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2021 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

Last updated: Thu, Aug 26

Offensive Philosophy

In his first year as a head coach, Matt LaFleur impressed with a 13-3 record and an NFC North title, but the Packers fell in the NFC Championship Game. Coincidentally, that is precisely what he did in his second-year campaign in 2020. Although the record and the season outcome remained the same year-over-year, the Packers offense saw a significant improvement in LaFleur's sophomore season as a coach. The offense saw a 12.6% increase in total yardage and a 46% increase in points per drive. A lot of that was due to a phenomenal season from 37-year-old Aaron Rodgers. In his 16th year as a pro, he set a career-high with 48 passing touchdowns and a 9.1% touchdown rate. These improvements came after consecutive seasons below 5%, a mark he exceeded every year before 2018. Rodgers also set a career-high 70.7% completion rate while only throwing five interceptions in addition to an absurd number of touchdowns. The improvements in the passing game opened more opportunities in the run game as well. After totaling 1,795 yards in 2019, the Packers rushed for 2,118 yards in 2020. While Aaron Jones remains the primary back heading into 2021, second-year bruiser AJ Dillon will look to carve out a consistent role after Jamaal Williams left in free agency. Overall, this offense finished first in the NFL in points and fifth in yards. With Rodgers ignoring naysayers and returning to an elite level last season, there's reason to believe that he's finding comfort in this offense. However, regression could be in store following an explosive 2020 season. Expect a pass-heavy approach to this offense that ranked 15th in pass ratio in 2019 and seventh in 2020, despite commanding many heavy leads.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): Jordan Love

Starting QB: After much ado was made about the regression of Aaron Rodgers in his first year with Matt LaFleur, he came out in Year Two for what was arguably the best statistical season throughout his 16-year career. Not only did he set career-highs in both total touchdowns and touchdown rate, but he passed for 4,299 yards, the sixth-highest mark he's hit in a single season. He has brought his team to the NFC Championship game in back-to-back seasons and is sitting with a 26-6 record under his new coach. Heading into 2020, Rodgers' value was suppressed as many experts thought his age and a new coaching staff were working against him. With an average draft position as the 11th quarterback off the board last year, Rodgers paid off by finishing as the QB3. His value is rising heading into 2021 though after Rodgers has show comfortability in this new offense. He will once again require premium capital to be landed in a fantasy draft. The biggest storyline from 2020 was the rapport that Rodgers showcased with superstar wide receiver Davante Adams, who saw a league-high 32 red zone targets that he turned into 14 touchdowns. Adams has shown potential throughout his career but took the league by storm in 2020. Unfortunately though, the Packers remain in search of a viable second pass-catcher, as Allen Lazard spent the season nursing injuries and Marquez Valdes-Scantling's impact was sporadic. Regardless of his supporting cast, Rodgers is an elite talent, even at age 37. Surely, fantasy managers will look for the next breakout player, and younger names will shoot up the draft boards. But if you're looking for a quarterback with week-winning and a safe floor that won't require you to take the first quarterback off the board, Rodgers is a solid target. There was speculation that the Packers could be looking to move on from Rodgers after the Packers moved up to draft Jordan Love in the 2020 draft, but Rodgers' dominance throughout the year quickly spelled those rumors. On a team that committed to throwing the ball, Rodgers should find success again in 2021, although his obscene touchdown rate should take a slight hit.

Backup QB: Not that anyone expected a rookie to dethrone Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay, but Jordan Love failed to even see the field as a rookie. The Packers shockingly traded up for Love in the 2020 draft after dropping to the 26th overall pick. The Packers ignored their needs for another pass-catcher in a move that caused a lot of post-draft analyzing. Jordan Love is unbelievably talented, but his final season at Utah State consisted of 17 interceptions. Taking the old school approach of benching a raw talent and sitting them behind a starter has worked for the Packers, most recently with Rodgers sitting behind Brett Favre for three full seasons before a 4,000-yard and 28-touchdown opening season as a starter. At 6'4" and 220 pounds, Love has the prototypical build for a franchise quarterback and the arm talent to go along with it. Love has many traits that Rodgers had as a young quarterback; the skills to throw on the run, a big arm to hit receivers downfield, and the ability to move the pocket. Unfortunately though, Love's downfalls are in his short-throw accuracy. With the set of pass-catchers that the Packers currently have rostered, it could spell trouble for Love if he is forced to step in and control the offense. Marquez Valdes-Scantling is really their only deep threat, and he has a penchant for dropping balls. Davante Adams, the team's top receiver, does his damage as an elite route-runner with unmatchable chemistry with Rodgers. Love remains a high-upside dynasty stash but would likely require an injury to Aaron Rodgers to see the field in 2021.

