Fantasy Football Target Practice: The 2020 Green Bay Packers
If you haven’t noticed, our writing staff has been cranking out tons of content this offseason. Perhaps the most valuable series (MVS? No…that acronym comes up later in the article) is the Target Practice articles that debuted in June. If you aren’t familiar with them yet, set aside some time to catch up because this is already the eleventh installment of the series so far this summer. In this edition, I’ll do my best to break down the possible target distribution for the Green Bay Packers in 2020.
The Packers didn’t lose any key members of their pass-catching corps from last season but they still enter 2020 with 132 vacated targets, the eighth-most in the NFL, and almost 25% of their targets from 2019. Nearly all of those vacated targets come from what remained of Jimmy Graham and the disappointment that was Geronimo Allison. The only effort Green Bay made to replace those targets in the offseason was signing Devin Funchess, who recently opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID-19 concerns.
Every indication since April’s draft tells us head coach Matt LaFleur and the Packers brass want to lean heavily on the run game and minimize pass attempts. Even so, Green Bay ranked 16hth in pass attempts during a 2019 season where they finished with a strong 13-3 record while going 9-1 in one-score games. That’s something that isn’t likely to repeat, so as much as they don’t want it to admit it, Green Bay may have to pass the ball more than they’d like in 2020.
Predicting the target leader for the team may be the easiest proposition in the NFL this season, but after Davante Adams things get a little dicey.
Davante Adams – Floor: 130 / Ceiling: 185
He’s going to lead the team, and possibly the league, in targets. Can we move on?
Ok, I can’t help but dive in just a little bit. Over the last two regular seasons, Adams has been on pace for over 140 targets per season. But it gets better. From Week 9, when he returned from injury, through the playoffs, he averaged 11.3 targets per game. That translates to just over 180 targets over 16 games. For what it’s worth, Michael Thomas had 185 targets during his dominant 2019 campaign.
Allen Lazard – Floor: 75 / Ceiling: 105
Nobody knew who Allen Lazard was a year ago, now he’s the favorite to become the second most targeted player in Green Bay. The undrafted receiver didn’t lock up his roster spot until days before the 2019 season and didn’t see his first target until Week 6 (For the record, he had a nice endzone target negated by pass interference in Week 4). He blew up in Week 6, including his impressive first catch of the season, seen below.
Remember when Allen Lazard sparked the #Packers' comeback win in Week 6 after Rodgers pleaded to get him in the game?
Lazard had no catches all season until this moment. Finished w/ 4 rec for 65 yds & 1 TD (all team-highs)…all in the 4th Q
The 'it' factor you just can't teach pic.twitter.com/CThPpSH8Ca
— Joe Kipp (@joepkipp) June 23, 2020
From that point on he averaged 4.7 targets per game, which paces out to 76 targets over a 16 game season. While that feels pretty solid, he only saw four total targets between the Packers’ two playoff games. As promising as he is for the 2020 season, he’s far from a guarantee.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Floor: 55 / Ceiling: 90
After seeing 73 targets as a rookie in 2018, Valdez-Scantling was a popular sleeper headed into the 2019 season. He only mustered 56 targets in his second season and failed to deliver on the hype. He hasn’t generated much buzz this offseason, but that may change now that Devin Funchess has opted out. At 6’4” and capable of running a 4.37 forty, MVS has the physical tools to be a playmaker in the NFL. He could also be considered the unluckiest receiver of 2019, as a league-high 48% of his targets were considered uncatchable according to Pro Football Focus.
It’s far from a sure thing, but MVS may be one of the best late-round dart throws you can take in 2020.
Jace Sternberger – Floor: 40 / Ceiling: 85
Green Bay decided to move on from Jimmy Graham in favor of the unproven second-year tight end. Sternberger only had one season of production in college, but it was impressive enough to earn him All-American status and get him drafted by the Packers in the third round of the 2019 draft.
He lost most of his rookie season to a preseason concussion and ankle injury. He didn’t have a single target in the regular season and only three in the playoffs. He did catch all three of those playoff targets, including one for a touchdown. While Sternberger certainly has upside, he’s difficult to trust considering his limited experience and the fact that in his twelve years as a starter there have only been three seasons where Aaron Rodgers has targeted a tight end 80+ times.
Aaron Jones – Floor: 50 / Ceiling: 80
If you’re a regular listener of the show or read our editor Kyle Borgognoni’s article from last August, you know that vacated targets tend to translate to increased receiving opportunity for running backs. Jones is due to regress from the 19 total touchdowns he scored last season, but an increased target share could help keep his fantasy value afloat. While the Packers spent some high draft capital on rookie AJ Dillon, Jones is easily the better pass-catcher. Given the lack of proven receivers on the roster, Green Bay could utilize Jones split out wide or in the slot, where he’s had some proven success, as seen below.
Aaron Jones had *one* game in 2019 with more than 6 snaps in the slot or out wide and did this pic.twitter.com/qucyUIIFtZ
— Ian Hartitz (@Ihartitz) June 23, 2020
AJ Dillon – Floor: 15 / Ceiling: 30
There have been plenty of comparisons made between Dillon and Derrick Henry, and who am I to disagree? Dillon, like Henry, isn’t actually a bad pass-catcher, but he’s never been utilized in that way. It seems to be a fair assumption that the Packers didn’t draft him with any expectation of utilizing him much in the passing game.
Jamaal Williams – Floor: 0 / Ceiling: 50
After seeing between 34 and 45 targets each of his first three seasons, I felt compelled to mention Williams here. There are rumors that he may not make the final team cut this season, which is why his floor is zero. If he sticks around he’s likely to see enough targets to frustrate anybody that spent a high draft pick on Jones.
Names to Keep on the Radar
St. Brown flashed as a rookie in 2018 but lost his entire 2019 season to injury. He’s another athletic specimen that should get a chance to battle for targets in Green Bay.
After posting huge numbers during the 2019 Canadian Football League season, Begelton landed a contract with the Packers in January. He an unknown, unproven receiver, but he warrants darkhorse consideration to see targets for Green Bay in 2020.
Kumerow has made a handful of big plays over his two seasons in Green Bay, but he’s only seen 32 targets over that period. He’s a fan favorite and worth keeping an eye on but isn’t likely to carry much consistent fantasy value.
This may be more of a name to keep track of in dynasty, but Stewart is an intriguing young wideout. After increasing his production each year at Michigan State, the Packers added him as an undrafted free agent earlier this spring. His skill set lends itself to a slot role, something the Packers are still trying to figure out headed into 2020.