After our divisional season review podcasts, we are now looking to the future and asking where each franchise goes from here. We put ourselves in the chair of being GM or the owner and going over what moves we would make in order to win a Superbowl, make the playoffs or just regain some pride…
Next up, today we take a look at those Cheeseheads, the Green Bay Packers.
How Did Last Season Go?
Well, not exactly how they planned it… And that’s saying something. Every year that Aaron Rodgers lines up under center at Lambeau Field, the Packers are looking to win the games’ ultimate prize. A record of 6-9-1 falls way short of those expectations. Half a game back from the bottom of the division whilst the oldest and closest rival wins the NFC North title… If anyone is unclear why Mike McCarthy is no longer the head coach of the Green Bay Packers, then that should give you a decent idea.
So why did this happen? Well, injuries played a large part in matters. Rodgers played the vast majority of the season but he wasn’t fully healthy for most of the season, listed as questionable from week 2 and even later in the season when he didn’t appear on the injury report he was clearly not at his majestic best.
Key guys like Muhammad Wilkerson, Nick Perry and Kevin King as well as starters such as Randall Cobb and Jake Ryan missed the vast majority or the whole season and it only got worse at the end of the season as Mike Daniels and Byron Bell went to IR.
However, it can’t all be blamed on the health, or lack thereof, of the team, the Packers just weren’t good. They opened up the season in patchy style registering a win and loss and a tie in the first three weeks before shutting out the Bills but then letting themselves down by losing to the Lions and squeaking past the 49ers before they got a week off. Like I said, patchy at best. Yes, they had injuries but a half fit Aaron Rodgers is still one of the better QB’s in the league.
After the bye Green Bay lost 5 of their next 6 and that was the end of Mike McCarthy and in came Joe Philbin to see out the rest of the reason but with the record 4-7-1 the season was dead.
Cap space: $35m
Draft picks (10): Round 1, 12th and 30th overall, Round 2, 44th overall, Round 3, 75th, Round 4, 114th & 118th overall, Round 5, 150th, Round 6, 185th & 194th, Round 7, 226th.
Green Bay are going through a period of transition and their free agents this spring really show this. Players who have been big players in the past for them are probably going to be out of the door come the summer. Randall Cobb, Clay Matthews head up that lis, Devon House and Jake Ryan are also on the edge and are probably going to be allowed to test the free agency waters at the very least. Then those guys are followed by recent free agency signings Muhammed Wilkerson and Lance Kendricks, who after signing short term deals in Wisconsin, probably won’t be back. Trade acquisition, Bashaud Breeland may be brought back if he’s cheap to add some experience to the defensive back room.
In terms of possible cuts, 37 year-old Tramone Williams is an UDFA in 2020 and could be cut early to free up even more cap space to patch up the teams and for the rebuild that’s coming in the coming years.
Firstly, there’s a new head coach in town. Matt LaFleur has come in from Tennessee in a bold (if somewhat bemusing) hire and subsequently, he has brought in Nathaniel Hackett, most recently of the Jags to run his offense and Mike Pettine is running the D. Hackett wasn’t exactly blowing the doors off of teams with his offense down in Northern Florida so again, I’ll be waiting and seeing on that one too.
On to the playing side of this and after the Packers traded in the draft last year and gained an extra first round pick they are in a strong position to load up for a run at a deep playoff run, which is obviously always possible with Rodgers at the QB position and as long as they can keep him healthy.
A big area of need for this team in order to do so, is actually to get better on defense and give Rodgers and the offense a smaller points target to aim for each time they take the field. After investing so much in cornerbacks in 2017 and 2018, they went ahead and made a fantastic deal to bring in Adrian Amos. One of, if not my actual favourite deal of free agency so far.
As good a deal as it was, this isn’t the biggest area of need for this team… they needed to get to the opposing quarterback on a much more regular basis. Yes, Kyler Fackrell got 10.5 sacks last year but are we backing him to do so again in 2019? I’ll take a raincheck on that one. Nick Perry and Clay Matthews are probably gone either immediately or in the next 12 months too, so they have to get better and younger on the edge even with the incoming free agents (more of that in a sec…). Fortunately, they have 2 first round picks in order to attack that major defensive need… If I was in the war room on draft night on day 1, I would be getting a pass rusher first and foremost; I really like 12 as a spot to grab someone like Montez Sweat or Brian Burns.
So as promised; aside from attacking pass rushers via the draft, the Packers went ahead and brought in Za’Darius Smith from Baltimore and Preston Smith from the Redskins.
At 30th overall, I feel like the Packers could just do what we’d all do on Madden and give Aaron Rodgers more weapons… They could draft either of the Iowa tight ends; Noah Fant or T.J. Hockenson. This would give Aaron Rodgers the weapon that Jimmy Graham was supposed to be. They’d have Aaron Jones in the backfield, Davante Adams and the rest of the young wideouts that they drafted last year and now a premier rookie tight end. Do that at 30 and then you can spend the rest of the draft getting defensive guys… grab a linebacker, double down on another pass rusher and help yourself to a safety from rounds 2 through 7; the game is about putting up points these days… Even take one of those tight ends at 12 and think about the consequences later on.
Outlook For Next Year
New head coach, brings new and fresh ideas but as I said, I am finding it hard to see the joined up thinking on LaFleur and Hackett and I will certainly be watching for signs of agitation on the face of the star man if things don’t start well. With this in mind, I am reserving judgment on how I feel this will go but you can colour me skeptical.
In terms of the 2019 schedule, well, again it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I class the NFC North as one of the best and most competitive divisions in the league, so that won’t be easy at all. The NFC North is also paired with the AFC West next year, which is again one of the best divisions in the league and just to up the degree of difficulty a little bit more, it’s the Chargers and Chiefs on the road (yes, the Chargers don’t have a big home advantage but that’s a long road trip to play a good team). I make that a potentially a pretty rough ride for a rookie HC… to add to that, a third place finish in the NFC means they’ll play a 49ers team which promises to be much better and a Carolina team who are always awkward opponents.
Better get signing and drafting some good players.
So even if I did just sound pretty negative about the Packers’ chances, I am actually going to go for a 10-6 season in 2019. Aaron Rodgers is an x-factor that most teams, almost every team just does not possess and he’s worth a few wins on his own.
It’ll be a tough road though but when Green Bay make the playoffs, no one will be able to say they have had an easy ride and they’re going to come in to January as a pretty battle hardened unit and could have the chance to go to Miami and play for another Lombardi trophy in Superbowl 2020.
When Aaron Rodgers is the QB, almost all the receivers are fantasy relevant. Davante Adams is going to be very valuable commodity in your league, if you’re picking at the back end of round 1 and all those star running backs are off the board, seriously consider Adams with your first pick.
Later on, you can pick up Marquez Valdes-Scantling or Equanimeous St. Brown as they will be in year 2 and looking to grow their roles even further. I particularly like MVS, hence why he’s in my dynasty squad and I’m rejecting trade offers for him. I see him as next in line to the Randall Cobb role.
Aaron Jones is a nice running back to have but beware in PPR as he ain’t catching the ball very often at all and he does come off the field a little bit as Jamaal Williams is a much better pass protector for number 12. He’s a decent option as an RB2 though.
Lastly, as much as I was enthusiastic about a possible tight end being drafted in the mix, I’d only be going grabbing one of those guys (if it happens) as a TE2; rookie tight ends don’t always get of to the best starts in their careers and blossom in year 2 and beyond… so dynasty is a go for those guys and approach with caution in your redraft league and avoid going all in.