2021 NFL Team Previews: Green Bay Packers

2021 NFL Team Previews: Green Bay Packers

This article is part of our Team Previews series.

Green Bay Packers

The Packers hosted the NFC Championship Game last  season, and, while they lost, nearly every  starter is back. Expectations will be high, particularly with the possibility this will be Aaron Rodgers' last season in Green Bay. Anything short of a Super Bowl berth will be a disappointment.

Offseason Moves

Key Acquisitions

After two seasons elsewhere, returns to the site of his most success.

The team's top 2021 draft pick brings speed to the defensive backfield.

Should get the opportunity to start at an interior line spot.

Adds a different dimension to the receiving corps.

  • Kylin Hill – RB (Rd. 7, No. 256 – Mississippi State)

Starred in 2019 and is the favorite to open as the third running back.

Veteran is in line to snag a starting spot in this 3-4 defense.

Key Losses

Departure of the trusty backfield option opens up snaps for AJ Dillon.

All-Pro center was allowed to head elsewhere due to a cap crunch.

A Look Under the Hood

Head Coach: Matt LaFleur (Year 3)

Offensive Coordinator: Nathaniel Hackett (Year 3) - West Coast (wide/outside zone)

Defensive Coordinator: Joe Barry (Year 1) - 3-4 scheme

2021 Vegas Projected Wins: 11 (T-3rd)

   

2020 Record: 13-3

2020 Points Scored: 509 (1st)

2020 Points Allowed: 369 (13th)

2020 Point Differential: +140 (3rd)

2020 Run-Play Rate: 43.8 percent (11th)

2020 Offensive Snaps: 993 (T-25th)

2020 PFF O-Line Ranking: No. 2

Full 2020 Team Stats

   

Projected 2021 Depth Chart

QB: Aaron Rodgers / Jordan Love

RB: Aaron Jones / AJ Dillon / Kylin Hill / Dexter Williams 

WR1: Davante Adams / Marquez Valdes-Scantling / Equanimeous St. Brown / Devin Funchess

WR2: Allen Lazard / Randall Cobb / Amari Rodgers

TE1: Robert Tonyan / Josiah Deguara / Dominique Dafney

TE2: Marcedes Lewis / Jace Sternberger

O-Line: LT David Bakhtiari / LG Elgton Jenkins / C Josh Myers / RG Lucas Patrick / RT Billy Turner  (RotoWire Rank: No. 12)

Kicker: Mason Crosby

Full 2021 Depth Chart

Top Storylines

All Is Quiet on the Rodgers Front...For Now

Aaron Rodgers' future with the Packers was in question almost from the minute after he and his team were eliminated by the Buccaneers, and it again will be when this campaign comes to a close, as it's assumed management will entertain the idea of him playing elsewhere in 2022 and beyond while turning to 2020 first-rounder Jordan Love. But for one more season, at least, Rodgers is locked in as the starting quarterback in Green Bay.

The reigning MVP skipped all offseason team activities, but he was present and participating on the first day of training camp, so he really didn't miss all that much. Rodgers is entering his third season with coach Matt LaFleur, gets just about every skill player back from last season and even got several new options added to the mix on the offensive side of the ball, so don't expect his off-field situation to affect how things go on Sundays.

Plus, if Rodgers indeed is hoping to suit up elsewhere next year, another big season will go a long way toward teams sweetening the pot in a potential trade and allow him to find a landing spot he prefers. His status will be discussed all season, and the talk will grow louder as the playoffs approach and a possible parting draws closer, but on the field it should be business as usual in 2021.

A Peek at the Pass Catchers

A lot of fuss has been made about the Packers' weapons, but their pass-catching stable features two players who had double-digit scores in 2020 and another who led the league in yards per catch. It also includes a pair who get rave reviews for their blocking, two recent third-round picks and two veterans who had success in the past.

The merits of those players are up for debate outside of top option Davante Adams, but every one has a case to see the field. After Adams, Robert Tonyan is the pass catcher most likely to produce after breaking out with 11 TDs a season ago. Tonyan's targets and yardage leave something to be desired, but he found pay dirt in nine of his last 15 games.

Up next is the duo of Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The latter averaged 20.9 YPC in 2020, but the former played over him when at full speed and has big-play ability of his own. Lazard and Marcedes Lewis won't get fantasy points for clearing the road, but as two of the league's top blockers, they help keep the chains moving.

Youngsters Josiah Deguara and Amari Rodgers were drafted to fill specific roles. Last but not least, a reunited Randall Cobb and Devin Funchess are on hand to serve as trusty options. It's not a star-studded group, but it's a diverse one capable of delivering with the MVP at the helm.

