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Green Bay Packers Writers
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Having the back-to-back MVP certainly has made things easy for young head coach Matt LaFleur. Through his first three seasons in the league, he has put up a very impressive 39-10 regular-season record. Unfortunately, the team has yet to make it past the NFC Championship Game and was knocked out in last year's divisional round. Their big test this season will be adapting to life after Davante Adams. Adams led the team in Approximate Value last year and was their lead receiver for five consecutive seasons. Pre-Draft, the wide receiver room is led by Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers. The team will almost assuredly add a wide receiver in the Draft with one of their two first-round picks, but Aaron Rodgers' history with rookie pass-catchers makes it difficult to get excited about those projections. The team lost offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett this offseason as he left for a head coaching position in Denver. Adam Stenavich was promoted in Hackett's absence. Stenavich was their offensive line and run game coordinator last year, and that's where the Packers really saw some major improvements. Second-year back A.J. Dillon stepped up in the wake of an injury to Aaron Jones and played very well down the stretch. Once Jones returned from injury, Dillon maintained his increased usage and siphoned away almost all of Jones' goal-line work. This two-headed monster in the backfield is arguably the team's biggest strength on offense, and Jones' work in the passing game could see a sizable bump without Adams in town. The Packers maintained a pretty average pass of pace and run-pass ratio in 2021. Their extreme efficiency made up for anemic play-calling as the team averaged the eighth-most yards per play in the league and Rodgers led the league in touchdown rate. As we've seen in the past, a well-disciplined team makes a big difference. The Packers had the fewest penalties called against them last year while also having the lowest percentage of drives ending in a turnover. Although the loss of Adams is huge, the Packers should once again be an NFC favorite as Rodgers and a homegrown slew of offensive playmakers are expected to march to their fourth consecutive NFC North title.
What can we say about Aaron Rodgers that hasn't been said already? At 38 years old, the back-to-back MVP is playing some of the best football of his career. Although he regressed from his insane 9.1-percent touchdown rate in 2020, he still posted a league-high 7.0-percent in 2021 while also trimming down his interceptions to a ludicrously low 0.8-percent. Rodgers has always been a great quarterback, but he's somehow elevated his game since Matt LeFleur took over in 2019. This year will be an uphill battle as he will be forced to play with a below-average group of pass-catchers with Davante Adams now in Las Vegas. Still, it's hard to imagine that Rodgers doesn't continue to dominate the NFC. If the last few years are any indication of what to expect in 2022, pencil Rodgers in for 4,000 yards, 35 touchdowns as his floor, and a QB1 finish in 2022.
In the wake of Rodgers' COVID vaccination status last year, Jordan Love saw his first career start. In that outing, he went 19-of-34 for 190 yards, one touchdown, and one interception in a loss to the Chiefs. He underwhelmed, causing NFL fans to point even more fingers at the Packers for their head-scratching first-round draft selection in 2020. Now heading into Year 3 of his NFL career, he's in "Break in Case of Emergency" territory for the Packers. With Kurt Benkert and Danny Etling as the only other quarterbacks on the current roster, Love will be the second-stringer again. Benkert and Etling will likely be cut or demoted to the practice squad before Week 1.
Last year, we saw A.J. Dillon step into a much larger role than expected. He and Aaron Jones are arguably the best one-two punch in the NFL with wildly different skill sets. Dillon is a between-the-tackles bruiser and Jones is a bouncy and elusive back that excels in the passing game. With Davante Adams gone now, both should see even further involvement in the offense. Chasing small sample sizes and extreme efficiency is a slippery slope, but Jones has averaged 25.97 fantasy points per game in the seven weeks that Adams has missed since 2019. Although the two backs alternated snaps last year, expect to see the Packers implement more two-back sets in 2022. Dillon seems likely to take on the goal-line work, but Jones has displayed excellent abilities there as well. These two could potentially vulture each other's upside, but there's also a chance that they both put up top-12 numbers as they both have proven success in this offense and the ever-important trust of Aaron Rodgers.
With the stellar combo of Dillon and Jones leading the corps of backs here, it will likely take injuries for Kylin Hill, Dexter Williams, or Patrick Taylor Jr. to see any meaningful playing time. Hill was a promising late-round prospect in the 2021 draft but only saw 10 total rushes as a rookie after his season was ended with a knee injury. UDFA Tyler Goodson is a good pass-catcher out of Iowa and will push Hill and Taylor for a roster spot.
