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2017 Team Report: Green Bay Packers

Offensive Philosophy

Perhaps no offense in the league is as reliant on a single player as Green Bay is on Aaron Rodgers. With injuries leaving them with a rotating cast of receivers and backs, the Packers relied heavily on Rodgers' improvisational genius to carry them. With questions on the offensive line and a converted receiver atop the running back depth chart, 2017 should be more of the same.

Quarterbacks

Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Backup(s): Brett Hundley, Joe Callahan, Taysom Hill [R]

Starting QB: Aaron Rodgers finished the 2016 season as the #1 fantasy quarterback, marking the second time in his career that he has achieved this feat (the other being the 2009 season). Rodgers completed 401 of 610 passes for 4,428 yards, with 40 touchdowns to seven interceptions. He also chipped in 369 rushing yards and four rushing touchdowns. Rodgers set career marks in pass attempts (610) and rushing yards (369), and the 4,428 yards and 40 touchdowns were the second highest of Rodgers career, as was his interception rate of 1.1%. Considering the Packers had virtually no running game for much of the season, Rodgers was asked to do much more than just distribute the football, he had to create plays. He responded with one of the best seasons of his career, which included an eight game stretch where Rodgers averaged 297.5 yards passing with 22 touchdowns and no interceptions. He ranked 1st in passing touchdowns and pass attempts, 3rd in rushing yards among quarterbacks and 4th in passing yards and passer rating. The Packers are stacked with talent at wide receiver, and they addressed the tight end position by signing Martellus Bennett in free agency, paving the way for another monster season for Rodgers in 2017.

Backup QB: The Packers seem content with their quarterback depth, despite the fact that the three quarterbacks behind Aaron Rodgers have attempted a grand total of 10 passes in the NFL. Brett Hundley enters his second season with the Packers as the primary backup to Rodgers. During his rookie season, Hundley set the NFL preseason on fire, completing 45 of 65 passes for 630 yards, seven touchdowns and one interception. Unfortunately, that is the extent of his NFL highlight reel, as Hundley completed two of 10 passes with an interception while playing sparingly in 2016. The Packers are very high on Hundley though, and it is easy to see why. At 6'3, 225 lbs, he has prototypical size and the arm and athleticism to go with it. Like most college quarterbacks who come from Pistol/Spread offenses, Hundley needed time to develop and get used to running a pro-style offense. It seems as though Hundley is getting his PHD in quarterbacking while studying under Aaron Rodgers, so there is no reason to think that Hundley won't develop into a solid NFL quarterback, sooner than later too. With Rodgers playing at the top of his game though, Hundley won't see the field unless a major injury occurs. Joe Callahan returns as the Packers third string quarterback after an up and down 2016 season where he was cut by the Packers, signed and cut by the Saints, signed and cut by the Browns, and then finally re-signed by the Packers. Callahan was an undrafted free agent in 2016, which was not a surprise considering he played his college ball at D-III Wesley College. Callahan earned his way onto the Packers 53 man roster through hard work and timely performances in the preseason. With Brett Hundley nursing a sore ankle, and the Packers wanting to protect Aaron Rodgers, Callahan took advantage of the 182 snaps he was afforded. He threw for 499 yards and three touchdowns with no turnovers over four preseason games. Callahan still has a long way to go in his development and will be pushed this offseason by another undrafted free agent, Taysom Hill. The Packers signed former BYU quarterback, Taysom Hill, after Hill went undrafted in the 2017 draft. Hill has nice size (6'2, 235 lbs), a solid arm and is very athletic (Hill rushed for 2,815 yards at BYU). After playing in a spread offense for his first three seasons, BYU's new coaching staff instituted a pro-style offense in 2016 and Hill flourished. He threw for 2,323 yards with 20 touchdowns, while also rushing for 603 yards and eight touchdowns. Hill will battle Joe Callahan for the #3 spot on the depth chart, with the winner most likely making the 53 man roster.

Running Backs

Starter: Ty Montgomery
Backup(s): Jamaal Williams [R], Aaron Jones [R], Devante Mays [R]
Fullback(s): Aaron Ripkowski

Starting RB: After starting last season as the Packers #4 wide receiver, Montgomery found himself atop the depth chart in week 6...only his position was now running back. For a player making a mid-season position change, Montgomery performed admirably, rushing 77 times for 457 yards (5.9 yards per carry) and three touchdowns. He also caught 44 of 56 targets for 348 yards. While Montgomery didn't set the league on fire rushing the ball, he proved to be a versatile threat coming out of the backfield by twice catching 10 passes in a game. His best game as a running back came in week 15 against Chicago, where he rushed 16 times for 162 yards (10.1 yards per carry) and two touchdowns. Green Bay managed his snaps well by involving him heavily in the passing game, which played to his strengths as a receiver while keeping him fresh as a runner. This was a smart plan as Montgomery is not built to be a 250+ carry back, but it was also done out of necessity as Green Bay lacked depth at running back after losing Eddie Lacy for the season. With Lacy signing elsewhere in free agency, the Packers addressed their lack of depth at running back in the 2017 draft by selecting Jamaal Williams in the 4th round and Aaron Jones in the 5th round. Montgomery comes into camp as the lead back, but he will certainly share snaps with Williams and/or Jones in 2017.

