The young Packers made a late-season playoff charge in 2006, winning their final four games to get to 8-8, and built up a ton of momentum. They missed the postseason, but they showed enough promise that Brett Favre didn't spend the entire offseason trying to decide whether to retire or return.
Perhaps Favre would like to reconsider.
Green Bay made remarkably few offensive upgrades during the offseason, while losing a couple of key cogs (Ahman Green, David Martin). In addition, there was a real need for a veteran No. 2 wideout. The Randy Moss-to-Green Bay rumors never materialized; what did materialize (allegedly) was a trade request from a disappointed and disgruntled Favre. Compounding the problem, the team ignored its offense with its first-round draft pick.
On the other side of the ball, the Packers have an emerging defensive unit that forces turnovers and gets to the opposing QB. However, Green Bay's glaring weakness -- its deficiency at safety -- resulted in an alarming 25 passing TDs allowed.
Projected draft round Player Round Brett Favre, QB 12 Brandon Jackson, RB 6-7 Vernand Morency, RB 8 Donald Driver, WR 3 Greg Jennings, WR 9-10 Donald Lee, TE DND Dave Rayner/Mason Crosby, K DND Defense/special teams 16 Draft position based on a standard 12-team combined scoring and yardage league with a 17-round draft. DND: Do not draft.
Donald Driver, WR. Despite being the team's only reliable option in the passing game for much of the season, Driver set career highs last year in receptions and yards (and finished one TD shy of his career high). He isn't the biggest, fastest or flashiest wideout in the league, but he is consistent. And it doesn't hurt that he is Brett Favre's favorite target. Driver fits the bill as a No. 1 receiver, and he'd be even better if a solid No. 2 emerged to take some of the heat off him.
Aaron Kampman, DL. Five years in the league, five years of increasing sack totals. Kampman took a huge leap last season, finishing with 15.5 sacks and a career-high 89 tackles. There were concerns about fatigue in November (1.5 sacks), but Kampman posted 5.5 sacks in December. What we have here is an elite lineman.
A.J. Hawk, LB. Talk about an immediate impact! Hawk led the Packers with 119 tackles in his rookie season, and he added two interceptions, two fumble recoveries and 3.5 sacks. If you pass on the top options at the position, Hawk offers a solid all-around package a few rounds later. And you'll still get No. 1-type production.
Key additions: CB Frank Walker. Key losses: RB Ahman Green, TE David Martin, FB William Henderson.
Brett Favre, QB. Favre spared the football world an entire offseason of retirement drama, but you can't overlook the fact that he is a year older, has a shaky receiving corps and must rely on an unproven running attack. At least the O-line is reliable. A season after tossing 29 INTs, Favre cut that number down to 18. However, he also threw just 18 TD passes -- his lowest total in any full season -- and completed just 56 percent of his passes. He should be more mobile after ankle surgery, but he never contributed much with his legs anyway. Draft Favre as a backup, and be ready to use him against the likes of the Vikings and Lions.
Packers defense. This unit came on strong toward the end of 2006, holding its final three opponents to a total of 23 points. Green Bay was decent against the run (13th in the league), but only three teams allowed more passing TDs. As far as the numbers fantasy owners care most about -- sacks and turnovers -- Green Bay was productive. The Packers were seventh in the league with 33 turnovers (23 INTs) and fourth with 46 sacks. Because this young unit figures to improve and because Green Bay plays the Bears' and Vikings' woeful offenses twice apiece, consider this defense a sleeper. It'll be worth starting in many weeks.
Vernand Morency, RB. Morency averaged a team-best 4.6 yards per carry last season, and he'll help fill the void left by Ahman Green. Because he is a bit more experienced than rookie Brandon Jackson and a more proven receiver out of the backfield, Morency likely will get more of the carries earlier in the season. But this situation screams platoon, so Morency shouldn't be drafted until the middle rounds. He just isn't a proven back, much less a proven feature back.
Brandon Jackson, RB. It was no secret that the Packers really needed to draft a running back. It was a surprise, however, that they waited until the second round to do so. Jackson isn't speedy but fits the bill as an "inside runner." The Packers likely will start the season with Jackson and Morency sharing carries, but they would like to see one back -- preferably Jackson -- emerge. Unless Jackson wows everyone during training camp, he should be among the last "starting" running backs drafted.
