Green Bay Packers
|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, August 30, 2023|
2023 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 Titans' offenses. Green Bay went 47-19 since signing LaFleur while winning the NFC North over his first three years (2-3 in the postseason). Lafleur has seven 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.
Adam Stenavich returns for his second as their offensive coordinator after working in the Packers' system over the previous three seasons (offensive line and run game coordinator). His other two years of experience came with the 49ers.
The Packers fell to 14th in points scored (370), 80 fewer than in 2021 (450) and 139 less than in 2020 (509). They finished 17th in offensive yards. The loss of WR Davante Adams was a big part of their offensive fade in 2022.
Joe Barry gets a third season to run Green Bay's defense. From 2017 to 2020, he worked in the Rams' system (assistant head coach and linebackers coach). In addition, Barry ran the Lions and Redskins' defense over four seasons while having 21 years of coaching experience in the NFL.
Their defense slipped to 17th in points allowed (371) and yards allowed. Over the previous two years, Green Bay allowed 371 (13th) and 369 (13th) points.
Their top move in the offseason was the trade of QB Aaron Rodgers to the New York Jets. He finished his career in Green Bay with a 147-75-1 record and a Super Bowl title in 2010. Rodgers went 11-10 in the playoffs.
The Packers moved on from WR Allen Lazard (NYJ), WR Randall Cobb (NYJ), TE Robert Tonyan (CHI), and TE Marcedes Lewis (FA). On the defensive side of the ball, S Adrian Amos (NYJ), DT Jarred Reed (SEA), and DT Dean Lowry (MIN) found new homes in other cities. Green Bay didn't sign one top player this spring.
Green Bay added LB Lukas Van Ness with the 13th overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft. He brings power to help vs. the run with room to grow rushing the quarterback. His motor runs hot with the strength to win even when engaged at the point attack. Van Ness has technique issues with his hand. His ceiling will be much higher when corrected, turning speed into power in his pass rush.
Just when Aaron Rodgers leaves town, the Packers add a pair of receiving options (TE Luke Musgrave and WR Jayden Reed) in the season round. Since drafting WR Davante Adams in the second round in 2014, Green Bay selected only one other receiver (2022 WR Christian Watson) in the first two rounds.
Musgrave has a short college resume over four seasons due to a short Covid-19 season and 11 missed games in 2022 due to a knee injury. His foundation in pass routes is exceptionally high, creating wins at all three levels of the defense. Musgrave should handle himself well on blocking, even with more strength needed.
Reed projects better when given a straight-line window to create an edge. He gets off the snap quickly when a winning feel to his route running. His game takes a hit vs. tight coverage off the line of scrimmage when needing to generate space with change of direction moves. Reed doesn't have the top-end speed to beat the best cornerback over the long field.
In the third round, the Packers invested in a second tight end (Tucker Kraft). Green Bay hints at their 2023 offensive plan by adding him to the roster. They want to run the ball and control the short areas of the field with a quick passing game by featuring two tight ends when possible. Kraft has experience catching the ball at South Dakota State but also missed time last season due to an ankle injury. His game brings three-down ability while offering sneaky speed. Kraft is a well-rounded blocker and pass-catcher who will get better with experience in the NFL.
Green Bay selected four more players (LB Colby Wooden – 4th, DT Karl Brooks – 6th, CB Carrington Valentine – 7th, and S Anthony Johnson – 7th) to hopefully upgrade their defense.
Wooden is the second player with a linebacker positional tag coming out of the NFL Combine, who has a frame (6'4" and 275 Lbs.) more in line with a defensive end. He plays with heart and desire paired with an ever-running motor. His wins come from quickness over power, suggesting more bulk and strength are needed to control edge vs. the run. Wooden will have a limited range based on his overall speed.
Brooks may not check all the NFL boxes to be a winning player on the interior of a defensive line, but his success on the field paints a higher ceiling. He had a disrupter style, thanks to his ability to create wins with quickness and hard work. Brooks must prove he can break free against better offensive linemen and hold his ground vs. power.
Valentine is a developmental player with plenty of work to do to earn snaps in the NFL. He has the physical talent to compete while lacking the vision and understanding of play development to control receivers in their routes. His reads tend to be late or aggressive, leaving him behind a play or trailing by a missed step.
Johnson comes to the NFL with coverage experience at the cornerback position. He looks the part of an aggressive playmaking run defender, but the newness of the safety position does lead to mistakes in his attack and reads.
