By Eric Jarboe
The 2022 NFL Season is nearly upon us. As part of the run up to the season, we’re preview all the teams, culminating with our picks for who makes the playoffs and who wins the awards this season. Check back each day through September 5. Let’s get ready for some football!
For the third year in a row, the Packers won 13 games and were a top seed in the NFC. For the third year in a row, they made an early exit, this time in the Divisional Round against the 49ers. Aaron Rodgers won his second straight MVP award and the Packers managed to bring him back for 2022. That piece is solved, but what about the rest?
Now, come the questions…
First, the elephant in the room: how large will the absence of Davante Adams loom over the Packers’ offense?
In a word, it can be summed up as significant. It’s not just that Adams is a generational talent. And it’s not limited to the fact that the Green Bay front office didn’t do much to replace him. At the end of the day, it comes down to Adams’s actual football impact and the massive offensive hole that Matt LeFleur and Offensive Coordinator Adam Stenavich are now required to fill without comparable talent.
Though Adams is certainly the most impactful departure from the Green Bay receiver room, the loss of Marquez Valdes-Scantling to the Chiefs cannot be overlooked. MVS provided speed on the outside and showed the ability to be a deep threat; especially when Adams drew a double team. The duo of Adams/MVS represented nearly 43 percent of all Rodgers’s pass attempts. That leaves Aaron Jones as the leading returning Packer as far as targets are concerned.
So, who steps up? Are we in store for a resurgent Randall Cobb? Cobb (who, as a Kentucky fan, I will always stan) turns 32 this year, but does bring with him a chemistry with his Quarterback. Or will Sammy Watkins pull together a productive year? For the Packers’ sake, they better hope so.
Question marks aren’t limited to receiver corps. Questions also exist on the Offensive line. Right Tackle Billy Turner left Green Bay to join the Russell Wilson show in Denver. The Packers will need to rely on OT’s David Bakhtiara and Elgton Jenkins to stay healthy. The pair of Bakhtiara and Jenkins missed a combined 25 games last season with injuries, and the Packers cannot afford to deal with a shifting offensive line in the midst of redefining their offensive identity due to the loss of their playmakers on the outside.
It may be the oldest cliché in the game of football, but everything starts up front, and if the O-line isn’t performing well…suddenly the problems at receiver don’t seem to matter as much. And not in a good way.
Bottom line, it’s hard for me to trust many of the Packers with regard to their fantasy production. In a two-QB or Superflex league, obviously Rodgers is a must draft and a must start week in and week out. In 2021, Rodgers completed nearly 70 percent of his passes for 4,115 yards and 37 touchdowns against four interceptions. But (and this is the big one), he’s now missing upwards of 40 percent of last year’s targets. Rodgers is going to get his, but will he be able to repeat his MVP performance? It’s hard to bet against Rodgers, but in single-QB leagues, there are better options out there. That’s not to say if he’s available in a mid to late round you shouldn’t draft him, but don’t reach.
Beyond Rodgers, things get a little murky. I do see value in the Packers’ backfield, especially in full-point PPR leagues with Jones. Questions up front and missing playmakers on the outside indicate to me that Rodgers will need to rely on Jones even more as a pass catcher and it wouldn’t surprise me if LaFleur ran a few packages that put AJ Dillon and Jones on the field at the same time. But in standard leagues, the value and usage just aren’t there for me to take any action on the Packers RBs.
As far as pass-catchers go, your guess is as good as mine. Sure, someone is going to have to step up and account for the targets that would otherwise go to Adams, but I can’t get a good sense of who that person (or people) will be. If he fell to me in the right spot, I would take a chance on Watkins as a potential buy low/sell high play. It’s not without reason to suspect that Watkins starts the season hot, especially with how the schedule plays out early for Green Bay. But again, it’s a gamble and one that the risk-adverse fantasy owner should avoid.