Backup RBs: The Packers selected Jamaal Williams with the 28th pick in the 4th round of the 2017 draft. Williams was drafted with the intention that he will contribute immediately to a Packers team that lacked depth at running back. Williams was a four year starter who led BYU in rushing in each of his four seasons. At 6'0, 212 lbs, Williams doesn't appear to be a bruiser, but he plays bigger than his size thanks in large part to his muscular frame. He is a north-south runner who doesn't dance behind the line of scrimmage and is decisive hitting his holes. He will have an opportunity to lock up the #2 running back spot in training camp, but will have competition from fellow rookie Aaron Jones. The Packers drafted Aaron Jones in the 5th round of the 2017 draft. Jones (5'9, 208 lbs) is a versatile running back who will fit in well with the Packers scheme. Jones ran for 1,773 yards and 17 touchdowns, while also chipping in 28 receptions for 233 yards and three touchdowns in the passing game for UTEP. His most impressive stat? Jones broke off a 40+ yard run in eight different games in 2016. That type of explosiveness gives him a great chance at locking up a spot on the Packers final roster, and he could very well push Jamaal Williams for the #2 spot in the Green Bay backfield. Devante Mays was a seventh round pick with good size (5'10" 230), speed (4.52 40) and explosiveness (40.5" vertical) who will have a chance to make the team because of a lack of the depth at the position.

Fullback: Ripkowski was thrust into the starting fullback role after fan favorite, John Kuhn retired in 2015. Ripkowski is a solid fullback capable of winning matchups as a lead blocker, while also keeping Aaron Rodgers upright in pass protection. With all the injuries in the Packers backfield last season, Ripkowski was probably asked to do too much as a runner/receiver, rushing 34 times for 150 yards and two touchdowns, while also catching nine passes for 46 yards and one touchdown. He did lose a key fumble in the Packers loss to the Falcons in the NFC Championship game, which highlighted the need for the Packers to increase their depth at running back. Ripkowski will be the #1 fullback for the Packer this year, just don't expect him to see the same opportunities he saw in 2016.

Wide Receivers

Starters: Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams
Backups: Geronimo Allison, Jeff Janis, Trevor Davis, DeAngelo Yancey [R], Malachi Dupre [R]

Starting WRs: Jordy Nelson came into the 2016 season with a lot of question marks after tearing the ACL in his right knee during the 2015 preseason. It is safe to say those question marks are gone for good though, as Nelson responded with one of the best seasons of his career. Nelson caught 97 of 152 targets for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns, while averaging 13 yards per catch. Nelson finished as the #2 wide receiver in PPR formats, less than a point behind #1 Antonio Brown. His 14 touchdowns were tops among wide receivers, while also finishing fifth in receptions (97) and sixth in receiving yards (1,257). He is the undisputed #1 wide receiver in Green Bay, which goes a long way when you have Aaron Rodgers throwing you the football. Nelson is in the prime of his career at age 31, and will continue to put up huge numbers in the Packers high octane offense. Randall Cobb finished the 2015 season with 60 receptions on 84 targets for 610 yards and four touchdowns in 13 games. Those totals were his lowest since the 2013 season when he only played six games. Additionally, Cobb averaged only 10.2 yards per catch, the lowest of his career. Part of that was the Packers targeting him closer to the line of scrimmage, but it was also evident that Cobb lacked the explosiveness and the ability to gain yards after the catch that we had seen from him in past years. Also factored into Cobb's down numbers was the breakout of Davante Adams, who caught 75 passes on 121 targets for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns. Luckily for Cobb, the Packers value his skill set and versatility, so he will have every opportunity to excel in 2017. When healthy, Cobb can be a serious mismatch in one on one coverage, and that is certainly something he will see lining up opposite Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams. Coming into the 2015 season, the Packers were hoping for Davante Adams to take a big step and build off a successful rookie campaign. That didn't happen, as Adams barely eclipsed his rookie totals despite seeing a nearly 30% increase in targets. His spot as the Packers #3 receiver was up in the air, as the Packers were looking for Jeff Janis and Ty Montgomery to push Adams for that spot. Janis never materialized, Montgomery became the Packers #1 running back, and Adams had a monster season to the tune of 75 catches for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns. Adams finished with four games of 100+ yard receiving, and he scored touchdowns in nine different games, including three multi-touchdown games. He also showed up big in the playoffs, catching 16 passes for 217 yards and two touchdowns in three games. The Packers have a lot of talent at the receiver position, but Adams should be a big part of their plans moving forward and has locked up the outside spot opposite Nelson.