Green Bay took a flier on QB Sean Clifford to back up Jordan Love in the fifth round. He has four seasons of starting experience at Penn State, with the speed to extend drives with his feet. Clifford has a game-manager feel while needing to improve his timing and throws on the move.
The Packers drafted K Anders Carlson in the sixth round. He'll replace Mason Crosby on the depth chart, who was released this spring.
Their other three draft picks went to the offensive side of the ball – WR Dontayvion Wicks (5th), RB Lew Nichols (7th), and WR Grant DuBose (7th).
Despite weakness in his 40-yard dash (4.62) at the 2023 NFL combine, Wicks profiles a big play wideout. His route running needs work, but he does have the tools to win out of breaks and stymie coverage at the third level of the defense. Any future in the NFL comes from improvement in his hands, especially under fire. Wicks also gains an edge with his open-field running.
Nichols gives Green Bay early-down power insurance at running back. He runs with vision, creating chances for wins in cut-back lanes. His challenge comes from his questionable speed and acceleration to hit those holes on time. Nichols won't be a factor on passing downs, but he will make yards after contact.
DuBose comes to the NFL with size (6'2" and 200 lbs.) and below-par speed (4.57 40-yard dash). His route running is developing while trailing due to only two years of college experience. He has the tools to win 50/50 catches and score on fades at the goal line. DuBose brings excellent hands while showing the ability to work the short areas of the field to move the chains. He must prove his worth vs. press coverage.
Green Bay averaged 4.6 yards per rush, leading to a bump to 15th in rushing yards (2,113) with 12 rushing touchdowns. The Packers averaged 26.8 rushes per game with 10 carries of 20 yards or more.
The Packers fell to 19th in passing yards (3,890) with 27 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. They gained 6.9 yards per pass attempt with 55 plays over 20 yards. Their offensive line allowed only 32 sacks.
LT David Bakhtiari missed six games last year and 16 in 2021. When on the field, he didn't allow a sack and minimal pressure in 2022, falling in line with his recent seasons in Green Bay. His run blocking continues to be an edge.
LG Elgton Jenkins also missed time over the previous two seasons (11 games). He has been a four-year starter for the Packers with strength in his pass protection and value in the run game. In 2021, Jenkins split time between left guard and right tackle.
C Josh Myers earned a starting job last season after getting drafted in the second round. He finished with an edge in pass blocking while ranking as a liability in the run game.
RG Jon Runyan finished with a similar profile as Josh Myers (limited damage in sacks and pressure with weakness in run blocking). He has two years of starting experience after getting drafted in the sixth round in 2020.
Royce Newman, Yosh Nijman, and Zach Tom will compete for the right tackle position. Newman and Nijman have starting experience, while Tom worked as the replacement for David Bakhtiari last season at left tackle.
The change in starting quarterback in Green Bay will invite many more sacks this year unless Jordan Love can execute on the move and get the ball as quickly as Aaron Rodgers. On paper, this offensive line projects to be above average, especially in pass blocking.
QB Jordan Love - Sleeper (undervalued)
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. Love sometimes has a looker feel when waiting for a player to break open. I expect him to succeed if given time to throw and surrounded by talented receivers. His decision-making and reads need improvement while having some concerns with his accuracy.
I don't like how 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 didn'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 in 2018 (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.
In his first chance to see game action with Green Bay in 2021, Love brought a dull feel, leading to 411 yards with two touchdowns and three interceptions on his 62 pass attempts. He gained 6.6 yards per pass attempt. Last season, Love saw limited snaps over four games (14-for-21 with 195 yards and one touchdown).
Fantasy Outlook: Compared to 2022, the Packers have better receiving weapons at their disposal, and Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs also have a year's worth of experience under their belt. Love is the 21st quarterback drafted in the high-stakes market in the latter third of June. I see 4,000 combined yards with questions about his ability to deliver passing scores in the red zone. His summer reports and the development of his receivers will determine his 2023 fantasy value.
QB Sean Clifford - Not Draft Worthy
Clifford went 32-16 over five seasons as the starting quarterback for Penn State. His best success in record came in 2019 (10-2) and 2022 (11-2). He improved his completion rate each year, highlighted by his senior year (64.4%). The Nittany Lions used him in RPO plays, leading to 388 rushes for 1,073 yards and 15 touchdowns despite gaining only 2.8 yards per carry.
Fantasy Outlook: Clifford will compete for the Packers' backup quarterback job with a minimal opportunity unless Jordan Love has an injury.
