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Green Bay Packers 2021 Fantasy Football Preview

AJ Dillon

AJ Dillon

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

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2020 Stats (Rank)

Total Offense: 6,224 (Fifth)
Offensive Touchdowns: 64 (First)
Offensive Plays: 990 (28th)
Pass Attempts + Sacks: 547 (27th)
Rush Attempts: 443 (12th)
Unaccounted for Targets: 63 (23rd)
Unaccounted for Carries: 135 (11th)

Coaching Staff

Second-year coach Matt LaFleur went all in on his balanced approach. Millionth-year quarterback Aaron Rodgers went all in on being Aaron Rodgers. The result was a league-leading 509 points — 133 more than the year prior — and Rodgers’ third career MVP award. It was a stunning turnaround on a 2019 that produced success in the win/loss column but left many observers cold as Rodgers seemed more interested in avoiding turnovers than producing big plays. Part of it was his lacking supporting cast, something that remained unchanged for 2020. Rodgers and LaFleur simply made their hybrid formula work better, destroying teams with a methodical pace and lethal red zone efficiency. Rodgers also took increasing advantage of play-action, an element made more dangerous by the Pack’s versatile, efficient rushing attack. As is the case with most MVP campaigns, Rodgers had some unsustainable rate stats, but his mind has officially melded with LaFleur. Now the question is if the two will even be working together in 2021. [[ad:athena]]

Passing Game

QB: Aaron Rodgers, Jordan Love, Blake Bortles
WR: Davante Adams, Amari Rodgers
WR: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Devin Funchess
WR: Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown
TE: Robert Tonyan, Josiah Deguara

Rodgers’ MVP rampage translated to the QB4 season by average points. He did so with just 149 rushing yards and 526 passing attempts, making him an extreme fantasy outlier in this era of dual-threats and volume hogs. It was even more of an outlier when considering Rodgers’ supporting cast, which was led by All-Pro Davante Adams but supplemented by role players and undrafted free agents. That did not include Jake Kumerow, a Rodgers favorite who was released at final cuts over his strong objections. If reports are to be believed, that was the straw that broke the back of Rodgers’ relations with the team.

Without Adams, there would have been no MVP award. Adams missed two games with a hamstring injury but still finished with a monstrous 115/1,374/18 line. The catches and touchdowns were new career highs, with the latter leading the league. Even with the missed contests, Adams easily led in both raw and average half PPR points. He remains the clear-cut No. 1 overall receiver if Rodgers returns. If Rodgers is traded or pulls a Carson Palmer, Adams will obviously remain the focal point of an undermanned passing attack, albeit without the quarterback ESP that elevates him from an elite to special talent. Should it be Jordan Love pulling the trigger, Adams will belong more in the WR5/6 range, in the “questions” tier with A.J. Brown and Michael Thomas.

The first man up behind Adams is role-playing deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling. 2020 MVS alternated scoldings from Rodgers with scintillating long scores. 10 of MVS’ 33 receptions gained at least 20 yards, with the lid lifter averaging an eye-popping 20.9 yards per grab. 54.2 percent of Valdes-Scantling’s production came on completions of 20-plus yards, as well as 38.3 percent of his targets. Only “John Hightower” and Tyron Johnson drew a higher percentage of their targets deep. MVS’ problem, of course, was the drops. He had seven of them on 60 targets, giving him the fifth worst drop rate in the league. A strict WR4 even with Rodgers, MVS will be unplayable if Love gets the call.

Behind Valdes-Scantling is third-rounder Amari Rodgers — Aaron’s long-sought receiving relief — and former UDFA/pseudo tight end Allen Lazard. On paper, Amari is the missing link for this passing attack as a tough, middle-of-the-field YAC threat. Amari is built like the proverbial rolling ball of butcher knives at 5-foot-9, 212 pounds, smashing up smaller slot corners. He should be an immediate asset on designed, chain-moving targets, though it’s hard to see him garnering enough rookie looks behind Adams to offer anything other than cursory PPR value. If it’s Love, Amari won’t crack the top 75 in re-draft wideouts. Even with Aaron, Amari is best left quarantined to Dynasty formats.

