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Leaving the Pack Behind


R-E-L-A-X was the soundbite from quarterback Aaron Rodgers in 2014 when the Packers started badly in their season, but in Green Bay now he has to be thinking that was a warm distant memory. Since that season there has been a huge amount of upheaval, and that is reflected in the fantasy output of Green Bay this season.

The Packers have been a great team for fantasy owners historically- having a quarterback that is going to be in the hall of fame always gives players the chance to shine and put up points. Once a reputation is developed it is difficult to shift that mindset, so owners will still look at the Packers as a top offense based on the historical output of the team.

Things have changed though- the offense looks a bit stale in the current landscape of the NFL. After the loss to the Arizona Cardinals, Mike McCarthy lost his job, after speculation has increased in the past few weeks after a series of poor results and performances. There are many reasons as to why the team wasn't performing, but now the team has the opportunity to change that with a new coach steering them in a different direction. However, for the here and now, there are a few options that can be truly trusted in Green Bay which are explored below.

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The Remnants of Green Bay

Quarterback

Rodgers is clearly not playing to his best. Right at the start of the season, there seemed to be upset for the team's star player. The Packers fired QB coach Alex Van Pelt without consulting him and to quote him at the time;

"I thought that was an interesting change, really without consulting me. There's a close connection between quarterback and quarterback coach, and that was an interesting decision."

To top it off his safety blanket Jordy Nelson was shipped out of town, so coming into this season, Rodgers wasn't exactly comfortable with his situation.

Then the Packers opened the season with a fantastic come back against the Chicago Bears, a game in which Rodgers injured his knee and had to exit the game. Since that game, he hasn't looked comfortable in the pocket as he has in seasons past. Rodgers might not be considered to be one of the better rushing quarterbacks in the league, but he has traditionally been able to use his legs to extend plays and get himself out of trouble before flicking a pass downfield.

Rodgers hasn't been his normal fantasy darling consistent self. In the draft season, he was pretty much the first quarterback off the board in most leagues, and he hasn't lived up to that billing. While some of that is due to the hugely impressive passing offenses we have seen led by Patrick Mahomes, Jared Goff, as well as the evergreen, Drew Brees, the vast majority of the problem is because the Packers have not put themselves in a place to really move on offense. Rodgers is having one of his worst seasons outside of seasons where he has missed time through serious injury- only throwing 21 touchdown passes to date. Rodgers threw 16 in just seven games last season, and the three seasons before that where he played every game, he threw 38, 31 and 40 respectively.

Rodgers at this point in the season should be considered to be falling in the range of a high-level streamer, among the likes of Philip Rivers along with fellow NFC North quarterbacks Kirk Cousins and Mitch Trubisky.

Running Back By Committee

Coach Mike McCarthy started the season with Aaron Jones suspended and the duo of Jamaal Williams and converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery in his backfield. It seemed as though he was just unwilling to hand the keys to the more talented Jones, as he wasn't able to be an effective pass blocker. The Packers struggled to get the run game going, and it was only after Jones returned in Week 3 against the Washington Redskins that the Packers had over 100 yards on the ground.

The Packers started the season with Williams and Montgomery, but they just couldn't make any impact on the field. Williams was the back trusted with the early downs work, and Montgomery was the change-of-pace back. In the period before the Packers bye week, only Jones had an average of over 5 yards. Williams had carried the ball 59 times for 224 yards (average of 3.80 YPC), Montgomery 24 carries for 99 yards (average of 4.13 YPC), and then Jones had 32 carries for 188 yards (average of 5.88 YPC). There was no certainty over who would be the lead back and who could be trusted to be started for fantasy owners. However, that changed after the Packers returned from their bye week.

Jones really took ownership of the backfield once the Packers returned from their bye week where he rushed for 86 yards and a touchdown against the Los Angeles Rams, and now accounts for a share of 43% of all the rushes for the Packers, and a very impressive 5.7 yards per attempt.

Montgomery isn't a concern now, having been shipped out to the Baltimore Ravens- where he has failed to make any impact unable to break into a crowded backfield. Williams seems like a bit part player now, having only had 23 carries in 6 games after the bye week. If you held onto Jones through his unimpressive start to the season, he has certainly repaid your faith and is now an every week starter at the running back position.