Other Options: Danny Etling
RB Lew Nichols - Not Draft Worthy
Nichols had a workhorse opportunity in 2021 with Central Michigan. He gained 2,164 combined yards with 18 touchdowns and 40 catches on 379 touches. Last season, Nichols missed time with a toe issue, leading to a step-back in play (176/616/6 with 21 catches for 128 yards).
Fantasy Outlook: He'll open the season third on the Packers' depth chart while offering early down insurance. Nichols will be found in the free-agent pool in all formats.
Other Options: Patrick Taylor, Tyler Goodson, Emanuel Wilson
UPDATE: Nichols did not make the Green Bay roster and will hope to latch on a practice squad.
RB Aaron Jones - Solid/Safe Pick
In 2021, the Packers had Jones on the field for 620 plays (57.6%) over his 15 games, compared to 410 snaps by A.J. Dillon. He finished with a career-high in catches (52) with 391 receiving yards and six touchdowns. On the downside, Jones averaged only 11.4 rushing attempts, leading to a step back in rushing yards (799) and rushing touchdowns (4). After a short game in Week 1 (22 combined yards with two catches), he played well over the following five weeks (529 combined yards with six touchdowns and 19 catches on 97 touches). However, his play and opportunity (119 touches) regressed over his final nine games (639 combined yards with four touchdowns and 31 catches) while missing two matchups with a knee issue.
Last year, Jones gained more than 1,400 combined yards for the third time while setting a career-high in catches (59). He was a much better player at home (932 combined yards with four touchdowns and 28 catches) than on the road (584 combined yards with three touchdowns and 31 catches). Jones gained more than 100 yards in six matchups. Green Bay had him on the field for the same percentage of plays (57.6) while playing two games.
Fantasy Outlook: Over the past three seasons, Jones ranked 7th (251.60), 11th (230.00), and 5th (258.90) in fantasy scoring in PPR formats. His value in the passing game helps his floor while also offering the explosiveness to deliver impact games when Jones hits a long scoring play. His downside risk comes from regression in rushing touchdowns (6 – 33 from 2018 to 2020) over the past two years. Despite his winning resume, Jones is the 16th running back off the board in June. I'll set his bar as 1,200 combined yards with seven scores and 45 catches.
Injury Status: Out - Hamstring
RB AJ Dillon - Bye Week Fill-in
Despite an RB2 role for the Packers in 2021, Dillion gained 1,116 combined yards with seven touchdowns and 34 catches on 221 touches (13 per game). Green Bay gave him the best opportunity (65 touches) from Week 10 to Week 12 (315 combined yards with three touchdowns and 13 catches) while gaining only 3.6 yards per carry. Dillon scored seven of his eight touchdowns over his final nine matchups (including the postseason). He finished with better-than-expected results in the passing game (34/313/2).
Last year, Dillion had a similar opportunity (12.6 touches per game) as his rookie season, but he gained 140 fewer yards and six less catches. From Week 2 to Week 11, Dillon failed to reach paydirt, leading to below 10.00 fantasy points in PPR leagues in each matchup. His stock rose over a three-game stretch (17.80, 20.90, and 22.10 fantasy points). He scored six of his seven touchdowns over five games late in the year.
Fantasy Outlook: Dillon ranked 27th in running back scoring (167.60) in PPR leagues. His regression in yards per rush (5.3, 4.3, and 4.1) and yards per catch (10.5, 9.2, and 7.4) suggest questionable value this year due to their change at quarterback. Dillon draws back-end RB3 status in the early draft season. He is more of an injury or bye week cover than cheat RB2 due to his reliance on scoring to be in play.
RB Emanuel Wilson - Dynasty Only
Wilson won Green Bay's RB3 job in training camp but will have very limited usage playing behind Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. He's an option to consider in deeper dynasty leagues.
WR Grant Dubose - Not Draft Worthy
The Charlotte 49ers gave Dubose 218 targets in 2021 and 2022, leading to a pair of steady seasons (62/892/6 and 63/787/9). His catch rate (57.3) showed weakness, but he didn't play with a top-tier quarterback. Dubose gained more than 100 receiving yards in four matchups (4/118/2, 9/114/2, 4/108, and 9/112/1) in his career while posting two other two-touchdown games (4/89/2 and 9/85/2).
Fantasy Outlook: His profile gives him a chance to help Green Bay in his rookie season. He'll have scoring value on fades at the goal line while also showing the talent to work the middle zones at the second level of the defense. DuBose has depth to his game, pointing to more chances than most would expect in his rookie season.
UPDATE: Dubose was released in August and has no fantasy value at this time.