Lazard is a 6-foot-5 mountain of a man who spent time both inside and out in 2020. He got off to a strong start before a core muscle injury cut the heart out of his campaign. Lazard was not the same upon returning for the final seven games, but he did have a strong postseason, catching seven balls for 158 yards and a score between the Divisional Round and NFC Championship Game. At times the No. 2 receiver last season, Lazard would ideally be a No. 4, something that might come to pass if Amari has a strong camp. Lazard offers a huge catch radius wherever he is deployed and could become a bigger factor in the red zone after catching three scores each of the past two years. Regardless of who is at quarterback, it is hard to see Lazard becoming a reliable WR5.

The favorite to be the No. 2 target could be late-blooming former UDFA TE Robert Tonyan, who was a narrow No. 4 behind Adams, MVS and Aaron Jones last season. Tonyan’s 59 looks were just four off of MVS and Jones behind Adams. Tonyan’s 11 scores were second only to Adams, and tied with Travis Kelce and A.J. Brown for the fifth most in the league. 11 of Tonyan’s 59 targets came in the red zone, with seven of those coming in the end zone. Although he still has a limited overall résumé, it is safe to assume Tonyan has permanently jumped 2019 third-rounder Jace Sternberger on the depth chart. Sternberger did himself no favors by earning a two-game suspension to begin 2021. Although he’s not even the No. 1 red zone option on his own team, Tonyan’s painted-area prowess makes him a safe TE1 in the event of Rodgers’ return. Without AR12, Tonyan would be better treated as a high-end TE2 streamer who will do damage in the red zone.

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Running Game

RB: Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Kylin Hill
OL (L-R): David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Lucas Patrick, Billy Turner

Considered as good as gone in free agency, Jones surprisingly re-upped for four years and $48 million. Longtime nuisance Jamaal Williams was allowed to walk, but second-year second-rounder AJ Dillon is waiting in the wings as a powerful change of pace. Dillon’s threat would seem to be greatest on early downs, but Jones has been one of the NFL’s most effective goal-line finishers, scoring 25 rushing touchdowns over the past two seasons. Even if Dillon snipes between the tackles, Jones’ fantasy losses could be offset by increased receptions in Williams’ absence.

As a rookie, Dillon was a lightly-used change-of-pace option for Weeks 1-8 before getting taken out of commission for Weeks 9-13 by the coronavirus. 22 of Dillon’s 48 touches came in Williams’ Week 15 absence, and he responded with 21/124/2 on the ground in the snow vs. the Titans. It was a tantalizing glimpse of what made the Derrick Henry-esque prospect a second-round pick.

Even in the backfield, it is Rodgers’ status that looms over everything. If he’s back, Jones remains an easy RB1. If not, everything from what kind of offense the Packers run to how balanced it might be will be up in the air. No Rodgers would undoubtedly equal more rushes, and a big portion of that expanded pie could go to Dillon over Jones. The Pack have always been fanatical about limiting Jones’ workloads, and that is unlikely to change even if the quarterback does. Jones will be an RB1 regardless, but Dillon will become more FLEX viable if Rodgers is gone. It just hurts that Dillon can’t be taken for granted at the goal line, where Jones could easily remain the preferred option.

Win Total

Understandably, the Packers currently find themselves off the board at most books. You can’t answer a secondary question like “over or under?” if you don’t know the answer to a primary one like “who is starting at quarterback?” I expected someone to try to drive some action, but most are refusing to even hazard a guess. I came across a lonely 10.5 which felt like a strange hedge. The facts on the ground are that the Packers have finally added a weapon on offense and engaged in some addition by subtraction by replacing DC Mike Pettine. LaFleur has exceeded expectations each of his first two years on the job. Let’s just put it this way: If Rodgers caves and reports for camp, the Pack will deservedly find themselves as overwhelming NFC North favorites.