2017 NFL Fantasy Team Previews: Green Bay Packers

After the Green Bay Packers lost four straight games in the heart of the 2016 season, fans were calling for the head of head coach Mike McCarthy.  The Packers were an underwhelming 4-6 and it was looking like they may miss the playoffs for the first time since 2008.

However, the man who told everyone to R-E-L-A-X in 2014 reassured Packer nation yet again by saying Green Bay could “run the table” and still find their way into the postseason. By now, we should give Aaron the benefit of the doubt when he says anything. Chances are, it will most likely come true. Rodgers’ prediction did just that as the Packers won their final six games, outscored opponents 185-112, and won the NFC North division for the fifteenth time in franchise history.

Not much has changed for the Packers heading into 2017. Had it not been for the fact that they started defensive backs off of the street in the NFC Championship game they may have made their fifth Super Bowl appearance. Whether or not the Packers defense improves in 2017 doesn’t change the fact that Rodgers is their quarterback and that means fantasy points a plenty for everyone around Fantasy Forecast’s #1 ranked QB for 2017.


Notable Additions:

TE – Martellus Bennett (free agency)
TE – Lance Kendricks (free agency)
RB – Jamaal Williams (draft)
G – Jahri Evans (free agency)

Notable Subtractions:

RB – Eddie Lacy (free agency)
G – T.J. Lang (free agency)
TE  – Jared Cook (free agency)
RB – James Starks (waived)
RB – Christine Michael (waived)
RB – Don Jackson (waived)

Projected Starters:

QB – Aaron Rodgers
RB – Ty Montgomery
WR1 – Jordy Nelson
WR2 – Davante Adams
WR3 – Randall Cobb
TE – Martellus Bennett
LT – David Bakhtiari
LG – Lane Taylor
C – Corey Linsley
RG – Jahri Evans
RT – Bryan Bulaga

Passing Game:

(Photo: Mike Morbeck)

Do you remember when the thought of Aaron Rodgers being “washed up” was floating around? It was clear that Packers’ receiving core needed help after star receiver Jordy Nelson went down with a torn ACL in a preseason game that led to him missing the entire 2015 season. Rodgers’ favorite target didn’t regain confidence in his legs until around the mid way point of 2016, and when he did, he returned to old form and so did the Packer’s offense. Nelson led the NFL in touchdown receptions with 14, had 1,257 yards and was only three receptions shy from 100. His stellar performance was enough for him to be named the NFL Comeback Player of the Year.

Rodgers was his usually fantasy god self, leading all quarterbacks in fantasy points for the fourth time in eight seasons. His 4,428 passing yards were good for fourth in the NFL and he led the league with 40 touchdowns. Rodgers will again dominate the football world in 2017 with his green jersey and golden arm.

With Nelson getting attention from defenses top defensive backs play in and play out, guys like Davante Adams and Randall Cobb will occasionally reap the benefits of getting themselves in favorable situations. Rodgers loves to spread the ball around as all three receivers had over 60 receptions in 2016. Between the three of them, they were targeted 357 times (Nelson 152, Adams 121, Cobb, 84). To top it all off the Packers like to score through the air and last season Nelson and Adams were tops in the NFL in touchdown percentage per pass target

(Photo: Mike Morbeck).

Adams may be fantasy guru’s favorite Packer receiver for 2017. He had a breakout 2016, with 12 touchdowns, and came 3 yards shy of 1,000 receiving yards. Adams’ biggest knock is that he sometimes struggles to gain separation from defensive backs, but he more than made up for it with with a league-best 69.6% catch rate on throws into tight coverage. Not to mention, Adams will be in the midst of a contract year with a lot to play for and the Fresno State product is projected to be one of the most coveted free agents in 2018. Expect touchdown regression from Adams but don’t be surprised if he eclipses 1,000 yards receiving for the first time in his career.

Not only does number 12 spread it around to wide receivers, he likes to throw to his tight ends too. In fact, Packers’ tight ends have had a minimum of 100 targets in four of the last five seasons. The statistic is surprising to many as the Packers had been in search of a game changing tight end since the days of Jermichael Finley. They may have had the closest thing since in Jared Cook last season, and even though he became a playoff hero with his amazing catch that set up a game-winning Mason Crosby field goal to defeat the Dallas Cowboys, the Packers elected to bring in two free agents and let Cook move on.

All of this bodes well for new arrivals Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks. Bennett should see the majority of time at the position.  At 6’6″ and 275 pounds, Bennett is a massive target. Last season, he finished with 701 receiving yards, good enough for second with the New England Patriots. He’ll stay on the field in running situations because he is a good run blocker, which aids in the play action game. Look for Bennett to have a stellar 2017.

Running Game:

Ty Montgomery began last season as a wide receiver but due to the rash of injuries throughout the Packers backfield he was thrust into the starting role and exceeded expectations. He finished with 77 carries for 457 yards, three touchdowns and held a 5.9 YPC average. Of course, he is a great pass catcher out of the backfield as he finished with 44 catches for 348 yards in 2016. The Packers showed how much faith they have in him this offseason as every other running back on last years roster is gone, including the bruising Eddie Lacy who will try his luck to stay away from “china food” in Seattle.

 

Montgomery carries the ball in a 2016 game against the Chicago Bears, (CC).

It is fair to project that Montgomery will build off of his early success and could very well become one of the better running backs in the entire NFL. Former Packer running back Brandon Jackson worked extensively with Montgomery on pass protection and blitz pick-ups, a skill that Jackson mastered as a player during his coaching internship with the Packers. If Montgomery can become 75% of the pass blocker Jackson was it will keep him on the field more and by default lead to more fantasy production.

On top of that, Montgomery has had a full offseason to prepare to be the starting running back, telling USA Today that he has been focusing on his lower body strength to ensure he stays healthy for all 16 games. He is now 220 pounds and should be ready to physically take the toll of an every down running back for the Packers. According to Pro Football Focus, Montgomery was the most elusive of all NFL running backs during the time he was the starter last season. His speed and agility, matched with his thicker frame could be a deadly combination.

The only real threat at this stage to eating into Montgomery’s workload is rookie Jamaal Williams out of BYU. He is described as a downhill runner and has been compared to the likes of Adrian Peterson. In fact, Matt De Lima of Scout Fantasy has predicted that it will be Williams,  not Montgomery that will lead the Packers in rushing in 2017. All signs point to Montgomery being the back to have from Green Bay, but it wouldn’t hurt to grab Williams in the late rounds of your draft and stash him just in case.

2017 Projected Statistics:

Aaron Rodgers –  595.7 att,  389.5 comp, 4,360.4 yards,  34.8 TD 9.2 INT , 335.6 FP

Ty Montgomery – 167.9 att,  777.9 yards, 5.4 TD | 46.7 rec,  372.4 yards,  1.9 TD, 155.4 FP

Jordy Nelson – 89.7 catches,  1,207.1 yards,  10.5 TD, 182.0 FP

Davante Adams – 66.0 catches, 823.6 yards, 6.5 TD, 120.1 FP

Randall Cobb – 74.7 catches, 829.1 yards, 6.1 TD, 122.8 FP

Martellus Bennett – 58.0 catches, 645.4 yards, 6.0 TD, 99.2 FP

(projections via FantasyPros)

 

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