WR Christian Watson - Solid/Safe Pick
Over four seasons and 52 games at North Dakota State, Watson caught 105 passes for 2,140 yards and 14 touchdowns while gaining 20.4 yards per catch. His best success came in 2021 (43/801/7), highlighted by two matchups (5/163/1 and 4/106/1).
Watson earned his trip into the NFL by offering an excellent combination of size (6'5" and 210 lbs.) and speed (4.36 – 40-yard dash). He is a hard worker, but much of his resume comes from big plays vs. weaker competition. His route running must improve to reach an elite status in the NFL. Watson has an explosive gear with the ball in his hands.
Last year, he came into the season with a knee issue, followed by a hamstring, concussion, and hip injuries. Watson missed three games over the first seven weeks while producing empty stats over his first six matchups (10/88 on 14 targets with three rushes for 19 yards and one score). His stock rose over four games from Week 10 to Week 14 (4/107/3, 4/48/2, 4/110/1, and 3/48/1). Over the final eight games, Watson caught 31 of his 52 targets for 523 yards and seven touchdowns while gaining 16.9 yards per catch.
Fantasy Outlook: Watson had chemistry with Aaron Rodgers, especially in the end zone, something he has to prove with Jordan Love. This year, he ranks 28th at wide receiver while finishing 42nd in fantasy scoring (164.40) in PPR formats last season. I like his growth in his rookie season, and Watson showed he could win at the next level. I view him as a big play wideout on a path to catch 65 passes for 900 yards with about five touchdowns. If his summer reports are positive, I'll bump up his projections.
WR Romeo Doubs - Bye Week Fill-in
Over four seasons at Nevada, Doubs caught 225 passes for 3,322 yards and 26 touchdowns over 357 targets. His highlight season (80/1,109/11) came in 2021. He brings strong hands, but Doubs has questions about his release and route running. His early success should come in stretching the field.
Doubs gained steam in the fantasy market late in the summer. Over his first four games, he caught 19 catches for 184 yards and two touchdowns on 24 targets. His value faded over his final nine matchups (23/241/1) due to a weaker catch rate (53.5) and four missed games with an ankle injury. The Packers used him close to the line of scrimmage based on his yards per catch (10.1).
Fantasy Outlook: Doubs should be better in his second season, and Green Bay thought enough of him to give him WR2 snaps in 2022. He draws the 55th wide receiver raking in the later part of June. Possible 60 catches for 650 yards with four to six touchdowns.
WR Jayden Reed - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Over four seasons with Michigan State, Reed caught 203 of his 333 targets with 2,919 yards and 27 touchdowns. His best year came in 2021 (59/1,026/10), but he had regression in his output in 2022 (55/636/5).
Fantasy Outlook: Green Bay will try to get Reed the ball in space to take advantage of his ability to make defenders miss. He'll do the dirty work close to the line of scrimmage, but the Packers will need to run set plays for him. Reed projects as the Packers' WR3 with only a flier price tag in drafts this summer.
WR Dontayvion Wicks - Dynasty Only
In 2021, Wicks breakthrough at Virginia with 57 catches for 1,203 yards and nine touchdowns on 95 targets. He gained an impressive 21.1 yards per catch. Last year, Wicks lost momentum, highlighted by the weakness in catch rate (41.1) and lower production (30/430/2 on 73 targets) over eight games. He missed two games with a hip flexor issue that flared up again at the NFL combine. Earlier in his college career, Wicks missed the 2020 with a foot injury.
Fantasy Outlook: Green Bay will try to get Wicks on the field in four wide receiver sets to test a defense in the deep passing game. His win rate in jump balls will be less in the NFL, and he needs to prove he is more than a one-trick pony. Wicks is more of a player to follow than draft in 2023.
Other Options: Samori Toure, Bo Melton, Jeff Cotton, Duece Watts
TE Luke Musgrave - Bye Week Fill-in
Over four seasons at Oregon State, Musgrave only suited up for 20 games, leading to 47 catches for 633 yards and two touchdowns. His best output came in 2021 (22/304/1) while teasing over his only two starts (6/89/1 and 5/80) last year.
Fantasy Outlook: His second-round pedigree shows how much respect the Packers' coaching staff has for his talent. Musgrave gives Jordan Love a true tight end who can work all three levels of the defense. My early profile is Dalton Schultz, with more speed and size. In the early draft season, Musgrave ranks 30th at tight end. Green Bay will give him plenty of chances this year, but he'll have a learning curve while needing to prove he can stay on the field for 17 games. I'm intrigued, so the summer camp reports will be essential to determine his potential value in 2023.
