The first half of last season looked like Rodgers had carried over his struggles from 2015 when he posted career lows for completion percentage and yards per attempt. Through the first nine games, Rodgers had a 63.1 percent completion rate (18th) and 6.53 YPA (26th), and while he had 22 touchdowns, he also had seven interceptions. Then in Week 11, vintage Rodgers emerged and for the next seven games he completed 69.7 percent of his passes (4th) with 8.37 YPA (4th) and, perhaps most impressive, 18 TDs and no picks. Opinions vary on cause and effect, but there's no denying Rodgers' accuracy on deep balls improved markedly. During his slide, he completed 20 percent (8 of 40) of passes of more than 20 yards for 6.7 YPA. During his rebound, he bumped those numbers to 42.8 percent (15 of 35) with 15.1 YPA. The addition of 6-6 TE Martellus Bennett gives Rodgers another weapon, creating mismatches up the seam and in the red zone. And another year removed from ACL surgery will only help Jordy Nelson, who leads perhaps the league's best receiving corps. Eddie Lacy left, but the Packers are deeper at running back, and it only helps Rodgers' case that the projected starter, Ty Montgomery, is a converted wide receiver who excels in the passing game.
Few players sabotaged as many fantasy seasons in 2015 as Rodgers. The first warning sign came in training camp when Jordy Nelson tore an ACL, but the expectation was Rodgers would carry on, not missing a beat. Instead, the offense slowly fell out of sync as the season progressed and the 32-year-old wound up with career lows in completion percentage and YPA. His three 300-yard games also represented a new low (he even managed four in his injury-shortened 2013), and he had none after Week 10. That puts second-year OC Edgar Bennett squarely on the hot seat, but it also raises questions about Rodgers this season. He still possesses every tool you want in a franchise QB, combining excellent mechanics and accuracy with great arm strength, athleticism and a knack for dissecting defenses, but too often last year he relied on bubble screens and short routes rather than stretching the field. Just 47 percent of his passing yards came through the air as opposed to after the catch, and he completed only 35 percent of passes 15-plus yards. Those issues could be fixed simply through Nelson's return, and young receivers like Ty Montgomery and Jeff Janis could also take a step forward. But arguably for the first time since his MVP in 2011 there are genuine questions about Rodgers' ability to produce at an elite level.
Rodgers claimed his second MVP award last season, cementing his status as the league's best quarterback. His five interceptions were the fewest in NFL history with a minimum of 500 attempts, and his 7.60 TD:INT ratio towered over the next closest quarterback (Tony Romo, 3.78). Rodgers might be the most efficient passer in NFL history, considering his 8.22 career YPA, third all-time, comes on more attempts than the first two quarterbacks combined. He's achieved elite levels of production every year since becoming Green Bay's starter, despite a modest 33.2 pass attempts per game (12th). Last year, he finished seventh in yards while ranking 14th in attempts, though playing with arguably the league's best receiver duo certainly helps. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb both topped 90 receptions and 1,200 yards last season, combining for 25 touchdowns, most of any WR tandem. With Nelson out for the season, second-year player Davante Adams will get into the mix big-time after showing promise as a rookie, and Eddie Lacy should again be a reliable target out of the backfield (10.2 YPC, 3rd among RB). Rodgers doesn't run as much as he used to, but he's still good for a couple rushing scores per season. The only hesitation with Rodgers is durability — after losing seven games in 2013 to a broken collarbone, he was hobbled down the stretch and into the playoffs last season by a calf injury. But that's quibbling.
With a little luck in the durability department, Rodgers should reestablish himself as one of the top fantasy quarterbacks in 2014. He threw for 84 combined touchdowns in 2011 and 2012 and was on pace for a similar touchdown rate last season before suffering a broken collarbone in Week 9. With an average of 8.4 yards per pass over the last five years, Rodgers is arguably the best downfield passer in the league, regularly ranking among the NFL's passing leaders despite never throwing more than 552 passes in a season. He has what might be the league's deepest group of receivers on his side, as the trio of Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin returns, and they're joined by rookie second-round pick Davante Adams, who was one of the nation's best receivers at Fresno State. Adams should provide Rodgers with an upgrade in the red zone, in particular, as he caught 38 touchdowns in two collegiate seasons. Although Rodgers is a good bet to match or exceed the per-game production of almost any quarterback in the league, he probably has more health concerns than most of the other top-tier passers. Rodgers' game involves a lot of downfield passing and a fair amount of improvisation, which gives pass rushers time to close in, whereas players like Peyton Manning, Drew Brees, etc. tend to release the ball quickly.
Rodgers threw for an impressive 4,295 yards in 2012, but there's actually room for improvement as he recorded the lowest YPA (7.8) since he became a starter in 2008. The quarterback started the season with an average of only 251 yards and one passing touchdown per game over the Packers' first three contests. Don't expect that to happen again.
Further, there's a good chance Rodgers' touchdown total will increase as well. He threw 39 touchdowns in 2012 but actually had fewer attempts inside the opponent's 10-yard line than the other top scorers – Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, Cam Newton and Matt Ryan – and by a wide margin. Brees alone had nearly twice as many passes (55) as Rodgers (29) in that area. At worst, you can probably expect Rodgers' 7.1 percent touchdown rate – down from 9.0 percent in 2011 – to remain steady in 2013. And don't forget about what the Packers quarterback can give you on the ground. Rodgers has never failed to rush for 200 yards in a season, and he's averaged nearly four rushing touchdowns per year since he became a starter. Rodgers snuck into the end zone on the ground just twice last season, so there's yet another area where the superstar's stats could "regress" in a good way.
