Green Bay Packers
|By Shawn Childs, Wednesday, September 30, 2015|
The Packers have been one of the best teams in the NFL over the past 22 years thanks to great quarterback play by Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers. They have made the playoffs 17 times, won 64 percent of their games and taken home two Super Bowl trophies during this period. Green Bay led the NFL in scoring last season with 486 points and gained the sixth-most yards per game. (386.1). Mike McCarthy returns for his 10th season as the head coach. Mike has a 94-49-1 record with one Super Bowl title and six straight playoff berths. Edgar Bennett takes over as the offensive coordinator. Bennett has been on the Packers' coaching staff since 2005. Dom Capers has been in charge of Green Bay's defense for the last six years. Capers has been an NFL coach since 1986 and has 12 years of experience as a defensive coordinator. Last year, the Packers' defense finished 13th in points allowed (348) and 15th in yards allowed (346.4 per game). This franchise's 710 regular-season wins are the second-most in NFL history.
The Packers lost cornerbacks Tramon Williams and Davon House, and linebackers A.J. Hawk and Jamari Lattimore during free agency. Williams was a longtime starter in Green Bay's secondary with value in pass coverage. His game hasn't been elite since 2010, when he allowed only a 45.5 percent completion rate and had nine interceptions. Last year, Tramon allowed 10 TDs as opposing receivers caught 70 of their 110 targets for 857 yards. Hawk was a solid asset for most of his career, but over the past two seasons, he had become a liability against the run and recorded just 5.5 sacks. Lattimore is only a low-value backup with no edge in any area of the game. House held receivers to a 46.8 percent catch rate as a backup in 2014.
The only other move of value was wide receiver Jarrett Boykin signing with the Carolina Panthers. Boykin stepped up in 2013 when Green Bay lost some receivers to injury. He caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns. He was passed on the depth chart by rookie Davante Adams last season.
The Packers focused on their defense with three of their first four picks in the draft. In the first round, Green Bay added safety Damarious Randall. At the combine, Randall flashed elite speed for his position and plus quickness. His only negative was his lack of upper-body strength (14 reps in the bench press). Damarious is a solid tackler with value in run support, but he may be a better player at cornerback. Either way, Randall will add playmaking ability to this defense.
In the second round, the third level of the defense was still the focus of the Packers' decision-making. They took cornerback Quinten Rollins. There are questions about his overall speed (4.57 40), strength and his limited football experience due to his desire to play basketball. In a way, Rollins and Randall may flip roles in the NFL. Quinten is a willing tackler in the run game with his change-of-direction speed being his biggest asset. His technique in pass coverage needs works and early in his career, Rollins' talent won't be able to overcome his lack of experience.
In the fourth round, Green Bay tried to replace Hawk with the selection of Jake Ryan. He will have the most value when attacking the line of scrimmage. He's strong at stopping the run and may be serviceable in coverage when asked to cover a zone. He works hard on and off the field, but Jake needs to learn how to react quicker.
The Packers continued to look forward at the WR position when they drafted Ty Montgomery in the third round. Ty has playmaking ability on offense and as a returner. Montgomery has a solid build (6 feet, 221 pounds) with enough speed and quickness to add depth to Green Bay's offense this year. His hands aren't great and he needs to improve his route-running skills. I almost get the feeling that his skill set may work better on the defensive side the ball. Ty was a value pick, but he needs time to develop.
Fifth-rounder Brett Hundley had an exceptional combine, earning stars in five different events. Hundley is a plus athlete at the QB position. However, he is still very raw as a quarterback. Brett has to improve his pre- and post-snap decision-making skills and have better presence in the pocket. Hundley will be a project over the next couple of years and learn from one of the best QBs in the game.
In the sixth round, Green Bay added fullback Aaron Ripkowski, defensive end Christian Ringo and tight end Kennard Backman Ripkowski was brought in to become the team's fullback of the future as John Kuhn is getting close to the end of his career. Aaron will add value as a blocker, but he has limited experience as a pass catcher. Ringo comes from a small school with a solid resume, but he looks like he's a tweener. He does have good quickness and will need time to develop. Backman's skill set is extremely limited and he is a weak blocker. He has soft hands, but Backman needs a lot of work of his route-running technique.
