Sure, it is a little early to get fully involved in fantasy football. Still, many sites are about to start the new season. In this time between the end of the initial push of free agency and the NFL Draft there has already been some re-positioning. Here is the initial look at how the off-season has affected the Packers fantasy players.
In 2016, Rodgers was the highest scoring fantasy player in most standard leagues. This was mostly due to the high touchdown numbers. The yardage was good but not among the top in the league. The Packers watched Eddie Lacy go to Seattle, and that means the Packers are still likely a pass-first team at the goal line. The addition of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks seems to further that assertion. Not that anyone was doubting this, but Rodgers will likely be a top three quarterback again.
So, one full off-season at running back and now Montgomery is likely more prepared for the role he inherited after Eddie Lacy and James Starks got hurt. The first issue is the loss of T.J. Lang. Yes, it will hurt the overall rushing numbers, but the ability to run more two tight end sets should open up a lot more room.
Division rivals did very little to improve their run defenses. All of the teams in the division (other than the Packers) finished in the bottom half of the league in rushing defense last year, by yards. Mostly, this was a factor of the Vikings and Bears being behind most of the time. The Lions let DeAndre Levy go and added Paul Worrilow while Minnesota watched Chad Greenway retire.
Expect the Packers to start using Montgomery to be used much more like how the Patriots use James White and Dion Lewis. This is more the way Mike McCarthy handled running backs before the draft of Eddie Lacy. Also, Montgomery is the clear starter at this point as Christine Michael does not seems poised to push Montgomery at all. Before seeing what the final running back roster will look like, Montgomery is the main load carrier in the rushing game and he should get plenty of targets as well. Still, he is a mid-level RB2 at this point with upside.
Jordy Nelson/Davante Adams/Randall Cobb
Last year, Nelson and Adams finished first and second in the league in touchdown receptions. This helped raise their fantasy value. Expect those touchdown numbers to fall. Adding additional pass catchers will spread the targets. Last year the Packers frequently used receivers in the routes commonly used by tight ends.
Cobb did not get very much going last year, but found a role in working underneath and getting some yards after the catch. With two strong tight ends in the game now, expect Nelson and Adams to work more down the field and leave the shorter stuff to Cobb, Kendricks and Bennett.
The division did try to improve their cornerback situations. Chicago added Prince Amukamara and Quintin Demps and Detroit added D.J. Hayden. Minnesota stood pat by re-signing Terrance Newman. Clearly the division is spending its money trying to slow the Packers’ passing game. None of these adds are elite players, at least not any more, still these are upgrades that will affect the Packers’ offensive attack.
Expect Nelson to be a lower end WR1, and Adams to be a mid-level WR2. Cobb is mostly a flex option at this point. Like last year, he should have some big games, but it will be hard to predict them.
Martellus Bennett/Lance Kendricks
This is the biggest new change. Bennett was a top ten tight end last year when he was the second option on the Patriots and now he will be the top tight end on the Packers. The Packers receivers have more targets directed to wide receivers than the Patriots, but he should still be a solid TE1 and maybe in the tier right below Travis Kelce, Rob Gronkowski, and Greg Olsen. Kendricks is going to be harder pick. Kendricks had 50 catches last year as the top tight end in Los Angeles. Kendricks will be the second tight end target in this system. Not much reason to draft Kendricks. He might be worth keeping an eye on to be a possible bye week option, but not much more than that.
Before the draft, all we have are the addition of DT Ricky Jean Francois and the return of CB Davon House. This should give a little more strength and depth to these two areas. The Packers defense was hurt by finishing 21st in points surrendered. Still, the Packers were boosted by finishing sixth in sacks and fourth in interceptions. Getting some depth in these areas should help. Having Jay Cutler gone could very well cut down the Packers interception chances when playing the Bears. Also, the Packers will face teams like Atlanta, Baltimore, Seattle and Dallas, teams that had a positive turnover differential last year and are not likely to turn over the ball. Playing three of the top five scoring offenses from 2016 will also be a challenge. As constituted, this defense will likely be around the middle of fantasy defenses. Of course, we all expect the Packers to add defensive players in the Draft, but none of that is known now. Currently, this is a defense you will not likely own in a standard 10 team league.