Fantasy Riser: Don’t “Discount” Aaron Rodgers, “Double-Check” Your Draft Board

Despite not finishing higher than QB6 since 2017, SI Fantasy insider Matt De Lima states why Rodgers should get back on track for fantasy greatness in 2020.
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It seems like just a short time ago. Close your eyes and think of greatness... and there he is: Aaron Rodgers.

Maybe this is starting a bit hyperbolic, but remember before Patrick Mahomes took the NFL by storm? Before Lamar Jackson setting rushing records at the quarterback position?

Before even Deshaun Watson and Dak Prescott, it was Rodgers and everybody else. Now? Not so much.

It seemed like every season, the Green Bay Packers signal-caller would perform at an elite level. But we’ve actually seen a decline in recent years. In 2016, he finished as the highest-scoring fantasy QB. 2017 was cut short due to injury. 2018 he was the sixth-best fantasy QB. 2019 wasn’t so kind.

Rodgers passed for 4,002 yards, 26 TDs and 4 INTs with 269 rush yards and 2 TDs. He finished as the ninth-best fantasy QB. So, maybe it wasn’t as bad as we thought but expectations were and have been higher!

Finishing ninth is the worst Rodgers has ever done (excluding severe injury seasons). So where is Rodgers being drafted now? How many QBs have going ahead of him? We’ll get back to this in a moment, but if you guessed, say, for example, five, that would be fair. Rodgers had a down year, and he’s going to be 37 at the end of the year.

Then again, top wide receiver Davante Adams missed about a month in 2019 and the other Packers’ pass-catchers didn’t amount to jack squat. Aaron Jones had an unusually high number of touchdowns (19), at least considering the Packers’ track record with running backs. Maybe some of those would normally have been short TD tosses for Rodgers in previous years.

Second-year head coach Matt LaFleur is definitely going to keep this offense running the ball, so it makes sense Rodgers would drop a bit on draft day. At the same time, most can agree that Rodgers shouldn’t be totally discounted just yet. His numbers aren’t bad per se, it’s more the offense becoming balanced, if not leaning toward the run game.

It turns out that Rodgers is the eighth QB off the board, just a chin hair above Matt Ryan by average draft position. QB ADP can have a lot of swings in it. Rodgers’ ADP (76) is a new, never-happened-before bottoming out of his value though. Most non-casual players understand to wait on a QB so you might see a round or two between short QB runs on draft day. This could push his ADP down even further depending on your league mates’ feelings toward Rodgers.

It also doesn’t help that the Packers drafted QB Jordan Love out of Utah State in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft. Remember, all we need to worry about is the 2020 season. If anybody thinks Rodgers will be deterred on the field or in his production by some rookie QB holding a clipboard, I’d have to disagree.

As the iconic SportsCenter anchor Stuart Scott (RIP) used to say, Rodgers is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Last year was the worst full season of Rodgers’ career, and now he’s the eighth QB off the board after finishing ninth at the position; just one spot above his worst finish. I think the QB position is really strong this year so while I will not be reaching for any QB, Rodgers or not, you have to exercise patience.

As noted by Jake Curtis of Cal Sports Report (Cal is Rodgers’ alma mater) in an article questioning why or how Rodgers had suddenly fallen out of favor:

“Wait a minute. Rodgers still has (the) highest career passer rating in NFL history. He led the Packers into the playoffs last season, where they beat the Seattle Seahawks before losing to the San Francisco 49ers in the NFC championship game. Rodgers had 24 touchdown passes and just four interceptions, which is actually better than Patrick Mahomes' TD-to-pick ratio.”

Bringing up the INT issue is actually a pretty good point. If there was a steep decline in arm strength or accuracy, something affecting him specifically and not therefore just the offense around him, it would probably result in a spike of INTs. In reality, in each of his last two seasons, Rodgers led the league in INT percentage (0.3-percent in 2018 & 0.7-percent in 2019).

Bill Huber, Packers reporter from Packer Central noted in a recent article a quote from Rodgers that a lot of the young players on offense haven’t had a full, healthy offseason together.

“This is a different offseason and not many of us – myself I have – but not many of us have gone through an offseason where you’re not together physically,” Rodgers said on May 15. “We managed it in 2011 and I think with these Zoom meetings and the installs we’ve been doing, I think we’re going to be ready to go whenever that time comes, but it will be an accelerated learning curve for especially those young guys who are expected to play.”

Ultimately I think we’ve come to a bit of an overcorrection here. The Packers don’t need Rodgers to air it out or carry the team anymore. That’s ultimately what’s best for the team.

I’m expecting some growth with the WR corps. Allen Lazard is the on-paper WR2 behind Adams, but we need to see if Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Equanimeous St. Brown or even Devin Funchess can have a breakthrough. TE Jace Sternberger was a third-round pick in 2019 with some promise. Hopefully, there’s more production out of the TE spot since Jimmy Graham wasn’t a disappointment last year. Somebody has to step up and become more than a replacement-level player.

Patience, first and foremost, is required when drafting a QB. Rodgers may no longer be the talk of the league and your resume can only carry you so far in the world of fantasy football. However, Rodgers presents a great opportunity to find value at the QB spot. I expect Rodgers to really drop in some leagues as people draft QBs ahead of him. Those who want to wait for a QB will really wait for one this year.

At pick No. 76, that’s almost the middle of the seventh round. On average, he could go as high as Round 8, or maybe you get lucky and get him in Round 9. Even a small statistical improvement equals added value. All we need is that healthy month lost to Adams or a couple of short TD passes from inside-the-10 yard line stolen away from Jones and we’re in business.