Green Bay Packers WR Ty Montgomery
Green Bay had the 11th-ranked rushing game last season, churning out 1,917 yards and 14 TDs. Ball carriers gained 4.4 yards per carry. Rodgers' quick release and escapability helps minimize the damage in the pass rush. Last year, the Packers allowed 30 sacks. They finished eighth in passing yards (4,261) while gaining the second most yards per pass attempt (8.3). Aaron threw 38 touchdowns and only five INTs.
Left tackle David Bakhtiari has been unimpressive while protecting Rodgers' blind side since being selected in the fourth round in 2013. David has been a huge liability in run blocking while allowing 17 sacks, 11 QB hits and 48 QB hurries over the past two years.
Left guard Josh Sitton has been a stud in pass blocking over the past two years and has solid value as a run blocker. Sitton has consistently ranked as top-five player at his position over the past five seasons.
Center Corey Linsley held his own as a fifth-round rookie starter. He added value in run blocking while allowing two sacks, two QB hits and 13 QB hurries. His game is built on power and strength.
Right guard T.J. Lang has been a solid player on this line for the past two seasons. Last year, Lang graded out positively in run and pass blocking (three sacks, two QB hits and 15 QB hurries).
Right tackle Bryan Bulaga is the only first-round draft pick on this line. After struggling with some injuries in 2012 and 2013, Bryan was able to play a full season in 2014. He was a neutral run blocker with solid value as a pass blocker (four sacks, two QB hits, and 23 QB hurries).
This line has two upside players and two others delivering plus value as a result of Rodgers' elite play. The weak link, Bakhtiari, is young enough to offer more upside. Green Bay will have success running the ball up the middle when defenses try to attack Rodgers from the outside. This line has B-level talent with A-level results thanks to their franchise quarterback.
The above chart shows the Packers' 2015 offensive strength of schedule in terms of rushing attempts (RATT), rushing yards (YDS), yards per attempt rushing (YA), rushing touchdowns (TDs), completions (COMP), passing attempts (PATT), passing yards (YDS), yards per attempt passing (YA) and passing touchdowns (TDS).
This information is based on 2014 stats, which we will work with as our starting point for 2015. We'll look at all the changes on offense for each team in the NFL plus the upgrades and downgrades each team has made on the defensive side. We'll update this table when we finish researching all 32 teams.
2014 Average: The league average of each stat from all 32 teams in 2014.
2014 Results: The results for each specific team in the NFL.
2015 Adjustment: The difference between a team's result and the league average in a certain statistic. This number will show if a team is above or below the league average in each stat and will serve as the basis for the strength of schedule.
The Packers have one of the toughest run schedules in the league if you respect the Detroit Lions' run defense. I expect Detroit to certainly be better than the league average versus the run, but they won't be quite as tough with Ndamukong Suh out of the way. The Packers also have seven tough matchups in the passing game with only two favorable games, both of which will come against the Chicago Bears.
Running backs accounted for 18.6 percent of Rodgers' completions. Tight ends caught 14.6 percent of the action. Wide receivers snagged 233 passes for 3,295 yards and 28 TDs.
QB Aaron Rodgers - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (11/18): Rodgers has been Rodgers this season. Despite a miserable game against the Denver Broncos in which he threw for 77 yards and no touchdowns, he's still the Fantasy QB6. In nine games he's thrown for 2,270 yards, 21 touchdowns and just three interceptions. Even as the Packers struggle in real life, he does not struggle in Fantasy.