- Christian Watson [R], Romeo Doubs [R], Amari Rodgers, Juwann Winfree, Malik Taylor, Rico Gafford, Chris Blair, Samori Toure [R]
This wide receiver corps, formally led by superstar Davante Adams, was possibly the worst in the league pre-NFL Draft. But the Packers used three of their draft picks to upgrade this corps. Although Randall Cobb has a history with Green Bay, Allen Lazard is the most consecutively tenured wide receiver on the team. Aaron Rodgers has a unique penchant for throwing to guys who he has an established rapport with, which leads many people to expect big seasons from Lazard, Cobb, or second-year receiver Amari Rodgers. However, the team brought in the splashiest free agent during the Rodgers era with Sammy Watkins. It's tough to get a read on who the primary receiver in Green Bay could be this year. There might not be one at all. With a history of throwing to the likes of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, and Davante Adams, there isn't a single guy that currently stands out in this bunch. Lazard is an imposing receiver that can regularly win in one-on-one matchups, which has caused a lot of people to get excited about his opportunity to step up. Cobb is a savvy vet who will play primarily out of the slot. Watkins is expected to take on Marquez Valdes-Scantling's vacated role. Amari Rodgers is still a relatively unknown commodity after a quiet rookie season. Rookie Christian Watson is a phenomenal athlete but is still a pretty raw prospect that may not be able to step up as a rookie. There might not be a clearcut favorite of the bunch, but it's tough to imagine that Aaron Rodgers doesn't find a way to maintain close to his historic passing numbers and efficiency.
Historically, rookie wide receivers have found little success with Aaron Rodgers. The best season a rookie wide receiver has ever had with Rodgers was was Marquez Valdes-Scantling who amassed just 581 yards on 36 receptions in 2018. However, rookie wide receivers have always come into situations where there was a clearcut WR1, so no one has ever been in a position where they were required to step up. Christian Watson was selected in the second round of the NFL Draft. He's a stellar athlete, but still a bit rough around the edges. He's got blazing speed and can do a lot with the ball in his hands, but struggles with concentration issues. He didn't amass a lot of stats on a run-first NDSU team, but his potential jumps off the screen when watching him. His range of outcomes is very wide this year. Romeo Doubs is a fourth-rounder of of Nevada who will assume roles on special teams but could end up playing a bit as a receiver. Sammy Watkins could be anywhere from the team's WR1 to a camp casualty. Juwann Winfree, Chris Blair, Malik Taylor, and Rico Gafford haven't done much in their respective careers. With likely Draft day additions, a handful of these players will be cut before Week 1. We should get a bit more clarity on this depth chart as we approach Week 1, but it's tough to project in its current state.
After a breakout Year 3 campaign, Robert Tonyan Jr's follow-up season was cut short by a torn ACL in Week 8. Tonyan's usage in 2020 and 2021 was nearly identical. And as expected, Tonyan's touchdown rate dropped significantly. Tonyan hauled in eleven touchdowns on 59 targets in 2020 and has just two scores on 29 targets last year. The hopes for last year were that Tonyan would find a chance to increase his workload after making some big plays the year before, but his role in the offense remained stagnant. If fully healthy for Week 1, it's tough to imagine Tonyan's role being much different than it was prior to last year's injury. With Davante Adams now gone, there will be available targets to go around. However, there's no guarantee that they go in Tonyan's direction and he shouldn't be considered anything more than a TE2 in fantasy football. Deguara will play some snaps as the team's fullback and Marcedes Lewis will likely see some work in the red zone as a big-bodied target.
- LT David Bakhtiari
- LG Jon Runyan
- C Josh Myers
- RG Royce Newman
- RT Elgton Jenkins
- Yosh Nijman, Jake Hanson, Zach Tom [R], Sean Rhyan [R]
Left tackle David Bakhtiari and right tackle Elgton Jenkins are finally healthy after missing time last season. Both players appear to be ready for Week 1. The interior of Jon Runyan, Josh Myers, and Royce Newman seems stable. But the team might start one of the rookies: Zach Tom (fourth round, Wake Forest) has been lock down in pass protection this summer. Fully healthy, this is a top-five line.
