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: After being limited by a late-season injury last year, Jennings is ready to lead the Packers in receiving once again. Heading into a contract season, he's also ready to have the biggest year of his career. He might not be able to reach 1,500 yards, but Jennings could approach that number. And as far as touchdowns go, more than a dozen is a given. Jennings rightfully takes his place among the top receivers in the NFL and might only be behind players like Calvin Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald in the NFC.
Worst-case scenario: It's not so much that Jennings has a poor season, he's just limited by the fact that the Packers are so deep and talented at receiver. When Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and company steal away some of his receptions, Jennings comes up just short in his attempt to eclipse 1,000 yards and double-digit touchdowns. Jennings is still well-respected among his peers, but his subpar season doesn't get him the money in free agency that he probably could.
Best-case scenario: Nelson shows that 2011 wasn't a fluke. Not only can he duplicate last year's numbers, he can actually exceed them and become the team's No. 1 receiver, even with a healthy Jennings alongside him. Nelson is in the same neighborhood as his 1,200-plus yards and 15 touchdowns from a year ago and exceeds them by just a tick. He finally gets the respect he deserves with some postseason honors including his first-ever Pro Bowl berth.
Worst-case scenario: With Jennings playing in all 16 games, Nelson once again plays second fiddle among the Packers' receivers. While Nelson has somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,000 yards, he doesn't come close to the 1,200 he had a year ago. He's also lucky to find the endzone eight times. Like everyone else on the roster, he's a victim of a deep group of receivers.
Best-case scenario: While Driver isn't about to approach the numbers he put up in his prime, he still shows that age hasn't caught up with him yet. Perhaps surprisingly, Driver puts up roughly the same statistics as a year ago with over 35 receptions, nearly 500 yards and six touchdowns. His play is going to fall off someday, but not in 2012.
Worst-case scenario: Driver does his farewell tour with the Packers when it becomes apparent he's fallen behind all the other receivers on the team. He still fills his role as captain and leader of the Packers and is well respected as always, but he doesn't have as many catches as Randall Cobb, James Jones and the sixth wide receiver whoever it ends up being. Driver gets a handful of catches and a couple of touchdowns early in the season but fewer and fewer as the season wears on.
Best-case scenario: It's time for a breakout season from Cobb. He grabs hold of the No. 3 wide receiver job with approximately 50 catches and over 750 yards and eight or so touchdowns. More than that, he's becomes probably the premiere return specialist in the NFL with multiple touchdowns on special teams. He's statistically the best kick returner in the entire NFL.
Worst-case scenario: Donald Driver still plays at a high level in 2012 and James Jones does too. When those things happen, Cobb's biggest contributions come on special teams. While he's among the best return specialists in the league, his contributions on offense remain modest. Cobb is able to better his numbers from 2011 (25 catches, 375 yards, one touchdown) but just barely.
Best-case scenario: In 2012 James Jones is ready for the best season of his career. He still trails Jennings and Nelson on the Packers' depth chart, but for the first time ever, Jones has more than 50 catches and 700 yards receiving. Perhaps more importantly, Jones is always on the field during critical situations such as third or fourth down and comes up with some critical plays to keep the sticks moving.
Worst-case scenario: Surpassed by Cobb in the wide receiver pecking order, Jones' contributions are modest. He has fewer catches, fewer yards and fewer touchdowns than 2011 mainly because there's lots of other talented receivers on the team, but a few drops here and there make Jones a popular source of criticism for Packers fans.
Best-case scenario: People might call Gurley the team's sixth wide receiver, but he's probably the fifth-best on the team when he starts to see more meaningful playing time than the aging Driver. While he doesn't have a ton of catches, Gurley carves out a red zone role and has a couple of touchdowns to show for it. And he plays on special teams too. His best years are yet to come.
Worst-case scenario: The Packers decide to make Diondre Borel their sixth wide receiver, and that leaves Gurley on the outside looking in. Whether it's via trade or waivers, he still ends up on the 53-man roster of another NFL team, it's just not in Green Bay.
Best-case scenario: It doesn't matter if it's six or seven wide receivers, Borel makes the Packers' roster due to his untapped talent. He doesn't have all that many catches during the regular season, but his talents are on display during the preseason when he becomes a favorite target of whatever quarterback is in the game. By season's end, Borel racks up a few catches here and there, but he'll be a bigger factor in future seasons.
Worst-case scenario: Borel loses out on the sixth wide receiver job to Gurley, and the Packers decide they just can't keep seven of them. Green Bay would happily keep him on their practice squad, but Borel latches on with another team.
Best-case scenario: Smithson impresses during the preseason on both offense and special teams. He's not Randall Cobb, but Smithson seems to take advantage of every pass and every return opportunity that comes his way. Unfortunately, it's not enough to make the Packers' roster, but he is kept around on the practice squad.
Worst-case scenario: Smithson is invisible. He's a better return specialist than he is as a receiver, so he does very little on offense, but he's no more impressive on special teams. He gets a couple opportunities to return kicks in the preseason but doesn't show a spark on any of them and ends up being cut.
Best-case scenario: The former college basketball player proves he's an athletic specimen during preseason action. His opportunities don't come until the second half of most of the exhibition games, but every time he touches the ball, it seems like something special happens. There's not room for Moss on the 53-man roster but there is on the practice squad.
Worst-case scenario: Throughout the course of the preseason, Moss shows potential, but he's far to rough around the edges. There's no doubt he's got some athleticism, but he's just not reliable running routes or catching the ball. The Packers are better off developing a player with a football background.
Best-case scenario: Virginia Tech's all-time leading receiver becomes a safety blanket for quarterback B.J. Coleman during the preseason and has several catches and even catches a touchdown during preseason action. The Packers always keep a wide receiver or two on the practice squad and Boykin is one of them.
Worst-case scenario: Boykin is "just a guy." He has a couple catches here and there during the exhibition slate of games, but doesn't take any to the house and isn't the type that gets many yards after the catch or after contact. He's a nondescript cut from the Packers.
Best-case scenario: Just as he's done during practice from time to time, Gilleylen will occasionally make an attention-grabbing diving catch, but he needs to show more consistency. There's reason to believe Gilleylen could become a better receiver if given time to develop, and the Packers offer him the opportunity to stay in Green Bay on the practice squad.
Worst-case scenario: When he's not able to grab any more than a catch or two during the preseason, Gilleylen is cut on the first roster cutdown date to 75 players after the third preseason game.
Best-case scenario: Brewer picks up the Packers' offense surprisingly considering he was just signed, and makes a couple catches here and there during the exhibition games. He's able to buy himself an extra week of exposure by avoiding the first round of cuts, but he can't avoid the second one. A practice squad invite comes his way.
Worst-case scenario: Just like his stint with the Eagles, Brewer can't even stick around to the cutdown date. The Packers find out why the Eagles waived Brewer and do the same in a week's time.
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