Ignore Jermichael Finley at Your Own Peril July 19, 2013  |  C.D. Carter

He’s hurt you plenty over the past couple seasons, and like any player who leaves scars on your fantasy football-loving soul, you’ve sworn off Green Bay Packers tight end Jermichael Finley – now and for always.

Finley, the sixth tight end off the draft board in 2012, finished the season as the 18th highest scoring tight end in fantasy, proving one of the biggest draft day mistakes (if you stubbornly stuck with him as an unquestioned weekly option despite better streaming options from the waiver wire).

Finley was largely phased out of the Packers’ aerial attack for chunks of the season, questioning his chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers and complaining about a lack of opportunity. Finley, as an example, drew a putrid 26 targets (four per game) in Weeks 3-8. Eighteen tight ends were targeted more during that stretch.

Things have changed though, and Packers coaches – once hesitant to acknowledge Finley’s locker room griping – are now effusive with their praise of the freakishly athletic tight end who was second among tight ends in fantasy efficiency in 2009.

“He seems like he’s really dialed in. as far as expectations go, I didn’t set any expectations last year, we just wanted to continue to improve each and every week, and that’s the same mentality we’re taking this year – let’s get better, let’s find a starting point and let’s get better each and every week. We’re capable of doing great things,” Green Bay tight end coach Jerry Fontenot said in a recent interview with ESPN. “I think we definitely had a year to grow off of last year and the way we finished off the year, I’m happy with where we’re starting. But again, we have a long ways to go.”

Green Bay head coach said Finley has looked “excellent” in offseason practices. “I really like the offseason that Jermichael has put together so far,” McCarthy added.

We’re not talking about the renaissance of some late-career former superstar with a newfound commitment to the game. Finley is 26 years old. He’s younger than Jimmy Graham.

I’m borderline disturbed to see Finley’s average draft position rising this summer. Finley, as recently as early June, was available in the early 11th round – a laughable discount on a potentially elite player. His ADP has since risen to the end of the 9th round. I’d expect Finley to creep into the 8th round by late August.

Take a peek at stats from Finley’s horrendous first eight games of 2012, courtesy of Pro Football Focus.

Targets 43
Receptions 28
Yards 265
Touchdowns 1
Drops 7
Catch Percentage 65%

And now for his second half numbers. It should be noted that Finley didn’t drop a single pass over his last six contests of 2012.

Targets 47
Receptions 35
Yards 426
Touchdowns 1
Drops 3
Catch Percentage 74%

Extrapolation isn’t my favorite projection model – nor should it be – but if we take Finley’s second half production and expand it over 16 games, we get 4.4 receptions, 53.3 yards, and .13 touchdowns per game.

That comes to 70 receptions, 848 yards and two touchdowns over the course of a season. That would’ve put Finley in the top-10 tight ends last season.


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