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2021 Franchise Focus: Green Bay Packers

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2021 Franchise Focus: Green Bay Packers

Aaron Rodgers is back. That’s all that matters.

Maybe in 2022 we’ll be talking about Jordan Love again, and we’ll reassess what that means for fantasy. But in 2021, Rodgers will put aside his disenchantment for a year while throwing to Davante Adams and handing off to Aaron Jones, as the Packers pursue perhaps their last chance at a Super Bowl title with their future Hall of Fame QB.

And with Rodgers back in town, there’s plenty to like for fantasy here, including two first-round picks in Adams and Jones. Will there be any impact players drafted later?

Green Bay Packers Franchise Focus Companion Podcast

The Basics

Team FuturesOdds
Season Win Total (O/U)10 (-140/+115)
NFC North-160
Playoffs (Y/N)-280/+210
NFC Championship+600
Super Bowl+1200

Season Prop Movement

  • Win Total: 10.5 (-143) in late March to 10 (-140)

  • Super Bowl: +900 in early February to +1200

Premium 2021 Betting Preview from Tom Brolley found here.

Key Offseason Moves

AdditionsDraftDepartures
Dennis Kelly (OT)Royce Newman (OG)Tim Boyle (QB, Det)
Jacob Capra (OG, UDFA)Cole Van Lanen (OG)Rick Wagner (OT)
Jon Dietzen (OG, UDFA)Josh Meyers (OC)Lane Taylor (OG, Hou)
Randall Cobb (WR)Kylin Hill (RB)Corey Linsley (OC, LAC)
Chris Blair (WR, UDFA)Amari Rodgers (WR)Jamaal Williams (RB, Det)
Jack Heflin (DT, UDFA)Tedarrell Slaton (DT)Christian Kirksey (ILB, Hou)
Carlo Kemp (DE, UDFA)Isaiah McDuffie (ILB)Raven Greene (S, TB)
De’Vondre Campbell (OLB)Eric Stokes (CB)
Innis Gaines (S, UDFA)Shemar Jean-Charles (CB)
Christian Uphoff (S, UDFA)

Scott Barrett’s Fantasy Strength of Schedule

Quarterback: 2nd-toughest (-0.70)

Running Back: 5th-toughest (-1.17)

Wide Receivers: 6th-toughest (-0.93)

Tight Ends: 16th-softest (+0.01)

Pace and Tendencies

Pace (seconds in between plays): 30.4 (32nd)

Plays per game: 64.9 (12th)

When the game is within a score — Pass: 59.3% (12th) | Run: 40.7% (21st)

When the team is ahead — Pass: 50.1% (15th) | Run: 49.9% (18th)

When the team is behind — Pass: 68.2% (10th) | Run: 31.8% (23rd)

Even though league MVP Aaron Rodgers had one of his best seasons ever, the Packers were very balanced in all game situations. In fact, if we just look at their early-down play selection, HC Matt LaFleur actually leaned run-heavy. On 1st and 2nd down non-red-zone plays, the Packers called a run 48% of the time, which was the eighth-highest rate in the league. You can’t argue with the results, though. Green Bay ended the season as the top scoring offense and finished second in yards gained per drive behind only Kansas City. With Rodgers back, everything is set up for the Packers and LaFleur to run back the same exact system that brought them to within one play of the Super Bowl just a few months ago.

Key Statistics

  • The Packers finished second in the NFC in point differential (+140) behind only the Saints (+145).

  • They finished second in yards gained per play (6.3) behind the Texans (6.4).

  • They also ranked second in third-down conversions (49.4%) and led the league in red-zone conversions (80%).

  • Aaron Rodgers finished the season with a 121.5 passer rating, which is second-best all-time… behind his 2011 season where he had a 122.5 rating.

  • Rodgers threw a touchdown on 9.1% of his pass attempts, which is the fourth-highest rate ever behind Peyton Manning (2004), Ken Stabler (1976), and Deshaun Watson (2017).

  • Rodgers’ 29 TDs inside of the 10-yard line (red-zone) are the most by a QB in the last 25 seasons.

