Even though they were without quarterback Aaron Rodgers for basically eight games last season, the Green Bay Packers still finished third in the NFL in total offense (400.3 yards per game) and tied for eighth in scoring offense (26.1 points per game). Wide receiver Jordy Nelson set career-highs in catches (85) and yards (1,314) last year, and Randall Cobb started fast with 25 catches over the first four games before missing 10 games with a broken leg.
With Rodgers back healthy, which Packers’ wide receiver should fantasy football owners be more optimistic about this year?
The Case For Randall Cobb
After an 80-catch, eight touchdown season in 2012, Cobb was a popular breakout candidate at this time last year. He delivered on that promise early, as I previously alluded to, which had him on an 100-catch pace. Rodgers’ collarbone injury would certainly have derailed that pace, but Cobb is in line for career-highs across the board this year.
The Packers reportedly want to have some one else return kicks this season, which would allow Cobb to focus on becoming a more complete wide receiver with an expanded role.
The Case For Jordy Nelson
Nelson has been the Bret Saberhagen of fantasy football over the last three years, with nice production in 2011 (68 receptions for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns) and last year with a fairly dismal 2012 (49 receptions for 745 yards and seven touchdowns) in between. He had 49 receptions for 810 yards and seven touchdowns in the eight games Rodgers started and finished last year, and he is in line for a bigger role with James Jones gone in free agency.
Nelson was targeted 19 times in the red zone in 2013, including 10 inside the 10-yard line, with six of his touchdowns coming in that area of the field. Having Rodgers healthy should lead to more targets in the red zone and better efficiency.
I’m not as high on Cobb and Nelson as most other people are, but as prominent parts of a prolific offense they both will be drafted fairly soon after the elite wide receivers are off the board. Cobb may have more catches than Nelson this year, but this choice comes down to yardage and touchdown upside for me. As a deep threat and prominent target in the red zone, that gives Nelson the edge.