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: Aaron Rodgers was doing more than just blowing smoke in an offseason interview when he said that Cobb could catch 100 passes this season. With Greg Jennings and Donald Driver departed, there’s less competition for the football, and Cobb becomes the focal point of the Packers receiving corps. With more than 100 receptions, more than 1,200 yards receiving and more than 10 touchdowns, Cobb earns a reputation as one of the more feared weapons in all of the NFL, helped by the fact that he’s still a threat on returns and deployed occasionally as a running back.
Worst-case scenario: The loss of Jennings and Driver doesn’t help as much as expected. Cobb doesn’t have a bad season by any stretch of the imagination, but there’s still plenty of other threats for Rodgers to find in his arsenal of receivers. The statistics for Cobb are almost a carbon copy of 2012: about 80 catches, just shy of 1,000 yards, less than 10 touchdowns. Those are numbers that put him in the top 20 or so wide receivers in the NFL, but not among the elite.
Best-case scenario: Thanks to a clean bill of healthy, Nelson is able to put up numbers on par with his 2011 season and not like 2012 when he missed four games due to injury. Two seasons ago, Nelson grabbed 68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. He’s able to duplicate those numbers in 2013 without Jennings around. Nelson is named to the Pro Bowl for the first time in his career.
Worst-case scenario: There just aren’t enough footballs to go around for Nelson to get the individual accolades he probably deserves. Cobb gets his fair share of footballs thrown his way, and so do James Jones and Jermichael Finley. Nelson is a complementary piece, finishing third on the team in receptions. He has around 50 receptions by season’s end, but doesn’t threaten the 1,000-yard milestone and doesn’t eclipse eight touchdowns either.
Best-case scenario: Jones is a red-zone machine. For the second straight season, he has the most receiving touchdowns in the league. Building off his 14 TDs from a year ago, Jones is able to better the number by one, finding the end zone 15 times in 2013 without Jennings around to act as a touchdowns vulture. He also has a career-high 70 passes thrown his way. Jones flirts with the first 1,000-yard season as a professional football player, but comes up just short. Regardless, he has an impeccable year.
Worst-case scenario: Jones continues to play second-fiddle, even third-fiddle in the wide receiver pecking order. It’s a role he’s held much of his career, never quite able to become Rodgers’ go-to guy in Green Bay. Still, being the third wide receiver in Mike McCarthy’s offense is better than most other places in the NFL as Jones is able to catch a shade fewer than 50 passes for more than 500 yards and five-plus touchdowns.
Best-case scenario: Boykin takes advantage of the absence of rookies Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey both during the offseason program and in training camp to solidify himself as the team’s fourth wide receiver, which is a pretty good spot for a second-year undrafted player to be in. Boykin catches more than 25 passes for somewhere in the realm of 400 yards and three or four touchdowns, which is a big step forward in just his sophomore season in professional football.
Worst-case scenario: Boykin makes the 53-man roster coming out of training camp, but is eventually surpassed on the wide receivers totem pole by one of the younger players on the team. Unless there’s an injury ahead of him, Boykin can’t seem to be any better than the fifth option at wideout, which leaves him with only a handful of catches on the year and his future with the team in question.
Best-case scenario: Ross parlays his ability to be both a receiver and a return specialist into a roster spot with the Packers. His biggest contribution is on special teams, which allows Cobb to focus on offense, but Ross turns heads in his own right with at least one touchdown scored in the return game. He also catches a dozen or so footballs at wide receiver as a fourth or fifth option.
Worst-case scenario: Ball security continues to haunt Ross in the return game, and he’s just not good enough at wide receiver to make up for it. The occasional bobble is all the Packers need to decide they’re better off with Cobb on special teams. And as a result, Ross is cut by the Packers at the end of training camp.
Best-case scenario: Johnson finally puts the nagging injuries behind him and displays the potential that the Packers saw when they drafted him in the seventh round of the NFL Draft. It takes time because he’s fallen behind the curve, but by the end of training camp, he’s starting to gain the trust of the coaches and his teammates. He makes the 53-man roster and starts the season slowly, but picks up steam and finishes with 20 or so receptions, most of them in the second half of the year.
Worst-case scenario: If Johnson has any potential, nobody can tell because he always seems to be sidelined. And making the jump from Division II college football to the NFL proves to be too difficult as well. The undrafted rookies on the team end up being better than Johnson, and the seventh-round pick is cut without so much as an invitation to the practice squad.
Best-case scenario: Once Dorsey is healthy, he’s finally able to show why the Packers selected him in April’s NFL draft. He grabs a handful of impressive catches in preseason play, and while it’s not enough for him to win a spot on the 53-man roster, he does get valuable time spent on the team’s practice squad. Perhaps he’ll get an in-season promotion if injuries occur.
Worst-case scenario: The fact is, Myles White and Tyrone Walker have been out on the field, and Dorsey has not. There’s plenty of other raw wide receivers with potential on the roster, and the Packers aren’t going to wait for Dorsey forever. When he’s not even among the eight best wide receivers at training camp, he’s cut.
Best-case scenario: The undrafted rookie out of Louisiana Tech has gained the trust of Rodgers by being available at practice every day from the offseason program through training camp. In essence, he’s taken advantage of every situation he’s put in. He continues to impress in the exhibition games, leading the team in receptions. It results in a spot on the 53-man roster, even if he doesn’t see much regular season playing time.
Worst-case scenario: It’s one thing to impress compared to other rookies on the roster, it’s another thing when White can’t find anywhere to climb on the Packers depth chart. He’s obviously behind the veterans on the team, and there’s just not room for him on the roster. At least he’s asked to stick around on the team’s practice squad.
Best-case scenario: Walker may not have the big-school pedigree, but he seems to impress at every turn. He holds his own playing with the big boys at training camp and doesn’t disappear during preseason games. The Packers decide they can’t afford to cut a player with such potential and earns a spot on the 53-man roster, even if he find tough to see the field when the games count.
Worst-case scenario: The climb is too steep for Walker. He’s obviously behind the veteran wide receivers by a mile, but also just a step behind the rookies on the roster. The Packers find out they’re better off developing a guy like Johnson or White as opposed to Walker. He’s cut at the end of training camp, even if it was a valiant effort.
Best-case scenario: Despite not being signed until four days into training camp, Hines doesn’t look out of place. He makes up for lost time by showcasing impressive skills in the exhibition season. Unfortunately, it’s a case of too little, too late as he’s cut on the final roster cutdown date.
Worst-case scenario: Hines found himself at the bottom of the wide receiver depth chart when he was signed by the Packers and doesn’t have enough time to climb out of the hole he found himself in. Too many dropped passes was his undoing and he’s released on the NFL’s first cutdown date to 75 players on August 27.
Best-case scenario: It’s difficult for Gillett to make the transition from college quarterback to professional wide receiver, but he displays some raw skills that are worth developing. After a few nice preseason catches, he’s asked to stick around on the practice squad, perhaps serving as the scout team read-option quarterback.
Worst-case scenario: There’s too many other young and talented wide receivers on the Packers roster. Playing time is tough to come by, even in the preseason. Gillett doesn’t survive past the cutdown date to 75 players.
Best-case scenario: Cunningham suffered a broken wrist on the first day of training camp practice, and while that sealed his fate for 2013, the Packers decide to stash him on their injured reserve list and keep him around the team in Green Bay.
Worst-case scenario: The end of the line is nigh when Cunningham is released with an injury settlement. His career with the Packers ends before it really had the chance to start.
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 email@example.com.