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Fantasy Forecast: 2021 Green Bay Packers

With Rodgers finally back on board for sure, the Packers’ offense is ready for another big season. Which players are we high on for dynasty in 2021?

The 2020 Green Bay Packers were electric on offense. No one could stop them. They were fifth in total yards per game (ninth in passing and eighth in rushing) and first in overall scoring. For fantasy purposes, you wanted your hands in this cookie jar.

Aaron Rodgers finished as the third-best fantasy quarterback for 2020. Aaron Jones was fifth among running backs, Davante Adams was first among wide receivers, and Robert Tonyan was the third-best tight end. Fast forward to this season and nothing has changed. Nothing.

The same coaching staff is in Green Bay and they only lost one offensive starter in Corey Linsley. While he is undoubtedly one of the best centers in the NFL, the Packers have built up ample depth among their offensive line in recent seasons. The second biggest loss they had on offense was Jamaal Williams, who had 741 total yards from scrimmage. He will effectively be replaced by AJ Dillon.

With Rodgers finally back in Green Bay, fantasy managers should once again hum and be one of the top offenses in the NFL. How should we be valuing the primary players in this offense?

QUARTERBACK

Courtesy of Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Rodgers finished as the QB3 last season on the back of a ridiculous touchdown rate. His 9.1% touchdown rate last season was the highest of his illustrious career, and any betting individual would expect that number to drop in 2021. That’s not to say Rodgers won’t be fantastic, because he absolutely will be, but such a season is incredibly difficult to replicate. In 2011, Rodgers threw for 45 touchdowns on the back of a 9.0% touchdown rate, and the following season he saw his touchdowns drop to 39 despite having 50 more pass attempts. The former MVP is currently ranked as the QB8, which aligns perfectly with his current ADP among signal-callers.

With his entire offensive cast returning in 2021, and the addition of Amari Rodgers – and hopefully a full season for Allen Lazard, Davante Adams, and Aaron Jones – Aaron Rodgers has the ability to outplay his ranking. Rodgers has always been a super-efficient quarterback and there’s no reason to expect that to change heading into the new year. Adams and Jones form one of the most terrifying duos any defense needs to account for. While many fans and analysts alike clambered for the Packers to give Rodgers another weapon, there’s enough in Green Bay for him to put up another top-10 season.

I typically don’t like to buy into some of the clichés we often hear of in the fantasy world, such as revenge game or contract year, among many others, but in this particular case, I’m buying in. The Green Bay Packers’ upper management thought Rodgers was going downhill. They thought it was the beginning of the end. You don’t draft a first-round quarterback otherwise. And he knows his time in Green Bay is most likely coming to an end. Rodgers is going to make sure everyone knows how big of a mistake it was to doubt him. He sent a message last year with how he played, but he’s got one little cherry on top that is missing yet and he’s coming for it.

RUNNING BACKS

Mike LaFleur has not been one to overload his starting running back. You can take this all the way back to when he was the Titans’ offensive coordinator and didn’t give the ball to Derrick Henry 300+ times. Even though Williams is now gone, this is still going to be a 1-2 punch backfield. That new guy is Dillon. He was drafted in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft out and looks like a Derrick Henry clone. LaFleur is a great coach and a brilliant offensive play-caller. He is going to play with these two running backs according to their strengths.

Courtesy of DraftKings

We’ve seen Williams be involved in the passing game the last two years, accumulating 70 catches over the past two seasons. Do not expect that from Dillon. It’s not as simple as saying Dillon will take Williams’ role. Dillon and Williams are two completely different players. The past two seasons, Williams has accounted for roughly 150 touches per season. I would expect Dillon to handle a similar workload, but how he gets there will look differently. Williams averaged around 115 carries and 35 catches from 2019-2020. Dillon will be likely to have 15 catches. The touches he gets are going to be carries because that’s where his strength is.

In all likelihood, this could lead to Jones having fewer carries than he did last season and in 2019. But for every action, there’s an equal and opposite reaction. While Jones may lose some carries to Dillon, he’s also likely to increase his involvement in the passing game. This is great news for his fantasy prospects. As fantasy managers, we know catches are extremely more valuable than carries. Just how much? Last year, a running back reception was worth 2.02 fantasy points, while a carry was only worth 0.69 points.

Courtesy of Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Jones is currently ranked as RB10 with a 13th overall ADP. Jones has not finished lower than RB5 since LaFleur took over. When you incorporate the possible increase in receiving work, Jones becomes a very valuable running back at his current ADP. I would have rather Jones ahead of Jonathan Taylor, Nick Chubb, and Austin Ekeler. I believe he has the chance to challenge for “the” RB1 position. He’s on an exceptional offense and running behind one of the best offensive lines in the NFL. He comes with immense touchdown potential and could be looking at the most involved he’s ever been in the passing game.

