2022 Green Bay Packers Fantasy Football Preview
2021 Stats (Rank)
Total Offense: 6,215 yards (10th)
Offensive Touchdowns: 52 (6th)
Offensive Plays: 1,072 (16th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 593 (18th)
Rush Attempts: 446 (17th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 241 (4th)
Unaccounted for Carries: 3 (30th)
Three straight devastating postseason losses shouldn’t overshadow Matt LaFleur’s NFL head coaching success. LaFleur, 39-10 in his three regular seasons as Green Bay’s head coach, has helped revive Aaron Rodgers’ slumping career and overseen a solid running attack and a respectable defense. Special teams, as Packers fans saw in stark detail last postseason, remain lacking for Green Bay.
LaFleur will head into 2022 without former quarterbacks coach Luke Getsy, who left to serve as the Bears’ offensive coordinator after being an instrumental part of Rodgers’ career resurgence over the past two seasons, and Nathaniel Hackett, who was hired as Broncos’ head coach this offseason.
Adam Stenavich will step in as the Packers offensive coordinator following a one-year stint as the team’s run game coordinator in 2021 (Pro Football Focus in 2021 graded the Packers’ rushing offense as the league’s second-best). He had previously been Green Bay’s offensive line coach. Stenavich’s influence could turn the Packers into a tough-nosed offense focused on ball control. Stenavich said the team’s offense in 2022 would be predicated on “speed and physicality.” “The best offenses in the league, they play fast, they stretch the field and they run the ball,” he added.
An offense more tilted toward the run would be quite the departure for Green Bay, which in 2021 had the league’s third-highest pass rate (58 percent) while holding the lead and trailed only the Chiefs, Bucs, and Bills in pass rate over expected.
The Green Bay passing game that often turned into a game of pitch-and-catch between Rodgers and Davante Adams will look quite different in 2022, with Adams departed to Vegas and a slew of new wideouts entering Rodgers’ offense. Adams’ absence creates a yawning hole in the team’s passing attack, as he accounted for 33 percent of Green Bay’s targets and a whopping 38 percent of the team’s air yards since the start of the 2020 season. No player has dominated targets like Adams did in Green Bay over the past two years.
The Packers will try to (partially) fill in for Adams with a combination of Allen Lazard, Sammy Watkins, and rookie Christian Watson. Rodgers, who has for years talked up Lazard as a key to the team’s offense, told reporters in June that Lazard should enter the season as the Packers’ unquestioned No. 1 receiver. While a more run-centric Packers offense that should continue to operate at a leisurely pace could suppress overall passing volume, Lazard’s role as Rodgers’ top target is not baked into his redraft ADP. No matter what fantasy managers think of Lazard as a player, his potential for volume could make him a screaming bargain in redraft formats. The same goes for Watkins, though his lengthy injury history doesn’t leave much hope for a career revival in 2022. Watkins has a mere 54 receptions over his past two seasons.
Randall Cobb seemed on the verge of being fantasy relevant when he suffered a core muscle injury in Week 12. He was second among Green Bay wideouts in red zone targets before his regular season-ending injury and has seen his snaps and pass routes steadily increase, operating as Rodgers’ primary slot receiver. He’s not the sexiest pick going into his age-32 season, but Adams’ departure frees up enough targets for Cobb to look interesting in PPR formats.
Watson will try to earn the trust of the mercurial Rodgers -- whose trust has proven hard to earn -- after an offseason in which the rookie has reportedly struggled with drops. Watson at the ripe age of 23 blew away scouts at the NFL Combine with a 4.36 40-yard dash, a 38.5-inch vertical, and a 136-inch broad jump. Watson has a 97th percentile catch radius, a 98th percentile speed score, and a 95th percentile burst score. He certainly has the traits to be a Week 1 starter for the Packers. Whether he’ll earn targets from Rodgers is another question entirely.
Robert Tonyan‘s Week 1 availability will probably be an open question through the remainder of the summer after the big tight end tore his ACL in Week 8 last season. Never quite a target hog -- Tonyan has nine games with more than five targets over his 51 NFL appearances -- he profiles as Green Bay’s best red zone (and end zone) target when healthy. In 2020, Tonyan saw seven targets inside the 10 yard line, leading all tight ends not named Travis Kelce (he caught all seven for five touchdowns). That inside-the-ten involvement waned a bit in his eight 2021 outings, and Tonyan’s route participation (57.2 percent) left a lot to be desired. That the Packers lined up Tonyan in the slot on almost half of his pass routes in 2021 (and out wide on 18 percent of his routes) could suggest the team is ready and willing to use him more as a pass catcher in an Adams-less offense. If Tonyan can’t go for Week 1, Josiah Deguara is likely to temporarily take over as Green Bay’s primary pass-catching tight end.