Running Backs

Starter: Aaron Jones
Backup(s): AJ Dillon, Kylin Hill [R], Dexter Williams, Patrick Taylor Jr.
Fullback(s):

Starting RB: It was expected that the Packers would move on from Aaron Jones after his rookie deal expired following the 2020 season. After Jamaal Williams signed with the Detroit Lions, it seemed like second-round pick AJ Dillon would take the keys for the Packers' starting job. Jones has looked great over the last two seasons, and the 26-year-old back was expected to garner a massive payday in free agency. The Packers surprisingly gave Jones a four-year/$48M contract. As for his fantasy outlook, that move is probably best for him. He's finished as a top-five back in consecutive seasons. Looking strictly at his rushing numbers, there isn't a lot to be excited about. He set a career-high with 1,084 rushing yards in 2019 and followed it up with 1,104 in 2020, despite missing two games. He added 829 yards on the ground over that stretch. But where he really impressed was in his insane ability to find the end zone. He has totaled 30 touchdowns from scrimmage since the start of the 2019 season, and that was while sharing carries with Williams. His involvement in the passing game, slipperiness in the open field, and scoring ability make him an elite fantasy asset. At just 5'9" with top-notch agility, he is built very differently than Dillon. They have very different skillsets as opposed to the timeshare with Williams, where they shared a lot of similar traits. Jones excels in this zone blocking scheme and was fourth in the league in yards per touch. He evaded 55 tackles last season and has eight runs over 15 yards, 12th-most in the league. Realizing how his usage can go up without Williams is an exciting thought. Still, expect the Packers to utilize Dillon frequently, which could lower Jones's ceiling. While Jones has a knack for sniffing out the end zone, it's very likely that the team turns to Dillon in goalline situations. Still, his pass-catching upside and ability to break away long scores will make him a great option in fantasy for years to come.

Backup RBs: The Packers caused a lot of head-scratching when they selected AJ Dillon with a second-round pick in the 2020 draft. With Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams both on expiring deals, the rumor was that the Packers would retain the cheaper back (Jamaal Williams). At the same time, Aaron Jones would find a payday on the free agent market. Well, Jamaal Williams signed with Detroit, and the Packers re-signed Aaron Jones, leaving Dillon as the secondary back on the team, but behind a much better back than anticipated. Had the backfield just been Williams and Dillon, the latter would have been an exhilarating fantasy prospect. Now, with $48M invested in Jones, Dillon's role isn't quite as clear. In games that Jones is starting, he could be used in short-yardage and goalline situations, giving him a dangerously low floor. We saw him get the bulk of the carries in one game last season. Against the Titans, in the only game where he saw more than 50% of the team's snaps, he carried the ball 21 times for 124 yards and two touchdowns, showing his natural ability as a strong runner. At 6' tall and 247 pounds, Dillon is the heaviest back in the league. Compared to Jones's 5'9" and 208lb frame, these backs couldn't be more different. Jones is elusive, a great route-runner, and agile. AJ Dillon is a bruiser with little agility and high-end breakaway speed. These two can work symbiotically in a backfield where both of their strengths can be highlighted, but Dillon could end up in a touchdown-dependent role that makes him risky to rely on in fantasy. The Packers almost selected Kylin Hill in the seventh round of the 2021 draft. He shouldn't be expected to see much action as a rookie and should play a depth role for the Packers.