Rodgers was beyond brilliant in 2011, completing 68.3 percent of his passes while averaging 9.2 yards per attempt, resulting in 4,643 yards in just 15 games. What’s even more impressive is that Rodgers threw 45 touchdowns on just 502 passes. That means nine percent of his passes – nearly one in 10 – went for a touchdown. He did all this while throwing just six interceptions. He added 257 yards and three touchdowns on the ground, too. With the exception of a puzzling loss to the Chiefs in Week 15, Rodgers was unstoppable perhaps to an extent that hasn’t really been seen before – he scored at least two touchdowns in every game, three or more in 10 games, and for all but that one week against the Chiefs, defenses looked entirely helpless against him. Even in his one “bad” game he still scored 22 points in standard leagues. His top pass catchers from a year ago are all back, with wideouts Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson headlining the list after combining for 24 touchdowns in 2011.
Coming off an impressive Super Bowl campaign, Rodgers is arguably the league’s top quarterback for both fantasy and real-life purposes. He isn’t granted as many pass attempts – his 475 in 15 games ranked 14th – as players like Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, but he closes that gap with efficiency (8.26 YPA, 2nd) and his ability to move the ball on the ground. Rodgers can be expected to hover around 300 yards and four touchdowns as a runner, while Brees and Manning aren’t even guaranteed to post positive yardage in that regard. Rodgers might need to be a bit more cautious as a runner in 2011 after suffering two concussions last year, but that he’s only missed one game in three years probably indicates last year’s concussions were bad luck more than anything in Rodgers’ control. Moreover, Rodgers has gotten better in each of the last two seasons, and he improved as last season progressed, totaling 1,911 yards, 16 touchdowns and two interceptions through the air while completing 71.4 percent of his passes and averaging 9.3 yards per pass attempt over the final seven games. While Rodgers had a deep wide receiver corps last season, he had to do without star tight end Jermichael Finley for most of the year. If Finley, who's expected back in time for training camp, can stay healthy, we might see Rodgers establish a new ceiling.
Rodgers is an incredible fantasy weapon boosted significantly by his consistent running – nine scores in two seasons and 316 rushing yards in 2009. We hate his sack number, 50 in 2009. But the rate improved steadily in the second half of the season, and the Packers improved their offensive line adding OT Bryan Bulaga in the first round of the draft. So the injury risk is less significant than it appeared to be last October. That’s the only possible question mark anyone could have regarding Rodgers, who looks to be the perfect player. Rodgers is very consistent and also very explosive. His rushing ability coupled with his passing proclivity makes Rodgers the man most likely to carry your team from this position. Rodgers’ receivers are also stronger than ever. The cold weather in Green Bay can be unfriendly to the pass, but Rodgers gets big scheduling breaks up until Week 15 and that alone is the reason he’s not our No. 1 QB, though you can certainly make a case. Remember, you need to make the playoffs before you worry about playoff matchups, and getting Rodgers puts you in good stead for that.
He’s going to be on a lot of championship rosters in 2009, should he slip past the fourth round.
Most attractive are the 536 attempts. Although the Packers have sought to upgrade the defense, we’re not too optimistic. Expect about 550 again in ’09, as any gains on defense will probably be balanced by increased confidence from the coaching staff in Rodgers, now in his second full year as starter.
His big-armed reputation isn’t evidenced in our FAS throws (11-to-20 yards from scrimmage), just a 84.2 rating on 107 tosses and just 20 percent of his attempts (below league average).
Of bigger concern for Rodgers rooters is the status of his O-Line. LT Chad Clifton allowed 7.5 sacks last year and is coming off knee surgery, and fellow tackle Mark Tauscher tore his ACL in December and might not be re-signed. OT/G T.J. Lang (Eastern Michigan) was a good middle-round value, but probably needs seasoning.
The receivers are good enough, with Greg Jennings a borderline Pro Bowl-type and Donald Driver a declining but still solid chain-mover. No. 3 WR Jordy Nelson has reliable hands but no deep speed.
But Rodgers had a 7.5 YPA as a first-year starter, and that’s more likely to get better than worse. And 7.5-plus gets you 25-plus TD passes 80 percent of the time (assuming a healthy season). And if he progresses to 8.0, which is not crazy speculation at all given his place in the development curve, then you’re talking 30-plus TD passes as chalk.
Brett Favre went out with a bang, putting up a
season that defied all expectations in light of his recent trends. Rodgers
looked so good in a very high-profile game in
Dallas (when he replaced an injured Favre) that
he's likely going to be overdrafted everywhere.
Caution is the best approach here, as he's
thown 59 passes in his career. General manager
Ted Thompson said to read nothing into the selection of Brian Brohm in the second round. But
you don’t take QBs in the second round if you
think they're just going to be backups. So clearly
the team is not sold on Rodgers. Make sure you
aren't either, no matter how he plays in those
meaningless summer games.
The Packers play calling tendencies are great
for fantasy QBs, but that's likely to change now
that their Hall of Fame quarterback has retired.
The Packers have an exciting young runner in
Ryan Grant and an interesting backup in former
second-round pick Brandon Jackson. Their defense
is also stout, and they play in a division
where all of the teams likely will struggle to
score. So they don’t have to pass the ball often
and probably won't.
Rodgers still has the No. 2 spot locked in, but with Brett Favre in the starting spot, Rodgers is not likely to see much time unless the Packers find themselves completely out of the division race. He's only thrown 31 passes in two NFL seasons so far, and it seemed like the Packers were willing to trade him earlier had the right offer come along.
Rodgers was the Packers' first round pick in 2005 and is their future at quarterback, assuming that Brett Favre retires at some point.
Rodgers, the Packers first round pick in 2005, will likely be listed as the second string QB this season, but it will probably be in name only. Don't expect him to see any extended game action for one or two years.