The immediate aftermath of the 2020 NFL draft was a healthy dose of commentary on the Green Bay Packers not adding any weapons to help the Packers “win now.”
The Packers have been insistent on being happy with the weapons they have and, frankly, they’re probably right. Allen Lazard will be a better option for the Green Bay Packers in 2020 than any rookie pass catcher they could’ve gotten at the 26th pick in the draft.
Lazard is big, can track a deep ball, and is still relatively anonymous in fantasy draft circles and in the national sports media. Lazard had a really good last third of the season when he finally started getting the attention he deserved from Aaron Rodgers and from the gameplan.
Looking at Lazard’s success last year (albeit in little action) and how it adds up to winning Rodgers’ trust, Lazard finished with the fifth highest situational success rate at WR, per Warren Sharp. Among WRs with 40+ targets, Lazard finished 12th out of 96 in passer rating when targeted (117.9). It’s one thing for a QB to have favorite targets, but another thing entirely when those targets actually equal analytical success.
It took time to build that trust, however, and for Lazard to earn his spot in the rotation. While receiving no targets in September, Lazard got 26 targets in October and November, then had that same amount in December alone. The Packers won five games during the month of December and Lazard was a big part of that success. He turned those 26 targets into 16 catches for 250 yards (15.63 Y/R) and two TDs.
Currently, Lazard’s average draft position is sitting at WR66. That’s snugly between future Hall of Famer Larry Fitzgerald — who’s going to be 37 by the time the season starts — and rookie Tee Higgins. This area of the draft is, to put it nicely, not great, but Lazard can be an easy fantasy WR2 this year providing the most bang for your buck. WR66 is ridiculously low considering a few other numbers, too. Per Football Outsiders, Lazard was ranked 36th in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) in 2019 and was all the way up at 18th in DVOA. (Side note: DYAR measures the plays total value, while DVOA measures value per play.)
Davante Adams is, rightfully, the Packer pass catcher to get the most attention, but Lazard should be in play for second on the team in targets. Securing the WR2 spot behind Adams will keep him on the field despite the Packers going with more heavy personnel this season. Lazard is 6’5”, 227 pounds and uses that frame in run blocking to great effect. Per Pro Football Focus, Lazard was fourth among WRs last year in run blocking grade (82.0).
Lazard may have been a practice designee in his past, but that doesn’t mean he lacks pedigree to be a Pro Bowl caliber NFL player. He was a USA Today All-American in high school and a four-star WR prospect who chose to play his ball at Iowa State, despite offers from Cal, Iowa, Nebraska, Notre Dame, and Stanford. Despite owning a ton of records at Iowa State, he went undrafted. He didn’t produce a particularly fast 40 time (4.55, still decent) and was considered a tweener prospect due to his size.
But sometimes it’s about finding the right fit and getting the right opportunity. Expect Lazard to be securing the edge and getting more looks like season in the passing game. If you can draft Lazard at a time when kickers and D/STs are being drafted, you might just get a serious game changer.