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Green Bay Packers. They were not able to manage without Aaron Rodgers, who broke his collarbone in Week 6. This marked the first time since 2008 that the Packers failed to make the playoffs. If 2017 was the low point for Packers fandom, 2018 should bring more success. Aaron Rodgers is back. Davonte Adams showed that his success in 2016 was not a one-time deal. Jimmy Graham is a great addition to the passing game — something needed given Jamaal Williams is still set to open as their starting running back and the Packers are expected to have a bottom half defense this season.
Let’s run down the players you should draft or keep a close eye on during the season to bolster your depth chart.
(QB1) Aaron Rodgers
Aaron Rodgers is the best when he is on the field, as one of my good friends still puts every time Rodgers scoreds a touchdown, “he’s a bad bad man.” It is as true today as when Stephen Smith said it back in 2016. Once healthy, Rodgers is the clear-cut number one choice at quarterback. Discounting his injury-filled 2013 and 2016 season, Rodgers has thrown at least 30 touchdowns per season (as high as 45 in a single season). In that same span, he has averaged 4,313 yards per season and has been the top quarterback in three of those seasons (second best in another). Although age and injury are a factor (he’s 35 and has had two significant shoulder injuries in the past 5 years) – he has given little reason to doubt when healthy and will be helming a notoriously pass-first offense. Like Tom Brady, Rodgers can make any offense work and unlike Brady, Rodgers has a stud WR1 in Davonte Adams to help run the offense.
(WR1) Davonte Adams
Coming into 2017, many analysts wondered if Davonte Adams‘ top-10 performance could be sustained — he finished 12th last year in standard leagues sans Aaron Rodgers and without the now fading Jordy Nelson pulling coverage away. Adams is in line for a top-10, fringe top-5 season at his position with Rodgers healthy. Elite athleticism, with markedly improved hands and route-running ability, have allowed Adams to translate his increased target share to high-end production — Adams leads the league in red-zone targets (46) and touchdown catches (22) over the last two years, half of which came without Rodgers at the helm. Look to see Adams break the 1000 yard threshold for the first time (he came 3 yards shy in 2016).
(WR3+) Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb once had a promising career as a top fantasy asset, but it never quite panned out as his usage dropped significantly the past two seasons (the rise of Davonte Adams & the fall of Aaron Rodgers). Cobb is one of the underrated receivers this season as he has a real shot at becoming a WR2 on the Packers with Adams pulling away coverage, a healthy Rodgers, and with Jordy Nelson on the Oakland Raiders. The eight-year veteran will have to fend off a bevy of rookies to maintain his role and at least to start the season, should. His talent comes in separating from coverage, leading to some solid breakaways if targeted more frequently.
(WR3) The Rookies
Green Bay loaded up on rookie wide receivers this season, opting for a shotgun approach to finding their next star. We’ve got:
|Marquez Valdes-Scantling||5:37||South Florida||6’3″|
|Equanimeous St. Brown||6:33||Notre Dame||6’5″|
Although Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis are the front-runners at the third wide receiver position it is likely that one of the Packers’ rookie wideouts take over at some point this season. Smart money would be on fourth-round pick J’Mon Moore although Equanimeous St. Brown is a growing dark horse at the position having a great camp and is showing himself to be the most consistent of the trio. It is too soon to rely on any of these players, but as the season grows closer – it will become clear which of the three has the best shot at fantasy relevance on the Packers’ pass-first offense. If I were a betting man, I would put stock in St. Brown as I believe his sure-handedness, speed, and size will set him apart from Moore and Valdes-Scantling early and serve to only widen the gap.
(RB2/RB3) Jamaal Williams/Aaron Jones
Jamaal Williams will start at the top of the depth chart with Aaron Jones serving a two-game suspension to start the season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy. Once back, Green Bay will use a running back by committee (“RBC”) approach with Ty Montgomery snagging a few snaps here and there. So long as an RBC is utilized, neither will rise to the level of RB2 (except in a PPR league, where they could). If Williams breaks out early, he could serve as an RB2 – but this grey situation should depress both Williams and Jones’ value during the pre-season. If you’re in a pinch, roll with Williams first as he will get the first crack at wresting a starting role, despite Jones being the better of the two backs. Still, Williams only had 3.6 YPC last season compared to Jones’ 5.5 (taking into account Williams had twice the number of carries last season). Both backs should be drafted in the later rounds as both have their respective upsides, but do not expect much from either.
(TE2) Jimmy Graham
The days of Jimmy Graham‘s superstardom may be over, but if there is any chance that it isn’t – it’d be with the Packers. Perhaps one of the most divisive tight ends to rank this season, Graham’s production has fluctuated with 2017 representing his lowest recorded yards since his rookie season in 2010 (although tieing for his second most touchdowns in his career (10)). Compounding on these issues, he is now 31 and a long detailed injury history. On the Packers, Graham is a comfortable TE2 with TE1 upside most weeks and will be served well by having a diverse receiving core to help give him the mismatches that allowed him to flourish with the New Orleans Saints. Despite Aaron Rodgers not utilizing his tight end in the passing game in the past, he’s never had as talented a tight end on his roster as he has in Graham.
The Green Bay Packers have been a powerhouse in the NFC North for the past decade, but now face stiff competition from a Minnesota Vikings team coming off an NFC Championship loss and a Detroit Lions team that came a half yard from the playoffs in 2017. Even with a healthy Aaron Rodgers, the Packers might not have enough to compete in their own division with a floundering defense and one-dimensional offense. Yet, despite the team’s flaws, an Aaron Rodgers offense will be fantasy relevant and it’d be remiss to count the Packers out as they seem to find a way – the NFC North should be a lot of fun to watch this season.