- Eric Karabell, ESPN.com Senior Writer
The Green Bay Packers offense has served many a fantasy owner well in recent years, but in three of the past four games, Aaron Rodgers and his weapons haven't exactly performed like studs. This week things get even more complicated at wide receiver with the expected return of another weapon, confusing things even more for fantasy owners. This is shown in the staff's Week 13 rankings, as three Packers wide receivers earned a spot in our top 30, with a fourth in the top 40. With the team having so much depth, however, it seems a bit dangerous to truly rely on any of them.
Watching the Packers play the past few weeks, it's hard to flag the loss of Greg Jennings as hampering Rodgers from putting up big numbers. Jennings hasn't played since Week 4, as we've seen far too much of him in commercials rather than getting open out of the slot. He's supposedly healed following abdominal surgery and is now practicing regularly, and his owners can expect him to be active Sunday. That said, Packers coach Mike McCarthy noted in his Tuesday news conference that he was taking a wait-and-see approach with regard to how many snaps Jennings would ultimately get. After all, the Packers do have depth. It sure would be nice if Rodgers had proper time to look for it.
Randall Cobb has thrived in Jennings' absence, and James Jones has certainly had his moments, scoring eight touchdowns. Oh, and Jordy Nelson is healthy, too, and tight end Jermichael Finley has totaled a reasonable 17 fantasy points over the past two weeks. I can't speak for my colleagues, but my Packers wide receiver rankings were Nelson, Cobb, Jennings and then Jones, and in each case my ranking was worse than the staff average. There's still only one football to go around, and this awesome depth still doesn't solve the problem that the team isn't protecting Rodgers well enough, which is a big reason he has failed to exceed 15 fantasy points in three of those past four games.
Don't worry too much about Rodgers; he has lit up the Minnesota Vikings before, and will do so again. But I found other quarterbacks I did like better this week (Matt Ryan against the New Orleans Saints, for example), settling on Rodgers at No. 5. That's hardly outrageous unless one wants to rank based on name value. After all, Rodgers ranks fourth in standard scoring for the season. The Vikings kept Chicago Bears passer Jay Cutler relatively in check in Week 11, but before that, they permitted three-touchdown performances by Josh Freeman, Russell Wilson and Matthew Stafford. Rodgers can do it, too. The Vikings are in the middle of the NFL pack in generating sacks, but Rodgers was running for his life against the New York Giants just a few days ago (the loss of right tackle Bryan Bulaga really hurts), nobody has been sacked more this season, and the running game remains underwhelming. It's an interesting matchup.
My advice for those that have waited months for Jennings to return is to not exalt him to starter status yet. I ranked Jennings 36th, which isn't so bad considering there are no teams on bye. Injury expert Stephania Bell seems confident Jennings is ready, but there's always risk when a player has been out so long and snaps aren't guaranteed. I would trust Nelson the most; he was Rodgers' top game-breaker last season, when he scored 15 touchdowns, and he scored on a 61-yard play Sunday night. Meanwhile, you should expect Cobb to lose some snaps to Jennings. The Packers should use the versatile Cobb more out of the backfield and on screens to get him extra touches. Jones wasn't targeted against the Giants, which is troubling for his value. Reasonable minds can debate whether Nelson or Cobb is a safe WR2 option, but Jennings brings risk -- name value is a dangerous thing! -- and Jones is clearly fourth in this crew.
Quarterback: I admit to being surprised that none of the rankers placed Colin Kaepernick in the top 10. Remember, the St. Louis Rams got a close look at the running quarterback just a few weeks ago. I'd prefer Andrew Luck and Andy Dalton. ... Many people just don't trust Tony Romo, but the Philadelphia Eagles have permitted 69 fantasy points to quarterbacks in the past fortnight. Honestly, there's little risk in starting Romo. ... I did not rank the injured Ben Roethlisberger, but if he were deemed healthy by Friday, which I seriously doubt, he'd barely make my top 20 anyway for his matchup in Baltimore.
Running back: I've been asked a lot this week about my Michael Turner ranking (19th). Look, just because he was awful in Week 10 against the Saints doesn't mean a repeat disappointment is coming. Turner has scored three of the past four weeks. ... If Darren McFadden suits up, he would not make my top 20, and I would not drop Marcel Reece more than a spot or two. He's at No. 25 now, and probably should be top 20. ... We all ranked Bryce Brown over Knowshon Moreno, and as a safe RB2, which seems a bit odd based solely on one performance. ... How far has DeAngelo Williams fallen? Even with Jonathan Stewart likely out, he can't break into the top 30.
Wide receiver: Hey, there are 46 spots for non-Packers! Hakeem Nicks is back to near-top-10 status. ... Cecil Shorts doesn't have the big name, but he made my top 15. He gets numbers every week. Will the Buffalo Bills stop him or Justin Blackmon? It's all about Chad Henne! ... Antonio Brown (ankle) is expected back Sunday, and we all ranked Mike Wallace over him. I have a feeling that could change in Week 14.
Eric Karabell offers his take on the tough Week 13 rankings decisions, including where to rank the four fantasy-relevant Packers wideouts, along with Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers.