It's time for the sixth annual "Best & Worst Case Scenario" series, a feature that goes back to the days of the old RailbirdCentral.com domain.
I attempt to take a look at what is the very best possible season a player is capable of producing, and on the other hand, what would happen if a player fell flat on his face (without assuming they suffer a season-ending injury). These are intended to be extreme scenarios on both sides of the spectrum. More than likely, each player is going to fall somewhere in the middle, but every now and then, they just so happen to come to fruition.
As one final note, I also try to take a look at what these scenarios would be from an individual standpoint and not necessarily what's best for the team.
Best-case scenario: Jeff Saturday is the same, steady center he's always been with the Colts, which is to say, he's pretty damn good. There are no signs of Saturday's play falling off, and his level of play is as high as ever. Operating in a high-scoring offense like the Packers, he gets noticed for his good play and is named to the Pro Bowl. But from the Packers' standpoint, he integrates into the offense without a hitch and is a leader of the offensive line and in the locker room.
Worst-case scenario: The Packers signed Jeff Saturday one year too late as he starts to show signs of age. While Saturday is the starting center the entire season as long as he's healthy, his play really starts to nosedive late in the season as his body breaks down. He actually begins the season okay, but the longer the season progresses, the worse Saturday gets. By the end of the year, it's debatable whether he's even worthy of being a starter anymore.
Best-case scenario: Sitton is borderline dominant as he hits the peak of his career. His name is mentioned among the best guards in the game, and he's named to the Pro Bowl and All-Pro teams to show for it. It doesn't matter if it's run blocking or pass protecting, Sitton has the best season of his career at both.
Worst-case scenario: Solid, not spectacular. It's hard to envision Sitton regressing, but he doesn't join the elite guards in the NFL like some may have expected. He's dependable, and he's never in danger of losing his job in the starting lineup, but every now and then he'll allow a sack or have a penalty that keeps him among the second-tier guards in the NFL and not in the first-tier.
Best-case scenario: For as big a jump as Lang made in 2011, he takes an equally big leap in 2012 and earns the money he just made as part of the new contract extension he recently signed. Lang puts his name in the conversation among the best guards in the NFL and improves as both a run and pass blocker.
Worst-case scenario: It's not as if Lang plays poorly, but he doesn't look any better than he did a year ago. Bonehead penalties here and there are a nuisance, but that's nitpicking. He's nowhere near getting benched; it just seems like he's capable of so much more.
Best-case scenario: Mr. Dependable. Just like a year ago, if any of the three interior linemen are injured, it's Dietrich-Smith that enters the game, and it doesn't matter if it's guard or center. Not only is he versatile, Dietrich-Smith also has the best season of his career. He may not have cemented his status as the future center of the Packers once Saturday retires, but he'll be given a chance to win the job.
Worst-case scenario: The only reason Dietrich-Smith sticks around is because the depth on the Packers offensive line is so poor, and as a veteran, he's the only interior offensive lineman the team can trust. But by the end of the season, that trust is put to the test. Whenever "EDS" is forced into action, it's a major downgrade on the offensive line.
Best-case scenario: Dominguez makes a miraculous recovery from his ankle sprain to get back to health by the end of training camp/beginning of the regular season. He's not a threat to win a job in the starting lineup, but just making the roster is a major victory. He's the top backup at guard, and if either Sitton or Lang get hurt, Dominguez comes in and the offense doesn't skip a beat.
Worst-case scenario: The injury is unfortunate and doesn't really allow Dominguez to compete for a job. The ankle takes longer than expected to heal, and while it's possible he could be back and ready a couple weeks into the regular season, the Packers cut their losses instead, and Dominguez is released.
Best-case scenario: For the second year in a row, Genus is kept on the practice squad as the de facto third-string center. Although his best position is center, Genus does offer some versatility by being able to play guard as well. It was a difficult fight, but he was able to hold off rookies like Tommie Draheim and Don Barclay for that valuable practice squad spot.
Worst-case scenario: The undrafted rookies the Packers brought in this season are an upgrade over Genus. He's a try-hard guy, but that's not enough to cut it in the NFL. The Packers cut him on the first roster cutdown date after the third preseason game.
Best-case scenario: While he's being looked at primarily as an interior offensive lineman, Draheim's college background as a tackle gives the Packers the added bonus of some flexibility. Because of his ability to play all five positions, Draheim is a better choice to keep around than Genus and is asked to be part of the practice squad, and if injuries occur during the regular season, it's possible he could be elevated to the 53-man roster.
Worst-case scenario: There's so many practice squad candidates among the backup offensive linemen that the Packers can't keep them all. Draheim has several positives working in his favor, but in the end, the Packers decide one or two of the other rookie linemen are better options for the practice squad than Draheim, and he's cut.
Best-case scenario: Barclay plays better than expected in the preseason, and the Packers become enamored with his size. He becomes the next in a long line of college left tackles that Green Bay converts into guards and gets a practice squad invite.
Worst-case scenario: If it comes down to a choice between Draheim and Barclay, it's Draheim's ability to play all five positions along the offensive line that gives him the upper hand. The Packers can't keep all the young players they've signed, and in a tough decision, Barclay is cut at the end of training camp.
Greg Van Roten
Best-case scenario: Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel notes Van Roten's surprising performance during training camp, and the young guard's potential is enough to get the valuable practice squad invite.
Worst-case scenario: Even though Van Roten might be practicing well, it doesn't translate to preseason games. He's just to raw for professional football, and as a result, he's cut like so many other young football players.