By Andy Behrens
The Juggernaut Index is our annual ranking of NFL teams for fantasy purposes. Repeat: FOR FANTASY PURPOSES. We’re interested in yards and points here. We began at No. 32, the NFL’s least useful franchise (Oakland), and we’re working our way toward the elite teams. These ranks are astonishingly accurate and highly collectible. Please enjoy them responsibly.
Reasonable arguments can be made on Green Bay’s behalf, of course. Three Packers are typically selected within the top 50 picks in Yahoo! drafts: Greg Jennings(notes) (ADP 25.0), Rodgers (37.1) and Ryan Grant(notes) (45.7). Jennings was the fourth highest-scoring wide receiver last year and Rodgers was the second leading scorer among all players. Those two combined for 488 public league points in ’08. They were the No. 2 quarterback/receiver tandem for fantasy purposes, behind only Warner/Fitzgerald. They’re exceptional.
Rodgers and Jennings are also both 25 and they’re signed to multi-year deals, so get used to seeing them in the top tiers at their positions. They’ll be there for a few more years. Rodgers can make any throw, he limits turnovers (13 INTs) and he’s a threat to run (4 rush TDs). Jennings gets easy separation, he’s a serious deep and intermediate weapon, and he has a nose for the end zone (21 TDs since ’07). Short slants become long touchdowns when he’s the target.
As a fan of a more honorable NFC North franchise, I can tell you without reservation that I am thoroughly sick of Greg [expletive] Jennings. But he’s the No. 5 receiver on my draft board.
Donald Driver(notes) is entering his age-34 season, but he obviously remains useful. He’s topped 70 receptions and 1,000 yards in each of the last five years. As the No. 2 receiver in a pass-heavy attack, he’s almost a bargain at his current Yahoo! ADP (97.2). James Jones(notes) and Jordy Nelson(notes) remain locked in their eternal struggle for No. 3 receiver duties. Give a slight edge to Jones, but both players will have their moments. Both will begin the year as free agents in leagues of standard size and both will likely work their way into Pickups of the Week, possibly more than once.
Donald Lee(notes) is the known quantity at tight end, but Jermichael Finley(notes), a third-round pick in ’08, is challenging for targets. Finley is a matchup dilemma for defenses and the local press has called him “a revelation” in his second season. He won’t be drafted, even in deeper leagues, but file away the name.
Following a breakout half-season in ’07, Ryan Grant started slow in ’08 due to preseason health and contract issues. In the end, he gave his owners a nice yardage total (1203), but he broke the plane just five times. He’s had a much quieter, healthier offseason this time around and he projects as a 300-carry back. There’s a lot to like with Grant – he led people to imaginary championships in ’07 – and the price is relatively low. He’s a north-south guy playing in a scheme that suits his talents. In PPR leagues, however, he gets a small downgrade. Grant didn’t catch more than three passes in any game last season. Brandon Jackson(notes) remains the handcuff, while undrafted rookie Tyrell Sutton has been a preseason standout.
The Packers’ defense is loaded with talent and useful IDPs (Hawk, Kampman, Collins, Barnett, Woodson), but a dramatic change is underway.
Mike McCarthy is asking his defense to … move from a 4-3 man coverage scheme to a 3-4 Dom Capers-coached zone blitz scheme. To give an idea of just how drastic this shift is, consider that for the past few years, Green Bay’s secondary has been the most man-heavy coverage scheme in the league. There were times when I have wondered if the Packers even knew how to play zone.
You can’t expect an easy transition, not in a league where hesitancy is quickly exposed and punished. And sometimes old personnel – regardless of talent – won’t fit a new approach. Still, Green Bay needed to address the D. The Packers were the fifth highest-scoring team in the NFL last year, yet they went 6-10 and gave up 23.8 points per game.