Head-2-Head: Aaron Rodgers vs. the Cleveland Browns Passing Game

A fantasy football experiment: could Aaron Rodgers by himself beat out one of the worst passing games in the NFL?

Aaron Rodgers is an incredible specimen of a human being. He could impregnate all of Ashwaubenon with a sideways glance. The last time Cirque du Soleil came through Green Bay, Rodgers got on stage and didn't even need a trampoline for his quadruple-backflip. He once ate three orders of Culver's cheese curds in one meal and lived to tell about it. There's a reason he's numberFire's #1 projected fantasy point scorer this season: the man can seemingly do no wrong.

But just how good is he? In terms of fantasy points, could he singlehandedly lead a team to the playoffs? How much does the rest of the team matter? In order to find these things out, I decided to run a little experiment. You know, just to gain some perspective on how truly dominant Rodgers is. I placed Aaron Rodgers by himself against a fantasy lineup composed of Cleveland Browns. Not just Brandon Weeden mind you, but the entire Cleveland Browns passing game. Surely, against that pitiful passing game, Rodgers' projections have to come close, right?

The Cleveland Browns: By the Numbers

For the purposes of this experiment, I put the Cleveland Browns' fantasy roster at one QB (Weeden), two starting receivers (Greg Little and Mohamed Massaquoi), and a tight end (Benjamin Watson). I would have included rookie Josh Gordon, but numberFire does not currently have projections for him, and all-knowing stats guru Keith Goldner does not see him having an impact anyway.

Brandon Weeden is expected to be on the low end of the totem pole of fantasy starting QBs. And by low end of the totem pole, I mean in the ground: numberFire projects him to be dead last among starting quarterbacks in fantasy points, half a point behind Kevin Kolb, who is likely to not even be a starter anymore by the time the preseason is over. A projected 2787 passing yards would have placed Weeden 21st in last year's passing stats, right above Carson Palmer (who only played 10 games) and Colt McCoy (AKA the guy he replaced).
Weeden Projected Fantasy Points: 164.24
Cleveland Browns QB Total: 164.24

The receiving corps in Cleveland is, to put it mildly, just not that good. Little represents the best option for the Cleveland Browns to have a breakout receiver, especially if he can get up his touchdown total from last year (2). I wouldn't bet on it though - numberFire projects him to have about 11 less receptions and 65 less yards, even if his touchdown total does go up. A big part of that is his catch rate, which sits at only 51% of balls that are targeted his way (the NFL average sits at about 60%). On our big board, he's the 64th best receiver, not even close to draftable except in the deepest leagues. And he's still a better option than Massaquoi, whose fantasy points have declined from 80 in his rookie 2009 season to 67 in 2010 to a paltry 50 in 14 games played (13 started) last season. Even if he has the bounce back year that numberFire is expecting - and the projection is for him to get 38 receptions, more than he has ever gotten in his career - he's still only likely to grab less than 80 fantasy points.
Little Projected Fantasy Points: 82.99
Massaquoi Projected Fantasy Points: 73.43
Cleveland Browns QB + WR Total: 320.66

Before even getting to the tight end, the Browns have thankfully already passed a team consisting of nothing but Aaron Rodgers, albeit barely. The strength of Benjamin Watson, however, would place them far over the edge. Behind Trent Richardson, Watson represents the second-best fantasy option on this Browns team. His first year in Cleveland (2010), he almost touched 100 fantasy points, finishing with 763 yards, 3 TDs, and 94 points overall. In 2011, though, his catch rate dropped from 66% to 52%, and his fantasy points dropped in kind as well down to 50 on the year. This year, numberFire expects something in the middle, at around 84 fantasy points. But even with those numbers, he would still only rank as the #17 tight end overall.
Watson Projected Fantasy Points: 84.24
Cleveland Browns Passing Total: 404.90

The Verdict

Cleveland Browns Passing Projected Fantasy Points: 404.90
Aaron Rodgers Projected Fantasy Points: 295.86
So, what have we learned here? Ultimately, fantasy football is a team game. Even with all the bad rankings in the Cleveland passing game, they still beat Aaron Rodgers' total with ease. Essentially, all of Weeden's fantasy points were doubled by the receivers grabbing the same yards and touchdowns (and then some, considering that most leagues have much lower thresholds for receiving yards and touchdowns than their passing equivalents). It was a nice experiment to run, but in order for Aaron Rodgers to beat out another team's fantasy lineup, he would likely need to have somewhere in the vicinity of 250% of the other team's fantasy points. It's just not going to happen. This article doesn't mean to go out and draft all Cleveland Browns, but it does mean to not rest on your laurels if you get one good player.