As we head deeper into August and towards the first preseason matchups, the time has come to start thinking about fantasy drafts. Whether you’re gunning for bragging rights, your friends’ money, or just trying to avoid that devastating last-place punishment, you might want to lock in because the landscape has shifted quite a bit since this time last year.
The Green Bay Packers’ new-look offense appears to be an enigma for fantasy players. After losing Davante Adams, the team will set out to recoup his 1,500-plus yards of production via a pretty ragtag group of relatively unproven wideouts. And since we know the reigning back-to-back MVP isn’t dropping 10 points a game, let’s look at the top candidates to emerge and, in particular, outperform their ADP.
Let’s get things started with the future Hall of Famer himself. Rodgers is coming off the board around the 94th selection and as the QB10. Despite being the most talented signal-caller in the league, not only is this an accurate ranking for Rodgers, but you’re probably going to want to go in another direction for your starting QB. The uncertainty at the wideout position has made the backfield and offensive front the strengths of Green Bay’s offense in terms of personnel. If you’re intent on drafting Rodgers and seeing how this new air attack unfolds, I’d recommend grabbing another passer first, preferably one with rushing upside.
Verdict: Properly rated
Jones is being drafted as the No. 13 running back and around 22nd overall. For a guy who is probably not going to come off the field much and be heavily involved in the passing game to compensate for Green Bay’s lack of star power on the outside, he’s got top-five upside. This is a pick that I’ve been making late in the first round or early in the second round of my drafts and that I see as a home run.
As far as I can see, the second tier of backs ends with Jones and D’Andre Swift of the Detroit Lions. Jones is a pick that makes sense as early as 8, depending on the tendencies of your league. Perhaps the most attractive aspect of Jones as a fantasy player is that he has a high floor and a high ceiling. I genuinely would not be surprised if he went for 1,000 yards on the ground and through the air, but the volume and scoring opportunities he will get almost guarantee an RB1 or RB2-level finish as a baseline, barring injury.
Verdict: Draft early for high upside and high value
Dillon has been one of the hardest guys for fantasy owners to pin down, but he’s getting snapped up at the 53rd pick and as the 24th RB in the early part of draft season. If you find yourself in this range, drafting or fading Dillon should largely depend on the roster construction you’ve done through the first five rounds. If you’ve snapped up Josh Allen, Stefon Diggs, Michael Pittman, and Travis Kelce, you should probably lean towards a guy with a higher floor. But, if you’re positioned to take a low-end RB2/high-end flex, Dillon is your guy.
The hype is already building for his role this season in the passing game, and that is something that should be genuinely exciting. He should see a lot of snaps on the field with Jones, and I’d give him the edge when it comes to carries inside the five. While it’s hard to say exactly what Matt LaFleur’s offense will look like this season, it’s safe to say one of the higher-end weapons on the roster will be given a significant workload.
Verdict: Draft if he fits your strategy, don’t reach
It’s not every year you can snag a decent WR1 at the 115th pick, but Lazard might just be waiting for you after the first 45 wideouts have been selected. His role in the offense has expanded in the past two seasons, and he is the only remaining receiver on the roster who played a major role in last year’s success. The volume will be there, but the low ADP is rooted in concerns about Lazard’s individual talent and ability to get separation without Adams on the other side.
It’s a reasonable concern, but he will be competing for targets with a guy who spends most of his time on the IR, a couple of rookies, and Randall Cobb. I believe the skepticism about his ability to step up as a top option is overpriced into his ADP, as evidenced by the fact that he’s coming off the board around the same time as Christian Kirk. The former Arizona Cardinals receiver is similarly unproven as a No. 1, but he is running with a Jacksonville Jaguars offense that might not do much of anything. You know that’s not in the cards with Rodgers at the helm.
Verdict: Draft earlier than ADP, secure WR1 upside in the late rounds
I’m not going to tell you to draft Watkins because he’s good, or can stay healthy, or could be the next Davante Adams. But I will tell you to draft Watkins because you just aren’t going to have to sacrifice anything to get him. He’s coming off the board 187th, which would mean the waiver wire in many leagues. If you find yourself on the clock in the 160s or the 170s, though, give this guy a look. Athletic talent, great quarterback, very little competition for targets. That’s a pretty fair amount of upside, considering your alternative at that point in your draft would probably be starting the run on defenses or something.
Verdict: Draft above ADP, but sacrifice nothing
The NFL world was gobsmacked when Green Bay passed on a WR with each of their first-round picks back in April. However, they flew up the board the next day to ensure that someone would be lined up on offense, and it ended up being Christian Watson out of North Dakota State. A physical specimen, Watson has been injured for most of the offseason and is going around 141st in drafts.
If you’re playing dynasty, knock yourself out. This kid could be a star and a half. If you’re just playing this season, don’t draft him. Rookie receivers, particularly those who play with Rodgers, take time to get acclimated to the NFL. Being injured is holding back the development of a guy already considered a project by most analysts. You shouldn’t be drafting him ahead of Watkins, and you shouldn’t be looking at him anywhere near Lazard unless we start to get some more optimistic chatter from camp.
Verdict: Do not draft
There is one more Packers receiver who should probably come off the board before Watson, and that’s the man who was drafted two rounds after him last spring. The hype on Romeo Doubs, the rookie fourth-rounder out of Nevada, has been simply insane. If training camp reports are to be believed, he looks to be rising to the occasion and bailing out LaFleur and general manager Brian Gutekunst for not adding an E-ticket receiver this offseason.
He’s currently going around 222nd, so this advice pertains mainly to Best Ball leagues. However, this might be the lowest-cost guy in the NFL who has the upside to finish in the top 30 if his training camp prowess translates to the regular season. He has continually bested rising star Eric Stokes in one-on-one drills, which is an encouraging sign that Doubs might just be the real deal. He has the potential to emerge as this year’s Elijah Mitchell, in that he is a rookie whose team took another player at his position earlier, yet he is poised to emerge as a leading contributor first.
Verdict: Buy as many shares as possible in Best Ball competitions
Last but certainly not least, the fan-favorite TE Robert Tonyan. He is being drafted as the TE19, and I’m here to tell you that that’s a steal. There is a lot of concern among owners that Tonyan will be held back by the ACL tear he suffered last season, but his rehab has been progressing without complication, and he is expected to take the field in Week 1. Like the Jones and Dillon situation, Tonyan is set to receive higher volume simply because of inexperience at the receiver position and the lenience on other personnel groups. He has proven himself to be a great red zone option, a threat down the seam, and to bring George Kittle-esque tenacity to the YAC aspect of his game. I wouldn’t take him as your starting TE, but don’t sleep on him.
Verdict: Look to draft as backup TE