As a first-time head coach, Matt LaFleur rustled through uncharted waters in learning how to work with a 35-year-old Aaron Rodgers and — more pointedly — figuring out how to manage the process of getting the long-time starting quarterback to buy into his system.  

The results were mixed, with Rodgers often using his instincts to go off-script at the end of games. 

Where the offense made undeniable strides was in showing a commitment to the running game. This renewed focus manifested itself in the Packers finishing 14th — tied with the division rival Lions — in rushing attempts, a marked improvement over 2018 totals, when Green Bay ranked dead last in carries. 

LaFleur immediately realized that hitching his wagon to Aaron Jones was the best way to achieve early success. 

Not only did Jones become the centerpiece of the offense, but both he and Jamaal Williams proved effective in gaining 4 yards or more on first down, as the Packers ranked fifth in that area. 

But why then did they only produce the 16th most first downs considering their early-down production? 

A lack of weapons in the passing game — along with Davante Adams’ four-game absence — would seem to be the logical explanation for any team struggling in second and third down situations. 

The anticipated emergence of Jace Sternberger as a chain mover and further investing in the run game via the drafting of AJ Dillion and H-back Josiah Deguara could result in the desired outcome of setting up — and converting — more favorable play-action opportunities. 

If that is indeed what transpires, we should see a more even distribution of touchdowns among the skill-position players, particularly with Sternberger playing a bigger role and a full-year of starter’s reps on the part of towering target Allen Lazard. 

Here’s a breakdown of fantasy-relevant Packers and whether their stocks are ascending or headed south in 2020. 

 

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – DECEMBER 23: Green Bay Packers running back Aaron Jones (33) scored a touchdown in the fourth quarter of an NFL football game in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Anthony Souffle/Star Tribune via Getty Images)

Aaron Jones:

By selecting AJ Dillon in the second round, the Packers have big plans for the 247-pound rolling ball of thunder. That means that LaFluer intends on going with a three-man committee in the early going while the rookie acclimates himself to the pro game. Fewer touches for Jones will almost certainly include a decreased amount of goal-line carries. However, the coaching staff should also look to get their best players on the field whenever possible, which could see Jones and Dillon on the field at the same time, with the former split out wide. In fact, don’t be shocked to see No. 33 wind up with a few more receptions in the passi

ng game. Jones’ playoff favorable schedule (see Week 14 contest versus Detroit and two December home games) should reward fantasy owners who hold on to him for the entire fantasy season. Yes, he will almost certainly experience a regression in touchdowns, but this RB1 remains first-round worthy in 12-team fantasy leagues. His 1.11 to 1.13 ADP in standard and half-point formats, per fantasyfootballcalculator.com, seems about right.

Verdict: Stock Down  

 

Davante Adams:

Had Adams played a full 16-game season, he would have been second only to Michael Thomas in pass targets based on No. 17’s 10.5 targets-per-game average. Don’t look for that to change any time soon, with the 27-year-old not only being Green Bay’s most versatile receiver and one of the league’s top route runners. Adams should also see a surge in touchdowns, as he’s coming off a down season with only 5 scores. In his previous three seasons, the seventh-year veteran crossed the goal line 12, 10 and 13 times. But if you’re looking to claim shares of his production this summer, you’ll have to invest a first-round pick in Adams since his ADP is hovering in the 1.08 to 1.09 range. There’s little doubt that he should be worth the investment.

Verdict: Stock Up 

GREEN BAY, WISCONSIN – NOVEMBER 10: Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers looks on after defeating the Carolina Panthers with a score of 24 to 16 in the game at Lambeau Field on November 10, 2019 in Green Bay, Wisconsin. (Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images)

 

Aaron Rodgers:

AR12 is gaining the reputation of being more a DFS quarterback given his recent volatility. In his article posted on FantasyPoints.com, Scott Bartlett notes that Rodgers was one of the more “matchup sensitive” players. He goes on to state that the 36-year-old triggerman averaged 27.8 fantasy points per contest versus teams ranking bottom-six in fantasy points per game allowed to quarterbacks. In all other games, Rodgers averaged only 14.3 fantasy points per game. But while the schedule looks to be the same in terms of strength of schedule, Rodgers should benefit from another year in LaFleur’s system, considering that his primary weapons consist of young players who are at or very close to their physical peak. Yet considering the offense’s aim to be a ground-and-pound attack, it would be safe to expect another 4,000-yard season out of the two-time MVP, with a few more touchdowns and about two or three more picks tossed in. His ADP is currently in the late seventh-round area behind Josh Allen and Matt Ryan and ahead of Drew Brees. Rodgers is still very much a QB1 with lots of explosive plays and big games ahead of him. But those signature performances won’t be as frequent as they were in the “run-the-table” era. 

