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Jermichael Finley's 2013 Fantasy Football Outlook

By Jared Smola 9:30pm EDT 5/27/13

Editors note: This is a free preview of a 2013 player profile.  To get access to all our profiles and projections in mid-June, become a Draft Sharks Insider!

JERMICHAEL FINLEY

Finley's up-and-down career will spend at least 1 more season in Green Bay.  There was talk this offseason that he and his $8.25 million 2013 salary would be let go.  But the Packers elected to keep Finley around.

Only 2 TEs will count more against the salary cap this season. The fact that the Packers held on says a lot about how highly they think of him.  

And it's tough to blame them.  Finley goes 6'5 and 247 pounds.  He plays faster than his 4.82 40-time and is capable of stretching the field down the seam.  He's averaging 12.6 yards per catch for his career, with 42 of his 198 grabs going for 20+ yards.

Finley has all the tools you look for in a dominant pass-catching TE.   And he's playing on one of the best passing games in the league, catching balls from a future Hall of Famer.

Yet, he's been mostly disappointing through his first 5 NFL seasons.  After a quiet rookie campaign, Finley pumped out 676 yards and 5 scores on 55 catches in 2009.  He finished that year 13th among TEs in fantasy points.

2010 had all the makings of a true breakout season.  Finley racked up 21 catches and 301 yards in his first 4 games but then went down with a season-ending knee injury.

Finley returned in 2011 to set new career highs with 767 yards and 8 TDs.  That placed him 5th at the position in fantasy points.  Still, Finley had problems with drops (12 of them, according to Pro Football Focus) and seemed to have more to offer.  

He took a step back this past year.  Finley reeled in a personal-best 61 balls but averaged a career-worst 10.9 yards per catch.  His 42 yards per game were his fewest since his rookie year.  And he managed just 2 TDs.  Finley plummeted to 17th in fantasy points.

So what went wrong?  Drops continued to be an issue.  Finley was charged with 9 of them.  His 12.9% drop rate was 4th-highest among TEs with at least 45 targets.  That followed a 17.9% drop rate in 2011.  It's something Finley needs to clean up.   But he seems capable considering he dropped just 7 of 117 balls (6% drop rate) in his first 3 seasons.

There's also been ongoing talk of Finley's chemistry - or lack thereof - with Aaron Rodgers.  Most of that has come from Finley, though.  Rodgers has consistently said that the pair's rapport is just fine.  Finley caught a rock-solid 71% of his targets this past year.

The duo got it doing during the 2nd half of last season.  After averaging just 3.2 catches and 30 years per game in his first 9 games, Finley went for 4.6 and 57 in his final 7. 

The Packers coaching staff noted the improvement from Finley after the Week 10 bye.  "I really felt Jermichael Finley was a different man, a different player from the bye week on," HC Mike McCarthy said back in January. "I had an opportunity to talk to him about that at length in his exit interview, so I feel very good about the way he finished the year... There was a change in that young man." 

TEs coach Jerry Fontenot agreed.  "As the season wore on you could see a more confident guy on the field," he said.  "I see him definitely in an ascending mode." 

Only 7 TEs scored more fantasy points than Finley over the final 7 games of 2012.  He's certainly capable of that type of production over the course of this season.  Finley remains a big-time talent who's still only 26 years old.  Rodgers remains one of the game's top QBs.  And the departure of Greg Jennings frees up about 7.7 targets per game.  

Draft Sharks Bottom Line:

Finley is too talented, and his situation too ideal, to give up on.  The Packers are paying him $8.25 million this season, and you know they want to get their money's worth.  That, plus the loss of Jennings, could mean a career high in targets for Finley.   He'll also have plenty of motivation in a contract year.

Finley's inconsistency leaves him short of "elite" fantasy status.  But he carries more upside than any TE outside the "sure-thing" group.  That makes Finley well worth targeting in the middle rounds of your draft.

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