Preseason - 2021 Green Bay Packers Outlook
Green Bay Packers Outlook
Matt LaFleur took over as the head coach of the Packers in 2019 after spending the previous two seasons running the Rams and the Titans offenses. Green Bay went 13-3 in back-to-back years, with a push to first overall in points scored (509 – 133 more than 2019). They improved to fifth in the league in yards gained.
Lafleur has six years of experience in the NFL as a quarterback coach. His best success came in 2016, helping Matt Ryan and the Falcons reach the Super Bowl.
Nathaniel Hackett returns for his third season as the offensive coordinator after spending the previous five years in the Jaguars' system as their quarterback's coach and offensive coordinator. Hackett ran the Bills' offense for two seasons as well.
Their defense gave up 56 more points (369 – 13th) despite improving to ninth in yards allowed.
Green Bay named Joe Barry as their defensive coordinator. Over the past three years, he worked in the Rams' system (assistant head coach and linebackers coach). Barry ran the Lions and Redskins' defense over four seasons while having 19 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Their offensive line lost C Corey Lindsey and G Lane Taylor.
Linsley allowed minimal pressure on the quarterback while also shining in run blocking. His resume is long with success, and Aaron Rodgers may have a smaller passing window in 2021 due to his loss.
Injuries cost Taylor most of the last two seasons. He projects as a backup this year, with his best asset coming in pass protection. In 2016, he made 16 starts for the Packers.
Green Bay lost RB Jamaal Williams to their division rival Detroit Lions. He came off the bench over four seasons with the Packers to gain 2,946 combined yards with 18 touchdowns and 122 catches. He averaged 10.4 touches per game while delivering RB4 production in PPR leagues.
The only other significant player added via free agency was LB De'Vondre Campbell. He has been a liability in all areas over the past three seasons.
In the first round, the Packers invested in CB Eric Stokes. His press and chase style grades well while having more upside when he gets stronger. Stokes projects to be a liability against the run early in his career. When given a chance to return a turnover, he brings scoring ability, but Stokes doesn't offer playmaking ability early in his career.
Their upgrade at the center position came in the second round – Josh Myers. His foundation skill set points to an upgrade in run blocking with the base to handle bull rushers. Pass rushers will test Myers outside his frame. Green Bay expects him to win the starting job in 2021.
The Packers landed WR Amari Rodgers with the 22nd pick in the third round. His game should rise to another level under the guidance of Aaron Rodgers. He gives Green Bay an open-field runner with the route running and hands to succeed out of the lot. His first challenge is improving his release vs. press coverage.
Green Bay added G Royce Newman with their selection in the fourth round. His pass blocking has risk against power and defenders with the ability to beat him with width off the snap. He should upgrade the run game while offering depth at both tackle and guard.
In the fifth round, the Packers drafted DT Tedarrell Slaton and CB Shemar Jean-Charles.
Slaton has an inner battle to keep his weight under control, limiting his endurance and motor. He looks like an anchor against the run with surprising quickness and push in the pass rush, but his strength isn't where it needs to be to produce consistent wins.
Jean-Charles has a couple of flaws (weakness against the run and lack of size to handle physical receivers in press coverage). He does project well in reading routes and staying connected to receivers out of their routes. Jean-Charles defers to holding in the deep passing game when in chase mode and trailing by a step.
Over the final two rounds of the draft, Green Bay took a dance with G Cole Van Lanen, LB Isaiah McDuffie, and RB Kylin Hill.
Van Lanen will transition to guard in the pros. His range looks limited, with questions about his value in pass protection. He brings vision while offering the hands to help in the run game.
McDuffie has a green light feel in run support. When given a clean run, his vision and feel for play development put him on time when moving toward the line of scrimmage. McDuffie takes a hit in heavy traffic areas while lacking the size to push to higher as an interior defender. He works hard and shows up for every play, which increases his chance to get on the field.
Hill is a power runner with the wiggle to make defenders miss in the open field. His vision and patience hold him back from reaching a higher ceiling. He'll provide depth on early downs with questionable value on passing downs.
Green Bay averaged 4.8 yards per rush, moving them to 8th in rushing yards (2,118) with 16 rushing touchdowns. The Packers averaged 27.7 rushes per game with 10 carries over 20 yards.
The Packers climbed to 11th in passing yards (4,299) with an impressive 48 touchdowns and only five interceptions. They gained 8.2 yards per pass attempt with 57 plays over 20 yards and 14 catches over 40 yards. Their offensive line allowed only 21 sacks.
