Team Previews: Green Bay Packers
Team Previews: Green Bay Packers

This article is part of our Team Previews series.

GREEN BAY PACKERS

THE SKINNY

The Packers failed to win the NFC North last year for the first time since 2010 and, as usual, didn't do much in the offseason beyond the draft. However, after reaching the divisional round, they figure to contend for both the division crown and the Super Bowl if the offense is rejuvenated.

THREE KEY STORY LINES

MOTIVATION APLENTY FOR LACY

After being the No. 1 player off the board in many drafts prior to last season, a visibly larger and seemingly unmotivated Lacy plugged and chugged his way to a career-low rushing total and a disappointing fantasy campaign. His yards per touch didn't fall off significantly, but his total touches did, dropping from 288 in 2014 to 207 last year. Despite the disappointing results, the Packers left the backfield alone in free agency and the draft, meaning the lineup remains Lacy, James Starks and John Crockett. In conjunction with this reality, several photos have surfaced indicating that Lacy did some serious work in the weight-shedding department in the offseason. The trimmer figure notwithstanding, his place in the fantasy rankings has plummeted from its previous perch. Working in his favor, though, are a plethora of playmakers within the offense, which helped him reach the 1,000-yard threshold in back-to-back years to kick off his career. If he hearkens back to more productive Sundays, a fresher Lacy could approach 300 carries and thus rejoin the upper echelon of running backs.

STARTING RECEIVERS LOOK TO REJOIN THE ELITE

Two seasons ago, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both proved capable of being No. 1 receivers in fantasy formats, as both reached double-digit touchdowns and finished among the top-10 WRs in fantasy points. The same was expected last year, with both players and franchise QB Aaron Rodgers all in their prime, but a season-ending knee injury suffered by Nelson in the first preseason game was the catalyst for the entire group taking a step back: Rodgers' production slipped, Nelson provided nothing to early drafters, and Cobb was an inconsistent No. 2 option, at best, for owners. Nelson is healthy again heading into the upcoming campaign, so just as his loss hurt the squad in 2015, his return should yield a healthy boost. In the past, he established himself as both a dangerous deep-ball and trusted third-down threat for Rodgers, creating more space for Cobb and giving Rodgers two alternatives on most plays. The Packers' starting receivers will enter the season with tempered expectations following last year's disappointments, but as long as Nelson hasn't lost a step, there's plenty of room for upside.

NELSON IS FIRST, COBB IS SECOND, BUT WHO IS THIRD?

There's little doubt that Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb are Aaron Rodgers' favorites in the passing attack. However, the Packers will seek to return to elite status in 2016, which generally offers room for a third viable fantasy pass-catcher. Heading into the season, there are no fewer than five candidates for that job in Green Bay. At the wide receiver position, Davante Adams was a popular sleeper last year and a second-round draft pick two seasons ago, Ty Montgomery started several games during an abbreviated and injury-plagued rookie campaign, and Jeff Janis showed explosiveness in the Packers' playoff loss at Arizona. In the tight end ranks, incumbent starter Richard Rodgers tied for the team lead in touchdowns last season, but he'll have a viable threat to snaps following the offseason addition of Jared Cook. The competition between the two could be delayed, though, after Cook required a procedure on his foot during OTAs. In the end – and despite taking a step back in 2015 – Adams may be the best bet to open the season as the third option given his experience and pedigree.

KEY JOB BATTLE

Training camp and the preseason slate will guide the Packers' decision as it pertains to the third receiver behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. After showing a bit of promise in his first year as a pro, Ty Montgomery likely would have made a strong play for the job, but his prolonged recovery from left ankle surgery has deterred his quest. If Week 1 arrives and Montgomery is on the outside looking in, two candidates remain: Davante Adams and Jeff Janis.

PIVOTAL PLAYER

Aaron Rodgers

The Packers have all the elements of a dynamic offense, and the engine that makes the train go is Rodgers. He, along with the Packers' offense as a whole, took a step back last season, but the 2016 version will feature a healthy Jordy Nelson and a hungry (for yards) Eddie Lacy. If Rodgers returns to his MVP form, many players around him will thrive.

BAROMETER

RISING: Jared Cook
He was held without a TD in 2015, but Cook still posted a respectable 12.3 YPC and now gets to play with a top quarterback. Cook is a big-play TE that the Packers haven't seen since the days of Jermichael Finley.

FALLING: Davante Adams
A player on the rise heading into last season, Adams instead regressed in both performance and production. Given the depth at the wide receiver position, even he will have to earn a spot in training camp.

SLEEPER: Ty Montgomery
Before an ankle injury cut short his rookie season, Montgomery was earning himself a prominent role in the Packers' passing game. A strong preseason could make him the No. 3 receiver heading into Week 1, but his slower-than-expected recovery from his ankle injury could slow his pursuit.

THE INJURY FRONT

Jordy Nelson, WR – Nelson took it easy during OTAs, but he plans to participate in full-squad sessions during training camp. After missing nearly one year of football, his recovery has gone to plan thus far and should leave him in a good spot once the season kicks off.

Randall Cobb, WR – Cobb made an early exit from the Packers' playoff loss to the Cardinals due to a punctured lung – possibly caused by a microphone battery pack – but all signs point to him being 100 percent when training camp kicks off.

Jared Cook, TE – Cook underwent minor foot surgery earlier this summer, but he said he had fully recovered just a few weeks later, so he could enter camp without any limitations.

IDP FOCUS

Morgan Burnett, S – While he does not contribute much in the turnover department, Burnett does put up linebacker-like tackle numbers from the safety position. He has averaged over seven tackles per game in his career and will be just 27 years old, so 100 tackles seems like a lock if he stays healthy.

Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, S – There is plenty of fantasy production to go around in the Packers' defensive backfield, as Clinton-Dix joins his fellow safety Burnett as a top IDP option. Clinton-Dix reached the 100-tackle total last season for the first time in his career, and owns six interceptions in 36 career games (including postseason).

Clay Matthews, LB – Matthews' name stands out among Packers defenders, but he has never had more than the 66 tackles he had last season and finished with single-digit sack totals in two of the last three years. An expected move from inside to outside linebacker will give him more opportunities to get to the quarterback, however.

OFFSEASON MOVES

KEY ACQUISITIONS:

Jared Cook – TE (from Rams)
Assuming his full recovery from foot woes, adds new element to offense.

KENNY CLARK – DT (Rd. 1, No. 27 – UCLA)
First-round pick will replace B.J. Raji and could start immediately.

KYLER FACKRELL – LB (Rd. 3, No. 88 – Utah State)
Adds another option in pass-rush department.

BLAKE MARTINEZ – LB (Rd. 4, No. 131 – Stanford)
Tackling machine could push for snaps early at inside linebacker.

TREVOR DAVIS – WR (Rd. 5, No. 163 – California)
Little fanfare, but maybe fastest player on the roster.

KEY LOSSES:

B.J. Raji – DT (retired)
Decided to take at least one year off from football.

CASEY HAYWARD – CB (to Chargers)
Nickelback will be replaced by 2015 first- and second-round picks.

MIKE NEAL – LB (FA)
Expendable with Clay Matthews set to move back outside.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin O'Brien
Kevin mans the Packers and Brewers beats and moonlights as RotoWire's Director of Operations.
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