By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson (with Contributions from Joe Zollo and Chris Tyler)
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Through five games, it looked like a typical Green Bay Packers season. Aaron Rodgers was on his way to another 4,000 yard passing season with 30 TDs, enough to drag an average team to the playoffs. Then Anthony Barr drove Rodgers’ shoulder into the ground during the sixth game, causing the Packers season to redirect to, well, the toilet. Rodgers made a Week 15 cameo, tossing 3 TDs and 3 INTs and getting shut down for the remainder of the season. Needless to say, as Rodgers goes, the Packers go.
Jordy Nelson followed up his return from a WR3 season with a WR43 season with Rodgers missing more than half the season. Randall Cobb finished as WR41 a year after finishing as WR49. The good news for the Packers is that they seem to have a number one WR to take the place of the recently released Nelson. Davante Adams has blossomed over the last two years after failing to launch during Nelson’s injured 2015. As for the RBs, it looks like the Packers have finally found a running game. Now they just have to decide if they have a committee or a true number one back. From Week 1s through 16 — 15 games and the bye week — the lead back for the Packers scored a total of 251.1 fantasy points. If that was one player, they would’ve ranked as fantasy’s 8th best RB.
|(Projected Starting Lineup)|
|QB3||DeShone Kizer (w/ CLE)||169.00||QB27|
|WR4||(R) J’Mon Moore||N/A||N/A|
|WR5||(R) Marquez Valdes-Scantling||N/A||N/A|
|TE1||Jimmy Graham (w/ SEA)||163.50||TE6|
Rookies and Undrafted Free Agents to watch: WRs J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, & Equanimeous St. Brown.
Aaron Rodgers. Arguably the best QB in the NFL. Six seasons with more than 4,000 yards passing. Eight seasons with 28 or more TD passes, including two seasons with more than 40. And only two seasons with double digit INTs. You know the stats and how productive Rodgers has been throughout his career, so this should be pretty short. If Rodgers had played the whole season, he was on pace for 3,829 yards, 37 TDs, and 14 INTs. That would’ve put him right around QB5 for 2017. A healthy Rodgers is a top 5 fantasy QB in 2018. And if we’re being honest, in any season for the rest of his career. With a sound running game and familiar targets at WR, even if Rodgers has to scramble for his life he’ll find a way to keep your fantasy team afloat.
Behind Rodgers are Brett Hundley and recent acquisition DeShone Kizer. They combined to play in 26 games in 2017. Despite their up and down results, the Packers should have some confidence in the event Rodgers suffers another injury. Both are young with one more year under their belt. They each had two weeks where they finished as top 10 QBs in fantasy so there’s hope for us that need a fill in.
After finishing the 2016 season averaging 5.9 yards per carry as an emergency running back, Ty Montgomery switched to the running back position permanently to be the team’s new starting running back. Then the Packers drafted Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays to revamp their running back corps. Montgomery started out great over the first three weeks and then hurt his ribs. With Jamaal Williams dealing with his own injury, the team tabbed Aaron Jones to pick up the slack. He ran for 62 carries for 346 yards (5.58 yards/carry) and 3 TDs in Weeks 4 through 7. After their Week 8 bye, Jamaal Williams took over from Week 9 through the end of the season and rushed 143 times for 523 yards (3.66 yards/carry) and 4 TDs and chipped in 23 catches for 255 and 2 TDs. While the Packers offensive line wasn’t great in pass blocking, they did do quite well opening holes for their running backs with a league-leading 2.04 yards before first contact.
Let’s start with Williams as I fully expect him to be their lead back. His 3.66 yards per carry is quite alarming, but his ability as not only a runner but a receiver out of the backfield will keep him in the game more than Montgomery (better as a receiver) or Jones (better as a runner). But he’s nothing sexy. He doesn’t have game-breaking speed — 4.59 40 time at the 2017 combine — with only one run of over 15 yards (it went for 16 yards). He broke 20 tackles last year, 18 rushing and 2 on receptions. His 6 TDs are respectable but again, nothing sexy. Williams is a low-end RB2 and top 25 RB because of the volume he’s likely to receive, but with the committee approach, you’re not going to love trotting him out every week.
