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: In his sixth season in the NFL, Finley finally puts it all together. He's been a good tight end in the past, but never an elite one. Until now. Spurred by his impending free agency, Finley plays with an urgency and sets career highs in receptions, yards and touchdowns. While a deep receiving corps takes away some of his targets, Finley still finishes among league leaders at his position and is invited to the first Pro Bowl of his career. Packers fans will be delighted to hear the drops occur only sparingly and he's not nearly as outspoken as he used to be either.
Worst-case scenario: It's par for the course for Finley in 2013. He's good, but not great. His drops draw the ire of fans everywhere. And the speak-before-you-think act returns. Finley has somewhere in the realm of 50 receptions for more than 500 yards and a handful of touchdowns, but compared to other starting tight ends in the NFL, he's lucky to be among the top 10. His production doesn't justify his salary of over $8 million. Finley's days in Green Bay would appear to be numbered.
Best-case scenario: Above all, Quarless appears to have put a gruesome knee injury suffered two seasons ago behind him. When he goes out on the field, he doesn't have to think about his injury, and that allows the game to come to him naturally. He's not a dominating player, but he's probably the best combination of blocker and receiver on the team. He finished the year hovering around 20 receptions for 200-plus yards and a couple touchdowns, a terrific accomplishment considering the adversity he's had to overcome.
Worst-case scenario: Try as he might, Quarless just can't get over the hump. The knee injury has sapped him of any speed he had as a younger player in the NFL and he just can't anchor like he used to. It isn't because of effort that Quarless is cut, but the Packers decide to part ways, figuring they're better off with the other tight ends on the roster backing up Finley.
Best-case scenario: The number of receptions Mulligan grabs doesn't even reach double-digits, but that doesn't begin to describe his contributions to the team. He's the best in-line blocker among the tight ends, and he's a big reason for the resurgence of the running game. Whenever the Packers need push from the tight end position in the ground game, it's not Finley or Quarless on the field, it's Mulligan. Combined with his special teams play, he proves his worth.
Worst-case scenario: Mulligan's impact on the running game is overstated. He's a good blocker, but not a dominating blocker. And for as much as the Packers pass the football, they need someone with more speed that can stretch the field. He makes the 53-man roster, but his contributions to the Packers' success are modest and his number of catches can be counted on one hand.
Best-case scenario: In a make it or break it year for Williams, he finally makes it. He's not a Pro Bowl caliber player by any means, but he manages to see the most playing time of any tight end on the roster outside of Finley. He finishes the year with 25-plus receptions in excess of 300 yards and handful of touchdowns. Best of all, he gains the trust of Aaron Rodgers and becomes a legitimate cog in the Pakers passing-game mechanism.
Worst-case scenario: Once again, Williams does a solid job during training camp, but it's just not enough to justify his spot on the 53-man roster. The Packers eventually cut their losses when they realize Williams is what he is. He's an undersized tight end that has some good mobility, but just not enough for anything more than spot duty at the NFL level. He's cut at the end of training camp.
Best-case scenario: With the absence of either Quarless or Williams on the roster, Taylor takes a step up the depth chart and makes his biggest impact yet. His primary responsibilities still lie on special teams, but Taylor also sees more playing time on offense than ever before. He only catches a dozen or so passes, but he's versatile as he can line up in the backfield as well as in-line.
Worst-case scenario: Special teams acumen can only carry Taylor so far. He's a good guy and a try-hard type of player, but he just doesn't have the natural talent of some of the other tight ends on the roster. The Packers cut him on the final cutdown date.
Best-case scenario: Outside of Finley, Bostick is the best receiving threat among the tight end group in Green Bay. He's still raw and has a lot to prove, but because he's such a threat in the passing game, the Packers find a way to utilize his skill set. He's kept on the team at the expense of some of the other tight ends, but Bostick justifies the team's decision by catching 20-some passes in the regular season.
Worst-case scenario: There's just not room for Bostick in Green Bay. He's not as good a receiver as Finley, and he's definitely not as adept at blocking as Mulligan. When it looks like Jake Stoneburner is the better young tight end worth developing, Bostick is a training camp casualty.
Best-case scenario: As an undrafted rookie, Stoneburner flies under the radar, but to his credit, he gains notice little by little over the course of training camp. Things start slowly, but he gains momentum by making a few nice grabs in the preseason and proves to the coaching staff that he's worth keeping around. There's not room for him on the 53-man roster, but he's extended an invitation to the practice squad.
Worst-case scenario: There's seven tight ends in Packers training camp, and unfortunately for Stoneburner, he's clearly at the bottom of the heap. With so many other tight ends ahead of him on the roster, he doesn't get many opportunities, and when he does, he doesn't do much with them. He's let go on the first roster cutdown to 75 players on Aug. 27.
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.
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