Evan Silva

Offseason Low Down

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Packers Fantasy Preview

Saturday, July 8, 2017


Packers Offensive Profile Under Mike McCarthy

2013-2016 Pass Attempts Rank: 18th, 20th, 18th, 5th
2013-2016 Rush Attempts Rank: 12th, 14th, 12th, 29th
2013-2016 Play Volume Rank: 11th, 24th, 9th, 13th
2013-2016 Yards Per Play Rank: 4th, 1st, 29th, 9th
Unaccounted for Targets from 2016 (Rank): 96 (15th)
Unaccounted for Carries from 2016 (Rank): 180 (6th)

Projected Starting Lineup

QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: Ty Montgomery
WR: Jordy Nelson
WR: Davante Adams
WR: Randall Cobb
TE: Martellus Bennett
LT: David Bakhtiari
LG: Lane Taylor
C: Corey Linsley
RG: Jahri Evans
RT: Bryan Bulaga

Passing Game Outlook

Surrounded by wideouts who couldn’t beat man coverage – even zone teams know to play man when they face the Packers -- Aaron Rodgers spent all of 2015 and the first five games of 2016 in scramble mode, using his legs to buy time, then heaving improvised passes into a covered-someone’s direction. Everything seemingly clicked during a Weeks 7-8 window in which Jordy Nelson rounded into post-ACL-tear form and wide receiver Ty Montgomery was installed at running back. The Packers embraced an entirely Rodgers-centric offense, finishing with the most pass attempts in the Mike McCarthy era (620) and allowing Rodgers to set career highs in rushing attempts (67) and rushing yards (369). His volume further enhanced by one of the league’s ten worst defenses, Rodgers paced the NFL in touchdown passes (40) and led all quarterbacks in fantasy points for the fourth time in the last eight seasons. This year’s Packers defense projects only marginally better than last year’s, while Rodgers’ pass-catcher corps was supplemented with Martellus Bennett. Montgomery remains the backfield leader, likely ensuring a pass-first focus. Rodgers returns as 2017’s favorite to lead all quarterbacks in fantasy production, although Tom Brady and Drew Brees are always threats for the top-scoring spot.

Perhaps most critical to Rodgers’ resurgence was Jordy Nelson’s gradual in-season improvement after missing all of 2015. Per Next Gen Stats, Nelson averaged a mere 2.3 yards of separation at target in Weeks 1-11. He averaged 3.3 separation yards the rest of the way, getting open at a clip superior to Antonio Brown (2.9). Nelson’s catch rate (52%) and yards per target (7.0) in the first half of the season were dwarfed by his second-half marks (75%, 9.5). The Packers also made a concerted effort to move him around more, aligning Nelson in the slot on nearly 30% of his plays. Jordy turned 32 in May and probably couldn’t repeat the 4.51 forty he ran coming out of Kansas State, but he remains one of the NFL’s premier route runners and maintains a symbiotic on-field rapport with Rodgers. Nelson has been a top-12 fantasy WR1 in each of his last four full seasons, including three top-two finishes. Across formats, Jordy’s ADP is currently the WR6 behind Antonio Brown, Julio Jones, Odell Beckham, Mike Evans, and A.J. Green.

While pockets of the fantasy football community begged for Jeff Janis, Rodgers stood steadfastly behind Davante Adams throughout his troublingly inefficient 2015 season. Rodgers’ pro-Adams stance paid off handsomely as Adams turned in a classic third-year breakout, emerging as one of the NFL’s premier contested-catch winners and ranking No. 16 among 118 qualified wideouts in PFF’s yards-after-catch-per-reception (5.4) metric. Next Gen Stats charted Adams with a league-best 69.6% catch rate on throws into tight coverage. While he may not be the answer as Green Bay’s long-term No. 1 receiver whenever Jordy leaves the scene, Adams seems to have found his footing as a complementary, No. 2 weapon with a physical my-ball mentality and post-reception playmaking skills. Adams was particularly dominant in scoring position, turning 7-of-20 red-zone targets into touchdowns after converting just 3-of-22 red-zone looks in his first two seasons combined. Adams is now a prime touchdown regression candidate, however, and a healthier Randall Cobb and the addition of Martellus Bennett are likely to cut into his opportunities. Still, Adams’ WR19 (MFL10s) and WR20 (FF Calculator) ADPs are hardly unreasonable for a job-secure No. 2 option in a Rodgers-quarterbacked passing game.

A shell of his old self since signing a four-year, $40 million contract in March of 2015, Randall Cobb has averaged a mere 6.76 yards per target with a minuscule 4.7% touchdown rate (TDs/targets) over the past two seasons after posting career averages of 9.87 and 8.1%, respectively, before signing the deal. Chronic ankle woes are partly to blame, but there have been whispers Cobb’s conditioning tailed off after striking it rich. Cobb did flash his pre-rich self in the postseason with an 18/260/14.4/3 receiving line against the Cowboys, Giants, and Falcons. Cobb presents downside in a crowded pass-catcher corps after disappointing as the PPR WR43 (2016) and WR31 (2015) in points per game the past two seasons, but he is also a relatively cheap middle-round way to get exposure to Rodgers. Fairly priced at his WR39 ADP, Cobb could smash that cost should the 26-year-old somehow regain early-career form.