The change of pace back will likely be Aaron Jones. Roughly 40% of his total rushing yards came on 8 rushes. Eight! He’s smaller than Williams and shiftier — Jones ran a 6.82 in the 3 cone drill — thus getting to the edge faster. He also finished 14th in the NFL with 2.88 yards after contact per attempt in 2017. Jones has game-breaking ability but his size will likely prohibit the Packers from using him on a full time basis, relegating Jones to spot duty and FLEX appeal. You’re drafting Jones, but you’re not starting him every week unless Williams suffers an injury.
Montgomery is a former wide receiver so we know he knows how to handle passing downs. On 72 rushing attempts in 2016, Montgomery averaged 5.14 yards after contact. With enough carries to qualify, that would’ve easily led the league. He wasn’t nearly as effective in 2017 at 2.17 yards after contact. Last year basically proved Montgomery isn’t an every down running back. He’s someone that can come in and help on 3rd downs and run routes out of the backfield or from the slot. Montgomery is RB depth on your roster with occasional FLEX appeal in DFS matchups. The two Packers RBs you want are Williams and Jones.
The release of Jordy Nelson vaults Davante Adams to the top of the wide receiver food chain in Green Bay. He even cashed in on a huge extension, signing a 4-year deal averaging $14.5 million a year. How many teams do you think would be lining up to make a guy one of the highest paid receivers in the game when he’s never had a 1,000 yard receiving season or topped 75 receptions in a season? Not many I would guess. But the Packers did and here we are. One thing Adams does well is find the end zone. I’ve used this stat before and I’ll use it again. Over the last two seasons, Adams leads the NFL in TD receptions with 22. He also ranks 23rd in yards per game at 62.7. But during those years, he was 2nd or 3rd option. This year, he’s the clear cut number one. He ran about 20% of his routes from the slot and will likely slide there from time to time for mismatches. He also led the team in catches of 20 yards or more. Over the last two years, he has 5 TDs on such catches. Adams should exceed the 1,000 yard plateau in 2018 and top 80 receptions for the first time. I think the TD numbers regress some with a new TE in the fold (more on that later) but Adams will assuredly be a top 10 WR in fantasy for the first time in 2018.
Randall Cobb has always been someone who gets played up more in rankings than he’s worth. Out of the seven seasons he’s played, he’s had only three seasons where he’s put up top 25 numbers in fantasy. He has one 1,000+ yard receiving season on his resume and one year with double-digit TDs. He runs the majority of this routes from the slot — 86.4%, 78.4%, and 77.7% from 2015 to 2017. He has only 10 TOTAL receptions that have exceeded 20 yards over the last three years. He finished as WR49 and WR41 in 2016 and 2017, respectively, the last two seasons. Are any of these numbers making you want to invest anything more than a late round flier on Cobb? He’s not an elite option at the position and shouldn’t be drafted as such just because he has arguably the best QB in the league throwing him passes or because he’s had a few good seasons in the past. He’s nothing more than a WR5/6 six come draft day, if you draft him at all.
In fact, I’d be more willing to draft the number 3 option on the team, 3rd year man Geronimo Allison. Packers WRs tend to make big leaps in Year 3 or 4 and Allison may not be any different. Adams broke out in Year 3, Jordy Nelson before him in Year 4, and Donald Driver in Year 4. A few outliers were the breakouts of Greg Jennings and Randall Cobb in Year 2. Allison has the size and speed to hold his own and the versatility to play inside (over 60% of his routes from the slot in 2016) or outside (just under 60% of his routes from the outside in 2017). Allison has 3 rookies behind him so he has an easy route to, well, running more routes. His career high target share is 39 from last year. He should easily double that in 2018. This is why I’d rather have Allison than Cobb. You know what you’re getting with Cobb. It’s nothing special. Could Allison, with his 6’3” 200+ pound frame, be special? Absolutely. Always bank on upside over inconsistent output any day of the week. Just don’t overpay for it. You shouldn’t be spending more than a 10th or 12th round pick on Allison, depending on the size of your league.
