August 22, 2008
The Juggernaut Index is our annual attempt to rank every NFL team for fantasy purposes. We're not concerned with real-life wins and losses here, only fantasy potential. These rankings rely entirely on hard, incontrovertible math. They are not to be questioned.
Let's begin with something Aaron Rodgers said recently, when asked about his surprising fall in the first round of the 2005 draft:
"You’d like to say that yesterday’s history, tomorrow’s a mystery, and today’s a gift. That’s why they call it the present."
Typically you'll only get wisdom like that from old women, recovering addicts, and posters that feature kittens. It's not the sort of thing you expect to hear from an NFL quarterback.
Still, given the events of the past month, maybe we can forgive Rodgers if he's full of motivational nonsense.
Ostensibly, the 24-year-old is in a nice situation: he's surrounded by talent, and he appears to have everyone's full support. But if the Packers lose their opener to Minnesota and the Brett Favre-led Jets win at Miami, Rodgers will be in for an excruciatingly long week.
Expectations are understandably high in Green Bay. The team is coming off a 13-win season, and they averaged over 27 points per game. Last year, the strong-armed Rodgers was terrific against Dallas in relief of Favre (18-for-26, 201 yards, 1 TD). He hit receivers in stride and did not appear to lack confidence. Rodgers is No. 15 in our preseason QB rankings, and you'll notice that Evans is unusually bullish. He ranks Rodgers tenth, ahead of Cutler, Garrard, Favre, Bulger and Eli.
We'll see. As Rodgers himself would tell you, tomorrow's a mystery. The Packers impressed no one in their last exhibition game, a 34-6 loss to San Francisco. The O-line didn't protect well, receivers dropped passes, and Rodgers finished 9-for-16 with only 58 passing yards. Rookie Brian Brohm, who reportedly holds the slimmest possible lead over Matt Flynn in the back-up battle, went 4-for-9 for just 33 yards.
Grant was spectacular last season, carrying 188 times for 956 yards and eight touchdowns. You might recall that he had a pretty decent game against the Seahawks in the playoffs, too. It was clear from Grant's first touch of the season -- a short pass that became a 21-yard gain against the Giants in Week 2 -- that the undrafted back had potential. But he's missed time due to contract-related issues, and more recently a hamstring strain. Grant has downplayed the injury, however, and he insists that he'll be ready for the Vikings:
"I didn't even pull it," Grant said. "It's just a little strain. I just felt it tighten up a little bit."
Asked if he could play extensively and well against Minnesota without playing in a game since January, Grant replied, "I expect to. Absolutely. And I'm prepared to play in a preseason game. Whether or not I do is up to the coaches."
Nonetheless, questions about Grant's health and his readiness have forced him out of the first round in fantasy drafts. His current ADP at Mock Draft Central is 14.6. If you take Randy Moss in the middle of Round 1 in a 10-team league, you're looking at Grant in Round 2. That combination would have won you a fantasy championship last year. Brandon Jackson, a former sleeper who became a bust who's become a sleeper again, is the appropriate handcuff for Grant.
Jennings is simply a playmaker, capable of turning short slants into long, game-changing touchdowns. He found the end zone 12 times in only 13 games last season, and averaged 17.4 yards per reception (7.4 YAC). Check the game log and admire all the 40-plus yard plays. Jennings has been sidelined by knee soreness, but he should be available to face Denver in the Pack's third exhibition game.
Longtime Favre favorite Donald Driver is a couple tiers below Jennings, fantasy-wise, but he remains an acceptable WR3. The 33-year-old's ceiling has been established (see 2004-06 for details); 24-year-old James Jones' ceiling is not yet known, but it seems fairly high. Green Bay selected Kansas State receiver Jordy Nelson with the 36th overall pick in the NFL Draft, but if he's going to make an impact this season, it's likely to be as a return specialist. Jones is well ahead of Nelson.
Donald Lee was the eighth highest-scoring fantasy tight end in 2007, finishing with 85 public league points. Because of the depth at the position, however, Lee in 15th in our preseason position ranks, and he's only owned in 62 percent of Yahoo! leagues.
The Packers defense should be worth owning all season, thanks in part to the user-friendly quarterbacks of the NFC North. The best Green Bay IDP options are Nick Barnett (131 tackles), Aaron Kampman (64 tackles, 12 sacks), AJ Hawk (105 tackles, dealing with a chest injury) and Atari Bigby (86 tackles, 5 INTs, ugly penalties, delightful name).
2007 Green Bay team stats
Rushing: 99.8 Y/G
Passing: 270.9 Y/G
Points per game: 27.2
Red Zone possessions and TDs: 50, 27
'08 Schedule strength: .531
The rest of the Index...
32) Chicago, 31) Tennessee, 30) San Francisco, 29) Miami, 28) Baltimore, 27) NY Jets, 26) Oakland, 25) Tampa Bay, 24) Atlanta, 23) Houston, 22) Kansas City, 21) Buffalo, 20) Carolina, 19) Detroit, 18) Seattle, 17) Denver, 16) Washington, 15) St. Louis, 14) Minnesota, 13) Arizona, 12) Jacksonville, 11) Cincinnati, 10) Philadelphia, 9) Pittsburgh, 8) Green Bay
Photos via Getty Images
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