Rodgers’ stretch as the NFL’s most lethally efficient signal caller has likely come to an end with Adams leaving for the Raiders. Since the start of 2020, Rodgers has the league’s highest adjusted expected points added (EPA) per drop back and the highest completion rate over expected -- a remarkable achievement. Only Josh Allen and Patrick Mahomes have a higher success rate over that span. He should still be serviceable for fantasy purposes even if Green Bay undergoes something of an offensive makeover and centers their system on running the ball. An offense without Adams inarguably leaves Rodgers without the kind of statistical upside he had in 2020 and 2021, however.
Against the Cardinals in Week 8 last season, with Adams sidelined, Rodgers posted that week’s fifth-lowest completion rate over expected and the sixth-worst EPA per drop back, totaling 184 yards and two touchdowns on 37 attempts. It hasn’t all been doom and gloom for Rodgers without Adams in the lineup. Rodgers threw seven touchdowns and averaged 9.33 yards per attempt in two games without Adams in 2020.
Rodgers’ touchdown production will hinge on whether Green Bay continues to pass the ball near the end zone. The Packers in 2021 were fifth in pass attempts inside the ten yard line (51). Without Adams, who commanded 28.3 percent of those inside-the-ten targets in 2021, the Packers are likely to revert to a more balanced approach near the end zone. That could open up more touchdown scoring opportunities for the team’s backfield.
Fantasy Football Twitter’s wishcasting propelled AJ Dillon into the top spot in Green Bay’s backfield by the end of the 2021 season, though it required a knee injury for Aaron Jones that left the veteran a shadow of himself for the final month of the regular season. Jones, before his Week 10 injury, led the Packers backfield in carries 116 to 76 and out-snapped Dillon 460 to 230. Jones accounted for 64 percent of the team’s high-value backfield touches (rushes inside the ten plus receptions) to Dillon’s 33 percent. He was by far and away the team’s lead back.
Managing the knee injury upon what seemed like a premature return to action, Jones saw just 45 percent of the backfield’s high value touches from Week 12 to Week 17; Dillon led with a 55 percent share. A natural goal line bull, Dillon found pay dirt six times in the season’s final four weeks as Jones was relegated to limited snaps. That all changed by Green Bay’s Divisional Round game against the 49ers when Jones recorded 12 of the team’s 19 carries and reeled in nine of ten targets for a gaudy 129 yards -- a line buttressed by a wide open 75-yard reception.
Jones should be one of the beneficiaries of Davante Adams’ departure to Vegas this offseason. While game splits don’t explain everything, it’s notable that in games with Adams out of the Packers lineup since the start of the 2020 season, Jones has averaged 6.68 targets, up from 4.15 targets per game with Adams suited up. He was once again efficient with his pass-catching opportunities, ranking eighth among running backs in expected receiving points in 2021. Austin Ekeler was the only back who had more receiving fantasy points over expected than Jones last season. Suffice it to say: Jones is excellent as a pass catcher. Even if he falls into something of an even split with Dillon as a ball carrier, Jones’ receiving prospects might make a PPR truther salivate.
Dillon’s brain-melting upside will keep his redraft ADP as elevated as any No. 2 back in recent fantasy memory. It makes theoretical sense in an offense that could be far more run heavy than it was during the Adams era. And for all the talk of Dillon not being an ideal pass-catching running back, the thunder-thighed runner notched the fourth-highest yards per route run last year among running backs who ran at least 150 routes. Dillon’s 24 percent target per route run rate was a mere one percent lower than Jones’ in 2021. There’s no reason Dillon couldn’t slot in as an every-down back if Jones misses time in 2022. But even the most ardent Dillon backer would concede that his RB25 ADP is tough to justify without an unforeseen changing of the guard in Green Bay’s backfield.
Jones and Dillon will run behind an offensive line graded by Pro Football Focus in 2021 as the league’s ninth-worst run-blocking unit. The team hopes to have standout T David Bakhtiari back for the start of the season, but questions linger as the 30-year-old recovers from a horrific knee injury he suffered late in the 2020 regular season. He managed to suit up for one late-season game in 2021. Look for Packers coaches to be exceedingly careful with bringing back Bakhtiari early in the 2022 season.
Only the Bills and Bucs have a higher win total than the Packers (11). I find it difficult to bet against a head coach who has averaged a silly 13 wins per season since taking over in 2019, with two of those regular seasons having 16 games. Perhaps the Packers won’t be quite as ruthlessly efficient on offense, relying instead on a solid rushing attack and a defense that, when healthy, might be the most fearsome unit in the NFL. Four gimme games against Chicago and Detroit and LaFleur’s willingness to adjust on the fly should get Green Bay over the 11-win mark in the league’s newish 17-game regular season. For all his off-the-field weirdness and unfortunate hair-related decision making, Aaron Rodgers is still pretty good, per the analytics.