Backup WRs: Geronimo Allison is listed as the #4 wide receiver on the latest Packers depth chart. Allison is an undrafted free agent that the Packers signed, waived, added to the practice squad and then activated in October of 2016. Allison caught 12 of 22 targets for 202 yards and two touchdowns in ten games last season for the Packers, which is very impressive for an undrafted free agent that was playing behind Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Davante Adams. Allison averaged 16.8 yards per catch, using his size (6'3, 202) and run after catch ability to get behind his defenders. With the Packers signing Martellus Bennett (a dangerous receiver in the middle of the field) it will be interesting to see how often Green Bay deploys four wide receiver sets. Allison has the inside track on the #4 wide receiver job, but he will have to battle Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis in training camp to secure his spot on the 53 man roster. The Packers drafted two wide receivers this year who are likely competing for one spot at the most. Fifth rounder DeAngelo Yancey has some size and vertical game. Seventh rounder Malachi Dupre has a long frame, good all-around athleticism and ball skills, but he was buried under a terrible passing game at LSU.

Tight Ends

Starters: Martellus Bennett
Backups: Richard Rodgers, Lance Kendricks

The Packers signed Martellus Bennett this off-season, after Jared Cook bolted in free agency and signed with the Oakland Raiders. Cook played well down the stretch for the Packers, but Green Bay got the better end of this deal. Bennett caught 55 of 73 targets for 701 yards and seven touchdowns for the Patriots last season, playing a big part in their Super Bowl run after Rob Gronkowski was lost for the season due to injury. The seven touchdowns were a career high, as were the three 100+ yard receiving games that Bennett had in 2016. Bennett is a quirky individual, which is one of the reasons why he is moving onto his fifth team in 10 seasons. With that said, you cannot deny his skill set and ability on the field (five straight seasons with 50+ catches). He should fit in very well in the Packers offense, and give Aaron Rodgers another capable receiver to stretch the middle of the field. Richard Rodgers and Lance Kendricks will provide depth behind Bennett. Rodgers is a lumbering tight end who has made some plays for the team but lacks upside as a receiver. Kendricks is a smoother athlete and more natural receiver and could pass Rodgers on the depth if Bennett misses time.

Place Kicker

Mason Crosby: Long-time Packers kicker Mason Crosby fought through a less than promising start to his career and disastrous 2012 to level off as the team's go-to option. He made a clutch long kick in the playoff win over the Cowboys and the team's confidence in him is very strong. He hasn't topped 30 field goal attempts in the last two years, and is far from flawless, missing four of his 30 attempts last year, and three extra point attempts. He also only had two attempts from 50+, making one. While Crosby goes in the top five or six kickers in drafts off of name recognition, his contribution to fantasy teams in the last two years doesn't merit that kind of investment. He failed to break into the top 10-12 kickers in 2015 and 2016.

Kick and Punt Returners

Kick Returners: Ty Montgomery, Jeff Janis

Montgomery was seen as more of a returner/slash player than a running back when the Packers drafted him, but now he is set to make his biggest contributions as a back. He'll still likely be one of the primary kick returners, with Jeff Janis's speed showing up on special teams if he can make the team as a backup receiver.

Punt Returners: Randall Cobb, Trevor Davis

Cobb isn't the explosive punt returner he was early in his career, but after Davis's fumble issues, he could be the primary punt returner this year. Davis should figure in and could win the job back to himself if he makes the team as a backup receiver and earns the coaches confidence.

Offensive Line

Projected Starters: LT David Bakhtiari, LG Lane Taylor, C Corey Linsley, RG Jahri Evans, RT Bryan Bulaga
Key Backups: Don Barclay, Jason Spriggs, Kyle Murphy, Kofi Amichia

The Packers' offensive line boasts two good tackles in David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. Neither are dominating players but both can pass protect and not every team has such balance. The team lost last year's starters at center and right guard to free agency. The center position will be filled by Corey Linsley, who is a very similar player to J.C. Tretter, when he is healthy. The right guard spot is a competition between Jahri Evans, Don Barclay and Kyle Murphy. Evans appears to the favorite on paper but Barclay has played a ton of snaps in recent years. Lane Taylor is entering his second season as a starter and is still developing. Overall this is a solid mid-tier unit, their ranking is held back from top tier due to a lack of elite talent and the changes at the right guard spot.

