The 2018 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 and/or beyond. I will be reviewing each team in the reverse order of the final standings. Next up.. the Green Bay Packers.
Green Bay Packers (6-9-1)
After an injury-marred 2017 season that saw Aaron Rodgers limited to just seven games, the veteran appeared poised to spend a significant chunk of 2018 on the sidelines after suffering what looked like a scary knee injury in Week 1 that resulted in a cart ride to the locker room. Lo and behold, Rodgers managed to return in that contest, and lead the Packers to a 24-23 comeback victory over the Bears after being down 17-0 at halftime. However, that moment ended up being the pinnacle of the Packers’ season, as Rodgers never looked 100 percent the rest of the way, leading the team to just five more wins despite a career-best 25:2 touchdown/interception ratio. Rodgers down season from a statistical standpoint was still good enough for an overall QB7 finish, though hardly an acceptable return on investment considering fantasy managers likely needed to surrender a mid-single digit draft pick to obtain his services last Summer. Rodgers had just two three touchdown performances in 2018, and was held to one or less seven times. At 35 years old, Rodgers should have at least a few more years of elite/near elite production. The Packers’ offense appeared broken at times last season under former head coach Mike McCarthy, so it’s hard to imagine it would take much for the team’s newly hired replacement in Matt LaFleur to put together a scheme that generates more points. Rodgers is still worthy of being one of the top signal callers off the board in any upcoming fantasy drafts, though his reign as the undisputed QB1 are likely at an end.
Arguably the best Packers’ running back in 2017, Aaron Jones began this past season by serving a two-game suspension due to an off-field incident. Upon returning to the field, Jones was able to match his rookie season 5.5 yards-per-carry average, though for whatever reason averaged just 11.1 totes per game. Additionally, Jones’ made major strides in the passing game increasing is reception output from 9 as a rookie to 26 in Year Two, and ultimately finished as the PPR RB15 in terms of fantasy points scored on a per-game basis. Once the Packers finally committed to Jones after their Week 7 bye, his numbers really took off. Between Weeks 8 and 14, Jones averaged touches and 99.6 total yards per game (5.8 yards-per-touch) while scoring 8 times. Jones’ suspension wasn’t the only thing that kept him off the field, however, as a sprained MCL suffered in early in Week 15 ended the talented runner’s season early, and made it the second time in as many seasons Jones has been felled by a knee injury (four games missed in 2017).
Jamaal Williams operated as the Packers’ lead back during the time Jones was suspended, and underwhelmed with just 118 scoreless yards over those two contests. Williams second stint as the starter at the end of the season went a bit better, however, as he came up huge during fantasy championship week with 156 total yards and a score in the Packers’ Week 16 win over the Jets. An owner of a career 3.7 yards-per-carry average, the consensus on Williams is that he’s not a good NFL running back, though the former 2017 fourth-round draft pick has shown that he can be a solid fantasy RB2 with volume, having averaged 98 total yards per contest in games he’s touched the ball at least 15 times, and is underrated as a receiver (52 receptions his first two seasons). Once the favorite to take over the Packers backfield in 2017, converted wideout Ty Montgomery was relegated to just a passing down specialist, and ultimately traded to Baltimore mid-season in exchange for a 2020 seventh-round draft pick.
While the fact Green Bay didn’t add any running backs during free agency could be seen as a vote of confidence for Aaron Jones, new head coach Matt LaFleur has refused to commit to him as the team’s number one guy, despite the underlying numbers suggesting Jones should be. It’s also not out of the question that Green Bay drafts a running back this coming April given that both Jones and Williams are holdovers from a prior regime. For now, fantasy managers should figure on at worst a 70-30 committee in Jones’ favor if no significant backfield additions are made between now and Week 1. Though with Jones having suffered significant knee injuries each of the past two seasons, he’s knocking on the door of becoming a bonafide Band-Aid boy.
