Fantasy Football: Finding Value in the Packers Receiving Corps
As a lifelong Cheesehead, this is the article I’ve been looking forward to writing all offseason. Everybody in the fantasy community understands the worth of Davante Adams, but not as many people are aware of the potential value available deeper down the Packers depth chart.
Aaron Rodgers‘ illustrious fantasy career is what makes the Packers secondary receiving options so appealing. Take a look at the chart below, detailing Rodgers’ 11 years as Green Bay’s starting quarterback and the associated fantasy performances of him and his receiving corps.
*Injury shortened seasons
A few things stick out. First of all, the top receiving option for Rodgers is going to be a WR1. The average finish for his top target is 9.45. That shouldn’t be a surprise, but it also isn’t particularly relevant to the discussion here. Davante Adams is an elite receiver and is already being treated as such by the fantasy community with his first round ADP.
Things get more intriguing as you start looking at Rodgers’ second and third receiving options historically. The Packers second wideout in the Rodgers era finishes as a top-28 WR on average. What’s more impressive is there have been six seasons when Rodgers’ second option has finished as a top-22 fantasy wideout and two times that they’ve finished top-8! Players on that list include Greg Jenning, James Jones, Randall Cobb, and pre-breakout Davante Adams.
Digging further, Rodgers’ third receiving options also typically have better than average success. His number three receivers average around 100 fantasy points per season and have put up a top-48 WR season 27.3% of the time. These guys won’t be weekly starters for your fantasy team but may serve as a fill-in when given a favorable matchup.
Finally, and maybe most glaringly, 2018 was far and away the worst fantasy season for Rodgers’ secondary and tertiary options. There were several reasons for the drop-off in production behind Adams. Injuries were a big factor. Veteran Randall Cobb only played in nine games and 2018 breakout candidate Geronimo Allison only played in five. This left a trio of rookies and an undrafted free agent castoff to try and pick up the slack. Rodgers himself played through a fairly significant knee injury for all of 2018. There were also rumors of infighting, dissension, and favoritism throughout the Green Bay organization. Those rumors may be overblown, but it seems pretty clear that the organization was no longer operating smoothly.
Now Mike McCarthy is gone and Matt LaFleur is the new head coach in Titletown. Rodgers has expressed excitement in the new offensive system and wants to put his own stamp on it. The Packers let Randall Cobb go in free agency and didn’t add any new wide receivers through free agency or the draft.
Matt LaFleur has said that he plans to treat his receiver depth chart like a basketball roster, utilizing players skillsets as opposed to giving them defined roles like “outside” or “slot” receivers. So who are these rag-tag receivers vying for targets, and which one should you target for fantasy football?
Allison was a favorite sleeper candidate for much of the fantasy football community in 2018, even with Randall Cobb still in Green Bay. He’s entering his fourth season after coming into the league undrafted in 2016. He flashed in his first two seasons, but his play was limited while stuck behind Jordy Nelson, Adams, and Cobb on the depth chart.
He appeared to be fulfilling the sleeper hype early last season, catching 19 passes for 289 yards and two touchdowns through the first four games of 2018 before suffering a combination of a concussion and hamstring injuries kept him out until Week 7. He returned for one game before suffering a torn adductor that ended his season and required surgery.
Allison would certainly fit the physical profile of typical slot receivers for LaFleur historically. Just take a look at his height and 40-yard dash time compared to the leading slot receivers in recent offenses that included LaFleur on staff.
Allison appears to be a front runner for a significant role in Green Bay’s 2019 offense.
Valdes-Scantling may have been the biggest surprise of the Packers offense in 2018. He was selected in the fifth round of the NFL draft as the second wideout taken by the Packers, but he ended up seeing more snaps on the season than any Green Bay receiver not named Davante Adams. MVS had a huge four-game stretch in Weeks 5-8 where he put up 79.3 receiving yards per game to go along with four touchdowns. Of the three receivers Green Bay drafted in 2018, Valdes-Scantling had the most prosperous rookie season.
Coming into the 2018 NFL draft many analysts expected him to be off the board by the third or fourth round, so it was a bit surprising to see him fall to Green Bay in the sixth. He played sparingly early in the season but flashed a few times as the season progressed. Check out the nice back shoulder catch he grabbed to set up the game-winning field goal on Monday Night Football in Week 6.
Equanimeous St. Brown Monday night game winner pic.twitter.com/dRBdYIS2Dq
— Jac Collinsworth (@JacCollinsworth) October 16, 2018
His best performance came in the season finale when he caught all five passes thrown his way for 94 yards. At 6’5”, 214 pounds, he may be the most physically impressive receiver on the Packers roster. If Matt LaFleur and Aaron Rodgers find a role for him, he has the potential to put up significant fantasy points in 2019.
Moore was the first wideout that Green Bay selected in the 2018 NFL draft, but it wasn’t until the fourth round. He had a forgettable rookie campaign, catching just two passes for 15 yards. He’s still young and talented enough to turn it around in a new offense, but he’ll have an uphill climb to be fantasy relevant in 2019.
Fun fact about Jake Kumerow: he’s cousins with Nick and Joey Bosa. He also may be the most intriguing player in the Packers receiving corps. His success would make for a great story. He went undrafted out of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater in 2015 and spent the first three seasons of his career bouncing between practice squads in Cincinnati and New England before landing in Green Bay at the end of 2017.
He was a preseason superstar in 2018 but hurt his shoulder (on an 82-yard touchdown catch) and ended up being placed on injured reserve. He was able to return late in the regular season and make an impact, including his first career touchdown on this 49-yard catch and run.
— Green Bay Packers (@packers) December 23, 2018
Davis is primarily a return specialist who missed most of 2018 with hamstring injuries. There’s still a chance that the speedster finds a role in the offense, so it’s worth keeping his name on your radar.
So which of these Packers receiver(s) should your target for your fantasy team?
Allison’s ADP has climbed two rounds through May from 11.05 to 9.07. He could easily see his ADP reach the eighth round by the time draft season rolls around in August. If he ends up securing the role as Rodgers number two target, that price tag will likely pay off.
MVS is the definition of a late-round flier, with his ADP holding steady in the 14th round. Taking a shot on him as your last skill position player could pay off in spades if he ends up as a top-24 WR, which is completely possible if he sees a significant amount of targets from Rodgers.
Everybody else mentioned is currently going undrafted, which gives you two options to acquire them. You can take the late-round flier approach and select them as your last skill position, or you can let them go undrafted and keep a close eye on them early in the season. Make sure to pay attention to the snap percentage and targets for the Packers over the first few weeks. If St. Brown, Kumerow, or any other receiver, end up getting a high percentage of snaps or targets they’ll be well worth an early season waiver claim.
The point is, in an Aaron Rodgers led offense there’s value to be had beyond Davante Adams. There are several viable options on Green Bay’s depth chart headed into the 2019 season. The Packers wide receivers will be one of the most interesting positions to keep tabs on throughout training camp and the preseason. You could potentially secure a startable fantasy wideout for cheap in Green Bay, giving you a leg up on your fantasy league in 2019.