Juggernaut Index, No. 10: Aaron Rodgers, still unfair

Andy Behrens
<a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/players/7200/" data-ylk="slk:Aaron Rodgers">Aaron Rodgers</a> is healthy again, so <a class="link rapid-noclick-resp" href="/nfl/teams/gnb" data-ylk="slk:Packers">Packers</a> fans should be all smiles. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)
Aaron Rodgers is healthy again, so Packers fans should be all smiles. (AP Photo/Mike Roemer)

Last year, the Green Bay Packers went 4-1 to open the season and Aaron Rodgers was doing the usual Rodgers things. With five games in the books, he’d thrown 13 touchdown passes and only three interceptions, completing 66.7 percent of his attempts. The Packers were averaging 27.4 points per week. Rodgers had just engineered a thrilling comeback win at Dallas. He was an early MVP favorite and Green Bay was very much in the Super Bowl conversation.

And then the Barr play happened. Rodgers suffered a broken collarbone, altering the landscape in the NFC. The Packers lost at Minnesota, then dropped four of their next five games with Brett Hundley at the controls of the offense. Hundley threw more picks than touchdown passes. Things got ugly, fast.

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Rodgers is now fully recovered from the injury and talking about playing into his 40s. You can’t reasonably have a greatest-of-all-time discussion without mentioning Rodgers; he’s the NFL’s career leader in passer rating (103.8), by a wide margin. He also leads all active quarterbacks in career touchdown rate (6.4), interception percentage (1.6) and yards per attempt (7.9). Rodgers is simply brilliant, as good as anyone has ever been. He’s only one year removed from a 40-touchdown season in which he averaged 276.8 passing yards per week. It’s certainly not crazy to think he can reach those numbers again in 2018.

One of the consistent messages in the Juggernaut series this year has been that quarterback is a position of extreme depth in fantasy, which should depress prices and allow you to wait until the mid-to-late rounds before filling the roster spot. Thus, it’s tough for us to endorse Rodgers’ third-round ADP (30.1). Very few fantasy scoring systems do enough to separate the game’s elite QBs from the guys in the Bortles-Carr-Dalton range, so there’s rarely a need to reach at the position. (Of course this isn’t true of super-flex formats or 20-team leagues, but those settings aren’t the norm.) We can’t recommend that anyone pay the sticker price on Rodgers, but he absolutely should be the first QB off the board in most drafts. That’s an easy call. He’s finished as either the No. 1 or No. 2 fantasy quarterback in seven different seasons, which is just silly.

Green Bay’s receiving corps lost a familiar name in the offseason, but this team still has plenty of useful weapons.

Jordy is out, Jimmy is in

Rodgers was pretty clearly not thrilled — nor was he consulted — when the Packers released veteran receiver Jordy Nelson back in March. The pair had connected on 70 touchdowns over the years, playoffs included. Nelson was also on the receiving end of six of Rodgers’ 13 TD passes over the team’s first five games last season. At 33, Nelson may have lost a half-step, but he remains a quality player and a terrific red-zone threat.

Green Bay added tight end Jimmy Graham to the mix during the offseason, however, so Rodgers can’t be feeling too bad about his goal-line options. If preseason play can be trusted, these two already seem to have developed chemistry…

It should go without saying that Graham’s numbers in a Rodgers-led offense could certainly match last year’s totals. He hogged the red-zone and goal-to-go opportunities in Seattle to an absurd extent. Graham led all tight ends and wide receivers last season in targets inside the 10-yard line (16) and inside the 5 (14). Obviously he’s in a different system this year, but it should be equally obvious that Green Bay will take advantage of his dominance in the end-zone. He may not quite be the athletic freak we knew in 2011-13, but he’s still a 6-foot-7 beast of a receiver. There’s no way Graham finishes outside the top-five at his position, assuming a healthy season. Guaranteed.

Davante Adams, bankable WR1 in fantasy. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)
Davante Adams, bankable WR1 in fantasy. (AP Photo/Morry Gash)

One of the many great things about a quarterback who throws for 4400-plus yards and 35-40 TD passes is they produce multiple starting-quality fantasy receivers. Graham can give us 600 yards and 10-12 spikes while Davante Adams simultaneously delivers a 75-1000-10 season. When Rodgers is rolling, this team is an all-you-can-eat fantasy buffet. Adams has scored 22 touchdowns in 30 games over the past two seasons, averaging 62.7 yards per week. He’s a near-lock for WR1 status, definitely deserving his second-round ADP (19.0). Randall Cobb had (presumably) minor ankle surgery over the summer, but he’s good to go now. Cobb is of course a good bet to reach 65-75 receptions in a full season, though he won’t see nearly as many scoring chances as Graham or Adams.

The Packers drafted a trio of rookie receivers this spring — J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown — all of whom are 6-foot-3 or taller. MVS in particular was a standout in his preseason debut. But the No. 3 receiver role appears to belong to third-year wideout Geronimo Allison, a technician with size and excellent hands. Allison is a quality sleeper at a no-risk price (ADP 150.8), tied to a great offense. Definitely a worthy flier.

It’s possible the answer to the Packers backfield is to just not draft a Packers running back in fantasy

Green Bay entered camp with a three-headed backfield committee featuring Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ty Montgomery. Jones will be suspended for the season’s first two games, Williams suffered an ankle injury on Thursday night and Montgomery averaged only 3.8 YPC last season. So this is not a collection of backs with an obvious No. 1 option for fantasy purposes.

Jones was the team’s most impressive runner last year, averaging 5.5 YPC on 81 attempts and delivering 100-yard efforts against New Orleans and Dallas. He may not seem particularly expensive at the draft table (ADP 90.8), but he’s somehow going in the same neighborhood as RBs who should have clear roles — guys like C.J. Anderson (97.4), Duke Johnson (96.4) and Chris Carson (92.5). It’s tough to endorse a price like that when you know he’s simply a bench decoration for two weeks.

Jamaal Williams looks like the head of Green Bay’s backfield committee. (AP Photo/David Richard)
Jamaal Williams looks like the head of Green Bay’s backfield committee. (AP Photo/David Richard)

Assuming Williams will be healthy for opening week — early reports on his ankle issue aren’t too scary — then he has an enormous advantage in this battle. Williams has been running as the starter in the preseason, producing at least one highlight-quality touchdown. He’s the best bet to lead this team’s backfield, and it’s reflected in his ADP (80.7, RB34).

Montgomery is coming off a disappointing year, complicated by injury. His usage in camp strongly suggests he’ll be the guy in no-huddle and two-minute situations. It’s a limited role, but one with PPR appeal.

Let’s remember that when Green Bay finds itself in goal-to-go situations, there’s a very good chance the drive will be punctuated by a Rodgers-to-Graham or Rodgers-to-Adams connection. Don’t draft your way into a spot in which you desperately need one of the Pack’s RBs to emerge as a workhorse.

2017 Offensive Stats & Ranks

Points per game – 20.0 (21st in NFL)
Pass YPG – 197.9 (25)
Rush YPG – 107.8 (17)
Yards per play – 4.9 (25)
Plays per game – 62.4 (20)

Previous Juggernaut Index entries: 32) Buffalo, 31) Miami, 30) NY Jets, 29) Baltimore, 28) Oakland, 27) Cleveland, 26) Indianapolis, 25) Washington, 24) Chicago, 23) Tennessee, 22) Jacksonville, 21) Dallas, 20) Tampa Bay, 19) Cincinnati, 18) Denver, 17) San Francisco, 16) Arizona, 15) Seattle, 14) Detroit, 13) Carolina, 12) Houston, 11) Philadelphia, 10) Green Bay

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