Deciding to draft the future Hall of Famer's eventual successor over addressing the evident lack of offensive weaponry, the organization traded up for Jordan Love in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. The decision set a charge that would later threaten the very core of the organization.
Most quarterbacks would crumble if faced with similar circumstances — but not Rodgers. He not only overcame the organization’s lack of faith, he thrived and finished as the league’s MVP for the third time in his career.
Rodgers' defiant success translated to fantasy football prosperity for the Packers’ supporting cast of skill players. So, with longtime Packer officially back in the fold for 2021, fantasy drafters can have supreme confidence that Green Bay will offer viable fantasy football options across the board.
2021 Team Preview
Rodgers himself might not be able to climb back into the elite tier of fantasy quarterbacks in 2021, even though he ranked first in PFF grade, completion percentage, big-time throw rate and touchdowns a season ago.
And while that might sound absurd, it's because the Green Bay signal-caller posted a career-high 9.1% overall touchdown rate in 2020 — the highest rate since 2004 — and results have seldom been kind for passers the year after achieving such a feat: Lamar Jackson saw his 9.0% touchdown rate from 2019 fall to 6.9% in 2020. Rodgers' 9.0% touchdown rate back in 2011 fell to 7.1% the following season.
His astonishing 35.5% touchdown percentage inside the red zone, second in 2020 and the veteran passer's highest mark since 2017, was a critical driving force behind his success. But it's a figure that will be hard to replicate going forward — even for one of the game's best.
No quarterback enjoyed a greater disparity between actual fantasy points scored and expected fantasy points scored (+84.9) last season, suggesting that low-end QB1 status is a much more likely outcome in 2021. Rodgers also attempted only 17 rushes last season, his lowest total since 2015, which further limits his fantasy ceiling.
Compounding the issue, the run-heavy nature of the Packers offense doesn’t allow Rodgers to make up ground with passing volume. Last season, Green Bay’s run rate on early downs (48%) ranked eighth in the league. The team ranked 13th in rushes per game (26) while just 24th in passing plays per game (36).
Rodgers is appropriately priced (QB8 ADP), as drafters are acknowledging a repeat of his 2020 performance as the QB5 in fantasy points per game (24.5) is unlikely. The offense line also projects to take a step back after grading as the fourth-best unit over the past three seasons.
While the “Rodgers saga” had dragged on, Tyreek Hill, Stefon Diggs, DeAndre Hopkins and Calvin Ridley were often drafted in front of Adams, who would routinely fall into the second round of fantasy drafts. But with the quarterback and wide receiver back for “one last dance,” the days of Adams being a second-rounder are long gone.
— Ari Meirov (@MySportsUpdate) July 26, 2021
Adams' 33% target share, 25.7 fantasy points per game and six top-two weekly finishes last season were higher than any other player. And his role in the red zone is unparalleled across the NFL landscape.
Since 2015, Adams leads all players in red-zone targets (150), red-zone catches (99), red-zone touchdowns (53) and PFF receiving grade (90.0). No other receiver with at least 25 red-zone targets in that time has earned a PFF grade higher than 81.0.
So, although there’s bound to be some touchdown regression from Adams — 18 receiving touchdowns in 14 games is not sustainable — a double-digit touchdown total is still firmly in play. He has averaged just under 12 receiving touchdowns per season over the past five years. His 64 receiving touchdowns are the most by any player over that span by a wide margin (Tyreek Hill, 49).
But Adams has not been the only Packers player frequently finding himself in the end zone. Running back Aaron Jones has averaged 15 touchdowns (rushing/receiving) over the past two seasons, tying for second over that span among running backs.
RB Aaron Jones
Jones’ double-digit touchdown potential is just one of the many reasons why fantasy drafters should be thrilled to select the Packers’ running back as the RB8 (12th overall ADP) off the board.
He has been nothing short of fantastic since entering the NFL in 2017, ranking third in PFF rushing grade (91.1) and fourth in yards per carry (5.1). Last year Jones was arguably at his best; he rushed for a career-high 1,230 yards (5.6 yards per attempt) and ranked fourth in the league in yards after contact per attempt (3.6).
It's hard to view Jones as anything but a top-eight fantasy running back, considering how efficient he has been. After finishing the 2019 season as the RB2 overall (16.5 expected fantasy points per game), Jones came in as the RB5 in 2020 (16.8 expected fantasy points per game) while working in a timeshare. He finished this past season 12th in touches per game (17.7).
At age 26, and with 846 touches on his resume, Jones has at least a couple more super-productive fantasy seasons within him. And playing in one of the league’s most high-powered offenses raises the floor.
Not to mention that Jones has room for growth with the “thorn in his side” in the form of Jamaal Williams (11 touches per game) no longer with the team. Williams’ departure can only ooze optimism for Jones’ continued work as one of the team’s most reliable receivers. The Packers’ running back has at least 47 receptions in back-to-back seasons with Williams in the fold and ranks ninth in total targets among running backs.
There is also no guarantee that second-year back A.J. Dillon immediately steps into that role and demands a significant target share.