Verdict: Flat 

 

Allen Lazard:

While Adams remains the unquestioned WR1 in Titletown, Lazard quickly emerged as a weapon Rodgers developed some trust in, as he began zeroing in on the undrafted wideout in the second half of the season. Doubters may point to Lazard’s average speed or choppy footwork, but diehard Cheeseheads are well aware of the fact that No. 13 is a 6’5” vertical threat whose long strides make him hard to cover on deep routes. Additionally, the Iowa State product gained his quarterback’s confidence by working back to the ball and selling out on balls that were slightly outside of his area code. If you don’t think Lazard is Green Bay’s WR2, you just haven’t been paying attention. With his ADP at the tail end of the 13th round in PPR leagues, Lazard can be one of the biggest steals in fantasy drafts. 

Verdict: Stock Up  

 

Jace Sternberger:

An ankle injury placed the former third-round pick on ice early during the 2019 season, forcing Sternberger to miss the first half of the year. Slowly, however, the tight end began flashing his blocking chops late in his rookie campaign and into the postseason by lining up as an H-back. While that versatility to open holes and/or pass protect was a welcome site, the 6’4” hybrid was brought to Green Bay to make plays in the passing game. A big part of the Packers selecting Deguara in this year’s draft is to free up Sternberger to run routes and separate from defenders as the unquestioned TE1, with Jimmy Graham now wearing a Bears uniform. The second-year pro is the consensus 27th tight end in ongoing drafts, according to FantasyPros.com. That constitutes an absolute bargain if Sternberg puts up about 500 yards and catches 6-8 touchdowns. 

Verdict: Stock Up 

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AJ Dillon:

 

As with any rookie, we should always be reasonable with expectations. In Dillon’s case, however, there’s little reason to think that he won’t see touches early and often in his rookie year. There’s no telling how effective he’ll be as a blocker and/or pass catcher before training camp gets underway. But the second-round pick’s natural size and explosiveness (see 41-inch vertical) suggest that he should at least get a few goal-line hand-offs and see action as the go-to ball carrier in the four-minute offense late in games. Scoop him up as your RB5 and plan to possibly start him late in the season. 

Verdict: Stock Up 

 

Devin Funchess:

Though his free-agent signing didn’t exactly knock the socks off most Packer supporters considering his career 51.9-percent catch rate, Funchess has been much more reliable as an inside receiver. In fact, Establishtherun.com’s Evan Silva recently tweeted that the error-prone pass catcher was actually impeccable as an inside receiver in that he had never dropped a single pass on his 55 targets from the slot. Warren Sharp also reported through his Sharpfootballanalysis.com site that Funchess’ “outstanding” 80-percent success rate on curl and out patterns — two staple routes for any receiver who spends much of his time lined up in the slot. There is some upside with Funchess, the big question is whether the Packers will use him properly. Fantasy-wise, the only way is up for the 6’4” pass catcher, who’s coming off an injury-riddled season as an Indianapolis Colt. He’s currently a deep-league long shot as the WR80, per FantasyPros.com. 

Verdict: Stock Up  

Marquez Valdes-Scantling:

The former fifth-round pick certainly has the speed to get open on downfield patterns, but his inability to come down with contested catches saw Rodgers lose confidence in the young weapon during the second half of 2019. What’s more, MVS ranked last in catch rate (46.43 percent) among qualifying wideouts and tight ends, according to NFL Next Gen Stats. At this point, one has to wonder if he’ll even have a spot on the 55-man roster in September. Sadly, Valdes-Scantling shouldn’t even be drafted in most leagues unless he shows out during the preseason. 

Verdict: Stock Down 

 

DETROIT, MI – OCTOBER 07: Marquez Valdes-Scantling #83 of the Green Bay Packers makes a catch while playing the Detroit Lions at Ford Field on October 7, 2018 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)

Jamaal Williams:

JWill is a useful back who was rated as PFF’s second pass blocker among running backs in 2019. His 86.7-percent catch rate also indicates that he is as sure-handed as they come in the backfield, and when it comes to dancing, No. 30 has all the right moves. Where Williams falls short, though, is in his lack of explosiveness. If he and Jones see the same hole, the latter’s burst could result in a long touchdown scamper, whereas the BYU product may only be able to churn out a 7-yard gain. It’s likely a matter of when — and not if — Dillon supplants Williams at some point in the upcoming season. 

Verdict: Stock Down