Greg Jennings, WR. In what was a wildly inconsistent rookie season, Jennings finished with 632 receiving yards, yet one fewer catch than running back Ahman Green. Early in the season, Jennings lived up to his sleeper hype, catching three TDs and posting two 100-yard games in the first five weeks. Then he suffered an ankle injury, missed some time, topped 50 yards only once in the final 11 games, and didn't score after Week 5. With the experience in the offense and a healthy ankle, the Jennings from the early portion of 2006 could re-emerge. But don't gamble more than a mid-round pick on that happening.
Nick Barnett, LB. Another year, another 100-tackle effort from Barnett. In each of his four NFL seasons, the middle linebacker has had 100-plus tackles and a handful of sacks/interceptions. Draft him as your No. 2.
Donald Lee, TE. Only once since 2003 have the Packers had a tight end with more than five TD receptions. That was Bubba Franks, who has one TD in the past two seasons combined. David Martin was a nice option last season, but the oft-injured Martin is now with Miami. Therefore, the starting job is there for the taking, and Lee has more upside than Franks. Unfortunately, 30-plus other tight ends in the league have more upside than Lee. Cross him off your draft-day wish list.
Dave Rayner/Mason Crosby, K. Why did the Packers use a sixth-round pick on Crosby in this year's draft? Because Rayner missed nine field-goal attempts last season, and that includes seven from 49 yards or closer. Three of those misses came in December, when kicking at Lambeau Field is quite a treat. Crosby has a strong leg and will get a shot to win the job, but this isn't a training camp battle that should interest you.
Koren Robinson, WR. Due to his off-field shenanigans, Robinson won't be eligible to return to action until mid-October. And there's no guarantee Green Bay will welcome him back. But because he could fill a real need for the Pack, expect to see Robinson back. He isn't worth drafting and won't be worth a waiver claim until he proves otherwise.
Bubba Franks, TE. As previously mentioned, Franks' days as a fantasy contributor are long gone. Even if he starts for Green Bay, he belongs on your waiver wire. When Franks does catch the ball, it is for minimal yardage and rarely (if ever) is in the red zone.
James Jones, WR. The rookie wideout has sleeper potential, mainly because the team badly needs a No. 3 to emerge, but take a wait-and-see approach with Jones. Ditto for the likes of Ruvell Martin, Shaun Bodiford and the walking injury known as Robert Ferguson. Jones' size will give him an advantage, as this roster is chocked full of small options.
Ultimate Fantasy Football Tip: Simply put, there aren't many bargains to be found on this roster. At least not until the running back mess is cleared up. One of the main strategies in the Ultimate game is to sell a player before a tough matchup and/or a bye week, and buy a player before a favorable matchup. Unfortunately, the Packers' best matchup (vs. Washington in Week 6) comes after a game vs. the Bears and right before a bye (which is followed by a Monday night game at Denver). Ug-ly.
TO KNOW LIST
Coaching: Mike McCarthy is from the West Coast offense family -- a family that now has as many members as your average phone book -- and clearly favors the pass. Green Bay threw the ball 59 percent of the time last season. New offensive coordinator Joe Philbin plans to run more, however, using the zone-blocking scheme in the rushing attack. Bob Sanders, the defensive coordinator, has his hands full with a secondary that has been exposed repeatedly.
Offensive line: This is a young (three rookies started in 2006) but effective group that does an excellent job of pass protection. The Packers allowed just 24 sacks last season, and that was the fifth-lowest total in the NFL. Much of the credit must go to the talented tackle duo of Chad Clifton and Mark Tauscher. When it comes to the running game, however, the unit needs to improve.
Schedule analysis: It never hurts to face the Lions twice, but Green Bay has five games against top 10 defenses. And if you're looking ahead to the fantasy playoffs (Weeks 14-16), you won't like what you find there. The Packers host the Raiders and play at St. Louis and Chicago. It's well documented that the Bears are an elite unit, but the Raiders had a heck of a defense last season and the Rams should be improved. Fantasy Strength of Schedule: Tied for 19th easiest (or 13th toughest).