It's time for the seventh 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 (or worst) for the team.
Best-case scenario: Everything seems to fall into place for Matthews in 2013. First of all, he got his nice, fat contract, so there's no distractions. He also has a clean bill of health with no hamstring issues, and entering his fifth season in the NFL, he's at his physical peak. When he gets players like Nick Perry and Datone Jones taking a little bit of pressure off of him, Matthews is able to unload on opposing quarterbacks. He has in excess of 15 sacks and has a couple of interceptions and forced fumbles to boot. Not only is Matthews the No. 1 paid linebacker in the NFL, for the first time, he plays like it.
Worst-case scenario: Matthews is fine as always when he's healthy, but he doesn't seem to get any help. Perry does little to apply pressure from the opposite side of Matthews and the defensive line offers the same it's given the past couple seasons. He has somewhere in the realm of eight sacks, but opposing coordinators spend most of their attention trying to stop Matthews and frequently do.
Best-case scenario: Perry is able to put least year's injury woes behind him, and the wrist doesn't seem to bother him in 2013. He gets off to a slow start in 2013 some might describe as invisible. But at the same time, he doesn't seem to be exposed either. Slowly, Perry gets better as time goes on, really picking up steam late in the season. By season's end, he has eight sacks and sets himself up for an even better future.
Worst-case scenario: There's the occasional flash of talent that shows why the Packers made Perry a first round draft choice in 2012, but he has a difficult time putting it all together. Perry only has four or so sacks by season's end, and he's frequently exposed by opposing offenses, particularly in coverage. Essentially, Perry has the same impact as Erik Walden has the past couple seasons, which does little to take pressure off Matthews.
Best-case scenario: The Packers are reluctant to place Moses in the starting lineup, but he plays at a level on par with Perry. There's no doubt, however, that he's the third-best outside linebacker on the roster. Whenever Moses gets playing time, whether it's in the Packers' specialized subpackages or just giving Matthews and Perry the occasional breather, he always seems to make an impact and has a cumulative four or five sacks by the end of the year.
Worst-case scenario: Moses makes his biggest splash on special teams but rarely sees the field on the defensive side of the football. He's worthy of a spot on the 53-man roster, but that's about as much as can be said about his season. He's eventually passed by one of the rookies for the title of third-best outside linebacker on the team, and Moses is fourth on the depth chart by the end of the year.
Best-case scenario: Palmer makes the team's roster almost by default coming out of training camp, but the more he learns and the more he practices, the better he gets. In the beginning of the season, Palmer rarely plays, but toward the end of the year, he's a mainstay on the team's 46-man active roster. His biggest impact is felt on special teams, but he sees the occasional snaps on defense and shows that he has a bright future.
Worst-case scenario: There are more moments like the team's Family Night scrimmage when Palmer looked bad playing in space on Angelo Pease's touchdown reception out of the backfield. During the preseason, Palmer is exposed with regularity and just doesn't look like he's NFL material. When the undrafted rookies on the team show more promise, Palmer is cut without so much as an invitation to the team's practice squad.
Best-case scenario: The Packers appear to have found a diamond in the rough when they signed Mulumba out of Eastern Michigan. He earns the unofficial title of the team's best undrafted rookie and makes the team's 53-man roster coming out of training camp. The Packers realize Mulumba has too much talent to be sitting on the sidelines, so they carve out regular roles for him both on special teams and on the rare defensive subpackage.
Worst-case scenario: Mulumba is merely average. He does a few good things and does a few bad things during training camp, but does nothing so spectacular that makes the Packers keep him around. He's eventually cut at the end of training camp, and goes onto a career in the Canadian Football League where he made the second overall draft pick this past spring.
Best-case scenario: Despite being signed as a tryout player, Savage outplays the other rookie outside linebackers on the roster, including both Palmer and Mulumba. He has a couple sacks in preseason action, which is enough to convince the coaching staff to keep him around for the 2013 season. Savage gets one of the last roster spots on the team.
Worst-case scenario: Savage is no better than Palmer, whom the Packers invested a draft choice, or Mulumba, whom the Packers invested a signing bonus. He might flash a little bit of pass rush, but he has a difficult time making a climb up the depth chart with so many other players ahead of him and is eventually cut at the end of camp.
Best-case scenario: Reed shows enough promise to make it past the first round of roster cuts in Green Bay but can't escape the second. He makes a handful of tackles during the Packers' exhibition games, but he's cut after the team's fourth and final preseason game.
Worst-case scenario: At least Reed stays healthy, which is more than some other players on the roster can do, but he's no more than a camp body. Reed is released on the Aug. 27 cutdown to 75 players.
Previous Best & Worst Case Scenario Entries
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor of Cheesehead TV's "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.