Originally posted on Football Nation  |  Last updated 6/18/12

Fantasy football owners likely did not have Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson on their radar all that much heading into the 2011 season, as he had not had more than 45 receptions or two touchdowns in any of his first three NFL seasons and looked to be down the pecking order a little bit in the Packers' passing game. But he had a breakout season and became a difference maker for fantasy owners with 68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns along with averaging a stellar 18.6 yards per catch.

That performance has made Nelson a recognizable name now, at least in fantasy football circles, and being part of a prolific Packers' offense bodes well for another good season in 2012. Not too surprisingly given the number of pass catchers Green Bay quarterback Aaron Rodgers has at his disposal, Nelson was targeted a fairly low amount (96 times) last season. He also had two of his best games of the season in Week 16 and Week 17 when Greg Jennings was out with a knee injury, combining for 15 receptions for 277 yards and five touchdowns against the Chicago Bears and Detroit Lions respectively, which creates some cause for concern for continued production if Jennings stays healthy.


Breaking Down Jordy Nelson's 2011 Season

Nelson got off to an nice start in 2011 with six catches for 77 yards and a touchdown in Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints and had a touchdown catch in three of the first four games of the season. But that Week 1 reception total would hold up as at least tied for his season-high until Week 17, and a couple big play touchdowns (84 yards against the Carolina Panthers in Week 2, 93 yards in Week 6 against the St. Louis Rams) served to elevate his yardage total and mask the fact he had four games with 40 or less receiving yards.

On the positive side Nelson never went longer than two games without a touchdown, so that relative consistency was certainly appreciated by his fantasy owners. But he did score just once over a four game stretch during the season's second half, which may have hurt owners that were relying on him to help make a late season run at a playoff berth. That said, more than one league title may have been decided with his Week 16 performance against the Bears (six receptions, 115 yards, two touchdowns) and those that had to put in a lineup in Week 17 were certainly happy as well with his performance against the Lions (nine catches, 162 yards, three touchdowns).

Nelson's 2012 Fantasy Value/Projection

It would be foolish to expect Nelson to repeat his 2011 campaign, particularly the touchdown total, but it would not be shocking to see an owner in a lot of leagues draft him as their WR1 in the expectation of a repeat or even a slight improvement in catches and yards in 2012. I feel that is foolish, as Nelson is not even the top option on his own team when everyone is healthy and tight end Jermichael Finley had fairly disappointing season in 2011, at least in terms of receptions (55) and yards (767). Any improved production Finley has in 2012, which has to be considered fairly likely at this point if he stays healthy, may come right out of Nelson's numbers.

That is not to say Nelson does not have value as a WR2 in 12-team leagues, since his role should still be significant with Donald Driver nearing retirement and Randall Cobb still developing as a receiver. Just expect some ups and downs on a game to game basis if you do draft him, as there will not always be enough targets to go around and Rodgers will look to take advantage of favorable individual matchups as often as possible. That leads to a lot of downside potential, and a virtually certain regression from last season in 2012.

2012 Projection: 65 receptions, 1,050 yards, 7 touchdowns





 

 



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