Aaron Rodgers is one of, if not the best quarterback in the NFL. However, he lost a huge weapon last season when Jermichael Finley suffered a potentially career-ending spinal injury. The Green Bay Packers and head coach Mike McCarthy are leaving the door open for a Finley return, but even if he winds up back with the Pack, it would likely be in a limited capacity.
Tight ends get a default boost in fantasy football by playing with the Packers. While Rodgers is not the type of quarterback that relies on tight ends as a check down every other passing play, the Packers offense spreads the ball around, creates matchup problems, runs a lot of plays, scores a lot of touchdowns, and makes the tight end a valuable piece of their offense. For a few years, the Packers have been trying to find the piece that they think can replace Finley’s 700 yards per season, with little success. They’ve known he likely wasn’t going to be playing his entire career with the Packers. The reason used to be about money, but now it’s an injury that has forced the team to move on. Here are the potential fantasy threats at tight end that the Packers have entering the 2014 season.
Andrew Quarless: Quarless is the most likely to start the season as the team’s starting tight end. Quarless has great size and good athleticism, but in a league where “tight end” is beginning to equate to “former basketball star”, Quarless does little to separate himself as a legitimate tight end threat in fantasy leagues. His blocking has improved a ton since entering the league. If anything is going to keep him on the field, the blocking will be it, especially as the Packers are finding success running the ball with Eddie Lacy. If Quarless is the full time starter in Green Bay this year, we could expect about 50 catches for 500 yards. More than likely, though he will be splitting time with others, and deferring targets to them. A realistic expectation for Quarless would be somewhere around 35 catches and 350 yards, with many of those receptions coming earlier in the season while younger players earn the trust of McCarthy and Rodgers.
Colt Lyerla: The Packers may have found an absolute steal when they signed Colt Lyerla after going undrafted out of Oregon. Lyerla has a 40-inch vertical to elevate his 6’4 frame, and he has blazing speed, posting a 4.61 40-yard dash with limited preparation for the combine. Lyelra went undrafted after a drug arrest and personal issues that led to him leaving the Ducks before their season was over. NFL players are no strangers to drug arrests, including the Packers’ currenty TE, Quarless, so something in those “personal issues” was enough to scare NFL teams away from committing anything to Lyerla. The Packers ended up signing him to a no-risk deal that could wind up being a very high-reward signing.
Lyerla has the physical ability to become Finley’s replacement, but will need to work on his blocking to take snaps from Quarless, assuming he can stay out of trouble. Linebackers won’t be able to cover him, meaning defenses will have to adjust their coverages to him, while still having to guard Nelson, Cobb, amongst others. This is the type of threat that the Packers covet, so they will give Lyerla every chance they can to earn his way onto the field.
Unless something big happens in pre-season games, Lyerla will being the season from the Packers’ bench and will not be worth a draft pick. However, keep an eye on him as the season progresses, as he could wind up being huge down the stretch if he can earn increased snaps. It’s not often that an undrafted rookie has the potential to be the waiver-wire pickup of the year, but Lyerla’s unique situation makes him just that.
Brandon Bostick: Bostick is one of the more intriguing players on the Packers’ depth chart. The Division II star, like Lyerla, went undrafted in 2012, only to be signed by Ted Thompson, cut, and immediately added to the practice squad. Also like Lyerla, he has crazy athleticsm. The speedy receiver-turned-tight-end is recovering from a foot injury sustained last season, but even when healthy, he couldn’t prove to the coaches that he could be trusted to start during a playoff run. He only caught 7 passes in 2013, and rarely saw the field behind Andrew Quarless. This season will be sink or swim for Bostick. He wants the starting job, and if he wins it, he’s a great value TE in fantasy drafts. If he doesn’t, he could still see quality snaps and has the ability to take over as a featured option in the passing game, but is likely little more than a bye-week waiver wire pickup.
Richard Rodgers: The ‘other’ Rodgers from Cal has similar size and athleticism to Quarless, but he’s not nearly the athlete that Lyerla is. If he’s to separate himself from Lyerla and Bostick, he’ll do so because he can block well, and has good hands. He likely needs a year or two before reaching Quarless’s talent level, though. Rodgers likely needs an injury to see regular snaps, but even then, his ceiling is probably only that of, say, Andrew Quarless, meaning he really isn’t worthy of a look in fantasy leagues unless you become very desperate.
*Photo Credit – Mike Morbeck