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Team Previews

Packers Fantasy Preview

by Hayden Winks
Updated On: July 24, 2020, 5:38 pm ET

2019 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 5,528 (18th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 44 (10th)
Offensive Plays: 1,020 (13th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 609 (15th)
Rush Attempts: 411 (13th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 132 (8th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 8 (28th)

 

Coaching Staff

Matt LaFleur’s first 12 months as the head coach were as odd as it gets. The Packers’ +63 point differential typically translates to about 10 wins. Green Bay won 13, largely because of their luck in one-score games. They had the second-most pass happy offense in the league in neutral game scripts (62% passes) but ranked 19th in 20+ yard passing plays. Aaron Rodgers simply looked more average than elite, although having nobody to throw the ball to behind Davante Adams and Aaron Jones played into that. This offseason, LaFleur hinted at running the ball more, and the Packers’ free agent signings and draft picks backed that up. Instead of getting Rodgers his first ever first-round receiver, they drafted his eventual replacement in Jordan Love, then added a bulldozing running back and a full back. What the Packers accomplished under LaFleur in year one could be nothing like what’s coming in 2020. I’m expecting them to take a more balanced approach on offense and face more competition for the top spot in the NFC North.

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Passing Game

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love
WR: Davante Adams, Equanimeous St. Brown
WR: Allen Lazard, Jake Kumerow
WR: Devin Funchess, Marquez Valdes-Scantling
TE: Jace Sternberger, Marcedes Lewis

 

We will lose money if we pretend that Aaron Rodgers is currently playing as well as he did in the early- and mid-2010s. Over the last three seasons, Rodgers has averaged 7.2 yards per attempt -- that’s 22nd out of 48 quarterbacks with at least 300 attempts -- and last year, Rodgers was fantasy’s QB13 on a per-game basis. Part of the problem is the Packers’ receiving depth, which wasn’t addressed this offseason, but Rodgers has been hesitant to throw the ball deep recently and also isn’t scrambling as much (career-low 11.4 rushing yards per game in 2019). Unless these things change, Rodgers’ upside is relatively capped as a borderline QB1/2 in fantasy. Even though Rodgers is a positive touchdown regression candidate, I haven’t been drafting much of him at his QB13 average draft position. It just seems like the front office and coaching staff want this team to be more defense- and run-oriented moving forward.

Last season, Davante Adams posted a 100-1,295-7 receiving line on 149 targets across 14 games, including playoffs. That’s 19.4 PPR points on 10.6 targets per game, and that doesn’t include the positive touchdown regression I expect him to add this season. With nobody established behind him on the receiver depth chart, Adams can safely be projected for top-five usage, both between the 20s and inside the red zone. Adams is the consensus WR2 overall in the Rotoworld staff rankings right now, although I nearly put Adams above Michael Thomas in the Rotoworld Draft Guide and probably would in non-PPR leagues. The question is not whether Adams will produce huge fantasy numbers (he will), but is Adams worth drafting in the first round over the top running backs and Travis Kelce? Thus far, I’ve usually been opting for backs like Derrick Henry and Joe Mixon over Adams but will gladly scope up Adams if he falls to 10th overall or beyond in PPR leagues.

With Rodgers slipping, the Packers 16th in pass attempts, Adams absorbing a 30-35% target share, and Aaron Jones more than capable as a receiver out of the backfield (68 targets), there’s not much room for the Green Bay No. 2 receiver to be an every-week fantasy starter, especially since we don’t know who that guy will be. Last year from Week 9 through the playoffs, Allen Lazard was second in targets (4.2 per game) with Geronimo Allison (2.7) and Marquez Valdes-Scantling (1.8) even further behind. That’s simply not enough volume for any of them to be fantasy-relevant in standard-sized leagues, particularly with 26-year-old Devin Funchess brought in on a one-year, $2.5 million contract. I expect Funchess and Lazard to round out three-receiver sets, likely cannibalizing each other from ever reaching the WR3 conversation as long as Adams stays healthy. If forced to choose between the two, I’ll take my chances on Lazard, who at least has averaged 9.2 yards per target and has worked with Rodgers before.

