Jermichael Finley is an interesting case. On the one hand, you have a player who was on the verge of elite status at the start of the 2010 season.
On the other hand, you have a guy who dropped far too many balls last season—despite hitting career highs in yards and touchdowns, it was a year many thought was a bit disappointing.
B/R's Brian Carriveau thinks he's in for an All-Pro type year and I can't argue with his logic. I just feel what Finley does—what he will do which makes him so valuable to the team—doesn't show up in the stats the way you expect it to.
Yes, he'll get targets and (hopefully) do a better job of catching them. Finley is a freakish athlete who has tremendous ability and can make big impact plays.
Believe it or not, those attributes aren't even where he is most valuable impact for this offense, though they factor in.
Finley isn't an asset so much because of what he catches—he's an asset because of what he allows others on the field to do. Ultimately, that's why they paid him for another two years—his value goes far beyond mere catches.
The success of the wide receivers in any given season where Finley has played cannot be overlooked—when Finley lines up, defenses have to account for him. Whether he has dropped 15 balls or none that game, what matters to defenses is that it only takes one blown coverage for Finley to really hurt them.
This naturally opens up all sorts of possibilities for the other receivers and Aaron Rodgers and is the kind of thing that isn't on the stat sheet—at least not easily perceptible.
If you watch the defenses react to him and where he is in the offense, it's easy to see that those stats show up in other people's columns.
It's what could make things a little dicey if Finley goes down—though there is plenty of firepower left in the offense. However, defenses would have one less thing to worry about, which would let them focus on Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones.
While it certainly wouldn't change the shape of the offense completely—clearly, the Packers overcame it in 2010 when they were planning on him being a centerpiece—it would pose some problems for the offense.
Neither Jennings nor Nelson play the same game as Finley, as neither are big or strong enough to do so. That physical presence in the middle is not the strength of their game.
Randall Cobb is more of a possession, short-yardage, big YAC player, but as much as I like him, he's no Finley and defenses will not respect him the same way.
Sure, it's possible one of the other myriad of tight ends on the depth chart step up, but Finley has the chance to be a special talent—as much as I think the rest of the depth is good, it's not in the same ballpark.
It's certainly within the realm of possibility that Finley puts together an All-Pro year statistically, if defenses focus too much on the receivers, if he stays healthy and cuts the drops.
Where he'll really be deserving of All-Pro status, though, is what he does when the ball isn't in his hands.
It won't make NFL Total Access or SportsCenter highlights, but any player will tell you the action away from the ball is sometimes even more vital than what happens when the quarterback throws the ball to you.