Fullback:

Wide Receivers

Starters: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Randall Cobb
Backups: Amari Rodgers [R], Equanimeous St. Brown, Devin Funchess, Juwann Winfree, Malik Taylor, Chris Blair, Reggie Begelton

Starting WRs: There isn't much to say about the season we just witnessed from Davante Adams in 2020 that hasn't already been said. He was first in the league in red zone targets with a whopping 32, 14 of which he converted for a touchdown. He pulled in another four touchdowns from outside the 20-yard line, finishing the season with a league-high 18 receiving touchdowns. His 1,374 yards came in as fifth in the league, but because he only played in 14 games, that's an incredible feat. Adams took the NFL by storm with a 1,386-yard season in 2018 and then spent his 2019 campaign plagued with turf toe that caused him to miss six games and be limited in others. Those injuries are well behind him, and he should head into his 28-year-old season with a clean bill of health. Adams and Aaron Rodgers have undeniable chemistry, looking like two old friends playing backyard football at times. Part of a thin wide receiver corps, Adams has solidified his role as the best on the team. Adams has been top-two in targets per game amongst wide receivers for three consecutive years, showing plenty of upside strictly due to opportunity. All of this data puts Adams as the consensus favorite amongst wide receivers in almost all fantasy scoring platforms. Through his seven years in the league though, Adams has missed at least one game in all but two. Looking at his per-16 game extrapolation over the last three years, Adams has paced for 174 targets, 121 receptions, 1,466 yards, and 14 touchdowns. He can be relied on as the alpha receiver in a pass-heavy offensive scheme anchored by a future Hall of Fame quarterback. Marques Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard have carved out roles as secondary options, but neither of them saw even half the amount of targets that Adams commanded. Valdes-Scantling's name has become synonymous with big plays and dropped passes, making him a tough payer to rely on week in and week out. Allen Lazard spent most of his 2020 campaign nursing a core injury. At 6'3" with great speed and strength, Lazard is still a favorite to take over as the team's secondary weapon. He'll be just 25 years old when the season kicks off and will hope to put his injury-laden career behind him. If all falls into place, Lazard can focus on becoming a consistent weapon alongside Adams. In addition to these two receivers behind Adams, the Packers acquired Randall Cobb at Aaron Rodgers behest, so it's safe to assume that Cobb will be the primary slot receiver.

Backup WRs: For having one of the league's best pass attacks, the Packers wide receiver depth is nearly obsolete. Davante Adams sits atop the depth chart. Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard are comfortably below him, and then there isn't much to get excited about after that. They rook Amari Rodgers in the third round. At 5'9", Rodgers isn't undersized for an NFL wide receiver but has drawn comps to Randall Cobb, who found a lot of success with Aaron Rodgers. His role will be tough to gauge with Cobb coming back to Green Bay. The Packers were expected to draft a wide receiver in a loaded 2020 draft and opted for a backup quarterback instead. They struck out in the 2021 free agency after being tied to rumors regarding some big names. Now, heading into Matt LaFleur's third season as a head coach, it's tough to recognize any players outside Devin Funchess. He would probably need multiple injuries ahead of him on the depth chart to sniff fantasy relevance. Funchess is a former second-rounder that has failed to contribute much as of late. Still just 27 years old, Funchess opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns after playing just one game in 2019. Only once in his career has the big-bodied receiver been able to haul in 50 receptions. In 2017, Cam Newton connected with him for a career-best 63 receptions, 840 yards, and eight touchdowns. Since then, just 47 receptions over 15 games. While his draft pedigree, age, and size will draw some sleeper talk in fantasy circles, Funchess will have a lot working against him in his path to carving out a role in this Packers offense.

Tight Ends

Starters: Robert Tonyan
Backups: Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Josiah Deguara

