Forecasting the Green Bay Packers’ 2015 Wide Receivers; Or, Randall Cobb Is A Must Sell
To the casual observer, wide receiver was probably not perceived as a pressing need for the Green Bay Packers going into the 2014 draft. Other than the loss of James Jones, their WR3, all their of their other WRs were returning. So people may have been a bit surprised to see them not only take a WR as early as the 2nd round, but to then take two more later in the draft.
It starts to make more sense if you look at these three pages. Per Over the Cap, those are the contracts for Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Jarrett Boykin, respectively. You may notice that 2014 is the last year on all three contracts. This helps explain why they added Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, and Jeff Janis, in the 2nd, 5th, and 7th rounds, respectively. Of course, they aren’t just going to let the former three go and replace them with the new guys, but what’s important is that they likely have more talent than opportunity at the position now.
Given that change is certain, I think it’s necessary that we consider what may play out in Green Bay, especially since “Green Bay starting WR” is almost always equivalent to “fantasy football starter”. While the utility of these kinds of forward thinking exercises is more clear for dynasty purposes, I believe they also have useful redraft applications.
Let’s start with the obvious stuff. Davante Adams is going to be, at worst, their starting WR3 next year. In an offense that regularly puts three or more WRs on the field at once, he’ll have clear fantasy utility. I have no reservations about Davante Adams, and I doubt the Packers have any either. Now, if you’re the Packers, and Adams may be your WR2 next year, wouldn’t you give him a lot of playing time this year? I believe Adams could easily be the biggest rookie contributor at WR this season; If James Jones could turn 64 receptions into an NFL leading 14 TDs, the far more talented Adams could easily turn a low number of total receptions into a very strong TD total, given his scoring prowess.
Chris Harper and Myles White are both basically free for the Packers. Both players’ contracts are through 2015, but the Packers can cut either with no dead money or cap hit. Harper was originally drafted by Seattle in the 4th round of the NFL draft, who then waived him, and then he was signed by San Francisco, who then waived him, and then he was signed by Green Bay, where he has zero receptions and has only really played on special teams. That’s a long way of saying two words: He’s irrelevant. White actually caught nine balls last season. I think he’ll be on the team next year but his absolute upside is probably as their WR4. He’s worth keeping an eye on, but most likely he’s just a career depth guy.
Davis Mattek loves Jeff Janis and actually outlines some similarities between Janis and Jordy Nelson. For what it’s worth, Lord Reebs predicted Ted Thompson would draft Jeff Janis based on his clear possession of a RotoViz subscription, so it’s not like I’m wasting my time trying to predict what the man will do. The biggest pro and con for Janis being on the roster are the same thing: He’s essentially free for the Packers. If they like him at all, they’ll be sure to keep him around. Or, he could get injured and they might waive him like they did with RotoViz darling Charles Johnson last year, who also happened to be a 7th round pick. If he happens to make it through this summer without any negative press, I’d expect him to be on the team next year. If he lives up to his upside, he could find his way into their starting lineup in 2015, and again, that’s a surefire sign of fantasy success. Look for him to get some snaps this year so they can evaluate him in game situations, and he may be a factor if someone ahead of him gets injured.
Jared Abbrederis will almost certainly be on the roster in 2015 given where he was selected in the draft. Here are his comps. He is small, slow, old, and weak1. Grandpa Jared profiles as an unimpressive possession receiver, a la Julian Edelman, or maybe an unimpressive outside receiver, like Brian Hartline. Either way, he’d have to rack up a ton of receptions to be worth much. His upside is devastatingly low for a guy playing in Green Bay.
On to the guys in their contract years. Jarrett Boykin had something of a breakout last year. The problem is, he didn’t break out with Aaron Rodgers throwing the football. You know how I mentioned guys like Adams and Janis would get some snaps this year? Boykin is the guy they are likely to take them away from. That makes him a no-go for me in redraft this year. For dynasty purposes, you should try to sell Boykin immediately. I would say he might have a chance of staying with the team on a modest deal, but the far more successful James Jones ended up playing in Oakland for only $3.5 million a year. He’s not going to end up in a better situation than Green Bay.
I would be surprised if the team doesn’t re-up Jordy Nelson. For one, he has more chemistry with Rodgers than any one else he’s ever played with. Two, it’s reportedly a priority for the team. He’s currently making a little over $4 million a year, so his raise should be substantial. Fortunately for the Packers, similar player Eric Decker got a contract with the Jets for only about $7 million a year. Nelson will get more than that, but he’s likely to be undervalued given his production and versatile skill set. I expect something around $9 million. I would personally value Nelson higher, but that seems to fit the market.
The moment you’ve been waiting for since you read the headline: You need to sell Randall Cobb in dynasty. I would go so far as to say that not selling him for a fair price would be an objective mistake. First of all, he’s likely overvalued anyway. You know how we feel about receiver size. The other issue with small receivers is that they are almost always priced at their ceiling; Their upside largely comes from receptions, which everybody just assumes they will get. The bigger problem is that because of his team situation, Cobb is priced even closer to his ceiling. Staying with the Packers will not increase his perceived value, while going almost anywhere else will decrease it. There are only a few QBs as talented as Rodgers in the league, and the Broncos, Saints, and Patriots don’t project to sign Cobb if he hits free agency. He would almost have to join the Eagles or a team with a high-upside young QB like the Browns to retain some semblance of his value. I think even without examining the probability of whether or not he’ll stay in Green Bay, trading him away is objectively the correct choice.
But I’m not going to leave you hanging like that. Around $119 million of Green Bay’s 2015 cap space is accounted for currently. Now, we’re assuming they’ll sign Nelson since they’ve said as much. It doesn’t seem like there have been contract talks in regards to Cobb. We don’t know what the cap will be next year, but it looks like they could definitely fit in Nelson, Cobb, and the 2014 and 2015 draft classes with some maneuvering. The sticking point would likely be Cobb’s value. Cobb represents a kind of player that is currently overvalued in the NFL. Seattle traded a 1st round pick to Minnesota just so they could pay Percy Harvin $11 million a year. The Giants paid Victor Cruz over $8 million a year. They also spent a 1st round pick on Odell Beckham, just like the Rams spent a 1st round pick on Tavon Austin in 2013. There’s a good chance the Packers would have to pay Cobb more than Nelson. If nothing else, their pay would be similar. I think, when faced with the cognitive dissonance of having to pay Cobb, a receiver who has less production and less upside,2 similarly to Nelson, Ted Thompson may decline to do so. Thompson may also be inclined to think that if he can get Julian Edelman-type production from Abbrederis, it would be more economical to go that route. If there’s a general manager in the league who realizes how overvalued small WRs are, Thompson would be my third guess behind only Chicago’s Phil Emery and Tampa Bay’s Jason Licht. He does read RotoViz after all.3