For those of us who have been paying attention to the Packers this year, the majority of the focus has been on Rodgers, Grant, Driver and Jennings in regard to Fantasy value.
In addition, we have also placed a hard look at those who may be considered valuable in IDP leagues.
But the focus on TE may be the quietest focal point; one that could breed huge sleeper points for those looking a bit more closely.
Coming into this year, most fans considered Donald Lee the “guy” at TE, with everyone else being ancillary at best. But now that preseason is closed, this landscape has undergone a major shift with the emergence of Jermichael Finley.
If we compare the two TEs there are some specifics to consider:
Lee—the veteran of the squad—is a big target at 6’4” 248— an inch shorter and a pound heavier than Finley. This preseason, Lee has lined up in the tradition TE slot about 62% of the time, but despite that stat, Lee has produced only 6 catches for 70 yards and zero touchdowns. Lee is also the better blocker of the two.
Finley, in his second year out of Texas, showed flashes of brilliance last year in the five games he played grabbing 6 catches for 74 yards and a single TD. This year, however, the Packers will look for more contribution out of the young star and it showed in the preseason.
Finley quickly became a favorite target of Rodgers despite lining up in the same spot as Lee only 38% of the time. But, in that time Finley garnered 16 grabs for 174 yards and two TDs.
Now, the TE position is always difficult to navigate through from year to year. Guys who are supposed to be huge wind up doing the bare minimum, while other guys seem to emerge straight out of the turf.
But for the Packers, the thought of Lee and Finley sharing equal time is a very good assumption.
The move from the zone-blocking scheme to the man-blocking scheme will require Lee to potentially block more, and considering Finley has the better hands, Finley could be one of the biggest TE sleepers in the NFC.
But all of this relies on the ground game.
The Packers want to run more. They need the blocking scheme to work outside of the tackles for that to become a reality. If the ground game becomes stagnant, they will be forced to air it out more relegating the TEs to less-than-expected production.
It seems like an odd thing to say, but with the WR options Green Bay has, it could be all they need if the ground game gets flat.
So, is Finley more of a risk?
In fact, I would go out on a limb and say Lee is more of a risk especially in PPR leagues.
If we go a bit further and look at the first four games we can also see the potential for Finley in regard to Fantasy.
Opening day against Chicago could be a good day for Finley. Last year the Packers’ TEs caught 9 throws for 88 yards and 1 TD in BOTH matches against shy town. The Bears defense is a bit unsettled at strong side linebacker, and if that is still the case on opening day it may come down to Finley matching up against the secondary exclusively; a matchup that does not favor Chicago.
Cincinnati and St. Louis will have a world of trouble covering anyone on the field in the early goings which makes for a prime situation for Finley owners. Cinci has a very young defense that is bound to give up a lot of yards, while the Rams are as porous as a water shoe when it comes to pass defense.
The only X-factor is the fourth game against the Vikings. The upside is the Packers ALMOST swept the Vikes last year; the downside is the Vikes are a better team this year.
The Vikings are ultimately going to try their best to keep the pressure on Rodgers which could open up smaller passing lanes for Finley or even some red zone opportunities. There may not be a whole bunch of scores, but there is the potential for YAC stats which would be a nice addition to Finley’s value in week four.
The problem with this particular game is, going against the Viking defense is like trying to break a brick wall with a rubber mallet.
Out of all the possible sleepers at TE this year, there really isn’t a better choice than Finley, and if the offense gets going early, and the ground game is successful Finley will be a cash cow for many owners who take a chance on him.
The summary here is this: Don’t hesitate to take a chance on Finley, but keep an eye on him as well—The Dominator service is a great and inexpensive way to do so— In the end, I am sure many Finley owners will be praising his overall output, while owners will be satisfied with the leap of faith should they take it.
Projected Stats for Finley: 42 Catches for 466 Yards and 6 TDs
Projected Stats for Lee: 33 Catches for 300 Yards and 3 TDs