you think he’ll match or exceed those numbers this year?
Ray Rivard, Lombardi Ave.: Jordy Nelson is no ﬂuke. His teammates like to joke that he’s the white guy on the team who actually has speed and jumping ability. Nelson gets open and his ability to accelerate past defensive backs is fast becoming his biggest strength. Simply put – he’s a stud who can beat anyone matched up against him.
Couple that with the fact that he can catch the ball over the middle when needed and you’ve got the complete package. His only knock is that he drops too many passes. However, his success overshadows that. If you have a chance to take Jordy Nelson in your fantasy draft, don’t pass him up. He will score lots of points for you.
Z: What about the running game? Do you see one back emerging as a feature-back or will it continue to be a time-share? If you think it’sa time-share, what Packer running back would you draft to be on your fantasy team?
Ray Rivard, Lombardi Ave.: The Packers running game is the wild card for any fantasy team. The Packers are a pass-ﬁrst team, that’s not a secret. However, the Packers have not been totally incompetent on the ground either. Ryan Grant is gone, and the Packers will have two backs, James Starks and Alex Green, coming back from signiﬁcant knee injuries. That is a concern. However, Starks is being looked to as the featured back heading into his third year. Green had a huge upside before his injury, so how he comes back is a huge question mark. He could be one of those players who comes out of nowhere to make a big mark, but I wouldn’t count on it.
Z: Is there a player on the Packers offense you think will have a breakout year?
Ray Rivard, Lombardi Ave.: Randall Cobb, hands down. I feel the Packers will call his number more this year and give him the opportunity to show his skills. He was limited last year on offense because of the team’s depth, but with an aging Donald Driver still on the team I see Cobb being more of a factor.
Z: Green Bay’s focus this offseason appears to have been on rebuilding and strengthening their defense, speciﬁcally pass defense. Do you think they did enough? And who do you think makes the biggest impact among the new additions?
Ray Rivard, Lombardi Ave.: Defense was the focus in both free agency and the draft – and rightly so. Ted Thompson did a great job in bringing in players who should contribute immediately – namely Nick Perry, Jerel Worthy, and Casey Hayward. I see all three of these players ﬁtting in immediately with the defense, but I see Worthy as the player who will bring the most to the team in the early going. The Packers’ biggest hole last season was their defensive front. They couldn’t stop teams because they couldn’t pressure the QB.
The loss of Cullen Jenkins was bigger than most thought. With the addition of Worthy, the Packers will add to a line that already includes BJ Raji and Ryan Pickett. Though suspended for eight games, Anthony Hargrove will also help the team the second half of the season – if he makes the roster.
Z: Last one, give me your realistic expectation for the Packers this season, and then your perfect scenario. What is the one key for them taking home the Lombardi Trophy again this year?
Ray Rivard, Lombardi Ave.: Realistically the team wins at least 12 games -they will need that many wins to take the division. Ideally, they win 14 or 15 again this year and destroy the competition in the Playoffs
en route to another Super Bowl championship.
However, to do that, the team has got to make large improvements on the defensive side of the football. I think management has put the pieces in place for that to happen. Now it’s up to the coaching staff to put these players in the right schemes to make it happen. It’s funny talking about defense being the difference for a team like the
Packers. While the offense will continue to do what it does best, it will be the defense that will be the difference in the ﬁght for a championship. If the defense doesn’t come through, the team will be left watching like they did last year.
If you enjoyed this interview here’s the links to our previous fantasy previews: Seattle Seahawks, Chicago Bears, Arizona Cardinals, and San Diego Chargers. Come back tomorrow as we preview the Tennessee Titans.