Packers Stock Report: Offseason Edition
A little over a week ago, a few folks over at ESPN put together NFL power rankings for the 2015 season. Yes, you read that correctly, the 2015 season.
Thanks to Aaron Rodgers, a young core of talented players on both sides of the ball and a steady front office and coaching staff, the Packers finished first in the rankings. It’s silly to talk about 2015 power rankings in 2012, but that’s what NFL nerds like us talk about in June.
Perhaps a more appropriate exercise would be to examine each team’s roster and determine which players are rising and which are falling. It’s impossible to project anything clearly all the way to the 2015 season, but if you can assign a rising/falling grade to everyone currently on the roster, you at least can get a somewhat reasonable projection of the team’s future beyond the upcoming season.
All of this sounds like the perfect recipe for a Packers offseason stock report. Which players are on the rise and which are falling? This isn’t like the normal stock reports I do during the season. Those reports go week-to-week with heavy emphasis on the last game played.
For this offseason report, I’m looking more long term. Heck, I’ll use the 2015 season as a benchmark. Between now and 2015, can we reasonably expect (insert player’s name) to get better, keep playing at a consistently good level, or regress? I’m not going to label any player as steady, either. They’re either rising or falling.
Also, it doesn’t mean that a player is bad if he’s tagged with the falling label. For example, I think Charles Woodson is falling. I don’t think he’ll be playing at his current level in 2015, but that doesn’t mean he’s bad now and should be cut.
Finally, I’m just going to look at starters and I’m not touching the rookies. We don’t know enough about the first-year guys to slap any sort of label on them.
Anyway, enough of my rambling. Here we go:
Aaron Rodgers, QB: Rising. Expect Rodgers to keep playing at an MVP level well into the future.
James Starks, RB: Rising. I’m giving Starks the benefit of the doubt here. I think if he stays healthy he can be the type of running back the Packers need.
Greg Jennings, WR: Rising. The most disciplined route runner in football will be good for a long time.
Jordy Nelson, WR: Rising. After breaking out in 2011, I see no reason why Nelson will slow down any time soon.
3rd Wide Receiver: I’m not sure who to officially call the team’s third WR, so I’ll just label the rest of them. Driver is falling, Cobb is rising, and Jones is rising.
Jermichael Finley, TE: Rising. People were down on Finley after last season, but at 24 years old, the ceiling is still high for this kid. The Packers obviously agree and resigned him to a two-year deal.
Marshall Newhouse, LT: Rising. Not a great first year, but he showed enough to gain the inside track to start at left tackle in 2012.
T.J. Lang, LG: Rising. Lang is a nice player and is playing for a new contract this season.
Jeff Saturday, C: Falling. Saturday gets the first falling label, not because he’s bad, but because he’s old.
Josh Sitton, RG: Rising. Coming off his first pro bowl, Sitton will be good for a long time.
Bryan Bulaga, RT: Rising. I’m looking at my crystal ball and I think I see a pro bowl in it for Bulaga between now and 2015.
Ryan Pickett, DE: Falling. Pickett is still a good player, but age will likely get the best of him in a year or two.
B.J. Raji, DL: Rising. 2011 was forgettable for Raji, but he’s young enough to rebound and return to form.
Other D-linemen: I have no idea who the third “starter” on the d-line will be. Whoever it is, he needs to become a riser to help this defense recover.
Clay Matthews, OLB: Rising. Matthews’ sack total dropped, but his overall game improved in 2011. He’ll be a fine player well into the future.
A.J. Hawk, ILB: Falling. Hawk is just sort of there on defense. Rarely do find yourself saying, “That sure was a helluva play by A.J. Hawk” during a game.
Desmond Bishop, ILB: Rising. Bishop looks a bit slow at times, but he’s a high-energy player that is also a sneaky-good blitzer.
Other Outside Linebacker: This will likely be Nick Perry. If it’s Erik Walden, Frank Zombo or Brad Jones for some reason, consider them all falling.
Charles Woodson, CB: Falling. Still a very good player, but I don’t see him staying at his current level into 2015. Could a move to safety change that perception?
Tramon Williams, CB: Rising. Hopefully a healthy Williams gets back on track after getting burned far too often in 2011.
Morgan Burnett, SS: Rising. I don’t see Burnett as an all-pro, but he should be decent.
Charlie Peprah, FS: Falling. A decent backup that shouldn’t be starting.
Only five of the 22 starters are falling in my opinion (depending on how you want to handle who starts on the d-line and OLB). Yes, 2015 is a long ways away, but the Packers are set up to be contenders for a long time.
The commenters demanded it, so I will deliver it. Here’s a report on a few more players:
Sam Shields, CB: Rising. This one wasn’t easy. I went with rising because I believe the physical talent is there.
Mason Crosby, K: Rising. Strong leg on kickoffs and a stellar season (finally) kicking field goals. Once Jersey Al publishes his annual “Mason Crosby is Terrible” post, Crosby should improve even more.
Tim Masthay, P: N/A. The Packers will never have to punt this season so no report is necessary for Masthay.
Randall Cobb, KR/PR: Rising. Fix the minor fumbling issue and Cobb’s future is bright as a returner.——————