  • His 23.4 fantasy points per game ranks 14th-most all-time. This means that Rodgers now owns four of the top-30 seasons all-time in FPG (2011, 2014, 2016, 2020).

  • If we drop Week 2, when he left early with a hamstring injury, Davante Adams put up 26.5 fantasy points per game across his 16 healthy starts (includes playoffs).

  • Adams’ 26.5 FPG would have been the best season all-time by a WR ahead of Jerry Rice’s 1987 season (26.2 FPG), when he scored 22 TDs in 12 games.

  • Adams averaged 1.4 targets inside-10 targets per game, which is second-most by a wide receiver over the last 25 years. Carl Pickens’ 1995 season ranks first (1.5).

  • However, Adams did set the record for most receiving TDs inside of the 10-yard line with 13.

  • Dating back to the start of 2018, Adams has finished as a WR2 or better (top-24) in weekly scoring in an unreal 78% of his games.

  • Since he entered the league in 2017, Aaron Jones ranks third among running backs in yards per touch (5.7) behind only Christian McCaffrey (5.8) and Alvin Kamara (6.2).

  • Over the last two years, Jones has converted 44% of his carries inside of the 10-yard line into touchdowns. That leads all RBs and is second-best in the league behind Josh Allen (58%), who is a cheat code.

  • Over the last two seasons, Jones is the RB5 in fantasy points per game (19.1).

  • Robert Tonyan scored 11 TDs on just 59 targets. This means that 37% of his fantasy points came from touchdowns alone, which was the highest rate among the top-24 scoring TEs.

  • Dating back to 2000, Tonyan is the first tight end to finish top-5 at the position with fewer than 60 targets.

  • Tonyan is also the only tight end to finish top-5 and derive over 36% of his fantasy points from touchdowns in this span.

Huber’s Scheme Notes

Offensive

Following the tragic death in January of former GM Ted Thompson, Brian Gutekunst enters his first season as GM without the trusted opinions of his senior adviser. Unfortunately, his roster decisions this offseason nearly led the team to disaster. It all began when Gutekunst selected Jordan Love with the 26th pick in the 2020 draft without discussing the decision with Aaron Rodgers beforehand. If the selection of Love was the initial catalyst, decisions made this offseason by Gutekunst directly resulted in Rodgers contemplating sitting out the season and/or retiring altogether. The first occurred on February 19th with the release of starting right tackle Rick Wagner to free up $5 million in cap space. Likely the match dropped into the powder barrel, after star center Corey Linsley reported in January that Gutekunst didn’t even attempt to reach out in regards to an extension, Linsley signed a five-year, $62.5 million contract with the Chargers.

Two days after Linsley’s departure, Aaron Jones was signed to a four-year, $48 million contract extension, and Jamaal Williams was permitted to sign a two-year, $6 million contract with the Lions. In addition, backup QB Tim Boyle wasn’t offered an extension, later joining Williams in Detroit. It’s true that the NFL lowered the salary cap by 8% for the 2021 season, placing the Packers $32 million over the cap as of January. But Gutekunst not only managed to clear that $32 million, he freed up an additional $21.9 million. And he only spent a combined $5.2 million of that on free agents and draft pick contracts. The world of the cheese-heads was spared when Rodgers finally chose to return to Green Bay for one final season, albeit with the promise of being permitted to move on following the season.

We need to keep in mind that left tackle David Bakhtiari is only eight months removed from tearing an ACL. Should Bakhtiari — currently on the PUP list — be unable to return for the start of the season, his direct backup appears to be 2019 UDFA Yosh Nijman. Even with Rodgers back in the fold, it would be unwise to expect the O-line to recover from such devastating subtractions. Rodgers is no doubt a maestro of pocket manipulation, but it’s safe to assume that he’ll see a significant increase in the second-fewest pressures/game and 3.8% sack rate (sixth-lowest).

