Davante Adams put up the gaudy numbers in week one. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has the biggest plays. But you can make an argument that Allen Lazard has been the most valuable receiver for the Green Bay Packers in the early going this season — and at the very least he has been the most efficient of the group.
Lazard’s conventional numbers through two games aren’t necessarily eye-popping. In week one he caught four passes for 63 yards and a touchdown while adding a 19-yard carry on an end-around. That’s a very good, solid game. Then on Sunday against the Lions, he was targeted five times, catching three passes for 45 yards. Again, decent numbers but ones that won’t jump off the page.
But Lazard’s efficiency, what he has been doing with those receptions, is where he is showing his value for the Packers. First of all, Lazard is doing particularly well in yards per reception, at 15.4, and catch rate at 77.8%. Although the small sample size caveat applies, only one wide receiver had a higher catch rate in 2019: Michael Thomas. Meanwhile, a 15.4 yards per reception average would have ranked 16th over the 2019 season and puts him 21st so far this year.
The other factor that has made Lazard so impressive to start 2020 is his knack for moving the chains in critical situations. Four of his receptions have moved the chains on third or fourth downs, with three of them coming with at least six yards to go. That includes gains of 12 and 38 yards on 3rd-and-7, ten yards on 4th-and-6, and 25 yards on 3rd-and-2. Moreover, he has caught every one of his targets in those critical make-or-break situations, showing why Aaron Rodgers clearly trusts him on must-have plays.
All of those numbers combine to make Lazard the second-ranked wide receiver through two weeks in DVOA (the efficiency metric), trailing only Jacksonville’s D.J. Chark, while he sits as the sixth-ranked wideout in DYAR (which measures total production). Rodgers is targeting him in high-leverage situations and he is coming through with aplomb, getting the yards needed to move the chains and then some.
Lazard might end up behind Adams and MVS in targets and total yards this season, but if he continues to see the ball come his way on third downs, look for him to remain among the league leaders in DVOA throughout 2020.