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: It's the season fans have been waiting for since Finley announced his presence with a solid performance in 2009. At the time, Finley seemed poised for big things. While he's done good since that time, he hasn't been great. But Finley joins the NFL's elite tight ends in 2012. Like Rob Gronkowski of the Patriots and Jimmy Graham of the Saints, Finley becomes the next great hybrid tight end threat. He puts up the career highs with more than 60 receptions, more than 800 yards and has nearly 10 touchdowns. Finley also takes attention away from other receivers on the team, opening up the Packers offense as a whole.
Worst-case scenario: The drops continue, Finley opens his big mouth, and he remains a source of criticism among Packers fans. While part of the reason he has an average season can be contributed to the depth of the wide receivers taking away catches, Finley doesn't do himself many favors. He has somewhere in the realm of 50 catches and 500 yards, but his touchdowns can be counted on one hand. It's not a poor season by any means, but for a player with high expectations, it comes as a disappointment.
Best-case scenario: Crabtree takes advantage of Andrew Quarless' injury to receive the second-most snaps at tight end behind Finley. Crabtree receives a good challenge from Williams and Taylor, but he plays far more often than them. It's not like Crabtree is a big receiving threat, but he becomes more involved in the passing game than he has to date by grabbing a pair of touchdowns in the regular season. He's a solid blocker as always from an in-line tight end spot and in the backfield.
Worst-case scenario: A few drops in the preseason and the depth at tight end means a decreased role for Crabtree. As someone who doesn't see the ball very often, he can't afford any dropped passes. On top of that, he starts seeing less snaps than Williams and perhaps even Quarless when he comes back. Crabtree is the same high-quality locker room guy as always, and he keeps a spot on the 53-man roster, but by the end of the year, he doesn't play a lot outside of special teams.
Best-case scenario: Capitalizing on a solid training camp, Williams becomes a regular and contributing member of the Packers offense. His role is limited by a deep receiving corps, but Williams declares he's on the verge of bigger and better things when he has roughly 25 receptions and a couple of touchdowns over the course of the season. Aaron Rodgers trusts Williams, and he becomes a reliable target.
Worst-case scenario: The talent is there, but Williams just can't seem to find the consistency necessary to see the field more often. A dropped pass here, a blown block there is all it takes to relegate Williams to the bench. He makes the team's 53-man roster, but he only sees spot duty on both offense and special teams similar to his 2011 season.
Best-case scenario: Quarless begins the season on the PUP list, but by midseason he's back on the Packers' roster. He's brought back slowly and doesn't see a lot of playing time at first, but towards the end of the year, Quarless is back to being nearly the same player he was a year ago. He has a couple catches and goes back to being a reliable blocker.
Worst-case scenario: He might begin the season on the PUP list, but it becomes clear that by midseason Quarless is still a long way away from getting back to 100%. He's eventually placed on injured reserve, and Quarless eyes 2013 for his comeback.
Best-case scenario: Taylor is one of the most valuable special teams players on the entire roster and fills an underrated role on the team. While it's tough for him to crack the offensive rotation, he does fill a niche role and sees playing the field from time to time. He has a touchdown or two to show for it.
Worst-case scenario: Taylor is an adequate special teams player but little else. With Finley and Williams playing big roles on offense and Crabtree as the designated blocker, Taylor can't even see the field. He makes the roster, but his hold on a job is a precarious one.
Best-case scenario: Bostick takes advantage of the injuries to Finley, Taylor, Quarless and Lair to see a lot of action during the preseason. Better yet, he does good things when the ball is in his hands with several catches and a touchdown in exhibition play. When the Packers make an unexpected cut among the tight ends, Bostick is asked to remain on the practice squad.
Worst-case scenario: Because of injuries, Bostick gets plenty of playing time during the preseason, but he does little to show for it. He might have a catch or two, but for nothing more than a few yards. When the rest of the veteran tight ends get healthy, Bostick becomes an afterthought and is cut from the roster.
Best-case scenario: Lair comes back from a knee injury early in training camp to see playing time once again before the preseason is over. He does well enough to avoid the first round cuts after the third preseason game, but can't avoid the second and final round.
Worst-case scenario: The rookie tight end just can't overcome his early-season knee injury and is placed on injured reserve. He doesn't even get the opportunity to stick around when the Packers offer him an injury settlement, and Lair is waived.
Best-case scenario: Considering Cosby was signed a little more than a week ago, he impresses observers with how quickly he picks up the Packers' offense. He makes a handful of nice catches from the backup quarterbacks during preseason action, but unfortunately it's not enough to avoid being cut on the last day of training camp.
Worst-case scenario: When the other tight ends on the roster get healthy, there's no room for Cosby any more. He's waived before the first round of cuts in order to sign a player at a position where there's less depth on the team like offensive line or running back.