Things will go from bad to frightening if ‘21 second-rounder Josh Myers is unable to secure the starting job at center. In that scenario, stud ‘19 second-rounder would be forced to start at center, leaving either ‘20 sixth-rounder Jon Runyan or ‘21 sixth-rounder Cole Van Lanen to start at left guard. Without Linsley’s elite skills on his right, we can also expect to see a reduction in efficiency from right guard Lucas Patrick. Needless to say, if Bakhtiari is out for an extended period, the Packers’ O-line could be one of the worst units in the NFL. If Gutekunst knows what is good for his team, he’ll consider using some of that $12.6 million in remaining cap space (ninth-most) to lure Wagner back into the fold. If not, the Packers will enter the season with rookie O-line depth across the board.

It’s difficult to envision any scenario in which Rodgers, Devante Adams, and Robert Tonyan do not wreak havoc this season. As long as his O-line can provide him with at least a couple seconds to work, we can likely pencil in Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb for solid seasons, as well. The offense only used four-wide sets on 0.3% of ‘20 snaps under third-year OC Nathaniel Hackett and second-year QB coach/passing game coordinator Luke Getsy. So, some type of rotation after Adams is likely. Marquez Valdes-Scantling will be on the field, but the addition of Cobb — who played three-fourths of his snaps out of the slot with the Texans — will likely push Lazard outside. While MVS possesses excellent speed, Lazard is the better receiver.

Nobody wants to see Marcedes Lewis eat up those valuable fantasy snaps. But Green Bay passed from multi-TE sets at the 12th-highest rate last season. Perhaps Jace Sternberger or ‘20 third-rounder Josiah Deguara can show enough in camp to overtake Lewis to provide some stream-worthy production. When Rodgers was holding out, all of the stars seemed to be aligning for a breakout from AJ Dillon. Absorbing Williams’ touches and ranking ninth in rushing rate last season still prime Dillon for RB3 numbers. Regardless, this is still the Aaron Jones show working inside third-year OL coach/run game coordinator Adam Stenavich’s Zone-heavy scheme.

Defensive

Negligible departures, negligible additions through free agency for this defense. The only acquisition that is expected to play a significant role will be ‘21 first-rounder Eric Stokes. Unfortunately, an already top-five coverage unit gets better, while zero improvements are expected for an average, at best, pass rush and run defense under new DC Joe Barry. Following four seasons with the Rams as assistant HC/LBs coach, Barry’s impact on the scheme rotation should be minimal. We’ll likely see some slight alterations to each, but the only shells we’ll likely see large rate reductions will likely be Cover 1 and Cover 2. So, expect to see a Zone-heavy rotation, once again, with top-five rates of Cover 4, Cover 6, and Cover 3-Seam.

Barry was likely highly motivated to join the Packers in order to coach one of the top-three Zone corners in the game: Jaire Alexander. Alexander closed out the ‘20 season allowing the third-fewest yards/coverage snap (YPCS), third-fewest FPs/coverage snap (FPCS), the lowest passer rating on targets into his coverage, and commanded QB respect with the seventh-lowest air yards/coverage snap (AYCS) among 89 qualified outside CBs. The same cannot be said for the outside corner opposite Alexander: Kevin King. It was King’s coverage that allowed TD receptions to Mike Evans and Scotty Miller — 66 yards in total — during the Conference Championship loss to Tampa Bay. As for Alexander, he permitted one reception on five targets for 19 yards,

After King ranked outside the top-50 CBs in each of my most trusted coverage metrics, it’s entirely possible Stokes quickly overtakes him for the starting role. Stokes posted insane athletic metrics at Georgia’s Pro Day, including a 4.31-second 40-time, 6.96-second 3-cone, 38.5-inch vertical, and 128-inch broad jump. Even if King manages to fend off Stokes, he’ll also need to hold off ‘18 second-rounder Josh Jackson. In fact, based on his play last year, Jackson should already be safely ahead of King on the depth chart. Jackson impressively posted top-five YPCS and FPCS metrics last season. It would appear Chandon Sullivan is locked-in as the starting Nickel, but he’ll also be pushed for snaps. This is simply going to be one of the deepest CB groups in the game this season.

