It’s safe to say no one predicted Allen Lazard’s second season given just what he did as an undrafted rookie in 2018. Lazard played exactly one game — one snap, actually — for the Packers in 2018. He was targeted by DeShone Kizer, caught the pass, and gained 7 yards. That’s some efficiency right there!
Jokes aside, Lazard’s “real” debut-season took place in 2019 as Green Bay had so few options among its wide receiver corps that the sophomore turned into the de facto WR2 of the team by the end of the year. It took time for Lazard to make himself an important part of the Packers offense, though, as he wasn’t targeted by Aaron Rodgers until Week 6 even while playing in at least one snap in four of the first five games of the season.
Lazard finished the year as the second-best player Packers WR in fantasy scoring with 102.8 PPR points to his name, which ranked 68th among all wide receivers. The question for the Packers going forward is whether that was enough production for them at the WR2 spot or whether Lazard should be worried about losing his job. Let’s explore.
Defining The WR2 Role
In order to know if Lazard is or not in a position to become Green Bay’s real WR2 we need to define what a “WR2” actually is in the NFL. Instead of looking at it from a subjective perspective based on the players’ names, fame, etc. we’d be better off looking at historical data. In the NFL we would have 32 WR2s if we selected one per time. That differs from the fantasy definition of WR2, which would be a player ranked inside the 13th-to-24th clip at the end of the season. I want to know if Lazard has enough to be considered a WR2 in Green Bay’s offense, so I’ll stick with the “real-life” definition of the role for the time being.
I have gathered data from the past 20 seasons back to the 2000 one and labeled each team’s wide receivers with a role going from WR1 down to WR11 (max. number of WRs used by a team — 2010 San Diego Chargers — in that span) ordered by total PPR scored on the season.
The results align with the expectations. I have ordered the roles by total PPR, so the trend makes obvious sense. There are some incredibly bad WR1 seasons in which the players didn’t even reach 100 PPR on the year, but the overall picture is reasonable.
Where Does Lazard’s 2019 Season Fall?
Lazard played the WR2 role for Green Bay in 2019, at least judging by his PPR tally of 102.8 points. Let’s highlight him in the chart above to see where he ranked among all wide receiver-seasons for the past 20 years.
Not great. Lazard’s 2019 was that of a mid-to-low-end WR2. The average second-fiddle from 2000 to last season averaged 142 PPR over the full season. But Lazard’s final score should be taken with a grain of salt. Remember he officially played 15 games but only played a significant role in 12 of them (at least 10 snaps).
Lazard’s point total resembles more of a high-end WR3 role rather than a WR2. That probably says more about Green Bay’s lack of depth at the position than anything else.
If we count only the 12 games in which he saw significant snaps his PPG average would have been 8.5, instead of the 6.9 he averaged over 15 games. That would have yielded 136 PPR over a full 16-game season, much closer to the average WR2 performance during the past couple of decades.
Did Lazard Really Underperform?
Excluding the first five games of the season (zero combined EP), Lazard averaged 7.5 Total EP/G over his other 11 games. On a per-game basis, that would have ranked 79th among all 222 wide receivers to play at least a game in 2019, which is not an unreachable mark to average in a 16-game season next year.
In terms of efficiency, Lazard wasn’t a world-beater by any means, but he was efficient. He averaged 1.7 FPOE/G over his 15 games and 1.8 over the last 11. The latter mark ranked 28th among WRs with at least 10 games played in 2019. The couple of games that went for values of 8.2 and 14.3 FPOE were those in which he scored a touchdown while catching at least 80% of his passes (on 3 and 5 attempts respectively).
During the last 12 weeks of the season, Lazard’s 9.3 PPG ranked 55th among wide receivers in that span. In that same 12-game stretch his 1.8 FPOE/G ranked just 40th, which doesn’t indicate he was overly lucky or that he overperformed expectations by much. But despite scoring only just over 100 PPR points, Lazard did outperform his opportunity, which is a good sign for his future outlook.
Competition in Green Bay
Lazard was the top-scoring Green Bay WR not named Davante Adams. But is it a foregone conclusion that he’s got the WR2 role locked down? He’s got some significant competition after all.
As incredible as it looks, every fantasy-relevant player to play receiver for the Packers in 2019 (besides Adams) finished with pretty much the same number of opportunities on offense. The key stat to focus on the table above are games played. While the targets of Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Geronimo Allison finished in the 52-to-56 clip, Lazard got them in effectively four fewer games.1 The same goes for the receptions, the yards, etc.
The good news for Lazard is that he was the most efficient of the three, and the only one with positive FPOE.
There is a good chance Green Bay adds weapons at the WR position. If not, though, Lazard has at least as good a case as any of the incumbent options for an expanded role in 2020.
What To Expect Going Forward
Given Lazard played only a single snap in 2018, it’s fair to look for comps among both first- and second-year players. Using the RotoViz Screener, I looked for similar one-year seasons in either Years 1 or 2 by wide receivers since 2010. Here’s what those top comparables did in the following season:
That’s a cohort of players with varying outcomes, but if I were managing Green Bay I’d be pretty pleased with most of the potential outcomes. Only Devin Funchess would clearly be labeled a bust.2.
Michael Crabtree finished the 2012 season as the WR15, Courtland Sutton was the WR19 in 2019, DeVante Parker ranked as WR51 in 2017, Terrance Williams as WR52 in 2014, Tyler Lockett as WR56 in 2017, and Funchess as WR90 in 2016. That’s a wide range of outcomes, but considering where Lazard is currently being drafted, it’s a range of outcomes worth chasing.
With an average finish of WR47 between those considered, the ADP to expect from that level of production would historically be around 122 overall. Lazard’s current ADP is 279.8. He’s going off boards with a positional ADP of WR77 in best ball leagues. All but one of the comparable receivers above beat that mark. Lazard himself finished higher in 2019.
While it is reasonable to a certain extent that he’s flying under the radar and not being considered as a surefire bet given his usage in 2019, he has shown enough to become a good second option in Green Bay. Even if the Packers bring in new players to the position, he should still retain a WR3/4 role in that offense. Lazard is not a sure thing, but at his current price, you can afford to gamble on a player with his upside.
Image Credit: Larry Radloff/Icon Sportswire. Pictured: Allen Lazard.
- The RotoViz Screener doesn’t count games in which no box score statistics were recorded. (back)
- Although Terrance Williams is already out of the NFL, he was the WR1 of the Cowboys by total PPR in 2015, the WR2 in 2013, 2014, and 2017, and only fell to WR3 in 2016. He only played three games in 2018 before being suspended. (back)