LT David Bakhtiari
Bakhtiari has been one of the top players at his position over the previous five seasons, with his best value coming in pass protection. In 2020, he pushed to an elite area in running blocking while allowing minimal pressure on the quarterback. His only strike came from six missed games (including the postseason) due to a chest issue and a torn ACL in his left knee that ended his year in late December. Bakhtiari won't be at full strength in early September, pointing to a downgrade in his play early in the season. Green Bay drafted him in the fifth round in 2013.
LG Elgton Jenkins
In his first two seasons, Jenkins made 35 starts over the 36 games played by the Packers. He keeps Aaron Rodgers clean in the pocket on most plays, but his run blocking did regress slightly last year. Green Bay added Jenkins in the second round in 2019.
C Josh Myers
Myers should slide into the starting lineup after the Packers drafted him in the second round of this year's draft. He'll be replacing a top player while owning the foundation to play well in the run game. In addition, the quick-release and decision-making by Aaron Rodgers should help his learning curve in pass protection.
RG Lucas Patrick
After seeing minimal playing time over his first three years with Green Bay, Patrick made 17 starts in 2020. He allowed some pressure on the quarterback, but most plays ended with a low number of sacks. His run blocking improved to a neutral area. The Packers signed him as an undrafted free agent in 2016.
RT Billy Turner
Turner signed a four-year $28 million contract in March of 2019. He provided insurance at left tackle last year, but Tampa exposed his pass blocking in the postseason. At right tackle, Turner allowed pressure in his two seasons in Green Bay with league-average results in the run game. Incoming rookie Royce Newman should push him for playing time in 2021.
Aaron Rodgers helps out his offensive line by his movements in the pocket and his ability to find the open man quickly. However, this season, his offensive line looks to have more risk due to one injury and questions at three other spots in the starting lineup. The Packer should run the ball well, helping Rodgers move the ball while his offensive line develops. This line ranks below average at the start of the year.
As great as the stats were for Aaron Rodgers in 2020, the Packers still finished with only league average pass attempts per game (32.9). They ran the ball 45.5 percent of the time.
QB Aaron Rodgers, GB - Stud (low risk)
At age 36, Rodgera finished with a career-high in touchdowns (51 – 48 passing) while continuing to be the best quarterback in the league in minimizing the damage in interceptions allowed (five in 2020 – 11 over his previous 48 starts). Unfortunately, Rodgers settled for too many short plays from 2015 to 2019, leading to dull results in his yards per pass attempt (6.7, 7.3, 7.0, 7.4, and 7.0). However, he bounced back in a big way in this area last season (8.2) while setting a new ceiling in his completion rate (70.7).
Over his 18 starts, including the playoffs, Rodgers had a floor of three touchdowns in 15 matchups. His worst showing came in Week 6 against Tampa (160/0 with two interceptions). Half of his six interceptions thrown came in two games vs. the Bucs. When at his best, Rodgers passed for over 300 yards in five games in the regular season.
He finished third in quarterback scoring (434.15 fantasy points) in four-point passing touchdown leagues. Rodgers had a floor of 26.00 fantasy points in 15 of his 18 starts, but his ceiling came in Week 1 (34.40 fantasy points).
Fantasy Outlook: In the 2019 NFL Draft, the Packers' management turned their LOVE for Aaron Rodgers in another direction. This decision puts the starting quarterback position in JEOPARDY heading into training camp. However, Rodgers put the differences aside for at least one more run in Green Bay in 2021, assuring Packers' fans and fantasy managers of another season of elite production.
Rodgers has one of the top wide receivers in the game (Davante Adams), and his secondary receiving options showed more value in 2020. Amari Rodgers gives the Packers a missing link in the passing game (chain mover) while owning more explosiveness in Green Bay. My only negative is the passing window due to the offseason changes on the offensive line.
QB Jordan Love, GB - Dynasty Only
Love came to the NFL with size (6'4" and 225 lbs.) and a strong arm. He'll make easy deep throws with a flick of his wrist. At times, he has a looker feel as he waits for a player to break open. I expect him to have success if given time to throw and surrounded by talented receivers. His decision-making and reads need improvement while owning some concern with his accuracy.
I don't like the way he slides in the pocket on some rollout passes, leading to a longer transition time to unload the ball. Love will struggle to break free from a tight pocket under pressure while lacking the release to get the ball out quickly and on time.
Based on 2019, Love doesn't belong in the top college QB conversation. He passed for 3,402 yards with 20 touchdowns, but 17 of his throws ended up in the hands of his opponents. Love also rushed for 175 yards on 81 carries while failing to score on the ground.
His stock was trending up after his sophomore season (3,567 passing yards and 39 combined touchdowns). However, Love saw his yards per pass attempt fall from 8.6 to 7.2 in 2019.