The Packers will need every bit of its impressive CB depth to counter a pass rush that ranked with the seventh-lowest rate of QB pressures. Green Bay will see the return of 3-/5-technique Kenny Clark, and 9-tech EDGE rushers Za’Darius Smith and Rashan Gary. But it’s the talent-barren MIKE and WILL LB positions that stand as the eyesores of the defense. The Packers just never recovered their inside ‘backer footing after Blake Martinez signed with the Giants two offseason’s ago. Perhaps GM Brian Gutekunst could have invested his ‘21 third-rounder in a Monty Rice or Ernest Jones rather than Amari Rodgers. But that might make too much sense.

Thankfully for Barry, Green Bay does pack a pair of safeties with plenty of pop: free safety Adrian Amos and strong safety Darnell Savage Jr. They haven’t yet reached the top-10 at their respective positions in the important coverage metrics, but we need to factor in their additional run defense and clean-up tackling “responsibilities” forced upon them by the LB deficiencies. If I dared to venture a guess, it would seem Gutekunst has focused all of his attention toward locking up the veterans on his roster he considers to be irreplaceable (i.e., Aaron Jones, Clark, etc.), while paying little-to-no attention toward glaring depth issues/egregious holes along the O-line and at inside LB. It’s never a good idea to bet against Aaron Rodgers, but the O-line issues alone will make life difficult this season.

Projected Fantasy Contributors

Aaron Rodgers (Proj: QB7 | ADP: 82 | Pos ADP: QB9)

The Packers front office put Rodgers on notice when they traded up to draft Jordan Love in the first round in 2020, and Rodgers stepped up and delivered an NFL MVP-winning campaign. Rodgers returned the favor this off-season by putting GM Brian Gutekunst and the rest of the front office on notice by threatening a holdout, which was temporarily resolved just before the start of training camp. Rodgers guided the Packers to a 13-3 record with an NFC Championship Game appearance for the second straight year, and he led the league in touchdown passes (48), TD rate (9.1%), INT rate (1.0%), completion percentage (70.7%), and QB rating (121.5). He finished the year as the QB3 with 24.0 FPG behind only Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen as he completed 372/526 passes for 4299 yards (8.2 YPA) for 48 TDs and five INTs. Rodgers established he’s still one of the league’s premier QBs at 37 years old after he threw for just 51 combined TDs in 2018-19. He’s bound to take a step back as a passer this season and his rushing production has fallen off in three straight seasons (38/149/3 rushing in 2020), but he’s not being priced as a top-five option at the position. Rodgers still has two of the best skill players at their respective positions in Davante Adams and Aaron Jones, but he does have some O-line concerns that weren’t there last season. All-Pro C Corey Linsley bolted to the Chargers in free agency while LT David Bakhtiari’s is questionable for the start of the season after he had ACL surgery in January. Rodgers is a safe bet in the mid to late QB1 range but another top-five fantasy performance could be asking a lot since he doesn’t provide much rushing production in his late 30s.

Jordan Love (Proj: QB43 | ADP: 401 | Pos ADP: QB59)

The Love Era looked like it might be coming sooner than expected after a drama-filled off-season in Green Bay. Aaron Rodgers went from 2020 NFL MVP to nearly holding out for this season, which would’ve elevated Love into the starting role. Cooler heads eventually prevailed between Rodgers and the Packers’ front office just before the start of training camp, which slid the 2020 first-round pick back into a reserve role. He’ll try to win the backup role from Kurt Benkert this season after Tim Boyle beat him out for the #2 job in 2020, which resulted in Love being a healthy scratch throughout the season. Love owned a 20:17 TD-to-INT ratio and he averaged just 7.2 YPA the last time he took the field in competition for Utah State in 2019, and he added just 175 scoreless rushing yards in 13 games. Our Greg Cosell wrote before the 2020 draft that Love had a desirable skill set and he had higher level arm talent to make him a first-round talent, but he was deficient with his lower-body mechanics and his ball placement. Love is a dynasty stash with Rodgers’ status in Green Bay up in the air after the 2021 season and he’d be a low-end QB2 option if he’s forced to play this season.