Don't Sleep on the Defense

The Green Bay defense has been a work in progress for a while, but it showed signs of improvement in 2020, finishing top 10 in yards allowed for the first time since 2010. In particular, the Packers were effective late in the season, allowing 20 points per game from Week 12 through the NFC Championship Game while racking up 25 sacks and nine interceptions over those eight games. There's reason to believe they can build on last year's strong finish, as every starter is back. 

With rookie cornerback Eric Stokes added to the mix, there are now five first-round picks – all since 2016 – on that side of the ball. The best of the bunch is Jaire Alexander, arguably the top cover corner in the NFL. Others in that group include Kenny Clark, Darnell Savage and Rashan Gary, none of whom are over the age of 25 and have the potential to make a bigger impact this year. Add Za'Darius Smith and Adrian Amos, and the Packers have the makings of a solid core.

The defense will be under new leadership with Joe Barry replacing Mike Pettine as coordinator, so there may be an adjustment period. However, there's talent at every level, and a relatively favorable early-season schedule could help the unit continue to click. If they produce like they did to close out 2020, the Packers D/ST will be worthy of a spot in fantasy lineups more often than not.

Barometer

⬆️  Rising: TE Robert Tonyan

Tonyan barely was on the radar before last season, but he wound up tied for fifth in the league in receiving scores. Now a consensus No. 1 TE, another nice season should be in store with Rodgers under center.

⬇️  Falling: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Valdes-Scantling had moments in 2020, but his snap share steadily fell from Weeks 11 to 17, a span in which he was shut out four times. He gets a boost in leagues that reward big plays but could struggle to see regular looks.

😴  Sleeper: RB AJ Dillon

The  Quadfather played a bit role as a rookie, but he averaged 5.3 YPC and dazzled as the lead back Week 16. Dillon is locked into the No. 2 spot, and, with a lack of depth, he'd see the bulk of the carries if Aaron Jones goes down.

🌟  Pivotal Player: Aaron Rodgers

It was a tumultuous offseason for anyone invested in Rodgers' future with the Packers, but with player and team coming to an understanding, he will remain in Green Bay for at least another season. The 2020 MVP's play figures to determine whether or not the Packers find themselves in Super Bowl contention again.

Medical Tent

RB Aaron Jones

The Packers' 2020 campaign stalled out in the NFC Championship Game, but Jones' season ended a bit earlier, as he left that contest in the third quarter with a chest injury and didn't return. No further updates on his health were provided over the offseason, which is a sign it didn't take long to put the injury behind him. Jones signed a long-term deal with the Packers this offseason, so he'll remain the team's primary running back in 2021. Now presumably at 100 percent, don't expect Jones to face any limitations during training camp.

OT David Bakhtiari

Last season may have ended differently for the Packers had Bakhtiari not torn the ACL in his left knee in late December, but the star left tackle alas wasn't available for the team's postseason run. It was reported in April that he was ahead of schedule in his recovery, but no firm details regarding his status have emerged since then. Bakhtiari opens training camp on the PUP list, so it remains to be seen both when he'll be ready to practice and if he can make it all the way back for Week 1. He should be good to go at some point during the campaign, though.

TE Josiah Deguara

The Packers envisioned Deguara playing a versatile role for the team in 2020, but his rookie year ended almost as soon as it began, as he tore the ACL in his left knee Week 4 and missed the remainder of the season. He was placed on the PUP list in late July, but that was mainly a formality and doesn't provide much of a clue as to where he stands in his recovery. The Packers are hoping he'll be set at the start of training camp, and if he is Deguara will have the opportunity to secure at least something similar to the job he was primed to play a year ago.

Job Battle

There's no doubt Davante Adams will open the season as the No. 1 wideout, but the next three spots on the depth chart are up for grabs during camp and the preseason, with as many as six players having chances to claim them.

The favorites for the second and third roles likely are Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, as both made notable impacts last year and established themselves as primary options. They'll be pushed on the outside by Devin Funchess, who opted out in 2020. Rookie Amari Rodgers was in position to be the Packers' top slot man this season, but with Randall Cobb back in the fold, it seems likely the veteran will get the first crack at filling that spot. With Aaron Rodgers again leading the offense, at least two of these positions figure to be fruitful, so it'll be worth monitoring how things shake out in the coming weeks.

As camp opens, consider Lazard and Valdes-Scantling the top options for fantasy purposes. Three receivers figure to be on the field often for the Packers, so whichever two slot in behind Adams presumably will be worthy of spots on fantasy rosters.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Kevin O'Brien
Kevin mans the Packers and Brewers beats and moonlights as RotoWire's Director of Operations.
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