Fantasy Outlook: For now, Love doesn't offer any fantasy value unless Aaron Rodgers has an injury. He'll see starting snaps in the early OTAs, which is a win for his development. With Rodgers looking more likely to leave Green Bay after 2021, Love has significant dynasty appeal, but can be ignored in redraft leagues.
Other Options: Blake Bortles, Kurt Benkert, Jacob Dolegala
RB Aaron Jones, GB - Stud (low risk)
The running back opportunity in Green Bay improved for the second season. Their backs gained 2,686 combined yards with 15 touchdowns and 96 catches. The most impressive stats came from the 4.9 yards per rush.
Jones was on a higher path last season despite missing two games and scoring fewer touchdowns (11 – 19 in 2019). His yards per carry (5.5) rebounded to an electric area, which matched his first two seasons in the NFL. A calf injury cost him two matchups, plus toe and chest issues led to some missed snaps.
His best play came at home (122/843/5 with 24 catches for 216 yards and two touchdowns) over eight games, highlighted by four games (45.60, 22.10, 23.80, and 24.80 fantasy points). Jones finished as the fifth-highest scoring running back (258.90 fantasy points) in PPR leagues while averaging 17.7 touches per game. He averaged only 15.0 fantasy points on the road.
Over his final seven starts, Green Bay gave him over 20 touches in only one contest. Jones signed a four-year contract in March for $48 million.
Fantasy Outlook: The Packers moved on from Jamal Williams in the offseason, pointing to Jones pushing higher in his opportunity in the passing game. Green Bay will shift the RB2 carries to AJ Dillon, who flashed in one game (21/129/2) after getting drafted in the second round in 2020. Jones has an ADP of 15 in the early draft season as the 12th running back off the board. His natural progression should be 1,600 combined yards with a minimum of a dozen scores and 60 catches.
RB AJ Dillon, GB - Fantasy Handcuff
Dillon has a fullback's body (6'0" and 245 lbs.) and the speed (4.53 40-yard dash) of running back. His game is all about power. When asked to run up the middle, he drifts and weaves rather than drives and accelerates after the snap if faced with tight quarters. Dillion needs almost two full strides to hit top speed in the open field. If given daylight, his game plays well while gaining more yards after breaking arm tackles.
He shined in his freshman season (300/1589/14) while losing some value in 2018 (1,149 combined yards with 10 touchdowns and eight catches on 235 touches. Dillon matched his early success (318/1685/14) in the run game while adding a few catches (13/195/1) in 2019.
Dillon has a strong lower half of his body with minimal upside in the passing game.
He gained 263 combined yards in his rookie season with two touchdowns and two catches on 48 touches. His only game of value (21/129/2 with one catch) came in a relief role after an injury to Aaron Jones.Fantasy Outlook: Jamaal Williams delivered RB4 stats as the back runner for the Packers over the past four seasons. Dillion won't see as much action in the passing game, but he could snipe Aaron Jones at the goal line at times. At the very least, Dillion is a high-end handcuff while being drafted as a backend RB3 (ADP – 99).
RB Kylin Hill, GB - Dynasty Only
After a breakout season in 2019 (1,530 combined yards with 11 touchdowns and 18 catches) at Mississippi State, Hill opted out last year after three games. His season started off slow on early downs (15/58), but he was more active in the passing game (23/237/1).
Other Options: Dexter Williams, Patrick Taylor
WR Davante Adams, LVR - Stud (low risk)
Over the previous two seasons, the Packers' wideouts caught about 53 percent of the team's completions. They gained more yards per catch (13.3) in 2020 while being more productive in scoring (27 touchdowns). Despite a three-low in targets (297), Green Bay showed growth in their completion rate (69.7) to their wide receivers.
The ceiling of Aaron Rodgers came from an excellent season by Adams. He set career-highs in catches (115) and touchdowns (18) despite missing two-plus games with a hamstring issue.
His season started with an electric showing (14/156/2), but Adams only had 23 catches for 253 yards and two scores heading into Week 7. Over the next 13 games, including the playoffs, he had 110 catches for 1,254 yards and 18 touchdowns. Adams scored in every game over this stretch except Week 15.
He had six impact games (14/156/2, 13/196/2, 7/53/3, 10/173/1, 10/121/2, and 11/142/3), pushing him to first in wide receiver scoring (359.40 fantasy points) in PPR leagues. Adams had a floor of six catches in 15 of his 16 contests played. His catch rate (77.2) came well above his career average (62.1).
Fantasy Outlook: In late June, Adams has an ADP of 14 as the second wide receiver selected. His consistency factor added with his scoring ability sets him apart from most receivers in the game. If Aaron Rodgers didn't play this year, Adams would fall dramatically in the rankings. He looks to be on a path for 125-plus catches for 1,500 yards with a minimum of a dozen scores.