Aaron Jones (Proj: RB8 | ADP: 14 | Pos ADP: RB10)

The Packers weren’t going to let Jones walk during the off-season as they handed him a four-year, $48 million contract with $13 million guaranteed. Jones will once again be the featured back in one of the league’s best offenses, and he’s arguably in a better spot to put up fantasy production in 2021. Early-down runner A.J. Dillon is set to take over as the #2 back with Jamaal Williams, and his all-around skill set, bolting for the Lions in free agency. Jones is coming off an RB4 season with 18.5 FPG as he finished behind only Alvin Kamara, Dalvin Cook, and Derrick Henry. He posted 201/1104/9 rushing (5.5 YPC) and 47/355/2 receiving on 63 targets while playing 60% of the snaps in 14 games. Jones and Cook have each scored 30 TDs over the last two seasons, which only Derrick Henry has bettered with 35 scores. One of the game's more explosive and versatile backs — he’s averaging 5.2 YPC for his career — Jones’ carries per game fell from 14.8 in 2019 to 14.4 in 2020 but his receptions per game increased from 3.1 to 3.4. That trend could continue in 2021 since Dillon has basically been a zero in the passing game throughout his career — he handled 845 carries to 21 receptions in three years at Boston College. Jones could lose out on some goal-line work to Dillion, but he should have a stranglehold on the passing-down snaps with Williams and his 31 catches gone from last season. Jones and Dillon should complement each other well and this backfield could look a lot like New Orleans’ backfield with Alvin Kamara and Latavius Murray splitting work. Jones could have 60+ catches in his future in one of the league’s highest-scoring offenses so he’s a great RB1 target at the end of the first round.

A.J. Dillon (Proj: RB31 | ADP: 104 | Pos ADP: RB38)

The Packers drafted Dillon in the second round in 2020 to eventually replace Aaron Jones and/or Jamaal Williams when they hit free agency during the 2021 off-season. The Packers ended up retaining Jones and letting Williams walk to Detroit so Dillon will get his chance as an early-down complement to Jones this season. Dillon has been compared to Derrick Henry because of his size (6’0”, 247 pounds) and speed (4.53 40-time) our Greg Cosell said Dillon has lighter feet but he doesn’t have the short-area explosiveness that Henry does. Dillon managed just 46/242/2 rushing (5.3 YPC) while playing 16% of the snaps in 11 games. Most of that production came in a blowout victory on Sunday Night Football over the Titans in Week 16 when he rumbled for 21/124/2 rushing with Williams out of the lineup. Dillon is basically a zero in the passing game with just two catches in 11 games as a rookie, and he totaled just 21 receptions compared to 845 carries in three seasons at Boston College. Dillon will hold more value in non-PPR formats and he’ll try to wrestle away some goal-line work to offset his passing-game deficiencies, but Jones has been the second-most prolific scorer the last two seasons with 30 TDs. Dillon is being drafted as an RB3 this summer, but he’ll jump into RB2 status in great running-game matchups and if Jones misses time at any point this season.

Davante Adams (Proj: WR2 | ADP: 12 | Pos ADP: WR2)

Adams is seeking to become the highest-paid receiver in the league as he plays out the final year of his four-year, $58 million contract. He certainly played as if he was deserving of that kind of status by out-scoring the next closest WR, Tyreek Hill, by nearly four fantasy points per game (25.6 to 21.9). Adams paced fantasy receivers in scoring by posting 115/1374/18 receiving (11.9) on 148 targets in 14 games, and he led the league in receiving yards per game (98.1), target share (34%), and in receiving TDs (18). He converted a silly 11-of-16 end-zone targets and he registered 6+ catches in each of his 15 full games (playoffs included) last season. Adams has scored a ridiculous 27 TDs in his last 24 games (playoff included) dating back to Week 12 of 2019. He’s averaging 91.6/1127.8/11.6 receiving per season since he broke out in 2016 after a slow first two seasons to start his career. The only knock on Adams entering the 2021 season is that he’s played in all 16 games just twice in his first seven seasons, and he hasn’t done it in the last four years with nine total games missed in that span. Adams is running neck and neck with Hill to be the WR1 in with Aaron Rodgers back in the fold after a tumultuous off-season.