Aaron has a 70-33 career record with one Super Bowl title. Over those 103 starts, Rodgers has 225 passing TDs (2.2 per game). Although he's thrown more than 550 passes only once, his value is created by his high yards-per-attempt average (8.3 in 2014, 8.2 for his career) and penchant for throwing touchdowns (three seasons with 38 or more). Aaron battled a quad injury last year, which led to fewer rushing attempts (43 carries for 269 and two scores). Rodgers did most of his damage at home in 2014. Five of his eight 300-yard outings and 21 of his 38 passing TDs came at Lambeau Field. Aaron left some stats on the table as Green Bay just crushed most opponents when at home, averaging close to 40 points per game. His 65.6 completion rate was in line with his career resume, and Aaron has been one of the most accurate quarterbacks over the past six seasons. Rodgers has five 4,000-yard campaigns. There's no doubt Fantasy owners are well aware of his elite upside, but the challenge is determining if his success can be matched by another QB who will be available later in your draft. An owner then needs to weigh the upside of the RBs, WRs and TEs who get drafted around Rodgers. A Cowboys-Raiders-Cardinals finish in Weeks 14-16 offers big-time potential during the Fantasy playoffs. I expect him to put up 40-plus TDs and 4,500 passing yards in what should be a fun ride.
Green Bay Packers QB Aaron Rodgers
RB Eddie Lacy - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (11/18): Lacy may very well be the biggest disappointment of the Fantasy season. He physically looks slow and overweight. After being drafted as an elite RB1, he's not even the starter on the Packers anymore. He lost his starting job to James Starks. Lacy has only 308 yards on the ground and two TDs for the entire season. He hasn't contributed much in the passing game either with only 10 catches for 92 yards. Plus, he's fumbled three times this season. Yes, he has more fumbles than touchdowns. He's the bust of the year to this point.
Lacy has topped 1,100 rushing yards and 1,400 total yards in each of his first two seasons. His yards-per-carry average gained a half of a yard from his rookie year (4.1 to 4.6), and Eddie gained 2.9 yards more per catch. Lacy finished 2014 with 1,566 yards from scrimmage and 13 TDs despite losing 21 touches from 2013. Game score at home was a big factor. On the year, Eddie had three 100-yard rushing games in 16 starts but touched the ball at least 20 times on just four occasions. Still, Lacy is a workhorse back who has scored 24 touchdowns in 31 career outings and plays in one of the highest-scoring offenses in the league. This season, he is getting a ton of respect in the Fantasy market; Eddie is currently the fourth player and the third running back being selected in drafts on average. In his two years, Lacy has finished sixth and seventh in Fantasy scoring in PPR leagues. His offensive line has talent, and defenses can't key in on him with Rodgers throwing the ball. Although his workload is diminished in some weeks because of Rodgers' greatness, I have to believe Lacy will get 20 touches per game. This will lead to a 320-touch opportunity. I don't see him gaining more than 1,700 yards as the Packers will pull him in games in which they are blowing out their opponent. With 40 catches and a dozen TDs, Lacy will fall just short of a 300-point Fantasy season in PPR leagues. He will offer steady TD production and definitely post some big games.
Green Bay Packers RB Eddie Lacy
RB James Starks - Fantasy Handcuff
UPDATE (11/18): Starks has wrestled away the Packers starting running back job from an inept Eddie Lacy. Starks has been by far the superior back when given the opportunity. However, he's not exactly lighting it up this season either. He's rushed for 376 yards and a TD. Nevertheless, he has been a major contributor in the passing attack, unlike Lacy. Starks has grabbed 25 receptions for 221 yards and two touchdowns. As of now, he's the projected RB1 in Green Bay for the remainder of the season.
James runs with power and has upside as a receiver when asked to fill in. Over the past two years, Starks has taken 202 touches for 1,055 yards and six TDs. His yards per carry average (3.9) and yards per catch average (7.8) were both more than a full yard less compared to 2013. James has no real upside without an injury to Lacy. Even if he did get a starting job, Starks has some injury risk. He's the natural handcuff to Lacy with only serviceable value if he becomes the starter.
WR Randall Cobb - Stud (low risk)
UPDATE (11/18): When Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL, Cobb was propelled into the ranks of the elite WR1s. Many had him as high as the WR5. He has been a massive disappointment since Week 3. His preseason shoulder injury has apparently caused him issues making separation. Since Week 3, he has only topped five receptions once, has one touchdown and has only surpassed 53 yards once. If not for one 53-yard touchdown reception, he's been pretty much useless since September.
Updated: 8/24 - As if his fantasy upside couldn't be much higher, Cobb is now elevated to a 1st round selection in your fantasy draft. Cobb should be a lock for 100 receptions this season and you can make a case for him to be drafted before names like Calvin Johnson and AJ Green.