After catching a touchdown in the 2019 NFC Championship game, all eyes were on Jace Sternberger to take over as the Packers' lead tight end. Sternberger saw a total of 15 targets on the year, while Robert Tonyan emerged to lead the corps with 59. Not only did Tonyan see a healthy share of targets, but he caught 52 of them and scored 11 times, tying Travis Kelce for the league lead. Tonyan is just 26 years old and will be on many fantasy manager's radars heading into 2021 drafts. While his season was heavily weighed by a seemingly unsustainable touchdown rate, he finished as the TE3 in all formats and has a lot of appealing measurements. After going undrafted, the Packers signed the Indiana State product prior to the 2018 season. Through his first two years, he only saw 21 targets. But after spending the 2020 offseason working out with George Kittle, he came into the year looking like a completely different player. Sternberger, veteran Marcedes Lewis, and Josiah Deguara only saw a combined 24 targets, less than half of what Tonyan commanded. There's no reason to expect that anyone besides Tonyan sees the starting duties again in 2021. If he's unable to suit up for whatever reason, there isn't much clarity between Sternberger and Lewis as the backup. Pushing 37 years old, Lewis is unlikely to be able to shoulder a full workload, but you'd assume that his size makes him the preferred red zone target. However, looking at the numbers, Sternberger actually saw more targets in the red zone, despite fewer targets on the season. Those are tiny sample sizes though, and it makes it tough to draw an objective conclusion. Expect Tonyan to shoulder the heavy lifting, with Sternberger likely playing a backup role and Lewis getting some situational snaps.

Place Kicker

Mason Crosby: Crosby did not miss a field goal all season for the first time in his career last year, but he was a still a fantasy dud because he only attempted 16 of them. He attempted 63 extra points, as Aaron Rodgers regained his MVP form, so Crosby wasn't much use to fantasy teams. He is going off of the board as a draftable kicker, but don't spend a pick on him. Crosby has only attempted more than 30 field goals once in the last six seasons.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Amari Rodgers [R], Malik Taylor

Neither of Green Bay's top two kickoff returners from 2020 will return in 2021, which leaves third option Malik Taylor the leader in the clubhouse by default, with third-round pick Amari Rodgers a possibility even though he was used mostly as a punt returner in college. Don't be surprised if Green Bay brings in more competition at the position.

Punt Returners: Amari Rodgers [R], Josh Jackson

Again Green Bay let its top punt returners walk. Josh Jackson is their most experienced remaining option with a whopping two returns last year. Whether Jackson wins the job in 2021 or Green Bay signs someone else for the job, they're unlikely to make much of an impact; Green Bay ranked last in the league in punt return yards last year with just 53 total, driven partly by their propensity to call fair catches at a rate well above league average. That could change with the addition of Rodgers, who had 68 punt returns for an average of 7.8 yards and one score in his four years at Clemson.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT David Bahktiari, LG Elgton Jenkins, C Lucas Patrick, RG Josh Myers [R], RT Billy Turner
Key Backups: OL Jon Runyan, OL Yosh Nijman

Left tackle David Bakhtiari tore his ACL and might not be ready for the regular season. Jon Runyan would man the blindside in his place. Left guard Elgton Jenkins made the Pro Bowl, and he will support new center Lucas Patrick. Simon Stepaniak will compete at right guard but look for the Josh Myers to push Lucas for playing time. They are good either way: a top-five line with Bakhtiari or a top-ten group without him.

Team Defense

There is hope that a defense that was already on the rise will get even better under first year defensive coordinator Joe Barry. Barry could go with light boxes vs. the run with cover-3 or cover-4 coverage to mimic what the Rams did when Barry was the assistant head coach and linebackers coach. The Packers defense has a strong edge rush that could get even better if 2019 first round pick Rashan Gary blossoms in year three. There are holes at inside linebacker and boundary corner. This year's first round pick Eric Stokes could be an upgrade from Kevin King, but maybe not this season. The team has a good set of safeties in Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage (who could play a hybrid safety/linebacker role), and Jaire Alexander is a top rate ballhawk. The Packers team defense should be a good play when they are at home, and when they are favored on the road.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Dean Lowry, NT Kenny Clark, DE Tyler Lancaster
Backups: DE Kingsley Keke, NT Anthony Rush, NT Tedarrell Slaton [R], DE Delontae Scott

Starting DL: Kenny Clark remains a standard at his position, but he will need more help from his linemates if he and the defense are to improve. Though some speculated that Dean Lowry could be cut to save cap space, the starting unit remains intact. It will be interesting to see how the Defensive Coordinator change from Mike Pettine to Joe Barry impacts the defense. They will remain a 3-4 unit in base sets, so there is not the major upheaval that comes with a switch to 4-3. The team hopes it can get more from Dean Lowry. Lowry had three sacks and 36 total tackles, but has come nowhere close to matching the impact of previous incumbent Mike Daniels. Tyler Lancaster was set to become a restricted free agent, but the team re-signed him. As with Lowry, Lancaster will need to be more impactful, particularly in the area of stopping the run. Of 101 interior linemen to play at least 140 snaps versus the run, he tied for 69th in run-stuff rate, according to Pro Football Focus data.

