It's time for the eighth 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: Nelson had career-highs in receptions and yards last season, and that was without Aaron Rodgers for the better part of eight games. With a healthy Rodgers, it stands to reason Nelson could damn near push for 100 receptions and 1,500 yards, especially if he goes into the season motivated by the next contract he signs. Nelson also had a career-high 15 touchdown receptions in 2011, which will be an awfully tough number to match, but again, it's probably within reach if both he and Rodgers are healthy for all 16 games.
Worst-case scenario: Nelson doesn't seem like the type that might become satisfied and unmotivated by a lucrative contract extension, but history shows those situations have a way of happening. If Nelson does regress, it might have more to do with the ball being spread around between multiple receivers and the running game sharing part of the load. Nelson's personal floor, assuming he plays all 16 games, would seem to be somewhere in the neighborhood of 70-some receptions for a little less than 1,000 yards and a half dozen touchdowns.
Best-case scenario: Perhaps surprisingly, Cobb's best season came in 2012 when he had 80 receptions despite starting only eight games. If Cobb can stay healthy for an entire season, unlike last year, and sees the playing time worthy of a full-time starter, the sky is the limit. Like Nelson, it wouldn't be surprising to see Cobb approach 100 receptions. As primarily a slot receiver, Cobb probably won't cover as much ground as Nelson, but he should still eclipse the 1,000-yard plateau for the first time in his career and approach 1,200 yards and double-digit touchdowns in a best-case situation.
Worst-case scenario: If the rookies on the team emerge as legitimate weapons, Cobb could be facing a situation where he's a cog in the machine rather than a featured piece. His floor is probably 60-plus receptions for somewhere in the neighborhood of 750 yards and five touchdowns in an extreme scenario, particularly if Eddie Lacy is among the league's rushing leaders and the Packers rely more on their run game.
Best-case scenario: Boykin's breakout 2013 season is just the tip of the iceberg when he caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns. In 2014, Boykin fills the role James Jones held in his last couple seasons in Green Bay and esentially his production too. We're talking about 60 receptions, 750 or so yards and checking in just under 10 touchdowns. These are within Boykin's reach now that Jones and Jermichael Finley are out of the picture and no longer taking away receptions from him.
Worst-case scenario: There's a role for Boykin in Green Bay, but he eventually takes a back set to an emerging Davante Adams, who proves too valuable to keep off the field. By season's end, when the Packers go to their three wide receiver sets, the go-to trio is Nelson, Cobb and Adams, leaving Boykin as the odd man out. As a result, his stats are essentially on par with what he had last season, if not a half a rung lower.
Best-case scenario: The season starts slowly for Adams as he undergoes a learning curve in trying to pick up the Packers offense, not to mention a difficult climb up the depth chart, but as time goes on, he becomes more and more of a trusted target of Aaron Rodgers. By the second half of the season, the comparisons to James Jones and Michael Crabtree start to look more accurate. Adams caps off his season with just under 50 receptions for roughly 500 yards and four or five touchowns setting the stage for bigger things to come.
Worst-case scenario: Adams shows promise, but he has a difficult time making his mark in a wide receiver rotation that includes Nelson, Cobb and Boykin, not to mention the receptions going the way of the tight ends and running backs. In his rookie year, Adams fills the No. 4 wide receiver role, catching about 25 passes for 300-some odd yards and finds the end zone a time or two.
Best-case scenario: Abbrederis might be a victim of a loaded depth chart, but the concerns about concussions and a lack of strength aren't a factor. Abbrederis carves out a small role on offense his rookie year, grabbing 15 or so passes and causes the state of Wisconsin to erupt in cheers after he scores his first career touchdown. Perhaps his biggest contribution is on special teams where he spares Randall Cobb and Micah Hyde of such duties to become the primary kick and punt returner, taking at least one to the house.
Worst-case scenario: The seeming lack of strength most definitely plays a role in Abbrederis' disappointing rookie campaign. He can't get off the jam of strong and cagey NFL defensive backs and needs a year in the weight room before he's ready for primetime. His struggles carry over from training camp to the preseason, barely making anyone take notice, let alone making an impact. Plus, concussion concerns prevent him from participating on the return units where the biggest collisions take place. Abbrederis is cut at the end of training camp but is asked to be on the practice squad for a year of development.