There was a small window in March when Packers fans had to be concerned about Cobb possibly leaving town as a free agent. I'm glad he re-signed, and I expect him to have a long, successful career in Green Bay. Entering just his age-25 season, there is a very good chance Randall ends up as the best wide receiver in the Packers' illustrious history. Just like Nelson, Cobb set career highs in 2014 with 91 catches, 127 targets, 1,287 yards and 12 scores. His yards-per-catch average (14.1) also made a nice step forward. Over the first nine games of the year, Randall scored 10 times. He had five 100-yard performances and seven weeks in which he caught at least six passes. However, Cobb saw seven targets or fewer in 10 games. Randall will probably catch more passes than Nelson because he can work the short areas of the field close to the line of scrimmage. I consider him a 100-catch player with value at the goal line. His growth last year should lead to even more success this year. Pencil him in for 100 receptions, 1,400 yards and double-digit touchdowns. Nelson has the edge in big-play ability while Cobb is the better open-field runner. The teammates' Fantasy values are very close, but Cobb is being drafted seven picks later on average. If you can't get Nelson, Cobb is a great consolation prize.
Green Bay Packers WR Randall Cobb
WR Davante Adams - Solid/Safe Pick
Updated: 8/24 - DeVante Adams moves from Sleeper status into Safe pick territory with the injury to Jordy Nelson. He's currently being drafted in the 3rd round (believe it or not) in the high-stakes PPR leagues and 4th to 5th round in standard leagues of twelve. He immediately steps into the WR2 role and will be used on the outside since Randall Cobb will typically remain in the slot. Don't expect Jordy production, but the sky is the limit for Adams.
When you have an elite quarterback, you must surround him with stellar receiving weapons. The Packers have one of the best quarterbacks in the game and solid WRs, but they also understand that Jordy Nelson will start this season at age 30 and is coming off of hip surgery. Adams will be his natural replacement down the road, but he could also provide some value in his second pro season. In his two years at Fresno State, Adams caught 233 passes for 3,031 yards and 38 touchdowns. He had an elite college resume with high upside in all areas of the game. His hands and leaping ability will help him win jump balls in the NFL. His strength, however, needs to improve. Adams doesn't have a great first step, which may hurt him when he is trying to create separation in pass patterns. I expect him to still have value as a deep threat until he polishes up his route running. He will also benefit from favorable coverage thanks to the presence of Nelson and Cobb. The No. 3 receiver in this offense could have very high value, and Green Bay doesn't have a dependable pass-catching tight end. Last year, Adams caught 38 of his 66 targets for 446 yards and three TDs. His best game during the regular season came in Week 12; the New England Patriots tried to take away Nelson and Cobb, so Davante burned them for six receptions and 121 yards on 11 targets. He reached double-digit Fantasy points in just three of his 15 other games. In the playoffs versus the Cowboys, Davante hauled in seven passes on 11 targets for 117 yards and a score. I think he is a must handcuff for any Nelson or Cobb owner. I'd love to say that Adams can catch 60 balls for 700-plus yards and five or so touchdowns this season, but that would require Rodgers to throw more than 600 passes, which is something he has never done. Davante's immediate success will also be determined by Cobb's and Nelson's health. I will target Adams as a WR4 in drafts. His current ADP is 103, making him the 43rd WR selected.
WR James Jones - Bye Week Fill-in
UPDATE (9/30): Reunited and it feels so good! James Jones left Green Bay after seven seasons on the frozen tundra. After a decent, but far from great year with the Oakland Raiders, his reunion with Aaron Rodgers is off to a great start. Despite only collecting 12 receptions, Jones has found the end zone four times. This pace is unsustainable, but he looks like a great TD only league play and could be a flex option in standard formats.
WR Ty Montgomery - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
Updated: 8/24 Oh boy. The rookie now steps into Deep Sleeper status with the Jordy Nelson injury. According to our own Packers Publisher Bill Huber, Montgomery has been the star of camp so far, so this injury immediately elevates the rookie into a draftable position for your fantasy team. Bill mentioned his strength is in the slot position, but with Cobb already entrenched there, look for he and Jeff Janis to rotate on the outside. There's no replacing Jordy Nelson, but Rodgers has a plethora of weapons at his disposal.
