Is there a more overlooked elite team than the Green Bay Packers? Over the last four seasons, the Packers have gone 47-17 with a Super Bowl trophy, an MVP award for the quarterback, and perhaps the most dominating pass-rushing linebacker in the NFL.
In that time they've seen good fantasy seasons emerge from Aaron Rodgers, Ryan Grant, Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and maybe you could squeeze some one-game juice out of Matt Flynn, Brandon Jackson, Alex Green, Cedric Benson, James Starks or even John Kuhn. This year, there are going to be some significant changes and also likely some new fantasy faces.
Two rookie running backs fight to take over lead duties in the backfield, while the departure of Driver and Jennings possibly opens the door for a new unknown to pop off a 1,000-yard season for the Packers.
Though many people are focused on an NFC race that includes the 49ers, Seahawks, Falcons, Redskins, and darkhorse names like the Vikings, Buccaneers, Panthers, Giants and Bears, if you've forgotten the Packers, you better check again.
No, make that a discount double-check again.
Aaron Rodgers, 30
2012 stats: 371-of-552, 67.2% for 4,295 yards, 39 touchdowns, eight interceptions, 7.8 yards per attempt, 72.48 QBR, 4th in DYAR, four fumbles lost, 259 yards rushing and two touchdowns
Mike Ditka says that Rodgers is the best quarterback in the world and who am I to argue with Hurricane Ditka? Not even turning 30 until December, Rodgers has thrown 84 touchdowns and only 14 interceptions over the last two seasons. Drew Brees has 89 touchdown passes over the last two years, but he had 14 interceptions in 2011 alone and another 19 interceptions last season.
Last season Rodgers threw 11 touchdowns and three interceptions in his six divisional games, and wasn't fearful of the tough Bears defense: He threw for 293 yards, three touchdowns and no interceptions against Chicago in Week 15. Even if he did struggle against the Bears this season, he doesn't draw them for the second time until Week 17 when most fantasy seasons are over.
If a Bears legendary coach says that a Packers quarterback is the best in the world, I'll believe him.
2013 Prediction: 68% for 4,200 yards, 40 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 200 rushing yards and two touchdowns
This situation is a mess, with the Packers adding Seneca Wallace after roster cuts. Green Bay Packers better pray for Aaron Rodgers.
Eddie Lacy, 23
Rookie, 61st overall pick out of Alabama, 204 carries for 1,322 yards and 17 touchdowns as a junior, 22 catches for 189 yards
It seems a good bet that Lacy will be the starter and majority ball-carrier for the Packers this season. How good of news is that? Alex Green led the team with just 464 yards last year and Cedric Benson averaged 3.5 yards per carry. Ryan Grant ran for over 1,200 yards in each of Rodgers' first two seasons, but since then the team hasn't had enough talent or health in the backfield to be able to concentrate on running the ball.
Lacy is an attempt to fix that, even though has already missed some training camp already. Don't get too excited about Lacy until we see it work on the field during the game. Despite the fact that Lacy is a good bet to get the majority of work, Green Bay has a surprising amount of depth at the position all of a sudden and there should be a healthy amount of sharing going on. The Packers backfield is like a really well-behaved kindergarten class.
2013 Prediction: 200 carries for 800 yards, six touchdowns.
Rookie, Fourth-round pick out of UCLA, 282 carries for 1,734 yards and 13 touchdowns as senior, 33 catches for 323 yards
Meanwhile, Franklin isn't a shabby running back prospect, either. Taken in the fourth round, Franklin is a complement to Lacy rather than a guy looking to steal the starting job. Not that it couldn't happen, but Lacy and Franklin were drafted to play with each other, not against each other.
But Lacy partially slid due to injury concerns, and if he missed a bunch of time, Franklin could be the starter. That doesn't guarantee anything in Green Bay with its recent lack of a running game, but Franklin is one to watch.
2013 Prediction: 80 carries for 400 yards, two touchdowns, 20 catches for 150 yards and one touchdown.
James Starks, 27
2012 stats: 6 games, 71 carries for 255 yards and one touchdown, 3.6 yards per carry, one fumble
This group used to include DuJuan Harris and Alex Green. Harris is out for the season and Green was released at the cutdown deadline. Starks has minimal value with the two rookies already ahead of him.