AJ Dillon is at RB40 with a 144th overall ADP. I don’t believe Dillon is going to be an every-week flex player largely because of the scoring format. If you’re only getting 10-12 touches a game, for you to be a viable flex play on a weekly basis, they need to be catching the ball and that’s not something Dillon is destined to do in 2021 at a high rate. However, where Dillon makes up for that is in his own touchdown potential.

This is the number one scoring offense from a year ago and we’ve already touched on Rodgers’ insanely high touchdown rate. I don’t expect the Packers to score fewer points this year, at least not substantially, but one should expect them to score differently. Rodgers is unlikely to throw 48 touchdowns again, which increases the likelihood the Packers will have more rushing touchdowns. Dillon’s weekly touchdown potential will keep him in weekly flex territory. This is especially true during weeks the Packers are supposed to win easily. And we cannot talk about Dillon and his fantasy value without touching on his immense handcuff value. Should anything happen to Jones, he immediately becomes a league-winning, top-10 running back. With his current ADP, that’s reason enough to buy into Dillon.

WIDE RECEIVERS

There is only one wide receiver in Green Bay that fantasy managers need to be aware of and that’s the touchdown king, Davante Adams. With the addition of Amari Rodgers in the third round of this year’s draft, I expect LaFleur to use almost a wide receiver-by-committee approach behind Adams. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, and Rodgers will all have their moments. The team added Randall Cobb this week, per Aaron Rodgers’ request, but Cobb has been a fraction of himself the last five years and oft-injured. This offense is still going to be funneled through Jones and Adams in a big way. The three-way target share between these other receivers will effectively render all of them irrelevant unless an injury strikes.  

Courtesy of Brace Hemmelgarn-USA TODAY Sports

Adams is the number one wide receiver for 2021 and quite frankly, it shouldn’t be close. With the lackluster receivers behind him and the chemistry he has with Aaron Rodgers, Adams is going to be absolutely peppered with targets. In the 13 games, he started and finished last season, Adams averaged over 11 targets per game. Over a 16-game season, he was pacing at 180 targets in those games. That is an insane amount of volume. Tyreek Hill is currently ranked and being drafted as the WR1, but Hill has never had more than 140 targets in any one season. That alone gives Adams a significant edge in full-PPR scoring.  

Adams led the league in touchdowns and that wasn’t by mistake because he also led the league in red-zone targets. Rodgers is constantly looking for Adams and inside the red zone, he trusts him. They seem to be able to read each other’s minds. The former Bulldog has everything fantasy managers are looking for in their elite wide-out. He’s got an elite-caliber quarterback, he plays on an explosive offense, he’ll have an immense target share, and he scores touchdowns at a high rate. There is not another wide receiver in the league right now that can so easily check off all four of those criteria, not in the same manner and with as much emphasis as Adams can.

His current ranking is WR2 with an ADP of twelfth overall and I will take Adams over Nick Chubb, Tyreek Hill, and Austin Ekeler, all of whom are currently going ahead of him. Despite his high ranking, Adams still presents with some value. Amari Rodgers, Cobb, Valdes-Scantling, and Lazard are nothing more than late-round dart throws in the hopes that one of them is able to separate.

TIGHT ENDS

Courtesy of Stacy Revere/Getty Images

Robert Tonyan finished as the TE3 last year due to some extremely high and completely unrepeatable efficiency markers. He caught 88% of his targets, which was the best in the entire NFL for players with at least 50-targets. The next five players below him were running backs. The first non-running back with at least 50 targets was Curtis Samuel with a 79% catch rate. Tonyan’s touchdown rate is even more outlandish. He caught a touchdown on 18.6% of his targets. Tyreek Hill had 15 touchdowns, his touchdown rate was 11.1%. Travis Kelce’s touchdown rate was at 7.5%. Needless to say, if Tonyan wants to be anything close to a fantasy-viable tight end in 2021, he’s going to need an extreme uptick in his total number of targets.

His 59 targets were fewer than Jared Cook and Tyler Eifert. He was 24th in total targets among tight ends. To have finished as TE3 with that kind of limited workload speaks to how extremely efficient he was. For 2021 however, there may be no bigger regression candidate than Tonyan.

Currently being drafted at TE17 with an ADP of 147, fantasy managers have identified this regression candidate. At that price, Tonyan’s worth a dart throw. The cost is relatively cheap and the upside is there. When you get outside of the top-5tight ends, the final rankings are largely based on how the touchdowns fell. A hyper-efficient season is within the realm of possibility being attached to an Aaron Rodgers-led offense. Although, fantasy managers shouldn’t expect anything like last season. The best we can hope for is an increase in targets, which would at least help with the obvious regression.

CONCLUSION

It appears we are through the Aaron Rodgers offseason drama and he reported to training camp. The relationship is still volatile but for the time being, Rodgers is with the team and ready to play.

And that makes him one of the players to own, along with Jones, Dillon, Adams, and Tonyan. Your fantasy team will greatly benefit from any piece of one of the top offenses in the league.

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