The Resurgence of the Packers Offense, 2016 Projections

The Green Bay Packers were a major disappointment for fantasy drafters in 2015. Aaron Rodgers played a full season but was unable to crack the top five of quarterback rankings. Eddie Lacy got outscored by James Starks. Randall Cobb struggled as the leader of the receiving corps and DaVante Adams, who was being drafted in the fourth round of drafts, barely eclipsed 100 PPR points. With Jordy Nelson returning and 2015 in the rear view mirror, many are expecting a resurgence for the entire offense. After using our staff Projection Machine to build a reasonable expectation of the Packer’s 2016 season, I’m inclined to agree.

The Projection Machine employs a top-down approach and works off team wide offensive assumptions. Despite the aforementioned fantasy struggles, the Packers still finished last season with 10 wins. I expect a similar performance in 2016 and Vegas agrees. I considered this win total and additionally placed a fair amount of emphasis on the team’s prior four seasons while working out my general assumptions.

Point MarginPass TendencyPace Tendency
1.00.010.3

JORDY NELSON IS A DIFFERENCE MAKER

Before jumping into the numbers I think it’s important to highlight just how useful Nelson has been in the Packers passing game. Between 2009 and 2015, Rodgers was incredibly efficient while looking his way. I can’t say that I’ve scoured every quarterback/wide receiver pairing, but I can tell you that the 12.3 adjusted yards per attempt for Nelson is supremely impressive.

Jordy Nelson

Green Bay posted it’s lowest points per game total since 2006 last season. While I don’t think Nelson’s absence was entirely responsible for this, it certainly was a contributing factor. His return to action in 2016 should benefit the offense as a whole and greatly assist Rodgers and Cobb in getting back to their 2014 forms.

Based upon the team-wide assumptions, the projection machine estimates the Packers will pass 600 times in 2016. This would be an increase of five percent when compared to last season. Since 2011, the team’s most heavily targeted WR has earned an average of 22 percent of team targets. However, Nelson enjoyed a 28 percent market share in 2014. For the purposes of this exercise, let’s assume that the 2016 version of Nelson is more or less equivalent to that of 2014. Based upon these conditions, I assigned him 26 percent of team targets and above 75th percentile efficiency. With the expected boost from Nelson’s return, Cobb should be more efficient with the 23 percent of team targets he’s slated to receive. Like Nelson, Cobb has had good efficiency and a high touchdown rate. I used his seasonal averages in developing expectations for 2016.

At this point in the summer, it’s unclear which young WR will be third on the Packers depth chart when the season starts. It’s my belief that Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery and Adams will vie for this role as the season progresses. As such, I don’t expect any of the three to absorb a significantly high amount of targets. Nonetheless, I ultimately gave this role to Janis within the Projection Machine but assigned him only nine percent of team targets. Even with a solid TD rate and median efficiency, my projection does not view him as a significant fantasy asset. Whereas, Nelson and Cobb could both finish inside the top 15 of WR rankings.

2016 Packers Projections

CAN EDDIE LACY REBOUND?

Last week I wrote about the significant concerns I have for drafters spending second round draft capital on Lacy. As expected, I’m not as high on his 2016 prospects as the rest of the RotoViz writers. This is because I expect Starks to play a significant role in the Packers 2016 passing game. The Projection Machine expects the Packers to run 442 times in the coming season when considering the assumptions I provided it with. I distributed 56 percent of these attempts to Lacy and 27 percent to Starks. My projection for Lacy comes in around 30 points or so less than the composite. Though I actually projected Lacy to post more TDs than most, this bump is offset by my projection of 20 fewer targets when compared to the composite. Naturally, this suppresses his projected receiving yards and TDs and shifts this production in the direction of Starks. At the end of the day, I expect the total output posted by the two backs to be similar to composite projection but with a slightly different distribution. I should note that my projection assigns Lacy with 247 attempts which is actually nine carries higher than the composite. So the potential is there for Lacy to finish as a top 10 RB. But in order to do so, he will have to be the main option out of the backfield in passing situations.

2016 Packers Projections

RICHARD RODGERS WILL NEED MORE HAIL MARYS

If the Packers had a single tight end that we could expect to see 15 percent or more of team targets they’d likely be able to finish as a fantasy starter. However, the signing of Jared Cook made this scenario pretty unlikely for the 2016 season. Since 2012, Packers TEs have seen an aggregate average of 16 percent of team passing attempts. Richard Rodgers garnered 15 percent market share last year. Though he found the end zone eight times in 2016, it appears that Cook is the presumptive starter. However, both tight ends will likely be used in different facets of the Packers offense. Keeping this in mind, I assigned nine percent of targets to Cook and seven to Rodgers. For both players I included median efficiency levels but did give Rodgers’ TD rate a boost to 70th percentile rates. Barring an injury to either player, the duo will likely only be useful as streaming or DFS options

2016 Packers Projections

RODGERS RETURNS TO THE TOP 5

With Nelson back and the rest of the offense looking more like the Packers that we saw in 2014, Rodgers should easily throw for over 4,200 yards and be near the league lead in passing touchdowns. Based on the projections that we worked through above, Rodgers could post a 325 point season in 2016. If he had done so last season he would have finished as QB4.  In comparison to the composite projection, I’m anticipating approximately two more touchdowns for Rodgers but 300 fewer total yards. Either way, he looks like an elite fantasy producer for the 2016 season and as a staff we’re bullish on his prospects with some writers projecting him to accrue 350 points.

2016 Packers Projections

To asses his floor, I dropped Rodgers’ total passing attempts by 10 percent to 500 while keeping the rest of the underlying assumptions the same. Under these conditions he’d still be projected to finish with 296 points; this would have been good enough for a top seven finish last year.

  1. As a point of reference, the team’s scoring margin per play in 2014 was approximately +5 and in 2011 it was +6.  (back)

Dave Caban

Senior Fantasy Analyst, app developer, hosts the RotoViz Radio Flagship, auction draft enthusiast.
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