Randall Cobb (Proj: WR68 | ADP: 386 | Pos ADP: WR135)

Cobb went from having the likes of Tyrod Taylor and Davis Mills throwing him the rock on potentially the worst team in football to having the reigning MVP back on his side on one of the leading contenders for the Lombardi Trophy. Aaron Rodgers rescued his pal from the Texans at the start of training camp as part of his terms for returning to the team for the 2021 season. Cobb spent the first eight seasons of his career in Green Bay before one-year stops in Dallas and Houston the last two seasons. He managed just 38/441/3 receiving on 48 targets while playing 60% of the snaps in 10 games with the Texans last season — he missed six contests with a toe injury. Cobb hasn’t played a full 16-game season since 2015 and he’s missed 12 games over the course of the last three seasons. Cobb also hasn’t been a reliable fantasy option since 2015, which was the last time he averaged more than 11.5 FPG. Cobb could get a shot of new life returning to the Packers for one last run at a Super Bowl in his 11th season. The more likely outcome is that he struggles to hold off much younger WRs in Amari Rodgers, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Devin Funchess to hold down a fantasy-relevant target share with Davante Adams gobbling up so many looks. Cobb will be a deep bench option in PPR formats but he’s unlikely to have many ceiling weeks with Adams and Aaron Jones soaking up most of the fantasy production.

Allen Lazard (Proj: WR86 | ADP: 211 | Pos ADP: WR77)

Aaron Rodgers decided to return to the Packers for the 2021 season but, unfortunately for Lazard, one of his stipulations for a return involved trading for former Packer Randall Cobb. Lazard went from being the potential #2 WR this season to being locked into a battle for WR targets with Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Amari Rodgers, and rookie Amari Rodgers. Lazard got off to a hot start with 13/254/2 receiving on 17 targets in his first three games in 2020 before core muscle surgery for six games in Weeks 4-10. He ended up posting 33/451/3 receiving (13.7 YPR) on 46 targets for 9.8 FPG while playing 72% of the snaps in 10 games. Lazard had a difficult time seeing enough targets once he came back from his injury with Davante Adams owning a league-high 34% share, but he did have two big performances in the playoffs when he combined for 7/158/1 receiving on 14 targets. Lazard had the potential to be a usable fantasy bench piece in good matchups this season before Cobb showed up to Packers’ training camp in early August. He’s now a late-round dart throw in best ball formats and he’s off the radar in most season-long formats since he’ll likely be stuck in a rotation.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Proj: WR90 | ADP: 233 | Pos ADP: WR82)

Valdes-Scantling has established himself as one of the NFL’s more situational dangerous deep threats, and he’s coming off a league-best 20.9 YPR in his third season. His ability as a shot-play specialist hasn’t translated into much fantasy relevance with his penchant for being an all-or-nothing option. In 18 total games last season, MVS finished with 17+ FP six times and he had fewer than 10 FP in his other 12 contests, including five contests with two or fewer FP. He ended the year with 33/690/6 receiving on 63 targets (52.4% catch rate) to average 8.6 FPG while playing 74% of the snaps in 16 games. MVS posted career-best marks in aDOT (18.3 yards) and YAC (7.3 yards), but he’s yet to average more than 2.5 catches per game in each of his first three seasons. He figures to stick in his situational deep-threat role as he competes for snaps with Allen Lazard and Devin Funchess — and potentially Amari Rodgers — for perimeter snaps across from Davante Adams. MVS has been the definition of a boom-or-bust receiver to start his career and it’s not going to change this season. He’s more useful in best ball formats since it’s quite difficult to predict which weeks MVS is going to explode in for season-long formats.

