Fantasy Football: What Is Aaron Rodgers' Value After the Packers’ Offseason?
For someone like Aaron Rodgers, who is so accustomed to being a top-two quarterback, the past couple years have been wildly disappointing. Granted, he's been a top-10-ish option, but that's both below ADP and his lofty personal standards. In part, the lack of production was blamed on a suspect receiving corps outside of Davante Adams. It's true that the wide receiver group was abysmal, but it also seems disingenuous to not admit there are strong hints of a decline as well.
Not helping is the Green Bay Packers displaying what bordered on hostility towards Rodgers in the offseason. Despite the glaring need, the Lambeau Leapers failed to address the receiving corps in free agency and subsequently drafted a quarterback, running back (who doesn't catch passes,) and tight end (who they reportedly plan to use as a fullback) with their first three picks.
Unless we see a massive and unexpected breakout, it appears no help is on the way. Can Rodgers succeed in spite of this?
Is Rodgers Still Elite?
Admittedly, kind of a meme, but that doesn't mean it's a question that can go unanswered.
It's weird to think of a quarterback who put up 7.0 yards per attempt could possibly qualify as elite, but there are a lot of very smart people at Sports Info Solutions, and that's exactly what their total points model says. If you're a Packer fan, you probably hope Sports Info Solutions is right, but if you're merely interested in his fantasy production, you're probably hoping for more efficiency.
There are more voices to the contrary, however. I'd be remiss to not mention our Net Expected Points (NEP) model, which put Rodgers at 0.14 Passing NEP per drop back against a 0.10 league average. That mark ranked just 14th among passers with at least 100 drop backs, tying him with Drew Lock and Jared Goff.
Football Outsiders put Rodgers at 13th in DVOA and 20th in QBR, and according to Player Profiler, Rodgers was just 21st in the sticky clean pocket completion percentage and 23rd in production premium.
Passing NEP per drop back paints a particularly bleak picture, as Rodgers has been between 0.06 and 0.14 Passing NEP per drop back from 2015-2019, with the exception of his excellent 0.26 Passing NEP per drop back in 2016. A one-off dip might leave room for a bounce back. This is something different -- this is a pattern of decline.
There are opposing viewpoints to choose from, but if I had to choose, I would say his decline is genuine to some degree. He could get back to high-level play, but it would require more help than is currently being given.
The Supporting Cast
In 2019, the league's wide receivers averaged 0.70 Reception NEP per target, and running backs averaged 0.43 Reception NEP per target. Just one Packer, Jamaal Williams, posted an above average number in those respective metrics, and that number was just 0.44 Reception NEP per target.
Now, that's a very simple version of events, and there's value in Adams' pure volume, for example, but taken as a whole that's wildly uninspiring. As mentioned before, little help was provided.
Despite going undrafted, Lazard is an interesting prospect. He posted a 19.7 breakout age via Player Profiler, along with respectable athleticism, and he kept 2019 fourth-round pick Hakeem Butler from fully breaking out until his final season. Lazard was targeted 52 times and approached the league average rate of 0.70 Reception NEP per target at 0.61.
Sternberger was mostly injured as a rookie but posted an absurd 32.7% (92nd percentile) college dominator at Texas A&M.
Still, the fact that the greatest hopes here are an undrafted receiver and a tight end who has never been targeted in an NFL game speaks volumes.
The free agency route is ultra-limited at this juncture. Perhaps the Packers could be the team to take a chance on Antonio Brown, but last year proved that depending on him is a shaky proposition at best. Beyond that, aging speedsters like Taylor Gabriel and Paul Richardson remain available, but it's difficult to see either as a transformative figure.
Does Rodgers Still Offer the Konami Code?
By all measures, Rodgers is still an efficient scrambler. Rodgers was well above league average among the quarterback average of 0.25 Rushing NEP per carry with 0.48 Rushing NEP per carry. The problem is that Rodgers scrambles less and less every year. Doing a bit of leg work with Pro Football Reference's advanced passing shows that Rodgers scrambled on just 4.1% of designed pass plays (attempts, sacks, and scrambles). The Packers also designed very few run plays, with only 20 runs beyond his 26 scrambles, and this number includes kneel downs.
Should You Draft Rodgers?
This lack of rushing is what makes Rodgers someone to avoid. According to Bestball10's June ADP, Rodgers is going cheaply enough at 118th overall and QB10. The rub is that genuine Konami code quarterbacks are available later like Daniel Jones, Gardner Minshew, Joe Burrow, and the newly signed Cam Newton (though his ADP will need more room to breath).
Of course, Rodgers could overcome his situation -- despite all that was laid out here -- but we have plenty of better options to target instead.
But for the sake of Rodgers, as well as the league as a whole (excluding rival NFC North fans), let's hope 2021 sees the Packers provide more help for his twilight years. The league is more fun to watch with Rodgers at his best.