Jimmy Graham’s departure opens up 58 targets and 480 routes run for second-year TE Jace Sternberger, who’s 832 yards (17.3 YPR) and 10 touchdowns at Texas A&M in 2018 led to an early third-round selection in the 2019 NFL Draft. Sternberger’s receiving profile as a seam stretcher is a tad underrated, specifically in this offense that lacks receiving talent outside of Adams. The fact that Sternberger only ran 31 routes and didn’t draw a single target as a rookie is a major concern, but there’s some upside going into 2020 with the Packers missing the eighth-most targets (132) from last season. Sternberger is a TE3 flier in deep fantasy leagues even though Rodgers hasn’t targeted his tight ends often in recent seasons. Backing him up is veteran blocking TE Marcedes Lewis.

 

Rushing Game

RB: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Jamaal Williams
OL (L-R): David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Corey Linsley, Billy Turner, Rick Wagner

 

Aaron Jones finished as the RB4 overall on a per-game basis last year by finding the end zone a league-high 19 times, 16 of those coming on the ground. It’s ludicrous production, but it’s bound to deeply regress in 2020. My expected rushing touchdown model believed Jones scored 7.7 more touchdowns than he should have as a rusher last season, and now he has to keep the Packers' 247-pound second-round rookie running back on the sideline. Jones is one of the most underrated talents -- he also caught 49 passes for 7.0 yards per target -- but team and personal negative regression send him to the high-end RB2 mix. I personally haven’t drafted Jones in the second round through 40+ drafts this offseason.

Backing up Jones will be fourth-year pro Jamaal Williams and 2020 62nd overall pick A.J. Dillon. Williams is the definition of a replaceable-level talent at running back. He owns a career 3.9 YPC average with 6.0 yards per target, and his role dwindled last year as Jones separated himself from what once was a frustrating committee backfield. In fact, Williams ended with tiny 14% and 32% snap shares in the Packers’ two playoff appearances. Williams simply offers very little RB insurance value with Dillon obviously brought in for a reason. The second-round rookie boosts 97th-percentile Adjusted SPARQ athleticism on a 247-pound frame, making him a candidate for short-yardage and goal-line usage right away. Dillon only had 21 career receptions at Boston College, however, so his RB insurance upside is completely tied to eating in the red zone. There are worst last-round picks in best ball leagues, but Dillon is probably not a necessary selection in 15-round redraft leagues. Maybe I’d take a shot in standard-sized non-PPR leagues.

The offensive line will look a tad different this season (read: worse). They are set at left tackle with David Bakhtiari (PFF’s No. 11 OT out of 89 qualifiers), but swap out Bryan Bulaga (PFF’s No. 16 OT) for Rick Wagner (PFF’s No. 66 OT) at right tackle. That downgrade will particularly be felt in the ground game, as Bulaga was the No. 6 tackle in PFF’s run-blocking grade a season ago. Inside at left guard, 2019 second-rounder Elgton Jenkins appears to be the favorite to start over Lane Taylor, who is coming off a torn biceps. Above-average starting C Corey Linsley will return for a seventh season in Green Bay. And finally, Billy Turner returns to start at right guard, but he has never been anything more than a replacement-level starter. Overall, this should be a slightly above-average unit that looks much better on the left side than on the right.

 

Win Total

Respectfully, the Packers were one of the worst 13-3 teams in NFL history. They were 15th in scoring and only led on 55% of their second half plays last season. That typically translates to a 10-6 record, but Green Bay ran hot and went 7-1 in one-score contests. We should obviously expect those stats to regress towards league averages, especially with the Packers almost universally receiving C, D, or F grades for their 2020 draft class. Still, the Packers win total sits at a very reasonable 8.5 or 9.0 wins and their strength of schedule ranks as the 15th easiest according to opponent win totals, mostly because the NFC North “features” a Vikings team that lost multiple starters on both sides of the ball, a Bears team that traded for Nick Foles and signed Jimmy Graham this offseason, and the Detroit Lions. I actually wouldn’t put money on it, but if forced to choose a side I lean the over on their win total. A 9-7 record seems like the most likely outcome.