Going into the 2009 season, the Green Bay Packers will boast one of the most high-powered offenses in the National Football League. Last season, they ranked eighth in the league in total offense as well as fifth in scoring and have only improved the offense this season. With a much-improved offensive line and some up-and-comers at the skill positions, the Packers should repeat their success on offense and then some.
At the same time, the greatest fantasy sport in the world begins in two weeks. Fantasy football leagues will be drafting their teams and owners will be looking for first round ponies as well as their late-round sleepers. Over the next three days, we will take a look at and break down each set of positions on the Packers to get ready for the 2009 fantasy football season.
Aaron Rodgers, fifth season, started 16 games last season
Heading into 2008, Rodgers was under loads of scrutiny to perform in the absence of Hall-0f-Famer Brett Favre. Thankfully, he was given a great supporting cast that helped him rank as the fifth best passer in all of football. He passed for more than 4,000 yards, 28 touchdowns, and just 13 interceptions.
An added bonus to Rodgers’ game was that he also rushed for 200 yards and scored four touchdowns on the ground. Despite being hurt in the Tampa Bay game, Rodgers stayed relatively healthy over the course of the year and did not miss any time.
This season, Rodgers has two huge additions to the offense that can only improve his statistics. The first is the rise of tight end Jermichael Finley. The third rounder from Texas was a project last season and took some heat for comments after a game, but has completely turned his game around and is ready to break out this season.
In the West Coast Offense, check downs to the tight end, especially in the red zone, are very important and Rodgers having a big target in Finley (6′5″) will surely help.
The other addition is the huge improvement of the offensive line, which is sure to improve this season. Jason Spitz has moved from right guard to center, Josh Sitton moved to center, and Allen Barbre is taking over at right tackle for the veteran Mark Tauscher. While the latter two are more efficient in the run game, an improvement on the line means more protection for Rodgers.
Along with those two additions, Rodgers will have Greg Jennings and Donald Driver to throw to all season. Both of them surpassed the 1,000 yard mark on offense and combined for 14 touchdowns. Great possession receivers, they also have the ability to run after the catch to improve Rodgers’ stats even more.
Hopefully Ryan Grant will re-gain his 2007 form to put more men in the box, but either way the Packers will be a pass-first team because of Rodgers. Depending on how well receivers James Jones and Jordy Nelson progress this season, Rodgers will improve even more.
Looking at the schedule, Rodgers will face the Lions and Bears twice, who both ranked in the bottom six in pass defense last season. On the flip side, he will face four of the top five pass defenses from last season in Baltimore, Pittsburgh, Tampa Bay, and Dallas. Also, four of Rodgers’ last five games will be played in cold weather, with the only warm-weather game occurring in Arizona.
Don’t let the opposition fool you, however. Rodgers is a good quarterback, and good quarterbacks get their numbers regardless of who they play. Rodgers is a safe bet to pass for 4,000 more yards, and 30 touchdowns seems reasonable. I wouldn’t put Rodgers past any of the elite signal-callers in fantasy such as Drew Brees, Tom Brady, Peyton Manning, or Kurt Warner. After that, he could rank among any of those other players.
I would look at Rodgers starting in the fourth round, and to get him in the fifth round or any later would be a huge steal. He overcame his draft ranking of last season and should do it again this year.
In the case that Aaron Rodgers went down for any part of the season, the Packers would be in a terrible spot. Both back-ups, Matt Flynn and Brian Brohm, offer no fantasy value whatsoever and should not be touched. Rodgers proved last year he is both durable and able to play with injuries, so Rodgers remains the only viable fantasy option under center.