TE Tucker Kraft - Deep-league Only
Over the past two seasons at South Dakota State, Kraft caught 92 passes for 1,228 yards and nine touchdowns, highlighted by his 2021 stats (65/780/6) and two elite games (10/124/1 and 9/123).
Fantasy Outlook: His ability to block will get him on the field for many plays in his rookie season. Kraft has to prove he can create wins vs. tighter coverage. I expect to earn TE2 snaps in his rookie season for Green Bay with more upside if Luke Musgrave has an injury. At the very least, Kraft improves the receiving depth for the Packers.
TE Josiah Deguara - Not Draft Worthy
Over his final two seasons at Cincinnati in college, Deguara caught 77 combined passes for 972 yards and 12 touchdowns with similar success in both years (38/468/5 and 39/504/7). He gained over 50 yards in just three games (4/53/1, 5/64, and 2/76/1). The best game of his college career came in 2018 against Connecticut (5/112/1).
Deguara shines as a run-blocking with a chance to surprise in the passing game. His route running isn't ideal, requiring additional head fakes to create space. His passing success will come more on dump-off passes after a play breaks down.
His rookie season in the NFL ended in mid-October 2020 due to a torn ACL in his left knee. In 2021, Deguara caught 25 of his 33 targets for 245 yards and two touchdowns, with one game of value (3/66/1). His role diminished last year (13/114 on 15 targets).
Fantasy Outlook: The Packers adding two tight ends in this year's draft isn't a good sign for Deguara's role going forward. He has the most experience at tight end on the roster, giving him the inside track to start in Week 1. Unfortunately, Deguara offers a low ceiling and no playable fantasy value in 2023.
Other Options: Tyler Davis, Austin Allen, Camren McDonald
PK Anders Carlson - Bye Week Fill-in
Carlson kicked over five seasons for the Auburn Tigers, but he only made 71.8% of his 110 field goals. His best year came in 2020 (20-for-22 – 90.9%), but he missed 12 of his last 38 field goal tries over the past two seasons. Carlson failed to put three of his 176 field goal chances through the uprights in his career.
Fantasy Outlook: Anders will serve as Green Bay's kicker and has decent upside.
Green Bay - Quality Backup
Green Bay fell to 26th in rushing yards allowed (2,372) with 18 touchdowns. Ball carriers gained 5.0 yards per rush, with 28.2 rushing attempts per game.
The Packers bumped to 6th in passing yards allowed (3,349) while allowing 22 touchdowns and 17 interceptions. Quarterbacks gained 7.4 yards per pass attempt. Their defense delivered 34 sacks. Their pass defense was helped by opponents attempting a league-low 478 passes.
DE Kenny Clark has been a liability defending the run over the past two seasons. He continues to miss too many tackles while failing to deliver impact sacks. Green Bay hopes incoming rookie DT Karl Brooks can handle the interior of their defensive line due to the failure of their returning options from 2021. DT Devonte Wyatt was only on the field for limited snaps last season after getting drafted 28th overall in 2022. Based on the additions of Lukas Van Ness and Colby Wyatt, the Packers look positioned to play more 4-3 defensive set this year.
LB Preston Smith had a career-high in tackles (59) last year while chipping in with 31.5 sacks over his 65 games played with Green Bay. His run defense was about league average in 2022. LB De'Vondre Campbell missed four games last year. He has 470 tackles and six sacks over the past four seasons. Campbell tends to be a sure tackler with minimal help in the pass rush. In his rookie season, LB Quay Walker picked up 121 tackles with 1.5 sacks and three forced fumbles. Despite his success, his run defense ranked well below the league average. LB Rashan Gary has 20.5 sacks over the past three seasons. In 2021, he was a beast rushing the quarterback despite only picking up 9.5 sacks. Gary missed eight games last year with a torn ACL.
CB Jaire Alexander continues to be one of the better cover players in the league, but he will give up some big plays. His value in the run game was a career-best last season. CB Rasul Douglas set a career-high in tackles (85) while adding nine interceptions and 26 defended passes over the past two years. He wants to keep receivers in front of him while allowing short yards per catch. S Jonathan Owens comes off a career season in tackles (125) with the Texans. Despite his growth, he tends to be a liability in all areas. S Darnell Savage is a former first-round draft pick (2019), but he has yet to play up to his potential. His run support is suspect, and quarterbacks will beat him for big plays and touchdowns.
The 2023 additions in this year's draft class should help Green Bay regain its lost value against the run while adding more sacks. Their defense ranks 19th in the high-stakes fantasy market. I expect them to outperform their ranking while offering matchup value in 2023.