Fitz on Fantasy: 2019 Green Bay Packers Buying Guide
With the preseason here, TFG fantasy expert Pat Fitzmaurice is breaking down the prospects for all 32 teams. Click here for a running list of teams, and check back often as teams are added on an almost daily basis. On to the Green Bay Packers…
Aaron Rodgers, the world’s most famous “Game of Thrones” extra, is finally rid of Mike McCarthy. The two had worked together for 13 years and won a Super Bowl together. But by the end, the two men were getting along as well as a Stark and a Lannister. Rodgers had grown increasingly frustrated with McCarthy’s offense, which was heavily reliant on spread formations and isolation routes. The relationship deteriorated to the point where the Packers’ quarterback would routinely audible out of, or ignore, McCarthy’s play calls (presumably with an eye roll thrown in for good measure).
From 2009, his second season as a starter, to 2014, Rodgers finished in the top five in passer rating every year and led the league twice. In the three full seasons Rodgers has played since (he missed nine games due to injury in 2017), he’s finished 15th, fourth and, last year, 13th.
Yards per attempt isn’t a perfect stat, but it’s a telling one. In Rodgers’ first season as a starter, he averaged 7.5 yards per attempt. For the next six years his YPA ranged from 7.8 to 9.2. Over the last four seasons, Rodgers’ YPA has ranged from 6.7 to 7.4.
Rodgers finished QB6 in fantasy scoring in 2018 and was QB9 in fantasy points per game. The Packers overhauled the coaching staff, hiring Matt LaFleur as head coach and brining in Nathaniel Hackett as offensive coordinator, but they declined to make any significant additions to a WR corps that includes only one proven performer.
Peak Aaron Rodgers may well be the greatest quarterback of all time, but he hasn’t been at the height of his powers since 2014. I’d like to think he’s still better than he looked last year, and maybe LaFleur and Hackett can coax the greatness out of him once again. I have Rodgers at 1.03, which is the consensus ranking for him among both fantasy analysts and the public. Patrick Mahomes is now the undisputed QB1, and I can’t put Rodgers ahead of Deshaun Watson, who has better overall pass-catching weaponry and can do more damage as a runner.
Antonio Brown’s reign as the undisputed No. 1 fantasy receiver is over, but who should replace the Mad King on the Iron Throne? I’ve chosen to throw in my sword with House Davante.
It’s certainly not a clear-cut choice. To me, the difference between Davante Adams and my WR2, DeAndre Hopkins, is that Adams is the only sure-fire pass catcher the Packers have, whereas the Texans have a very good No. 2 in Will Fuller and a talented No. 3 in Keke Coutee. Maybe one or more of the Packers’ complementary receivers will step up this year. But we know Rodgers loves throwing to Adams, locking onto him to such an extreme degree last season that it was probably to the detriment of the Green Bay offense.
One minor nit to pick with Adams is that he averaged 8.56 yards per target last year – a mediocre number than placed him just behind ex-teammate Jordy Nelson and just ahead of Sterling Shepard. But I think that has a lot to do with how aggressively Rodgers forced throws to Adams last year, occasionally just heaving throws in the receiver’s general direction while under duress.
Adams has hit double digits in touchdowns in three straight seasons, and last year he roared past the 1,000-yard mark for the first time, catching 111 passes for 1,386 yards. He has a bagful of tricks to get open at will against even top cover men, and he’s a beast with the ball in his hands. It’s been quite the turnaround for Adams, who was a paddle-handed train wreck during his first two years in the league.
Maybe we should have known Adams wasn’t going to be an NFL washout. My 12-year-old son is a little stat hound, and I had fun showing him Adams’ college numbers the other day and watching his jaw hit the floor. Yes, other receivers have produced neon-lit college stats only to go belly-up at the pro level, but get a load of what Adams did in two seasons at Fresno State with Derek Carr. Every time I look at those numbers, I need to mop my brow with a handkerchief.
Again, it’s not a slam-dunk choice. Hopkins is a close second, and there are compelling cases to be made for, Odell Beckham Jr., Julio Jones or even JuJu Smith-Schuster. But getting Adams in the mid-to-late first round is a hell of a way to start a draft.
I took the coward’s way out and put Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Geronimo Allison adjacent to each other in my rankings. If I could have been even more cowardly and called it a tie, I would have.
