<
>
Insider

Packers' Jones could be sleeper wideout

7/6/2010

Nobody has scored more fantasy points in standard leagues the past two seasons than Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, and of course his stalwart production makes fantasy owners very interested in wide receiver weapons Greg Jennings and Donald Driver. However, if you knew that Driver, the team's leading receiver in catches and touchdowns in 2009, was recovering from offseason surgery on both knees, you would learn another name for draft day, wouldn't you?

I believe after three seasons of knocking on the proverbial door of fantasy relevancy, that name is James Jones. He wasn't exactly invisible last season, as he caught 32 passes for 440 yards and five touchdowns, but he was also never a great fantasy option, reaching double digits in fantasy points just twice. Even though Rodgers and the Packers' offense piled up the yards, it didn't resemble the season where Peyton Manning helped turn three of his Indianapolis Colts wide receivers into 1,000-yard options. Still, watching Jones the past few seasons, he's always seemed thisclose to really expanding his role, and we know this is one of the right offenses in football to be a key figure in. Driver is 35 and no lock to regain his stature ... Jones just needs opportunity.

"If you go through the films, James Jones, just from a production standpoint, probably stands out as one of the top performers through the OTAs," Packers coach Mike McCarthy told the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel recently. "He's gotten a lot of opportunities, particularly in the slot with Donald's absence, and I think he's done a very good job of that."

Jones was definitely a fantasy factor the first half of his rookie campaign, also the final season of the Brett Favre-in-Green Bay era, but even when given chances for extended playing time the past few seasons with Rodgers, he hasn't done much with it. Jennings started only 13 of 16 games a year ago, with Jones getting the nod in the other games. However, his production didn't go up in those games. As a rookie, he started nine games, overall catching 47 passes for 676 yards; he's barely topped those marks in the previous two seasons combined, though injury was a factor in 2008.

Regardless, I'm certainly more prone to looking for wide receiver sleepers on teams that have dynamic passing games and older weapons, as the Packers do. Driver certainly didn't finish strong last season, with 24 fantasy points in his final five games combined, but the last time he didn't top 1,000 receiving yards was 2003. I don't think he's done, and my No. 25 wide receiver ranking of him shows that, but even the most ardent followers of Driver have to acknowledge his age and recent knee surgeries.

Jones, for his part, isn't complaining about a lack of attention ... but he is confident he can make things happen if given the chance.

"I have set my goals," Jones said. "I definitely want to have a 1,000-yard season. That comes with opportunity, so we'll see. I always tell myself to shoot for 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns. We'll see if the opportunities present themselves. I can't run without the ball."

ESPN Fantasy ranks Jones No. 74 among wide receivers, which is in the range of other potential third options for their teams, like Roy E. Williams, Anthony Gonzalez and Earl Bennett. Jones didn't make my overall top 200, which featured 71 wide receivers, but he's oh-so-close to forcing his way in. In fact, he's probably next in line. Frankly, in this case it has little to do with Jones. I know he can play. I want to see if Driver can.