Receiving Options

As mentioned previously the Packers let Rodgers favorite target Jordy Nelson go in the preseason, and it shows in the offense. The Packers are hurting at receiver with a lack of depth at the position.

Davante Adams has looked impressive this season, and more importantly for a receiver he has the trust of his quarterback. Adams currently has a target share of 28% having 127 targets so far this season. That opportunity has led itself to Adams catching 85 passes for 1,115 yards and 11 touchdowns, putting him in the elite at his position. Adams is certainly a locked on every week starter.

The issue for Green Bay has been that the team has suffered from a carousel of receivers trying to be the secondary option. At the start of the season, the Packers used a combination of Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison.

Cobb has missed time with a hamstring injury and has just not looked as explosive as he has in previous seasons. Cobb currently has only taken in 26 passes for 258 yards and a single touchdown, with around half of that production coming in Week 1 against the Chicago Bears. Cobb is not a player that needs to be rostered at this stage- if he is, then it's likely the owner is holding onto the name at this point, rather than the potential fantasy output.

Allison came into the season with a lot of hype during the offseason and started the season looking as though he would live up to it. In his first four games, he caught 19 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns, but that wasn't to last as after getting injured he has finished his season on the IR.

The Packers then moved onto their rookie receiver trio Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and J'mon Moore.

Moore has been a shadow on the field, only catching a single pass for 10 yards and hasn't really been able to make an impact on the field.

St. Brown flashed in Week 5, which was the first game that Allison missed catching three passes for 89 yards. It looked as though he would be a key part of the offense, but since that game, he hasn't been able to be involved in the offense. His best game since then was against the Minnesota Vikings where he caught three passes for 53 yards, other than that he hasn't caught more than two passes in any matchup.

Valdes-Scantling picked up from Allison in Week 5, catching seven receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown, then following that up with a further four decent fantasy games- catching 14 receptions for 293 yards and one additional touchdown. Since then, he has struggled to make an impact on the games he has been in, catching four passes for 30 yards in the past three weeks.

Combining those two players performance would have given the Packers that secondary receiver that they needed on the other side of the field from Adams, but both have had struggles and can't be trusted for fantasy owners looking for consistency.

Problems At Tight End

The Packers broke tradition in regards to signing big name free agents in bringing in Pro-Bowl tight end Jimmy Graham. Graham enjoyed three seasons in Seattle with quarterback Russell Wilson, and while it looked as though he had lost a step, he was still the same threat in the red zone he had been during his time for the New Orleans Saints.

The offseason is a prime time for speculation, and the general public thought that Rodgers finally had a decent option at the position, something that he hadn't had for years- as well as potentially replacing Nelson as Rodgers safety blanket.

Graham has enjoyed a target share of 16% which has only been bettered by elite wide receiver Davante Adams for the Packers, catching 44 passes for 536 yards and two touchdowns.

The tight end position as a whole has been targeted 97 times, with fellow tight ends Lance Kendricks, Marcedes Lewis, and Robert Tonyan Jr. only getting 25 of those; in total, there are really no effective options outside of Graham.

Graham himself doesn't have too much value for fantasy owners, currently being outscored at the position by Jared Cook as well as Jordan Reed and Trey Burton who fantasy owners were on the verge of dropping. Graham is certainly not a reliable option at the position, and you would be better served trying to play matchups for your roster.

Overall Performance Of The Team

Overall, the Packers are just not a great team. Outside of the early season victory against the Chicago Bears the Packers have only beaten teams that are vying for getting an early first-round pick in beating out the Buffalo Bills, San Fransisco 49ers and the Miami Dolphins. The season is dead for them, the offense looks stale and needs a new direction- and they have the chance to do that now with head coach Mike McCarthy recently departing.

The only fantasy options that you can truly rely on at this point are running back Aaron Jones and wide receiver Davante Adams, as they are the only players getting the consistent opportunity to perform, other than that you are looking at streaming players according to matchups.

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