Although the two young receivers are tethered together in my rankings, their risk/reward profiles are very different. MVS has the higher ceiling and lower floor. His range of outcomes is vast. He’s the guy to target in the middle rounds of your draft if you want to swing from the heels like Bryce Harper. Allison is probably the safer play – the 6-iron layup on a par-5. The upside isn’t sexy, but there’s something to be said for a guy who’s a good bet to get you at least 7-8 points when you have one starting receiver on bye and another with a pulled hammy.
MVS has the more appealing athletic profile. He’s 6-4, 206 pounds with sub-4.4 speed and a 71st percentile SPARQ-x score. Midway through last season, he had two 100-yard performances over a three-game stretch and appeared ready for liftoff, but then Rodgers seemed to quickly lose trust in him, and when you break the circle of trust with Rodgers, the targets dry up quickly. Over his last seven games, MVS had 15 catches for 179 yards and zero TDs. He ran aground like the Exxon Valdes-Scantling.
Allison was WR26 in fantasy scoring through four games last year, with 19 catches for 289 yards and two TDs, but sustained a core muscle injury in Week 5 that ended his season. An undrafted free agent who entered the league in 2016, Allison is a below-average athlete who put up uninspiring college numbers at Illinois. But Allison is a worker, and Rodgers loves workers. Allison is also ticketed for slot duty, and it wasn’t long ago that Randall Cobb was producing low-end WR1 numbers as Rodgers’ slot guy.
Jake Kumerow is worth a late-round pick in a 14- or 16-team draft that goes more than 16 rounds. He’s 6-4, 209 pounds, can line up inside or outside, has shone in the preseason for two straight years, and Rodgers speaks highly of him.
Jimmy Graham had 55 catches for 636 yards in his first year in Green Bay, finishing TE14 in fantasy scoring despite scoring only two touchdowns. But Graham faired poorly in catch rate, yards per target and yardage after the catch. He turns 33 in November, and the remarkable athleticism that made him a fantasy monster in New Orleans early in his career is long gone. (Advancing age and a torn patellar tendon will do that.) Still, there could be a TD bounce coming, and Graham is a viable late-round option if you elect to be frugal at tight end.
The Packers spent a third-round pick on TE Jace Sternberger, who bolstered his draft stock with an eye-opening 48-832-10 season at Texas Tech. But Sternberger might open the season third on the depth chart behind Robert Tonyan a former undrafted free agent from Indiana State who only had four catches in 16 games with the Packers last year but has plus athleticism and has drawn praise from Rodgers.
Mike McCarthy stubbornly refused to use RB Aaron Jones in a lead role early last season, but when McCarthy finally relented, Jones averaged 99.7 yards from scrimmage over a seven-game stretch from Week 8 to Week 14, punching in eight touchdowns over that span. A Week 15 knee injury ended Jones’ season, but he’s expected to begin the 2019 season in a leading role.
Jones has averaged 5.5 yards per carry over his first two NFL seasons. That sort of efficiency will be hard to maintain, yet Jones routinely runs against light boxes because opposing defenses have to honor Rodgers’ throwing ability. Jones has looked shifty and explosive whenever he’s played, and it was nice to see him show up as a pass catcher during that productive late-season stretch in 2019, with 22 receptions over seven games. The only real concern here is health. Jones has endured a couple of MCL sprains and has been sidelined by a hamstring injury in training camp.
I have Jones ranked RB13 and like him as an option late in the second round or early in the third.
Third-year man Jamaal Williams is useful in that he can grind between the tackles, catch passes and help out in pass protection. But there are armadillos with more explosiveness. In 274 rushing attempts with the Packers, Williams has had two carries of 20 or more yards. He has only handcuff value and maybe not even that. It’s possible that Dexter Williams, a sixth-round rookie from Notre Dame, could ascend to the No. 2 role, but to expect Dex to be fantasy-relevant in 2019 would be a stretch.
|Aaron Rodgers||QB3||QB3||Qb3||Fairly priced|
|Aaron Jones||RB13||RB14||RB17||Good value|
|Jamaal Williams||RB63||RB58||RB63||Late-round handcuff|
|Davante Adams||WR1||WR2||WR2||Mid-1st round|
|Marquez Valdes-Scantling||WR44||WR46||WR45||Ceiling play|
|Geronimo Allison||WR45||WR43||WR44||Floor play|
|Jimmy Graham||TE16||TE17||TE19||Consider late|
ADP = Average Draft Position ECR = Expert Consensus Ranking (based on half-PPR scoring)