Juggernaut Index, No. 3: The Green Bay Packers

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Juggernaut Index, No. 3: The Green Bay Packers
Juggernaut Index, No. 3: The Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is, at the present time, the NFL's all-time leader in both passer-rating (104.9) and interception percentage (1.8). He also ranks second in net yards per pass attempt (7.14), third in completion percentage (65.8), fifth in passing yards per game (257.4) and fifth in touchdown percentage (6.4, easily the best among active players).

Rodgers, in a nutshell, is disturbingly good. He's efficient, he limits giveaways, he's mobile and inventive and unnervingly accurate and ... well, he's great. Near perfect. As good as it gets. A one-man clinic on quarterback play at the highest level. Rodgers' real-world brilliance obviously translates to fantasy, as he finished either first or second at his position in standard scoring every year from 2008 to 2012. Last year, if we factor out the November game in which Rodgers fractured his collarbone on Green Bay's opening drive, he ranked third among all QBs in per-game fantasy scoring.

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Simply put, Rodgers is a historically great player at the game's most important position. Hall of Fame-bound. Fantasy wise, he should clearly be one of the first three quarterbacks off the board in all leagues. If you play in a format that deducts heavily for turnovers, there's a case to be made for taking him first or second at his position.

Jordy and Randall, green machines. (Photo Tom Lynn /Getty Images)
Jordy and Randall, green machines. (Photo Tom Lynn /Getty Images)

One of the many things that makes Green Bay's passing offense so reliably great is, of course, year-to-year continuity. Mike McCarthy has been the team's head coach for each of Rodgers' 87 career starts, and for most of his pro development. Jordy Nelson has been with the Packers since 2008, Randall Cobb since 2011 and Jarrett Boykin since 2012. Obviously Green Bay has lost a few featured receivers in recent seasons — notably Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jermichael Finley — but this team is forever developing high-quality replacements. Nelson was basically an understudy for his first three years in the league, a cameo player; over the past three seasons, he's delivered 3,322 receiving yards and 30 touchdowns. He's coming off career single-season highs in catches (85), targets (126) and yards (1,314). Nelson has excellent hands, size (6-foot-3), ball skills and big-play ability, plus he has a weird telepathic connection with Rodgers. He should fall no further than late-Round 2 in fantasy drafts.

Cobb is a menace as well, elusive and smooth, entering a contract year. He led the Packers in both receptions and receiving yards in 2012, and he was on-pace for a 100-catch, 1,300-yard season in 2013 before suffering a fractured fibula in October. Cobb returned in Week 17 and converted two targets into a pair of touchdowns, the second of which was the most important play of Green Bay's season. As the clear top receiving options in a high-yield offense, Nelson and Cobb should probably go within 3-5 picks of each other, in the early rounds of any draft.

Boykin is a terrific late fantasy flier for 2014, as he'll open the year as Green Bay's unrivaled No. 3 receiver. Boykin held off rookie Davante Adams with a good-enough preseason, and he's well-positioned for a quality fantasy campaign. We've learned over the years that Rodgers can support 3-4 starting-quality fantasy pass-catchers. When a 4,800-yard, 40-touchdown quarterback is at the controls of an offense, everybody eats. Boykin has experienced occasional issues with drops — he was brutal on the day Cobb was injured — but he earned trust in the second half of 2013. Ultimately, he finished with 49 catches and 681 receiving yards on 82 targets. McCarthy has talked up Boykin in recent days...

"Clearly, Jarrett Boykin has taken the next step," McCarthy said. "I just love the way he plays. He's had an excellent camp.

"He's physical, his toughness, he's relentless. I think he's exceptional at the top of his route. You see his strength and balance to separate from a DB."

...which, in all likelihood, will boost his fantasy stock in late drafts. I'm in. I've invested in multiple leagues. Boykin is on the approved list, a key supporting receiving in a terrific passing game.

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There is no temperature below which these Lambeau fans won't tailgate. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)
There is no temperature below which these Lambeau fans won't tailgate. (Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports)

Green Bay likely will not feature one tight end this season to the extent that they leaned on Finley in his best years. But this team certainly won't ignore the position, either. The Packers used a third-round pick on Cal's Richard Rodgers, and the rookie currently tops the TE depth chart. He's the guy to snag if you're looking for an end-game flier at this position in deep leagues. As we've discussed before, rookie tight ends are a terrible fantasy bet, with very little impact historically. So don't go crazy in the draft room, thinking you've landed a total steal. But if Rodgers can block, he'll play. Brandon Bostick is dealing with a multi-week leg injury, so he's off the radar for now. Andrew Quarless is depth. Moving on...

Eddie Lacy looks like the sort of back who will terrorize the NFC North for the next six years, rolling up one 1,200-yard, 10-TD season after another. He's a load, the clear featured runner for this team, and a capable receiver as well (35 catches on 44 targets). Lacy is clearly a first-half-of-first-round fantasy commodity, an outstanding high-volume runner in an elite offense. He ranked fifth in the league in carries as a rookie (284), finishing with over 300 touches in 15 games. Don't expect less in the year ahead. Draft early and enjoy. He's great. James Starks and DuJuan Harris seem to be the co-handcuffs.

Green Bay's defense has no shortage of talent — Clay Matthews, Sam Shields, Margan Burnett, Julius Peppers, et al — but the D/ST wasn't anything special last season, fantasy-wise. The team only generated 22 takeaways last year and 23 the season before. Use this defense when the matchup is right (vs. the Jets in Week 2, for example), but don't hold this group all season. In our 2014 position ranks, no member of the Yahoo fantasy team had Green Bay's D higher than No. 15.

2013 team stats: 26.1 PPG (NFL rank 9), 283.6 pass YPG (5), 25 pass TDs (13), 133.5 rush YPG (7), 28.7 rush attempts per game (12), 35.6 pass attempts per game (18)

Previous Juggernaut Index entries: 32. Oakland, 31. Miami, 30. Jacksonville, 29. NY Jets, 28. Tennessee, 27. Cleveland, 26. Baltimore, 25. Carolina, 24. Buffalo, 23. Tampa Bay, 22. St. Louis, 21. NY Giants, 20. Kansas City, 19. Houston, 18. Arizona, 17. Minnesota, 16. Pittsburgh, 15. San Diego, 14. San Francisco, 13. Atlanta, 12. Cincinnati, 11. Washington, 10. New England, 9. Indianapolis, 8. New Orleans, 7. Seattle, 6. Philadelphia, 5. Dallas, 4. Detroit

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