TE Richard Rodgers - Super Sleeper (high risk/potential)
UPDATE (11/18): With so many injuries to tight ends this season, Rodgers has been a decent desperation plug-in. He's not an ideal starter, but with all the injuries, he may be necessary at times. So far this season, he's made 33 receptions for 256 yards and five touchdowns. He's come on strong as of late with 10 receptions and three touchdowns in the past two weeks. He should be considered a mid-range to low-end TE2 at this point.
Rodgers finished his rookie season with 491 snaps, which led to 20 catches on 30 targets for 225 yards and two TDs. Late in the year, Richard had two decent games -- two catches for 35 yards and a touchdown, and five catches for 40 yards. In three seasons at the University of California, he caught 59 passes for 898 yards and two TDs. Although his resume is short in all areas and he has minimal upside, I expect him to lead Green Bay in TE production this year. However, even with more playing time, his ceiling is probably 35 receptions with a small handful of touchdowns.
Green Bay Packers TE Richard Rodgers
TE Andrew Quarless - Not Draft Worthy
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PK Mason Crosby - Stud (low risk)
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Green Bay - Solid/Safe Pick
The Packers allowed the 10th-most rushing yards last year (1,919) and 11 rushing TDs. Opposing RBs averaged 4.3 YPC. They racked up the ninth-most sacks (41) and gave up the 10th-fewest passing yards (3,623). They allowed 26 passing TDs and grabbed 18 INTs.
DE Josh Boyd offered below-league-average value against the run in four starts last year 2014 and no value in the pass rush (no sacks, two QB hits and seven QB hurries). Boyd is expected to compete with DE Datone Jones for a starting job. Jones should have the inside track after being selected in the first round in 2013. Last year, he offered rotational value as a pass rusher while playing limited snaps (two sacks, three QB hits and 17 QB hurries).
Nose tackle B.J. Raji is recovering from a torn right biceps that cost him the entire 2014 season. B.J. is expected to be ready for training camp. Raji was a complete disaster against the run in 2013 with no value in the pass rush (no sacks, three QB hits and QB 10 QB hurries). This 2009 first-rounder has been pretty poor against the run for a while and outside of his 7.5-sack 2010 campaign, he hasn't done much when attacking the QB. DE Mike Daniels was the Packers' best D-lineman last season. He was an excellent run defender and also registered seven sacks, 11 QB hits and 11 QB hurries.
LB Julius Peppers had a nice bounce-back season in his first year with Green Bay at age 34. He was a league-average player against the run while providing an edge when rushing the QB (seven sacks, 12 QB hits and 33 QB hurries). LB Clay Matthews tends to be a liability in the run game, but he had 11 sacks last season. LB Nick Perry was selected in the first round in 2012 but has yet to earn a full-time starting gig. Last year, while on the field for fewer than 50 percent of the defensive snaps, he was a neutral player against the run and had three sacks. LB Carl Bradford didn't play during his rookie campaign. A converted defensive end, he's a solid tackler with more speed than quickness.
Cornerback Sam Shields has faded over the last two years after playing at a high level in 2012 (26 catches allowed on 57 targets for 413 yards with four TDs and five INTs). Last year, Sam held WRs to a 51.2 percent catch rate, 701 yards and five TDs and three INTs. CB Casey Hayward is expected to replace Tramon Williams in the starting lineup after playing very well in coverage during his first three years in the league. Hayward is also decent at defending the run. Safety Morgan Burnett is coming off his best season against the run, but he wasn't as successful in coverage (36 catches allowed on 46 targets for 453 yards and five touchdowns with two interceptions). First-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was a league-average player.
This defense has a weak front line with only one player of value. The linebacking corps has three talented players, but Peppers has risk due to his age, and Perry hasn't developed as expected. The secondary has some talent as well and more was added during the draft. The Packers' return game will chip in with a couple of TDs as well. The Packers should be ahead in many games, which will help this unit's production of sacks and interceptions. This defense have top-five upside as long as Peppers can continue putting heat on the QB.