Backup DL: Kingsley Keke continues to serve as a backup, despite taking some steps forward in his second season. He doubled his career tackle total last year and will undoubtedly have a bigger role in the rotation. As for Dolontae Scott and Anthony Rush, there remains much to prove, given that both have only one combined snap of live game experience. Tadarrell Slaton was a classic space-eater, but did not generate much in terms of interior pass rush in the college game.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB De'Vondre Campbell ILB De'Vondre Campbell ILB De'Vondre Campbell, ILB Krys Barnes, ILB Kamal Martin, OLB Za'Darius Smith, OLB Preston Smith
Backups: ILB Oren Burks, ILB Ty Summers, ILB Isaiah McDuffie [R], OLB Jonathan Garvin, OLB Rashan Gary,

Starting LBs: The interior linebackers Barnes and Martin ended up taking over last year when Christian Kirksey and Oren Burks could not stay healthy. Both were able to play well, so much so that the Packers felt confident enough to jettison Kirksey and allow Barnes to take the starting role. The team added De'Vondre Campbell in June and he should win the spot opposite Barnes with Kamal Martin released. Zadarius Smith and Preston Smith did not have the record sack totals they both recorded in 2019, but they did combine for 16.5 sacks. Preston Smith contributed four of those and will hope to have a bounceback campaign. One of Barnes or Campbell could sit if Joe Barry uses a 3-3-5 alignment, putting Darnell Savage at the "star" hybrid S/LB role. The Rams drafted safeties and played with limited inside linebackers while Barry was there and coached the linebackers, so look for a similar approach with not as much IDP league impact from the ILBs.

Backup LBs: Oren Burks' fragility has led the team to relegate him to backup duty. Ty Summers had quite a bit of playing time last year when Krys Barnes was hurt, which helped the team feel more confident in their backup inside linebacker depth. The Packers also have better-than-average talent in their backup pass rushing unit in the speedy Jonathan Garvin and the athletic Rashan Gary. The Packers have been deliberate about bringing Gary along slowly, doubling his snap counts each year. Ramping him up in year three might be a recipe to bring the pass rush up to its previous level of functioning. Isaiah McDuffie might be the coverage linebacker the Packers have desperately been searching for. McDuffie also excels when asked to blitz the quarterback, making him an exciting late-round addition to this group.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Jaire Alexander, CB Kevin King, CB Eric Stokes [R], , SS Adrian Amos, FS Darnell Savage
Backups: CB Josh Jackson, CB Stanford Samuels, CB Ka'dar Hollman, CB Chandon Sullivan, CB Shemar Jean-Charles [R], SS Vernon Scott, FS Will Redmond

Starting DBs: Jaire Alexander has become a premier corner in the league and made his first Pro Bowl appearance last year. Kevin King re-signed with the Packers in the offseason on a one-year deal. The Packers took Eric Stokes with their first-round selection. The speedy Stokes has the versatility to play in the slot or on the outside. Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage continue to be an effective tandem, although Vernon Scott could get pressed onto the field at safety in a nearly full-time role if Savage plays the S/LB hybrid "star" role in the defense. Savage was injured for much of his rookie year, but managed to stay healthy for 15 games of the 2020 season.

Backup DBs: The backup corner group is thin and none of the options on this part of the roster have extensive experience with the exception of Will Redmond. Josh Jackson has largely been a disappointment, playing less in his last two years than he played in his rookie campaign. One of the backups could beat out Jackson for slot corner duties, which would make him expendable and send him back to being a healthy scratch. Shemar Jean-Charles has plus instincts for the position, but his on-field speed might not be up to NFL standards. It will be interesting to see if his off-the-charts coverage aptitude can compensate for this lack of play speed. The Packers re-signed Will Redmond this offseason after his extensive special teams and fill-in work over the last three years. The former 49ers third-round pick will continue to serve in this capacity.