Amari Rodgers (Proj: WR120 | ADP: 280 | Pos ADP: WR96)

The Packers drafted Rodgers in the third round to be Aaron Rodgers’ next Randall Cobb out of the slot. Unfortunately for the Clemson rookie, Aaron Rodgers wanted the real Cobb back on the team as part of his terms for returning to Green Bay for the 2021 season. Our Greg Cosell believes Rodgers has more of a vertical dimension than Cobb — he ran a 4.52 40-time — and he views Rodgers as a more complete receiver and a powerful one at that with his running back-like frame (5’9”, 212 pounds). He’s coming off a breakout final season at Clemson when he posted 77/1020/7 receiving as a senior and he ended his four-year career with 181/2144/15 receiving. Rodgers will be battling it out for snaps with Cobb in the slot and he’ll look to get into the rotation with Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Devin Funchess for snaps on the perimeter across from Davante Adams. Rodgers is worth a look later in rookie dynasty drafts but he’ll be off the radar in most other formats for the 2021 season.

Robert Tonyan (Proj: TE11 | ADP: 115 | Pos ADP: TE11)

Tonyan came out of relative obscurity at the start of training camp last year to become an early-season waiver wire darling with a run of five touchdowns in Weeks 2-4. He kept up the touchdown production for the rest of the season as he matched Travis Kelce for a position-best 11 scores. Tonyan finished with 52/586/11 receiving (11.3 YPR) on 59 targets to finish as the TE5 with 11.0 FPG while playing 61% of the snaps in 16 games. Tonyan entered training camp as the #3 TE behind Jace Sternberger and blocking TE Marcedes Lewis but he quickly rose up the depth chart with Sternberger missing a major chunk of August camp with COVID-19. Tonyan took Jimmy Graham’s old job and he ran with it, easily pacing all players with 50+ targets in catch rate (88.1%) and he hauled in an absurd 18.6% of his targets for a touchdown (11 of 59). He scored touchdowns on an unsustainable 7-of-8 end-zone targets and 11-of-14 red-zone targets. Tonyan’s role outside the 20-yard line must grow this season if he wants to remain a top-12 fantasy TE. He averaged just 3.7 targets per game with an ugly 12.6% target share, and he saw more than five targets in a game in just 2-of-18 contests (playoffs included). Tonyan is unlikely to maintain his touchdown production from 2021, but he should see an increase in targets to potentially offset any slip in scoring to keep him as a viable low-end TE1.

Jace Sternberger (Proj: TE56 | ADP: 41 | Pos ADP: —)

Sternberger, the No. 75 pick in 2019, had the looks of a potential break-through player last summer after Jimmy Graham departed for the Bears in the off-season. However, Sternberger missed a significant chunk of training camp with COVID-19, which opened the door for Robert Tonyan to take the starting job. Tonyan ran with his chance and never looked back by scoring 11 touchdowns last season while Sternberger barely cleared 11 catches. He finished with just 12/114/1 receiving on 15 targets while playing 25% of the snaps in 12 games — he missed time due to concussions. Sternberger will be on the roster this August after he was suspended for the first two games of the season for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy. He’ll be slotted in as the #3 TE behind Tonyan and blocking TE Marcedes Lewis and he’ll need a Tonyan injury to have any chance at fantasy relevance.

Hansen’s Final Points

I was guilty of underrating and underselling Aaron Rodgers like most last year, and it’s been tough most of the off-season to get behind him for obvious reasons. But now on 8/6/21? Not so tough. I am worried about their losses on the OL, and Rodgers will definitely suffer regression this year because his numbers in 2020 were completely absurd. But with Randall Cobb back in the mix along with improved depth with rookie Amari Rodgers in the mix and even Devin Funchess, who can help them, Rodgers does stand out as a rock solid value around 80 overall (QB9). His ADP will rise, but I have found myself taking him in my Draft Plan exercises, and I like the results. Bottom line, he should be getting drafted a little earlier than he is.

Backup Jordan Love has a lot to work with physically, and he’s gained some valuable experience this off-season for sure, but he’s nothing more than a Waiver Wire consideration if Aaron Rodgers is out a while. Love already has enjoyed a longer period of time learning on the bench than most #1 picks at the position, but he’s probably not ready to shine yet if called upon.