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Over the course of the 2017 season, Davante Adams appeared to usurp Jordy Nelson as the Packers’ top pass game option, a development that was confirmed the following offseason with the team giving Adams a four-year/$58 million contract extension while releasing Nelson. Now paid like a true no. 1 wideout for 2018 and beyond, it was time for Adams to produce like one, without the benefit Nelson drawing away tougher coverage assignments. Adams passed his test with flying colors, finishing 2018 second in targets, seventh in receiving yards, and tied for third in receptions (with Minnesota’s Adam Thielen) despite missing one game with a knee injury. The most astonishing thing about Adams’ 2018 season was how incredibly consistent he was in the box scores, putting up either 81 yards or a touchdown in all of his 15 games played (Adams “worst” fantasy performance was a 8-81-0 line against Buffalo in Week 4). Locked into an ESP-like connection with quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Adams will remain one of the safest choices you can make among the elite fantasy WR1s. With both starters Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison banged up, fifth-round rookie Marquez Valdes-Scantling (MVS) was called upon to play a significant offensive role, and responded with a 21-361-2 line over five games between Weeks 5 and 10. However, that stretch would serve as the pinnacle of MVS’ season, as the former USF Bull managed just 179 scoreless yards from Week 11 onward. Randall Cobb was the hero of Green Bay’s Week 1 win over the Bears, recording the game-clinching 75-yard touchdown pass and finishing with a 9-141-1 receiving line, though it was essentially all downhill for him after that.
Randall Cobb failed to eclipse 45 receiving yards at any other point during the 2018 season, while missing 6 games due to injuries (hamstring/concussion). Cobb became a free agent during the offseason, and was subsequently signed by the Cowboys to replace the departed Cole Beasley. Despite being given a higher NFL.com prospect grade and being nearly two years younger than MVS, sixth-round rookie Equanimeous St. Brown (ESB) was drafted a full round later. Considered a raw talent with impressive measureables (6’5″ height and a 4.48 40-time) coming out of college, ESB traded flashes of potential (a 5-94-0 line in Week 17 as an example) with instances that left quarterback Aaron Rodgers visibly frustrated. Out of the three rookie wideouts drafted in 2018 (MVS, ESB, and J’Mon Moore), ESB has the most upside as a regular contributor in the Packers’ Aaron Rodgers-led offense, though will likely need to fend off newly re-signed (one year/$2.8 million) Geronimo Allison during training camp.
Allison was in the midst of breaking out in 2018, and although the sample size is small, his 16-game receiving yard pace would have put him just shy of 1,000 yards if it weren’t for head, hamstring, and groin injuries resulting in 11 missed games. A former undrafted free agent, Allison may not be the most physically gifted wide receiver, but he’s a guy Aaron Rodgers trusts, which should keep him on the field health permitting. With Cobb out of the picture, the battle for targets between Allison and the Packers’ wide receiver class of 2018 will be one to monitor over the Summer.
At 32-years old, Jimmy Graham doesn’t quite have the same pep in his step he did five years ago, though finishing 2018 with just two touchdowns comes as a bit of a shocker (Graham has never scored fewer than five times in any campaign in which he’s played at least 15 games). Rumored to be a cut candidate earlier in the off-season, it appears the Packers are content to have Graham remain their primary tight end after standing pat during free agency. Fantasy managers have likely soured on Graham after his poor 2018 output, though the target hierarchy in the Packers’ pass catching corps is quite unsettled behind wideout Davante Adams, and the big tight end’s size should theoretically keep him in the mix as a red zone option (Graham’s 9 targets in that area of the field last season were second on the team behind Adams’ whopping 31). Graham carried a 6th/7th round fantasy draft ADP a year ago, though will likely fall into double-digits this Summer, where he is a potential value. Backup tight end Lance Kendricks was not retained by the Packers for 2019, while former Jaguar Marcedes Lewis was. Turning 35 years old in May, Lewis hasn’t been fantasy relevant since 2010, and is mostly a blocker at this stage in his career.