Plenty of people have an opinion on Aaron Rodgers these days, but then again, there always have been plenty of them floating out there. The analytics community has the loudest opinion on him declining in a “real” football sense and that has bled into his fantasy football viability.
While the Cal product’s next-gen stats show that he isn’t the same MVP-caliber player he once was, Rodgers has been and still is a consistent top-10 fantasy quarterback.
Over his career, Rodgers has finished as a top-two QB six times and in the top ten nine times. The only two seasons he didn’t finish as a top-ten QB were in 2013 and 2017, when he didn’t play at least 15 games (he played nine and seven games, respectively in the two years when he suffered broken collarbones).
He’s perennially throwing for or getting close to 4,000 yards passing, but a big concern for Rodgers the past two seasons and going into this season are his passing touchdown numbers. From 2009 to 2016, Rodgers threw 28 touchdowns in each season he played 15 or more games. But over the last two, he’s topped out at 25 and 26 TDs. Will his TD numbers take an even further hit as Matt LaFleur incorporates more of his heavy 12 and 21 personnel offense?
Drafting another running back and another tight end, while not bringing in a lot of wide receiver help for the offense, would indicate to some that the Packers are ready to “establish the run” and pound the rock 75 percent of games. According to stats via Warren Sharp, 21 personnel has the highest efficiency in expected points added, highest efficiency per pass attempt, yards per play, and is number one in Success Rate. Passing is obviously the most efficient way to score and that might lead one to think that more WRs on the field is the best way to pass, but these stats show that’s not always true. Having the option to run effectively and pass effectively on any given play by creating mismatches through 12 and 21 personnel is how the Packers feel they can best win football games and that thinking has merit.
Additionally, among teams with the highest rate of 21 personnel last season, five of the top six teams went to the playoffs (49ers, Vikings, Ravens, Patriots, and Saints). Excluding Lamar Jackson – because he’s a definite outlier here in fantasy scoring – and Drew Brees – because he only played 11 games— the QB’s of the remaining three teams finished QB14, QB15, and QB12 (Jimmy Garoppolo, Kirk Cousins, and Tom Brady). So if the Packers operate more like these teams, Rodgers could slip from his current QB10 average draft position, despite being more talented than Garoppolo, Cousins, and Brady.
Rodgers has probably the best floor of any QB drafted near him, but his ceiling is the biggest question mark. Rodgers finished 8th in Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement last year (DYAR; which measures overall QB value), but just 13th in Defense-adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA; value per play). With that said, getting Rodgers at the best value is what you need to be aiming for and that means targeting him at a lower draft position than his current ADP.
I’ve already written about how good Davante Adams is in a real and fantasy football sense and how Allen Lazard can be a league winner, so the pass catching options are not terrible and actually might be the second best in the division. At QB10, though, drafting Rodgers or any QB at 77 overall just doesn’t seem like good draft strategy, especially on the off chance he slips to QB12-QB15. There are several later options that can finish in the same ballpark as Rodgers, if Rodgers doesn’t up his game this year. Narratively, there’s a strong argument for him to do just that, but you should wait for later rounds to grab Rodgers if he drops below the seventh round.