Team Defense

The Packers finished right around D/ST20 in most formats and they are being drafted around their in 2017 drafts. This despite 40 sacks and 17 interceptions that put them among the league's best in both categories. They were drug down by forcing only nine fumbles and failing to score on defense, along with a secondary that was forced to play subpar options after Sam Shields was lost with concussion issues. The team lost Micah Hyde to Buffalo in free agency, but replaced him in the draft with Josh Jones, who could be a S/LB hybrid a la Deone Bucannon. They also lost Julius Peppers and Datone Jones in free agency and will hope for better health from Clay Matthews this year to bolster the pass rush. Long, athletic second-round corner Kevin King, enigmatic third-round DT Montravius Adams and glass-eating fourth-round OLB Vince Biegel could help, but the Packers will remain a D/ST that we use when they are at home and facing an inferior opponent.

Defensive Line

Starters: DE Kenny Clark, DE Mike Daniels, NT Christian Ringo, NT Letroy Guion
Backups: NT Montravius Adams [R], DE Dean Lowry, DE Ricky Jean-Francois

Starting DL: Daniels continues to be a force on the interior of the Packers defensive line. Clark played well, especially in the latter half of the 2016 season. At the NFL meetings in March, Head Coach Mike McCarthy said, "I thought Kenny by the second half of the season was probably playing as well as anybody - I thought him and Mike Daniels were a notch above." Letroy Guion must serve a four-game suspension, so it will likely be up to Christian Ringo to hold down the nose tackle position until he can return.

Backup DL: The team drafted Montravius Adams in the third round. Scouts had mixed opinions of Adams. Some felt he lacked passion and intensity in his play at times in his collegiate career, while others felt he just needs to refine his technique to unlock his potential. Dean Lowry, a fifth-round rookie last year, earned enough trust among their coaching staff to get snaps late in the season and may continue to work his way into the rotation this year. The Packers did something they seldom do-- they signed a free agent in the form of Rick Jean-Francois. Jean-Francois was released by the Redskins earlier in the offseason and will provide this unit experience and depth that it has lacked in recent seasons.

Linebackers

Starters: ILB Jake Ryan, MLB Blake Martinez OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Nick Perry
Backups: ILB Joe Thomas, MLB Jordan Tripp OLB Kyler Fackrell, OLB Jay Elliott, OLB Vince Biegel [R]

Starting LBs: After many productive seasons in Green Bay, Julius Peppers left to rejoin the Carolina Panthers. Nick Perry will take his place, and after breaking out for an 11 sack season in 2016, hopes are high that he can sustain this production going forward. The team has used Clay Matthews at middle linebacker at times throughout the years due to injuries and poor play of teammates. Having found an effective combination on the inside of the defense in Jake Ryan and Blake Martinez, Matthews will kick back outside, which is his more natural position. Both Ryan and Martinez have struggled with injuries throughout their short careers, but have done well with their on-field assignments.

Backup LBs: Joe Thomas struggled as a coverage linebacker in his playing time last year, but has managed to hang on to his backup spot. 2016 third-round Draft selection Kyler Fackrell showed promise, recording two sacks on only 160 defensive snaps. The team also re-signied both Jay Elliott and Jordan Tripp, both of whose contributions have to this point been primarily on special teams. Vince Biegel doesn't have the flashy measureables of counterpart and Steelers first-round pick TJ Watt, but his motor runs hot and he plays with a ton of fight with high football character. The team hopes he will be ready for training camp after foot surgery this offseason.

Defensive Backs

Starters: CB Damarious Randall, CB Davon House SS Morgan Burnett, FS Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix
Backups: CB/FS Quinten Rollins, CB/SS Josh Jones [R], CB/FS Kevin King [R], CB Ladarius Gunter

Starting DBs: The starting unit remains largely intact, save the fact that the Packers did not retain Sam Shields. They replace Shields with a familiar face in Davon House. House played the previous two seasons in Jacksonville, but started his career with Green Bay in 2011. Damarious Randall struggled with injuries throughout 2016, which may explain why he played very poorly at times. Already considered one of the league's top safeties, Morgan Burnett expanded his repertoire in 2016 by playing hybrid linebacker and slot corner in certain defensive looks. Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix managed to snag five interceptions last year, good enough for him to make his first Pro Bowl appearance.

Backup DBs: The Packers addressed their depth woes in the secondary by selecting Kevin King with the first pick of the second round and Josh Jones with the 29th pick of the second round. King is a rangy prospect who has played every position in the secondary, including slot corner. Jones is also a versatile player who has spent time at both safety and corner. He craves contact, but has the requisite skills to play free safety if asked to do so. Like Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins also spent much of 2016 banged up and subsequently did not play his best football. Ladarius Gunter signed with the team as an undrafted free agent last year, but was pressed into duty because of all of the injuries at the corner position. He played well enough that McCarthy said of him earlier this year, "...Gunter gave us the most consistent play in his time, and he deserves a lot of credit for that."

Last modified: 2017-05-24 15:34:46