We’re usually about volume in fantasy, but I’m actually okay with how Green Bay has managed Aaron Jones’ workload, keeping Jones to fewer than 300 touches in each of the last two seasons (266 per season in the last two years). Jones has looked fresh, but the injury concerns linger (inactive for two games in Weeks 7-8). With veteran Jamaal Williams gone, Jones should get at least half of their 380 RB carries from last year, and Jones’ receptions per game increased from 3.1 in 2019 to 3.4 last year, and that’s with Williams (738) basically splitting the passing down snaps fairly evenly over the last few seasons. I do think AJ Dillon may see a couple of targets per game this year, but Jones gets the rest, which is a lot. He looks poised to deliver another 260+ FP as long as he doesn’t miss more than 1-2 games. He’s still an RB1 and he’s still worth taking in the top-12 overall in redraft.

His ceiling may not be great due to his lack of catches, but A.J. Dillon is not a bad receiver for a bigger back, and he’s definitely getting work in the passing game in camp this summer. If he can haul in just 20-25 passes, it would really help his consistency for fantasy. But we know he’s a lock for 10+ touches each week, and I’m very intrigued with his potential as a back with imposing size but also sneaky-good movement ability. Dillon could pile on the production late in games as he’s featured as their closer. He could still be frustrating if he doesn't get TDs, but he’s also a league winner if Aaron Jones goes down. As I’ve said, I have a very, very good vibe on Dillon overall, and part of that is his low price tag of around 100 overall and RB38. I have him a little higher than that.

Obviously, with Davante Adams, it basically comes down to his health and the health of his QB because he’s arguably the best receiver in the league, and he cannot be stopped with Rodgers. We may see a little less volume for Adams in 2021, but Adams is also a little cheaper than usual (although his ADP is rising). If you’re in the second half of Round 1, I have no problem with taking Adams because a nice RB1 should still be available for you in the second. For example, opening with Adams and Antonio Gibson would be pretty sick.

You know Randall Cobb is Aaron Rodgers’ boy and he will certainly get targets, so he’s a good player to circle on your cheat sheet if you’re looking for cheap catches in a deeper PPR league. Cobb is a free pick, so he’s viable as hell very late (his ADP is actually 300+ as of 8/6). I just don’t think he’s worth a pick in any round in a smaller league, and maybe in a 12-teamer. In 14-team leagues or larger, he’s a lot more palatable. The only issues I see with drafting him in a deeper league is you may be passing on a sexier upside choice, but Cobb is probably a lock for 50+ grabs in 2021.

He’s been worthy of our interest in fantasy, but it may not be happening for Allen Lazard in terms of making a consistent fantasy impact. In addition to battling now with Randall Cobb for targets, Marquez Valdes-Scantling was pretty darn good last year, and those guys could cancel each other out. He’s cheap in drafts with a 200+ ADP, but he’s cheap for a reason.

When you see the words “situational dangerous deep,” most fantasy owners cringe because those types are impossible to predict - and Marquez Valdes-Scantling has been impossible to predict. He was getting open a lot deep last year, as MVS posted career-best marks in aDOT (18.3 yards) and YAC (7.3 yards), and he was more consistent so his QB definitely gained some trust in him. That’s worth noting if they suffer an injury to Davante Adams and you’re looking at MVS on the Waiver Wire, but not worth taking in a redraft league.

I was actually very intrigued by Amari Rodgers being added to the mix in Green Bay, since he offers a skillset that has been missed out of the slot. But that role will likely be filled by veteran Randall Cobb now, so it’s hard to expect much from Rodgers. I would trade for him now in a dynasty, but he's off the radar in most other formats for the 2021 season.

As soon as I saw that Aaron Rodgers was calling Robert Tonyan “Bobby” early last season, I knew he liked him, and that was the case. Rodgers made Tonyan a thing last year, but Tonyan also deserves a lot of credit for gaining Rodgers’ trust so quickly. He’s entrenched here as the TE1, so he’s obviously a viable TE1. The downside is if he doesn’t get the TDs again this year, since Bobby T had only 59 targets last year in 16 games. That’s why I don’t find myself targeting him, but I could certainly be underselling him, and he could see an increase in targets boost his floor if the TDs don’t come in bunches. He’s pretty damn good, and so is his QB, FYI.

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