WR RANDALL COBB
Before Rodgers decided to come back for one last go-around in Green Bay, he demanded that the team trade for Randall Cobb from the Houston Texans. At 30 years old, Cobb would seemingly be way past his prime, but his yards per route run the past two seasons since he left Green Bay (1.71) is superior to his prior four years with the Packers (1.31).
And from the slot — where Cobb should spend the majority of his time — the former Texan has generated the league’s third-highest passer rating (118.0) since 2019 among receivers with at least 100 targets.
Rodgers owns PFF’s third-highest passing grade when targeting the slot over the past two seasons, so fantasy drafters should view Cobb as the clear-cut No. 2 wide receiver on the offense. He has the trust of his quarterback, and that should ensure that targets come his way.
Aaron Rodgers and Randall Cobb are reunited in Green Bay
One of the league's best duos ???? pic.twitter.com/ADpC3Z3nmR
— PFF Fantasy Football (@PFF_Fantasy) July 28, 2021
As a full-time player (80%-plus snap share), Lazard ranked as the WR9 through the first three weeks of the season playing over 50% of his snaps from the slot. Rodgers played exclusively as the Clemson Tigers’ slot wideout, leading the nation in receptions (68) when lined up inside.
MVS should be the favorite to emerge as the team’s No.3 wide receiver because his skill set as a vertical threat helps separate him from the other ancillary Packers wideouts. Last season he led the team in air yards, and his deep-ball percentage ranked 15th in the NFL.
His big-play upside — first in yards per reception in 2020 (20.4) — makes him a solid value (ADP WR80) with a late-round selection. Green Bay’s rate of throws 20-plus air yards (16.5%) under head coach Mike LeFleur ranks second in the league since 2019.
— NFL (@NFL) November 15, 2020
Robert Tonyan’s 52 receptions last season ranked 13th at the position. But what’s wild is that the Packers tight end forced zero missed tackles after the catch. And that’s just one of the unusual stats about Tonyan’s 2020 breakout season that featured him hauling in a whopping 11 touchdowns passes, which tied Travis Kelce for most in the league.
The only difference was that Kelce saw more than double the number of targets Tonyan commanded (58 versus 139). It’s a tell-tale sign that touchdown regression is coming hard after Big Bob in 2021, as no tight end scored more fantasy points over expected (+52.2).
Not to mention, Tonyan was a complete afterthought in the target pecking order. His target rate per route run (14.7%) ranked 39th at the tight end position. It also tied Valdes-Scantling for last on the team among players with at least 25 targets.
As the TE11 per Underdog ADP, Tonyan seems to fit the mold of another middle-tier tight end that likely won’t outperform the majority of tight ends taken several rounds later. That makes him tough to justify as a worthwhile selection.
RB A.J. Dillon
At one point during this offseason, A.J. Dillon looked like the Packers next starting running back. But lo and behold Jones ended up re-signing with the Packers, regulating Dillon to backup duties.
The second-year back now faces a massive uphill battle to become a significant contributor to the Packers’ backfield in 2020. He will have opportunities based on the team's history of using a two-back system, and we could see him inherit Jamaal Williams‘ old role.
The big back gets criticized for not being much of a pass-catcher at the college level, but his offense almost never threw the ball. Nobody ever caught more than 36 passes in any season while he was at Boston College. Green Bay passed to the running back position on 22% of their pass attempts in 2020 (sixth-most), so seeing Dillon’s role as receiver rise next season is firmly within his range of outcomes.
But even so, it’s easier to envision Dillon eventually carving out a potential role at some point during the season. At 6-foot and 250 pounds, Dillon has the requisite size to be the thunder to Jones’ lightning.
It also remains to be seen whether the financial investment in Jones will change the veteran's role. It would make sense for him to retain his usual 60%-70% snap share to keep from overworking him. With no other RB of consequence, the team would likely turn to Dillon who showed promise on limited opportunities (55 carries) last season.
He earned an 80.7 PFF rushing grade (80.7, 15th), averaged 5.2 yards per attempt (sixth), 3.4 yards after contact per attempt (seventh) and led the league in missed tackles forced per attempt (31%) in 2020.
Fantasy gamers saw the potential Dillon possesses in Week 16 versus the Tennessee Titans. It was the only game he saw 20-plus carries, and he totaled 123 rushing yards with 93 coming after contact. He forced nine missed tackles in that game alone, which placed him in elite company as one of seven running backs to achieve that feat in a single game during the 2020 season.
Should anything happen to Jones, fantasy managers can turn confidently to Dillon as a healthy alternative plan with the expectations set at RB2 fantasy production.
Amari Rodgers had a much higher chance of breaking out in Year 1 prior to the Cobb acquisition because the newfound competition cast doubt for his role as a rookie. The 2021 third-rounder primarily played the slot at Clemson and was famous for his tackle-breaking ability. He finished first in yards after the catch per reception (9.6) from the slot. Matt LeFleur probably views Rodgers as a “Deebo Samuel” type player in his offense.
That could lead to a surplus of manufactured touches behind the line of scrimmage, which makes him intriguing as a fantasy asset should his snap rate grow as the season progresses.