2014 Fantasy Football Team Preview: The Green Bay Packers
Note: This piece was originally written on July 15th by Ryan Noonan and is one of many unique pieces that can be found in our 2014 fantasy football draft guide. None of this information has been updated since it was originally published.
Despite getting just eight games from their franchise quarterback, Aaron Rodgers, the Green Bay Packers won the NFC North and look primed to repeat heading into 2014. Rodgers came back in week 17 and led the Pack to a dramatic win in Soldier Field against the Bears that sealed each team’s fate. You can expect those two teams to battle it out again, with the high octane Lions keeping things interesting in the North. The Packers fantasy playoff schedule shouldn’t scare anyone either (ATL, @BUF, @TB in weeks 14-16).
There’s no doubt that Aaron Rodgers is one of the best in the game at the quarterback position, both in real life and in fantasy. The depth at the QB position allows most fantasy owners to wait until the mid to late rounds to draft their signal caller, but the consistency and upside that Aaron Rodgers presents is undeniable. Once the top RB/WR’s are off the board, don’t be afraid to lock up Rodgers. Yes, you can get a productive QB late, but you won’t stumble into one that’ll deliver 40-45 combined passing and rushing scores, who rolls out of bed and throws for 4,000 yards. He’s a set-it-and-forget-it guy, one that can occasionally get you a win all by himself. The NFC North defenses are improving, but A-Rod is match-up proof.
Coming off a very strong rookie season, most are counting on Eddie Lacy to make ‘the jump’ this season. Take a closer look and it’s easy to see why. Few running backs possess the touchdown upside that Lacy does, and the likelihood that he’s on the field as a true three-down back only increase his appeal. Lacy ranked 9th in DYAR, or Defensive-adjusted yards above replacement, and I expect that to improve as he’s likely to play a full season with Aaron Rodgers under center. All things considered, the rookie from Alabama played the majority of his rookie year with a backup quarterback and bum ankle, and yet he still managed over 1400 total yards and 11 TD’s. With an early season ADP of sixth overall, draft Lacy with confidence in the middle of round one. James Starks is Lacy’s backup and would be flex-worthy in the event of an Eddie Lacy injury.
The Packers high octane passing game is able to make multiple pass catchers fantasy relevant week in and week out, including two that are often drafted in the top ten at the wide receiver position. Jordy Nelson took his game to the next level last year, finishing with 85 catches, 1,314 yards and eight touchdowns. He was top-six in both DYAR and DVOA, defensive-adjusted value over average, at the wide receiver position. He was the primary target in the passing game last season and is likely to be again.
A slight dip in targets is likely for Nelson, as Randall Cobb returns after a leg injury cost him most of the 2013 season. The shifty Cobb is a favorite of Rodgers and was targeted early and often when both were healthy at the start of 2013. In leagues with return yards, it’s important to note that the Packers are looking to use some of their younger guys instead of Cobb in order to keep him fresh and healthy. The Packers also have Jarrett Boykin, along with rookies Davante Adams and Jared Abbrederis, who could instantly become relevant with an injury to Nelson or Cobb. Adams, a rookie out of Fresno State, could relegate Jarrett Boykin to return duties with a strong performance at OTA’s.
I don’t expect the Packers to provide fantasy owners with a consistent starter at the tight end position, but they do have some interesting talent at the position. Andrew Quarless returns from last season, but the minimal financial investment, along with the pair of tight ends the team drafted tells you what they think of Quarless long-term. Richard Rodgers has already caught the eye of fellow Cal Golden Bear, Rodgers, this summer. Look for the 6’4” rookie to push for playing time sooner than later, but keep your expectations in check. Brandon Bostick, a converted wide receiver is likely to make the team as well but shouldn’t be noteworthy this season from a fantasy perspective.
The Packers defense doesn’t move the needle very much as far as fantasy football is concerned. Their divisional opponents are explosive, minimizing any potential upside they may have. They’ll be worthy of a spot start on occasion, but they’re not in the small group of matchup proof fantasy defenses.
Player to Watch
Colt Lyerla, an undrafted rookie tight end out of Oregon, couldn’t have landed in a better situation. The unsettled nature of the position in Green Bay, along with the immense upside of this gigantic 21-year old, makes Lyerla someone to keep your eye on in dynasty leagues. He’ll need to figure out the off the field stuff that marred his career at Oregon, but if he can, then the sky is the limit. He has ‘move’ TE ability, someone that will be a pass-catching force if he puts it all together. He’s not worth your time this season, but he’s worth watching out for down the road.
72.1 – The Denver Broncos plays per game number, which was tops in the league in 2013. The Packers have said they’d like to push the tempo and are aiming for a 75 play-per-game average in 2014. The Packers ranked 11th last season with 67 plays per game, but with Aaron Rodgers under center and a healthy three-down back in Eddie Lacy, it’s worth noting that this already electric offense could become even more explosive if they start intentionally pushing the pace.