Crosby seemed to have put his previous inconsistency behind him entering the 2021 season, but it reared its ugly head again, with the Packers kicker only hitting 25-of-34 field goal attempts, including four misses from 30-39 yards and a 50% make rate from 40-49 yards. Eberle is the competition for Crosby in camp. He has spent time on a few practice squads and made all five extra point attempts and 2-of-3 field goal attempts (missing one from 50+) in one game with the Texans last year. Crosby costs about as much in cap room to release as he does in salary to keep, so he'll have to have a very poor summer to lose out to Eberle.
Rookie Amari Rodgers wasn't able to make an impact on offense in 2021, earning just 8 targets all season, but he was the team's top punt returner from opening day and earned kickoff return duties from fellow rookie Kylin Hill by midseason. He wasn't very effective on kickoff returns, so Green Bay could audition other players for the role this offseason.
While he couldn't crack the rotation on offense, rookie Amari Rodgers was Green Bay's opening day punt returner in 2021 and performed well enough in the role to remain the frontrunner entering 2022.
The Green Bay Packers defense achieved a considerable amount of success under first-year defensive coordinator Joe Barry. The unit finished ninth overall in total yards allowed per game (328.2), ranking 10th in both passing yards allowed (219.1 per/gm) and rushing yards allowed (109.1 per/gm), per ESPN. They should be as good or better than last year across all positions since they retained Rasul Douglas and De'Vondre Campbell in free agency, added Jarran Reed, and drafted Quay Walker and Devonte Wyatt in the first round to help ease the loss of Za'Darius Smith after the team released him. Minnesota is up in Week 1, and then five of the next six games are against underwhelming offenses (CHI, NE, NYJ, NYG, WAS) with only Tampa Bay presenting a tough matchup in Week 3.
In today's NFL, base defense isn't really a thing as teams run plenty of nickel and dime personnel looks. This point is certainly true with Green Bay. Green Bay is viewed as a 3-4 base defense, but runs a good amount of Nickel and also utilizes single-linebacker dime looks as well.
Along the interior, Kenny Clark is the dominant force that drives this defense. Clark is a handful inside and is more than just a block-eating nose tackle. Green Bay shifts Clark around its fronts, allowing him to utilize his full skill set as an interior defensive lineman who can stuff the run and get pressure on the quarterback. Keeping Clark away from inside doubles and finding more one-on-one looks is good for the team and IDP production. Green Bay did bring in some new faces, we'll get to that, so Clark's utilization will be important to keep tabs on. The Packers bolstered their interior unit by selecting rookie Devonte Wyatt out of Georgia with their second first-round pick (28th overall). Wyatt is a big man that can move and brings some juice to the defensive front. Wyatt's best fit is as a 3-tech, but he can be effective in multiple roles in odd and even fronts. Green Bay has said they like Wyatt's versatility and you should expect them to get creative with the rookie. Wyatt is a skilled, athletic gap penetrating defensive tackle. Expect him to push for a starting spot right off the jump as a rookie. Dean Lowry is another important player along the Packers defensive line. This is more from an NFL viewpoint as Lowry isn't really a viable IDP asset, but he did post a career-high five sacks last year. Lowry is also a very reliable player who has started every game the past three seasons. Newly acquired Jarran Reed would be another player to watch. Reed was brought in on a one-year deal and is an experienced player who will be in the mix for snaps along the interior. This interior group will be a rotation with Kenny Clark being the lead mainstay.
Out on the edge, the Packers were without Za'Darius Smith last season due to injury and he has since moved on to Minnesota. All was not lost though, as they had a young star ready to step up. That young star was Rashan Gary. Gary had a breakout third season in 2021, playing a career-high 681 defensive snaps (68%) and turning that extra workload into a career-high 9.5 sacks. Green Bay will be counting on Gary heavily once again in 2022 after his stellar 2021 campaign. Out on the edge opposite of Gary is veteran Preston Smith. After a disappointing five-sack 2020 season, Smith quietly had a nice bounce-back 2021 campaign notching nine sacks. The Gary/Smith edge duo is one of the strengths of this defense and will be key to it repeating its 2021 success.
