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Aaron Rodgers is going to be a 2021 fantasy football problem

Andy Behrens
·5-min read

While a major trade went down last week involving two quarterbacks, today we’re focusing on another star signal-caller who was reportedly the Rams’ first target. Postseason aside, Aaron Rodgers is coming off a nearly flawless year. Record-setting, in fact. Rodgers led the NFL in passer-rating (121.5), completion percentage (70.7), passing touchdowns (48) and adjusted yards per attempt (9.6) while producing yet another absurd TD-to-interception ratio. He's about to win a richly deserved MVP.

And honestly, it's not as if Rodgers wasn't plenty good in the playoffs, too. He accounted for six touchdowns while averaging 321 passing yards per game, and he gave away the ball just once. He was mostly phenomenal.

Ultimately, Rodgers reestablished himself among the game's elite in 2020 and reaffirmed his status as one of the greatest quarterbacks of this or any generation. Fantasy-wise, he was of course absurd. He delivered a top-three positional finish for the eighth time in his career. He passed for at least three touchdowns in 12 of his 16 games, including six of his last seven.

Rodgers himself sounded briefly uncertain about his future in Green Bay following the narrow playoff loss to the Bucs, but the team's head coach and front office have not waffled or equivocated regarding his status. We should assume No. 12 will direct the Packers offense again next season. Any other decision would be indefensible.

Which leaves fantasy managers with something of a dilemma: Are we supposed to actually draft Rodgers in 2021 as if this past season's stats are repeatable?

What does 2021 hold for Aaron Rodgers?

It can be argued that I'm exactly the wrong person to discuss Rodgers, because I was painfully, emphatically, and hilariously wrong on him in 2020. I thought he was an easy, obvious fade as a top-10 fantasy QB ahead of a year in which he would finish top-three. MY BAD.

*double-thumb-point to self*

But a decision to fade any specific quarterback isn't going to lead to fantasy disaster, obviously. Every season presents several viable fantasy solutions at QB, because standard settings don't adequately value the position. We've had this conversation before. So really, it's not a particularly bold stance to declare yourself out on a particular quarterback in any given year.

That said, I'm gonna be out on Rodgers again in 2021.

Is this just doubling-down on a galactically stupid move? Um ... OK, maybe. It's possible. Again, Rodgers is one of the best to ever play his sport's most important position. I felt that way last summer during draft season, before his 48-touchdown eruption, and we all certainly feel that way now. He's ridiculous.

Let's just review a few key details when considering next year's projection ...

As great as Rodgers (clearly) is, there's just no way his TD rate won't regress

It was an unsustainable 9.1 percent last year. Over the prior seven seasons it had been 5.7. Back in 2019, when he was also excellent, his TD rate was 4.6. He's definitely not throwing for another 48 scores; it was the fifth highest total in NFL history. Drew Brees is the only quarterback to throw 40 or more TD passes in consecutive seasons. It basically never happens.

We should also mention that Rodgers threw eight touchdown passes from the 1-yard line, which is absurd. Yet another thing that never happens. He threw 20 total TD passes that covered five yards or fewer. The prior year, he tossed just one touchdown pass from the 1-yard line and seven inside the 5. Looking ahead, it's tough to believe 240-pound bruiser A.J. Dillon won't emerge as a force in goal-to-go situations for the Pack.

There's little rushing upside attached to Rodgers

It feels as if we've all coalesced around the notion that we want one of the high-ceiling dual-threat QBs in 2021 and, well ... Rodgers ain't that.

Yes, he ran for three scores last season, but so did Tom Brady. It's not an unusual total. Rodgers has rushed for fewer than 200 yards in each of the past two seasons. It's extremely likely that, at 37, his days as a serious running threat are behind him. If you're determined to come away from next year's draft with someone who might reasonably rush for a half-dozen scores or more, you need to look elsewhere. Rodgers doesn't belong in the discussion with Jackson, Allen, Murray, Watson, et al.

A return to 2019 is very much in play

And, in case you'd forgotten, Rodgers was not particularly helpful just two seasons ago, or in 2018. Green Bay was hugely successful in 2019 under Matt LaFleur — 13 wins, division champs, NFC title game — and Rodgers was only a fringe fantasy starter. He threw 26 touchdown passes and averaged 250.1 passing yards per game. The previous year, it was 25 and 277.6. His best attribute by far in those seasons was the fact that he was rarely responsible for a negative play. He's led the NFL in interception rate for three straight years and tossed only six picks total in 2018-19.

But a quarterback who simply plays mistake-free football while averaging 1.6 TD passes per week is not gonna pay the fantasy bills. If Rodgers splits the difference between his outrageous 2020 production and his rates from the prior 2-3 seasons — which seems like a reasonable enough forecast — then, for fantasy purposes, he's essentially Kirk Cousins. Which is fine, but hardly a league-winner.

Of course there's no urgency to pinning down Rodgers' 2021 rank or tier or ADP. We've got time to sort this thing out. It's always possible that Green Bay might actually enhance its receiving corps in a meaningful way this offseason, unlike last spring. This year’s draft class is loaded at receiver agan, and the free agent market is full of interesting names.

But if we were drafting next year’s team today (a horrible idea), I’d have Rodgers somewhere in the QB7-QB9 range, which would surely mean I’d never get him.