aaron-rodgers-preseason2

How badly do you want to own Aaron Rodgers? Second-round bad? First-round bad? You’re crazy, man.

The Housekeeping

Notable Additions: A few key contract extensions were handed out, namely to Clay Matthews and that Aaron Rodgers guy. But no free agency signings with a significant fantasy impact.

Notable Draft Picks: Eddie Lacy, Johnathan Franklin

The Marquee Men (the elitest of the elite)

Aaron Rodgers (ADP: 25.0): The ADP directly to the left of these words is taken from Fantasy Football Calculator, as are all the ADPs in these previews since it’s my default site that’s open for pretty much all of August. That particular ADP still sucks and isn’t to my liking, but it’s far more tolerable for Rodgers, and those who are willing to pay highly for one of the two quarterbacks who occupy the very top tier. At 25th overall Rodgers rests at the start of the third round in 12-team leagues, and therefore he could easily slip into the second round, a time where often if you don’t take a running back, you’re pretty screwy.

I am not and have never been a hater of Rodgers or Brees, because I’m not a complete blubbering idiot (most of the time). I have, however, developed a dislike for selecting them in fantasy drafts because of the increasingly inflated price it costs for their fake employment.

For the extended rant on this matter, you can go back to the Saints preview post and pretty much take Brees’ name out and insert Rodgers’. They’re both great, and they’ll both lead their positions and the entire league in fantasy production. But that alone doesn’t make them a quality pick late in the second round, and they definitely aren’t a value relative to their draft position. While reaching for Rodgers you’re missing out on, say, David Wilson or Frank Gore at running back, or Demaryius Thomas and Larry Fitzgerald at wide receiver, two positions where the tumble beyond the top is far more swift and sudden.

Meanwhile, last year the difference between Rodgers and Tony Romo was 3.5 fantasy points per week, and the difference between their draft position is currently 55 slots. So hey you, that guy drafting in ESPN leagues: tell me again why both Rodgers and Brees are first rounders?

Randall Cobb (ADP: 31.2): About repeating stuff. You may recall that two weeks ago I advised against further acceleration of the runaway, flaming Cobb hype wagon. I like Cobb, and like him a whole lot. But with Jordy Nelson now practicing and likely to be ready for opening day, and Jermichael Finley being called a “go-to guy“, Rodgers’ habit of widespread ball distribution could limit the slot receiver. And by that I mean he’ll still be super awesome, just maybe not at all close to the Roddy White and Victor Cruz territory where he still resides. Much of Cobb’s 104 targets last year came with Nelson and Greg Jennings out, and with Eddie Lacy healthy and emerging, a further emphasis should be placed on the run game to ensure that Rodgers doesn’t break (he was sacked 51 times in 2012).

But there’s admittedly a lot of hair splitting going on here, as I’m essentially saying that I’d be more comfortable with Cobb at the end of the third round in a 12-team league, as opposed to earlier in that same round or nearly in the second round, and ahead of White et al. Even if the final number isn’t quite as high as we may like, Cobb will still see plenty of targets in space, and he’ll be asked to do what he does best: act as a punt returner, and make defenders look foolish.

He’s pretty good at catching a ball too after hauling in 78 percent of the footballs thrown in his direction last year, so that helps. In fact, that was the second-best rate in the league, according to Pro Football Focus.

Jordy Nelson (ADP: 55.1): There’s a perception that Nelson is a receiver who comes with heavy risk, and that we should therefore wait on Rodgers’ top deep option. I get why this exists, because that’s what happens any time a player at any position needs surgery in August, and his status for the season opener is then questionable, at least at the time. But even when he was first under a surgeon’s skilled knife, the fantasy community seemed to collectively forget that Nelson’s injury was a lingering one since college, and one that he had continually played through. The fragile, injury prone label seemed to stick because of the recency effect, and the four games Nelson missed in 2012 due to entirely different injuries (groin and ankle).

But no worries, because the brief worry about Nelson’s availability dropped his value quickly, and he’s still a fifth rounder. So here’s a fun scenario little (very realistic) scenario: like a good boy or girl you draft two running backs in the opening rounds, and then in the third round you snatch up one of the remaining receivers who are just below the top tier (looking at you again, Roddy White). Like most leagues, this hypothetical league has a flex spot, so you turn around and get your third running back in the fourth round, where a high-upside option like Daryl Richardson could be available, and Ahmad Bradshaw is mighty fine as an RB3 too.

Then Nelson is sitting there and waiting in the fifth round, a receiver who’s only a year removed from 1,285 receiving yards with 15 touchdowns. Oh and hey, he’s fine now, and he had an 85-yard reception in practice earlier this week.

Eddie Lacy (ADP: 33.1): Draft tonight. In fact, draft immediately after reading this post, and jump on this Lacy value.

DuJuan Harris is now out for the year due to a knee injury, ending the charade that was the possibility he’d start, or at least split carries with Lacy. Now the rookie has a chance to immediately run away with the starting job, meaning the cowbell wearin’ bro who has the passing game support provided by Rodgers and his various minions can be yours for often a third-round pick, and even more often, lower.

The Middle Men (middle-to-late round options)

James Jones (ADP: 68.6): Jones will primarily be split out wide opposite Nelson, and with Cobb then in the slot, as well as just about everywhere else. In that role last year with Jennings out, Jones become a rather ridiculous red-zone target, leading the league with 14 touchdown receptions even though in eight games his longest catch was less than 20 yards. He had a three-game stretch between weeks four and six when he scored six times, and overall Jones averaged a touchdown every 4.6 catches.

That’s just stupid, which is why it screams of regression, especially with Finley maybe/probably/finally showing some signs of life. But with the exception of Steve Smith, there’s a bunch of receivers in similar situations typically around Jones in drafts, with stink of regression all around. That group includes Eric Decker, whose targets could be sucked away partially by Wes Welker, and T.Y. Hilton, who will have a fine season, but his breakout year could be limited by the presence of Darrius Heyward-Bey.

If I’m faced with a decision between those receivers or other similar names, I’ll take Jones for even the possibility that his red-zone production remains exceedingly high. He had two more touchdowns than Dez Bryant (who’s nearly a first-round pick) on 28 fewer receptions.

Jermichael Finley (ADP: 74.9): The standard warning about waiting on tight ends applies here. But if risk absolutely terrifies you, and you need to secure a mid-round tight end option after Tony Gonzalez and Jason Witten come off the board, Finley is your guy.

You’ve been burned by Finley and his preseason hype train before, and his tendency to plant balls deep into the ground. He dropped seven last year, giving away precious yards. But this year feels…different.

Over the final seven games of last year, Finley had 60 or more receiving yards in five of them. During those games then he averaged 56.7 yards, after clipping along at a pace of just 30.1 over the first nine weeks. That was something, and now on just seven receptions during the preseason he has 113 yards, including catches of 22 and 33 yards. AND for what it’s worth, his position coach has said he’s having his finest camp, and he’s becoming a more detailed route runner.

I’m not a contract year boom believer, but I can make an exception.

The Mop-Up Men (deeeep sleepers and handcuffs)

Johnathan Franklin (ADP: undrafted): With Harris out, the Packers’ depth chart beyond Lacy is a cluster of underwhelming awfulness. That includes Franklin, who’s averaged a whole 1.7 yards per carry over the Packers’ three preseason games. But since he was a fourth-round pick this past spring and therefore his August nothingness only means he’ll take longer to develop, and his roster spot isn’t in jeopardy, Franklin is your Lacy handcuff if you’re in a league that’s deep enough to keep you from eating solid food for four months.