Green Bay does like to rotate in some of its reserve edges a bit to keep the starters fresh. One key returning edge reserve to know from last season is Jonathan Garvin who played 395 defensive snaps. Fifth-round rookie Kingsley Enagbare is also an interesting name. With the edge depth chart being thin, Enagbare has a chance to enter the rotation and get some run as a rookie. If an injury were to strike, Garvin and Enagbare are names to know. On the inside, second-year man Tedarell Slaton is a name to know. Slaton played 255 defensive snaps as a rookie last season and will likely rotate in a bit. Slaton is a prototypical block-eating nose tackle.
There wasn't a better late offseason signing for the Packers (and maybe in the league) last year than De'Vondre Campbell. In Green Bay's system, there was only one full-time linebacker role last year with them running a fair amount of single-linebacker dime looks. Campbell earned that role and elevated his game to a level no one saw coming. His play was paramount to Green Bay's defensive success last season and they made it a point to bring him back, signing Campbell to a lucrative five-year, $50 million dollar contract during free agency. Campbell set career-highs in total tackles (146) and solo tackles (102) while earning First-Team All-Pro honors for the first time in his career. It's exciting to see what Campbell does for an encore in 2022. Next to the old veteran will be a new face in first-round pick Quay Walker out of Georgia. Green Bay did something they haven't done since 2006 (A.J. Hawk) in drafting a first-round linebacker with their 22nd overall pick. Walker is an intriguing combination of size (6-foot-4 and 241 pounds) and athleticism. The rookie has legit range and is a sound tackler with long arms that provide him with a wide tackle radius. The big question is, how many snaps will Walker see? Krys Barnes was the other starter last year and played 527 defensive snaps (52%). With Green Bay investing first-round capital in Walker, you should be optimistic he will be utilized more than Barnes. Quite simply, he's a better player with a better skill set. We could see a bit more two-LB sets out of Green Bay this year as they said they love Walker's versatility and the speed/range he brings to the field. Walker has a direct path to snaps as a rookie, we just need to monitor how many snaps that is when the season gets here.
The important backup to know is Krys Barnes. As I stated above, Barnes was the other starter last year and produced a solid 81 tackles (58 solos). If an injury were to hit Campbell or Walker, Barnes is the likely candidate to fill in. Ty Summers is another player who's stepped in in the past. Summers is just a depth guy who's ok against the run and is a liability in coverage
At safety, the Packers boast a rock-solid duo in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. Both safeties played over 1,000 snaps last season and project to do so once again, barring injury of course. From an IDP lens, Amos is the more productive of the two. Over their three seasons paired together in Green Bay, Amos has averaged 86.7 tackles/season compared to Savage's 64.3 tackles/season. Part of this is due to Amos spending more time up in the box area than Savage and part of it is Amos being a savvy player who puts himself in good position when opportunity strikes. Savage has been fine to start his career, but just hasn't quite hit the lofty expectations placed upon him after his first-round selection in 2019. Also, spending a fair amount of time at free safety does hinder his weekly tackle floor. One thing is for certain, both players will be back to their starting roles in 2022. At cornerback, the Packers have an exciting trio in Jaire Alexander, Eric Stokes, and Rasul Douglas. Alexander missed most of last season with a shoulder injury but is one of the best shut-down corners in the game. Eric Stokes was Green Bay's first-round selection last year and was forced into action with Alexander out. Stokes showed he was ready for the big stage as a rookie and will look to be even better in year two. Rasul Douglas was an October signing that paid huge dividends for Green Bay last year. Douglas had a knack for the big play and finished the season with a team-high five interceptions. Green Bay then rewarded Douglas this offseason, re-signing him to a three-year, $21 million dollar deal. The big question with this talented trio is, where do they fit in with each other? That is something we will have to wait to find out this offseason. There are rumblings Green Bay may choose to move Alexander around a bit with him seeing time outside and in the slot, certainly interesting. Keep tabs on the situation as there is value to be had from the group, especially in those cornerback-required formats.
At safety, the Packers reserves are a pretty uninspiring group. Vernon Scott and Shawn Davis are the veteran reserves currently on the roster. Seventh-round rookie Tariq Carpenter is a name to monitor if he ends up making the squad. However, at cornerback, second-year player Shemar Jean-Charles out of Appalachian State is an intriguing player. Jean-Charles fits the mold of a feisty slot corner, which is an area of opportunity with Chandon Sullivan now gone. If injury strikes or opportunity were to present itself, Jean-Charles could make some noise.