Best-case scenario: The 4.4 speed, the bench press reps and the change of direction skills all on display at the NFL Combine do indeed translate to the NFL for Janis. Like most rookies, he must overcome a steep learning curve, but he's too talented to keep off the field entirely. The Packers pick and choose how to utilize him with a small role on offense and on special teams. He finishes his season with 15 or so catches, gains 200-plus yards and even scores a touchdown, displaying loads of potential along the way.
Worst-case scenario: The jump from NCAA Division II football to the NFL is just too much to overcome in Year 1. Janis seems to either hesitant or is making more mistakes than the other players on the field. One minute, he'll have the crowd in awe and the next he'll have them wondering why he's in uniform. The Packers recognize his potential, but they can't justify giving him a roster spot when it's clear he just won't be able to help them in 2014. He's stashed on the practice squad, assuming another team doesn't pick him up.
Best-case scenario: White has a terrific month of August. He has a great training camp and looks equally as good in preseason action. Unfortunately, the only way the 182-pound slot receiver is going to make the roster is if Randall Cobb suffers an injury. The Packers don't want to give up on White, especially if there's any chance Cobb might leave in free agency at season's end. In the end, White makes a valiant effort to make the roster but winds up getting cut and invited onto the practice squad to keep him in Green Bay.
Worst-case scenario: White is adequate. Entering his second season in the NFL, he definitely doesn't look any worse than he did a year ago, but he doesn't seem any better. The biggest problem for White, however, is that all the incoming rookies appear more talented. And as long as Cobb remains healthy, there's no need to keep another slot type of receiver on the 53-man roster. The best White can do is make a couple plays in the preseason in hopes of catching the eye of another team.
Best-case scenario: Arguably the best surprise of training camp, all Harper seemingly needed was a team like the Packers to invest some time and patience into developing his talents. At 228 lbs. Harper has the most power of any wide receiver on the Packers roster, and it shows in training camp. He's not going to blow the top off a defense, but he uses his strength to his advantage to become a possession type of receiver. After an impressive preseason, the Packers keep Harper on their roster as he makes a bid to be the fourth or wide receiver, catching 20-some passes and adds a couple hundred yards.
Worst-case scenario: The Packers find out the same thing that the Seattle Seahawks and San Francisco 49ers did last season: Harper is borderline NFL material at best. Yes, he's got good size, but matters little when he can't get open. Harper doesn't turn any heads at training camp and makes little impact during the exhibition season. He is uncermoniously cut and not even given the opportunity to stick around on the practice squad.
Best-case scenario: After missing the entire 2013 season due to injury, Dorsey starts to show why the Packers invested a draft pick into him last year. His size and speed combination are more than adequate, and he makes his mark in training camp by making coming down with several contested grabs. Dorsey can't crack the 53-man roster, but the Packers want to hold onto him, inviting him to the practice squad with the understanding that he's part of their future plans.
Worst-case scenario: Nothing stands out about Dorsey. He takes a step forward by actually taking part in training camp, which he couldn't do a year ago, but that's about the only notable contribution. The rookie class of 2014 look to be better long-term investments, and Dorsey is cut in the midst of training camp, no longer taking away reps from the players expected to play a role in 2014.
Best-case scenario: There's a ton of depth at wide receiver ahead of him, but Gillett shows flashes as to why the Packers kept him around the organization for almost an entire year. He makes a few eye-catching grabs during preseason action, and it doesn't hurt that he can be an emergency quarterback too. Even though he is cut, Gillett is asked to be on the practice squad for a second straight season.
Worst-case scenario: Gillett gives it the old college try, but he just doesn't possess the same level of talent as those on the roster ahead of him. He's 10th in the pecking order at wide receiver and only has a catch or two in the preseason to show for his efforts. Unfortunately, he can't get past the NFL's first mandated cutdown date to 75 players.
Up next in the series is the tight ends.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book "It's Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America," and editor at Cheesehead TV and its "Pro Football Draft Preview." To contact Brian, email firstname.lastname@example.org.
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