Randall Cobb, 23
2012 stats: 80 catches for 954 yards and eight touchdowns, 77% catch rate, 12th in DYAR, 104 targets, four fumbles, one punt return touchdown
Cobb didn't exactly come out of nowhere last season. He was a second-round pick out of Kentucky in 2011, showed excellent field vision and speed as a rookie, and then took over for Greg Jennings last season. He seems like a low-risk option, especially for a player with only one big season, but catching more than 77 percent of your targets is about as good as it gets for a number one receiver.
2013 Prediction: 90 catches for 1,200 yards and 10 touchdowns, maybe some bonus yards and touches on special teams and on the ground, if necessary
James Jones, 29
2012 stats: 64 catches for 784 yards and 14 touchdowns, 65% catch rate, 13th in DYAR, 98 targets, no fumbles
But Jones absolutely came out of nowhere. For five seasons he was pretty much the exact same player, good for 40 catches and 600 yards. Last year he became a starter and really, if it wasn't for all of those touchdowns, he would have been a below-average fantasy player.
I don't like crediting a player with too much when he has a big season of scoring touchdowns. That doesn't make me nearly as comfortable as a player who has a lot of catches and yards and can turn 100 targets into 1,000 yards. Jones turned it into only 784 yards.
2013 Prediction: 45 catches for 700 yards and eight touchdowns
Jordy Nelson, 28
2012 stats: 49 catches for 745 yards and seven touchdowns, 67% catch rate, 17th in DYAR, 73 targets, no fumbles
Case in point: Nelson had 15 touchdowns in 2011 and was considered one of the biggest disappointments of 2012. He missed four games due to injury and was also MIA for a couple more because of injuries suffered early in games. Nelson had 18.6 yards per catch in 2011 and I consider him to be a more reliable option that Jones.
Any player can get hurt, but not very many can put up over 15 yards per catch and come up with several huge plays per season.
2013 Prediction: 65 catches for 1,100 yards and 10 touchdowns
Acme Packing Company predicts that Boykin, Ross, and Myles White would be the final three receivers to make the roster. They were right on two of them. Boykin could be a deep sleeper, as the Packers have shown that they can turn no-names into legit fantasy stars year in and year out.
These are your deep sleepers -- but the Packers already have three receivers worth drafting. These are just a few names you need to keep an eye on, depending who makes the cut.
Jermichael Finley, 26
2012 stats: 61 catches for 667 yards and two touchdowns, 70% catch rate, 13 in DYAR, 87 targets
Finley has largely been a disappointment to many who thought he'd be just as good as Jimmy Graham or Rob Gronkowski. But the bit of promise he had shown in 2009 and 2010 just isn't enough to keep banking a whole lot on Finley.
He played in only five games in 2010, but he had 21 catches for 301 yards and a touchdown before being injured. He had two games over 100 yards. That shot him up draft boards despite a knee injury that had placed him on IR. Finley had a three-touchdown game in Week 3 against the Broncos in 2011, but he never topped 90 yards that year.
In fact, Finley hasn't had over 90 yards in a game since Sept. 27, 2010.
There's always a chance that he does break out for a major season, but if you treat Jermichael Finley like the 12th or 13th best tight end on the board, you probably won't be disappointed. If you treat him like more than that, you probably will be.
2013 Prediction: 55 catches for 650 yards and four touchdowns
Brandon Bostick, Andrew Quarless, Ryan Taylor
Somebody will back up Finley. And if Finley isn't a great tight end option, what are you supposed to think of his backups?
From an IDP perspective, Clay Matthews is still one of the top options. Though he had a bit of a down season last year in terms of fantasy points (no interceptions, one forced fumble, no fumble recoveries, no touchdowns), he still had 13 sacks, and he's still probably more likely to score a touchdown than not during the year. But is anyone else worth it? No other Packer had more than 3.5 sacks.
Corner Casey Hayward had six interceptions as a rookie, but picks aren't something you can count on to stay consistent.
As a unit, the defense has remained pretty good during the four years under Dom Capers (except in 2011, when it gave up the most yards in the league) and in 2012, it was 11th in scoring defense, 18th in turnovers forced and eighth in interceptions.
On the whole, the Packers should continue to be about an average team defense in fantasy, especially since they play in the brutal NFC, with a schedule against the best conference in the AFC -- the AFC North. A big season from Matthews, a few lucky bounces and the Packers do have enough talent to make it interesting.
It's like I've been saying: Don't overlook the Packers.