There is a narrative that Rodgers “doesn’t throw to the tight end,” but it is rooted in recency bias and not historical reality. Jermichael Finley was a fantasy TE1 in 2009 and 2011 with Rodgers at quarterback and caught 61 passes for the 2012 Packers. Otherwise, Rodgers has been surrounded by such tight end luminaries as Donald Lee, Andrew Quarless, and Brandon Bostick. Rodgers dragged molasses-slow Richard Rodgers to a top-eight fantasy finish in 2015, while Jared Cook exploded in January’s playoffs on a team-high 32 targets across three games. The 2017 Packers have the NFL’s fourth-softest tight end schedule based on 2016 fantasy points allowed, while Martellus Bennett should be a prime red-zone target for the NFL’s most talented passer. A top-ten fantasy tight end in three of the last four years, Bennett is another fairly-priced Packer at his TE8 (FF Calculator) and TE11 (MFL10s) ADPs.

Running Game Outlook

Injuries to Eddie Lacy (ankle) and James Starks (knee) thrust ex-part-time slot receiver and special teamer Ty Montgomery into the Packers’ feature back role last Week 6. Including the Wild Card and Divisional Rounds, Montgomery spent 12 weeks at tailback and emerged with stat lines of 94/525/5.59/5 rushing and 43/325/7.56/0 receiving, averaging 70.8 total yards and 4.6 targets per game, box-score results that would have made him last year’s RB18 in per-game PPR points. Pro Football Focus charted Montgomery as the NFL’s most elusive running back from Week 7 on. Although his measurables and physical playing style convinced #DraftTwitter in 2015 that Montgomery’s best NFL position would indeed be running back, he had never before been a full-time running back at any level of football and therefore struggled with some nuances, including pass protection which resulted in a handful of in-game benchings. So it was promising to see Montgomery earn a 77% snap rate – his second highest of the season – in Green Bay’s Divisional Round upset of Dallas, also logging 17 touches and scoring twice near the goal line. At a husky, 6-foot, 221 with 4.55 speed and otherworldly vertical (40 ½”) and three-cone (6.97) results, Montgomery’s 127.3 SPARQ score would have placed him near the 70th-percentile of running backs in the vaunted 2015 draft class, right behind Jay Ajayi but ahead of Melvin Gordon, Tevin Coleman, and Duke Johnson. Having moved on from Lacy, Starks, Christine Michael, and Don Jackson, the 2017 Packers have the NFL’s sixth-most unaccounted-for carries (180) from last year’s roster. Coach Mike McCarthy has been adamant Montgomery will open camp as the starter.

The Packers used the draft to fill out their running back depth chart by selecting three; Jamaal Williams (BYU) in the fourth round, Aaron Jones (UTEP) in the fifth, and Devante Mays (Utah State) in round seven. At 6-foot, 212, Williams is a lunging, downhill grinder whose strong college pass blocking contrasted against Montgomery’s deficiency and highest draft slot among the rookie threesome makes Williams an intriguing year-one sleeper. Jones is smaller (5’10/208) but not too small with 88th-percentile SPARQ results compared to Williams’ 36th-percentile score, and far superior college track records of rushing efficiency and receiving production. Mays started only eight games in two seasons at Utah State, but is the biggest of the bunch (5’10/230) and flashed explosiveness on college film and at the Aggies’ Pro Day with big-time vertical (40 ½”) and broad (10’9”) jump numbers. Jones was my personal favorite prospect during the pre-draft process, but this battle won’t be sorted out until deep into training camp.

2017 Vegas Win Total

This 2017 Packers’ Win Total is 10.0 with a solid lean toward the over (-130). Green Bay has topped ten wins in 5-of-11 seasons coached by Mike McCarthy, pushed in 3-of-11, and missed in the remaining three. The Packers have fallen short of ten wins just once in the past eight years, however, the outlier occurring in 2013 when Aaron Rodgers missed seven games to injury. Last year’s Packers went 10-6 due mostly to sub-par defensive play caused by a litany of hard-luck injuries in the secondary. Green Bay still overachieved relative to its Pythagorean Win Expectation (9.1-9.3). While Dom Capers’ defense is far from fixed, this year’s Packers should benefit from a fairly soft schedule, some positive injury regression, and a dynamic offense that made marked progress over the course of 2016, returns 4-of-5 starters on a top-ten pass-protecting offensive line, and picked up strong veteran additions in RG Jahri Evans and TE Martellus Bennett at positions of need. I’m eating the chalk and taking the over on ten Packers wins.



Evan Silva is a senior football editor for Rotoworld.com. He can be found on Twitter .
Email :Evan Silva



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