Fantasy football draft season is fast approaching. Prep to win your league with SI.com's ongoing preview, including team-by-team breakdowns that examine each club's key fantasy storyline and much more.
Key fantasy storyline
Thanks to the strength of one of the league's best passing games, the Packers have boasted one of the best offenses in the NFL the past few seasons. They were in the top 10 in total offense every year from 2009 through 2011, but slipped to 13th last year. However, in each of the last three seasons they haven't ranked better than 20th in rushing offense. They've made it work, but there's little doubt they'd like to get more out of their run game this year.
Enter rookies Eddie Lacy and Johnathan Franklin. The Packers selected the backs to improve an offense that averaged just 3.9 yards per carry last season. While they'll both have a role in the offense, it's Lacy who warrants our fantasy attention.
Lacy had a huge junior year at Alabama, running for 1,322 yards and finding the end zone 19 times, which helped carry the Crimson Tide to another National Championship. He immediately becomes the best running back in a potent offense, and that alone makes him a worthy starter in fantasy leagues. The Packers are likely to still use John Kuhn in goal-line packages, but Lacy is not some slight back like James Starks. The 230-pound wrecking ball is perfectly capable of bulldozing his way into the end zone in short-yardage situations.
It's not all good news, however. Lacy is coming off surgery to repair an injured toe, which is part of the reason why he fell all the way to the 61st overall pick in the draft. He got progressively better as a pass catcher in his three years at Alabama, but he set career highs in 2012 with 22 receptions and 189 yards. The Packers may have drafted him and Franklin to put a greater emphasis on their run game, but this is still a pass-first, pass-often team; any back who plays will have to be able to contribute as a receiver, too.
Of course, you can't just make an apples-to-apples comparison between the Alabama Crimson Tide of the NCAA and the Green Bay Packers of the NFL. It's certainly possible that Lacy will prove an adept receiver once given in the chance in a sophisticated, professional offense like Green Bay's. It is worth noting, though, that college teammate Trent Richardson caught 29 passes for 338 yards in his last year in Tuscaloosa.
Given his pedigree and the offensive environment in Green Bay, Lacy could end up being a suitable RB2 this year, though I would not want to go into the season with him any higher than third on my depth chart.
|Green Bay Packers' 2013 schedule|
|Including a look at how the Packers' upcoming foes fared defensively in fantasy last season|
Stats via FFToday.com
Two games against the Bears, tough AFC North matchups with the Steelers, Ravens and Bengals, and a Week 1 tilt with the 49ers stand out as the challenging games on the schedule. On the flip side, Rodgers and the Packers should feast on most of their NFC East competition, as well as the Browns and Falcons. Their playoff schedule is good, though not great since they draw the Steelers Week 16, the typical championship week in fantasy leagues.
QB: Aaron Rodgers, Graham Harrell, B.J. Coleman
RB: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin, DuJuan Harris, Alex Green, James Starks
WR: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross, Charles Johnson
TE: JerMichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, D.J. Williams
|Green Bay Packers' 2012 defensive rankings|
The Packers play a very aggressive, confusing 3-4 defense that is predicated on letting its talented linebackers make plays. It all starts with Clay Matthews, one of the best outside backers in the game. Big bodies B.J. Raji and Ryan Pickett do a great job of swallowing up linemen, allowing Matthews, A.J. Hawk, Nick Perry and Brad Jones to make plays on the ball. Matthews should be one of the first linebackers selected in IDP leagues.
They did lose a big piece on defense, as veteran do-it-all safety Charles Woodson signed with the Raiders. He has reinvented himself as a blitzing safety in Green Bay's defense, and the team will struggle to replace his production. They do get steady play from corners Tramon Williams and Sam Shields, though. Overall, this is a strong fantasy defense. They do a good job of getting after the quarterback and creating turnovers, the two things you really look for when rostering a defense for the entire season. Heading into the year, I consider them a top-10 option at the position.