The Path to a WR1 Fantasy Football Season: Allen Lazard
Our well-loved series, “Path to a WR1,” is back for the 2022 season! Today we are tackling the latest King in the monarchy that is the NFL – The Lazard King, otherwise known as Green Bay Packers WR Allen Lazard. To remind you, we are not necessarily projecting a WR1 finish for Lazard; we are just laying out the road for him to get there. We will look at Lazard’s 2021 season, address what a WR1 season from him would look like this year, and finish up with how feasible a Lazard King WR1 season could be. So load up that backpack and grab some snacks as we head down the path to a WR1.
2021 Season Recap (and beyond)
A year ago, the WR landscape in Green Bay, Wisconsin, looked drastically different than it looks today. Even with QB Aaron Rodgers being his usual non-committal self, his arsenal of pass catchers was stacked with Davante Adams, MVS, and Randall Cobb, not to mention two RBs with excellent receiving skills. Allen Lazard was an afterthought when looking at the receivers– not much was expected from the younger Lazard, especially in an offense where the QB is known to play favorites. Lazard wasn’t even being widely drafted by fantasy owners heading into 2021; you could grab him at the end of your draft, if not off the waiver wire during the first few weeks. However, to much surprise, he finished the season as WR 45, the second most successful Packers receiver that year.
|Targets||Receptions||Yards||TD||YAC||ADOT||Contested Targets||Contested Catches|
Lazard was not start-able for the first 2/3rds of the season – let’s be honest, no one was trying to unless they were decimated by injuries – but Lazard showed strong signs of life at the end of the year. In four out of the last five weeks, he finished as WR21 or better, finishing with at least twelve fantasy points during those five weeks and at least one TD in all but one game. His red-zone targets continued to rise in 2021, up to 16 from six the year previous. It seemed that Rodgers was starting to trust the young pass catcher.
The Path for 2022
The path for Allen Lazard to become a WR1 is significantly less complicated this season than last, mainly because of the departure of Aaron Rodgers’ number one crush Davante Adams. MVS followed closely behind, leaving the Packers in desperate need of receivers. Green Bay drafted Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs and signed “The Lizard King” Sammy Watkins, but it seems that Lazard could be their WR1 if the cards are played right. Last season Lazard had just under 12% target share with 60 targets in the regular season. By losing Adams and MVS, 224 targets have been vacated in Green Bay. That is about 40% of last year’s targets. If Rodgers has approximately the same number of attempts in 2022 – he had 531 last season – Lazard would have to double his amount of targets to put him in the WR1 conversation. Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon will undoubtedly inherit a myriad of targets, but there will be plenty left for Lazard. Let’s assume he does double his targets to 120. For comparison, last year, players around the 120 target range were CeeDee Lamb, Marvin Jones Jr, and Amon-Ra St. Brown. Definitely doable.
Lazard’s catch rate was 67% in 2021, which was a solid number. Looking at WRs who had at least 120 targets last season (there were 20), twelve of them finished as a WR1 in the top 15. Only six of those receivers had a catch rate higher than Lazard’s in 2021. This is the part of Lazard’s game where he is the most consistent – in his four years in the league; he has always caught at least 67% of his passes. That percentage of the theorized 120 targets in 2022 would translate to 80 receptions. If Lazard upped his catch rate to 72% – completely doable, especially since that was his catch rate in 2020 – that would put him at 86 catches.
If Lazard improves his catch rate slightly with Aaron Rodgers in 2022, almost 90 receptions seem highly likely. I mentioned previously that I believe Aaron Jones will see a significant uptick in receptions with the departure of Adams and MVS, but how many he sees will directly affect how many additional receptions Lazard gets. Last year Jones had 65 targets, tied for 7th in the league among RBs. The most targets an RB got last year was Najee Harris with 94. Assuming Jones gets his targets bumped up to 95, taking 30 from the vacated 224, leaving almost 200 targets to be accounted for. Lazard stands an excellent chance to get that considerable bump in targets and, with it, at least 90 receptions.
Air Yards and aDOT
High yardage totals are also vital in a WR1. Every one of the top 15 WRs in 2021 had at least 1000 receiving yards, and with Lazard catching 513 yards last season, he would be looking to double that total to get him into the WR1 conversation. If we use Lazard’s last five games of 2021 as the preview to 2022, his total yardage in that five-week sample size was 290 yards. Using just those weeks as a sample size would put him on a just under 1,000-yard pace for a season. Let’s hope he starts the year the way he ended the last. A better aDOT could help Lazard get there – his aDOT average last season was 11.3, ranking 43rd among WRs with at least 50 targets. Sure, you can be a WR1 with a lower aDOT, Cooper Kupp did it with an aDOT of 8.6, but if Lazard could bump that up a little, it would help him in the WR1 conversation.
Lazard had a big jump in TDs in 2021, scoring eight, up from three the year previous. With only 513 receiving yards and 40 receptions, Lazard caught a TD on average every five receptions. This high TD to reception percentage was the highest in the NFL that season. Clearly put, Lazard made use of his receptions. The consistency of this TD rate will no doubt regress, but if Lazard can compensate with additional targets and receptions, he could find a happy medium. He could catch between eight to ten TDs this year, especially with gunslinger Aaron Rodgers who threw 37 TDs last season. There were four WRs who caught a TD from Rodgers last year. Guess who the only one left on the team is?
Are you telling me there’s a chance?
So much of Lazard’s success depends on the whim of Aaron Rodgers. And for anyone who has followed Rodgers, you know that the man’s whim is strong. Aaron throws to who Aaron wants to throw to. That being said, Aaron Rodgers is loyal, sometimes to a fault. And now part of a team where all his tried and true receivers have departed, the most dependable option could be Allen Lazard. He has even told reporters this. In early June, Rodgers said he was “excited about Allen Lazard. He’s been our dirty work guy for most of his career here. Now he’s getting an opportunity to be a number one receiver. So, I’m not worried at all about him stepping into that role. I talk to him a lot. I know how he takes care of his body. I know he’ll be ready when he’s here.”
Lazard’s talent coupled with Rodger’s belief and trust in him makes me think he has a significant shot at finishing the season as a WR1. I am hoping his ADP stays low and the general fantasy community fails to jump on this train and I will try to snag him wherever I can. Currently, Andy, Mike, and Jason are ranking Lazard as WR42, and fantasyfootballcalculator.com has him going even later in drafts- in the 12th round around WR53. Lazard could be the steal of the draft.