Then there are the rookies. J’Mon Moore was a 4th rounder from Missouri, Marquez Valdes-Scantling a 5th rounder from South Florida, and Equanimeous St. Brown a 6th rounder from Notre Dame. Production-wise, you’re banking on Moore coming off 2 straight 1,000 yard seasons and 18 TDs over that time frame in the SEC. Talent-wise, you could do worse than St. Brown. Valdes-Scantling is the fastest of the three with a 4.38 40 at 6’4”. Moore should go first in Dynasty drafts but I’d take St. Brown over Valdes-Scantling.
When Ted Thompson was the GM of the Packers, he rarely ventured into free agency to sign marquee free agents. He did so to bring in DE Julius Peppers (good signing) and again last year to sign TE Martellus Bennett (not-so-good signing). Thompson is gone and Brian Gutekunst is now in charge. He turned to free agency in an effort to fix the TE position in Green Bay by bringing in former Seahawks TE Jimmy Graham. Since 2011, the Packers have had only one starting TE average more than 1.6 yards per route run — Jared Cook in 2016. In two out of his three seasons in Seattle, Graham averaged 1.8 (2015) and 1.91 (2016). Last year, that number dropped to 1.12. The Seahawks have had dismal offense line play for as long as many of us can remember, but Graham is rarely asked to block. In three seasons with the Seahawks, he’s never spent more than 8% of his snaps played pass blocking. The point I’m getting at is the Packers didn’t bring Graham to the Frozen Tundra to block the likes of Ziggy Ansah and Everson Griffin. Graham leads all TEs in receiving TDs over the last two seasons with 16 (including 10 last year). Rodgers hasn’t had a ton of production from the TE spot, but when he has athletic TEs, he finds them. Graham is still a top 10 TE in fantasy, but when stars switch teams, it’s always hard to predict chemistry. I think he comes in around 50 catches for 600 yards and 7 TDs.
Rookie to Watch
Equanimous St. Brown had “okay” college production. As a result, he was the third WR the Packers drafted. But players with mediocre college careers have become big names over time and I anticipate St. Brown being no different. St. Brown is 6’5” and 214 lbs, a big body target that can stretch the field and be dangerous inside the red-zone. – Chris Tyler
Geronimo Allison, 3rd year man out of Illinois, looks to take advantage of Jordy Nelson leaving and move up the depth chart. He slides in behind Davante Adams and Randall Cobb as the number 3 option for Aaron Rodgers at the WR position. He is tall at 6’3 and can be a viable red zone option since most of the attention will be put on newly acquired TE Jimmy Graham. Look for Allison to be your WR4 or WR5 with the upside to be a weekly flex play. – Joe Zollo
2018 Loose Ends
As Rodgers goes, the weapons on the Packers go. It’s as simple as that. We know he’s going to throw for more than 30 TDs, meaning Adams and Graham could easily have 10 apiece. Rodgers is top 5, Adams and Graham are top 10 at their respective positions, and there’s a massive committee at RB that you want to pay attention to during the preseason to see who floats to the top and just how the Packers are going to use them. Their fantasy playoff schedule is also interesting. Their RBs won’t have great matchups based on last year’s fantasy points allowed but Graham could destroy the Jets during Championship Week (10th most points allowed to TEs in 2017). Here are a few other tidbits I dug up while researching the Packers:
- 3rd string QB DeShone Kizer scored more fantasy points in 2017 than Aaron Rodgers. I just wanted to type that out.
- From Weeks 1 through 3, Ty Montgomery scored 61.3 fantasy points and was RB4. From Weeks 4 through 7, Aaron Jones scored 63.3 fantasy points and was RB8. From Weeks 9 through 16, Jamaal Williams scored 126.5 fantasy points and was RB8. Basically, the Packers starting RB is top 10 in Fantasy Football.
- WR Randall Cobb had the 4th lowest drop rate in the league last year at 2.94%.
- Packers’ WRs had only 52 targets that travelled more than 20 yards downfield in 2017. Only 16 of them were deemed catchable by Pro Football Focus.
- Packers’ TEs totalled 9 dropped passes in 2017. New starting TE Jimmy Graham had 7 himself in 2017.
|Green Bay Packers|
|6||10/15 (Mon)||vs SF|
|7||** BYE WEEK **|
|11||11/15 (Thurs)||@ SEA|