The 2017 NFL regular season has concluded, so it’s time to briefly examine the state of each team’s skill positions for fantasy purposes with an eye towards next season. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the 2017 NFL standings. The next team on the docket:
Green Bay Packers (7-9)
Often the first quarterback taken in 2017 fantasy drafts, Aaron Rodgers was well on his way to justifying his lofty position with 13 passing touchdowns over his first 5 games (a 16-game pace of 41.6, which would have likely made Rodgers the overall QB1 had he kept it up). Unfortunately, Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone in Week 6, which resulted in him missing the next 7 games before making a cameo appearance in the Packers’ Week 15 loss to the Panthers. With the aforementioned loss knocking Green Bay out of playoff contention, Rodgers was then shut down for the rest of the season so as to not subject him to further unnecessary harm. A fifth-round pick out of UCLA in 2015, Brett Hundley was called on to fill Rodgers’ shoes while the latter recovered from his injury. Hundley was mostly a disaster outside of big performances in Week 12 against Pittsburgh and Week 14 against Cleveland, as the third-year quarterback often held on to the ball too long and took too many sacks. Additionally, Hundley’s 5.8 passing yards-per-attempt was the second-lowest among quarterbacks who started at least 11 games (Joe Flacco‘s 5.7 qualified as the worst). While Rodgers is expected to be fine entering 2018 training camp, the quarterback landscape in fantasy-land shifted somewhat during Rodgers’ time on the sidelines. While the past few years have primarily seen Rodgers and Tom Brady duke it out for top honors among fantasy signal-callers, the emergence of Russell Wilson as well as young guns Carson Wentz/Deshaun Watson (health permitting) has narrowed the gap at the top of the fantasy quarterback hierarchy. Rodgers will still be worth selecting as the top quarterback option in 2018, though the competitive advantage afforded by reaching for him early in fantasy drafts may not be what it once was.
While the Packers did draft a trio of rookie running backs (Jamaal Williams, Aaron Jones, and Devante Mays) in the 4th, 5th, and 7th rounds respectively via the 2017 draft, converted wideout Ty Montgomery was able to hang on to the starting spot he had previously claimed at the tail end of 2016. Montgomery’s increased usage (19.6 touches per game) resulted in an average of just 4.29 total yards per touch over 2017’s first three games (compared to 6.65 in 2016). In Week 4, both Montgomery (ribs) and backup Jamaal Williams (knee) suffered injuries, which thrust 2017 fifth-round pick Aaron Jones into the catbird seat. Between Weeks 4 and 8, Jones rattled off 346 rushing yards and three scores (including a pair of 125+ yard rushing efforts), and looked like a real find for the Pack. However, Jones went down with a knee injury of his own in Week 10, which made it appear Montgomery, for a brief moment, would have a chance to claim his job back. In that same contest, Montgomery re-aggravated his prior rib injury, causing him to miss the next three contests before ultimately landing on injured reserve. With both Jones and Montgomery sidelined, the door was open for a now-healthy Jamaal Williams to dominate Green Bay’s backfield touches for the rest of the season. From Weeks 10 through 17, Williams averaged 20.4 touches and 93.3 total yards per game while finding the end zone five times. Despite posting 95 total yards or more in five of his seven starts, Williams logged just one rush of 20 yards or more, and averaged better than 3.9 yards-per-carry (YPC) just once over that span. Meanwhile, Jones never fully got back on track after his Week 4 knee injury, logging just 11 carries during Williams’ run as the starter. Expected to be fully healthy entering the offseason, Jones (with his 5.5 YPC) is the more explosive backfield option, and should be the considered the favorite to break 2018 training camp as the Packers lead number one rusher, though Williams will push for a role as well. Montgomery’s inability to stay healthy has most likely cost him any shot of returning to featured back status, though his receiving prowess should keep him involved in the pass game.
2017 most likely represented a changing of the guard at receiver for Green Bay, as Davante Adams appeared to take over the number one role from stalwart Jordy Nelson. Even with quarterback Aaron Rodgers sidelined for the majority of the season Adams still managed to remain productive with 10 receiving touchdowns, giving him a total of 22 over the past two seasons. Additionally, the Packers rewarded Adams for his efforts with a four-year, $58 million contract extension. Just 25 years old, Adams is by all appearances the Packers wideout to own going forward, and has the look of a low-end WR1/high-end WR2 going into 2018. It is worth noting, however, that Adams suffered not one, but two concussions this past season, putting him at potential risk to miss some serious time should he suffer another in the near future. Jordy Nelson’s production fell off a cliff just one season after finishing as the overall fantasy WR2 in 2016. Typically drafted as a top-tier WR1 last Summer, Nelson averaged 5-58 and scored six times over the Packers’ first six contests (which includes a zero catch performance in Week 2 due to injury). Once Aaron Rodgers suffered his collarbone injury in Week 6, Nelson became a ghost from Week 7 onward, never surpassing 35 receiving yards or finding the end zone for the rest of the season. While some of Nelson’s decline can be attributed to the loss of his quarterback, it’s telling that Adams was still able to produce with backup Brett Hundley while Nelson wasn’t. With the Packers looking to make the younger Adams the nucleus of their receiving corps going forward, Nelson (who turns 33 this Spring), may need to take a pay cut to avoid being a release candidate (Nelson is owed $9.5 million for 2018). Randall Cobb failed to clear 1,000 receiving yards for the third season in a row since earning a hefty contract extension in 2015 (a reward for Cobb’s 91-1287-12 performance the season prior, which is starting to look more and more like an outlier). With Cobb owed $8.6 million next season, it’s looking like he will be another candidate for either a contract structure or release. Geronimo Allison did very little in 2017 outside of a huge 6-122 performance in Week 3, though the 24-year old former undrafted free agent will be someone to keep tabs on as the next man up if Nelson and/or Cobb don’t return for 2018.
Green Bay was supposed to be a dream landing spot for Martellus Bennett, who signed a three-year, $20.25 million contract with the Packers last March. Drafted as a TE1 in most fantasy circles, Bennett’s tenure with the Packers lasted just 7 games, as he failed to find any chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. Bennett was ultimately released by the Packers in November after allegedly failing to disclose a shoulder injury to the team medical staff and was then claimed by New England just one day later. Bennett’s departure left the Packers with journeymen Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers to fill the tight end void, though predictably neither one was able to establish themself as fantasy-relevant. The Packers enter the 2018 offseason once again needing to go back to the drawing board to find a tight end to feature in their offense, so look for the team to make addressing the position via free agency or the draft a priority.