Seemingly everyone with any sort of loose affiliation with the Green Bay Packers expected them to address the wide receiver position this past spring. It never came to be. Now that the 2020 trade deadline has come-and-gone and despite the Will Fuller rumor mill on full blast, the position continued to not be addressed. Why? Well, Aaron Rodgers has been trying to tell us why since about this time last year. He’s been unabashedly gushing about this player since October last season and it’s passed time we listen to him.
It was that future Hall of Fame quarterback that lobbied for head coach Matt LaFleur to play Allen Lazard when the Packers offense was struggling on Monday Night Football on Oct. 14, 2019 – and the young player rewarded Rodgers’ confidence with four catches for 65 yards and a touchdown, all in the fourth quarter of a last-second win. That trust continued to develop through the remainder of the season as Lazard earned the fourth-highest grade according to Pro Football Focus when targeted in single coverage. By the end of the season he was very clearly the No. 3 weapon in the Green Bay offense (behind Davante Adams and Aaron Jones) that the Packers did not devote any resources in the offseason to potentially replacing. With hindsight, maybe more of us shouldn’t have been so surprised with their disinterest in addressing wide receiver in spring. It wasn’t just Lazard’s play-making ability as a receiver that made him such an appealing option either. LaFleur and Rodgers have both cited his mentality, approach, willingness and ability as a run blocker, effort levels and the contagious nature it has on the others in the locker room. This is exactly the sort of player a championship caliber team wants in its starting lineup, so it should have been no surprise that he quickly emerged as the No. 2 wide receiver in September.
Amidst that hot start he accounted for the league’s second-most receiving yards on targets 20-plus-yards down field through the season’s first three games. Then just when he was on the verge of becoming a household name, news hit of a core muscle injury requiring surgery, sending him to Injured Reserve. As it turns out for fantasy players, that unfortunate incident has turned into an opportunity. As we approach Week 9, amidst a relatively weak waiver wire, Lazard makes for an interesting add. His ownership levels are well below 50 percent in redraft leagues. I’m sure most owners who could stash him on their league’s Injured Reserve did, but clearly not everyone and he’s likely available in those leagues that lack Injured Reserve space. Now is the time to pounce before news of his pending return becomes more widespread.
He returned to practice Oct. 28, starting the 21-day clock for the team to activate him from Injured Reserve. The Packers are notoriously conservative (this is a good thing) with clearing players to return. Just recall Adams being unhappy about being held out Week 4 and Jones missing two games with a minor calf injury. They’re amidst a short week right now, traveling to San Francisco for Thursday Night Football. Don’t expect Lazard to return then, but expect return to practice reports to surface this time next week with him on track to face a Bottom-5 pass defense: Jacksonville. There are plenty of targets to go around, but be advised that it may take a few weeks for him to be 100 percent. Be patient with this add; he could be playable in November, but the reason you’re adding him is when the schedule breaks in December. Rodgers is in the Top-10 in the league in Attempts Per Game and only Adams has been on the receiving end of more than five targets per game. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has not taken advantage of his opportunity, only pulling in 46 percent of his targets for 7.5 yards per target and a score, being held under 20 receiving yards three times. The big play threat, Lazard, will find himself in a seven-plus target per game role down the home stretch in one of the league’s most prolific offenses. Those sorts of pieces aren’t usually available come November, so for those with the opportunity, it’s time to take advantage.
This week’s Flavor of the Week: Last call for alcohol!
No, this is not really your last chance to strike it rich on waivers in 2020, but it’d be prudent to treat it as such. These sort of “add before the competition thinks about it adds” are quickly coming to an end as we round the corner on the bye weeks; this is one of the last chances for a proactive acquisition. By this point in the season you have a player on your bench you’re never going to be comfortable starting; send him packing for this potential league winner.