Green Bay Packers

Green Bay Packers: Love’s Impact on Rodgers’ Fantasy Season

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How might the presence of Green Bay Packers 1st-rounder, Jordan Love, effect Aaron Rodgers’ fantasy production for the 2020 season?

Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers is coming off, arguably, his least productive healthy season since 2008, his first year as a starter. He ended last season as the 12th ranked fantasy football quarterback. We’re all hoping for a bounce-back year in Rodgers’ second season leading Matt LaFleur’s offense but there’s a chance it goes the other direction.

When the Green Bay Packers traded up to select Jordan Love in the 1st round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it was expected that Love would just sit behind Aaron Rodgers but that might not be the case.

In a May interview with Rob Demovsky, Offensive Coordinator, Nathaniel Hackett, was asked about creating special packages for Jordan love and was quoted as saying “I haven’t gotten to talk with him much or work face to face. I think there’s so much yet to be seen. You never know. Anything can happen”

He didn’t exactly express confidence in the idea but when you dive into the topic, it’s something that they should consider. It wouldn’t be the first time that a young quarterback was eased into the game in such a way. The late Bill Walsh was famous for turning talented backups into elite starting quarterbacks.

Walsh coached the 49ers to three Super Bowl Championships but it was his ability to develop talent at the quarterback position that led to his success. Walsh transitioned both Joe Montana and Steve Young from backup to Hall of Fame level quarterbacks.

Joe Montana sat behind Steve DeBerg as a rookie in 1979 but Walsh still gave Montana appearances in every single game that year, before promoting Montana to starting QB halfway through the 1980 season. It was clear that Montana simply needed experience in the West Coast system to properly operate the offense. He would go on to win two MVP awards and lead the 49ers to four Super Bowl victories.

The progression for Steve Young was quite different. Young sat behind Montana for four years, two of which were under Walsh. Young was one of the most athletic quarterbacks the game had seen up to that point but needed time to refine his skills as a passer.

While a lot of Young’s production as a backup, came in spot starts for Montana, Walsh still found a way to include Young in the offense. Whether Young was given spot appearances or brought in for designed run plays, Walsh made sure that Young was given the opportunity to develop as a quarterback.

When the time finally came for the 49ers to cut ties with Montana, Young was more than prepared to take over full-time. While the offense looked different with Young at the helm, the on-field performance didn’t lose a step. Young ultimately led the 49ers to one Super Bowl victory of his own and two MVP awards. He’s still seen as one of the best dual-threat quarterbacks to ever play the game.

Montana and Young collectively led the 49ers for almost two decades, forming one of the most successful dynasties in NFL history. Its all thanks to Bill Walsh and his idea of fluidity at the quarterback position. Similar to the Walsh-Young experiment, John Harbaugh transitioned Lamar Jackson from backup to starting quarterback, in Baltimore.

Behind a new playbook, Harbaugh basically ran two offenses, the run-heavy, play-action scheme with starter, Joe Flacco, and the run-option offense with Lamar Jackson during his rookie season in 2018.

This allowed Jackson to do what he does naturally, run the ball, while improving his mechanics from inside the pocket. Jackson was gradually handed more of the playbook until he took over starting duties in the middle of his rookie season. This allowed Jackson to develop into one of the most polarizing talents in the NFL and an MVP season for Jackson in 2019.

We’re witnessing another interesting situation in New Orleans with Drew Brees and, former Packer, Taysom Hill. Hill has made an appearance in every game over the last two years and over that time, has recorded 590 yards from scrimmage and 9 touchdowns, while completing 6 of 13 pass attempts for 119 yards.

The Saints like to bring in Hill at receiver and tight end in the red-zone, then switch to the Wildcat offense. If the Saints keep the same players on the field, the defense doesn’t get much of an opportunity to adjust their personnel, which creates mismatches in the run game.

The Wildcat offense moves the quarterback, Brees, to receiver and brings in another player, Hill, to take the snap from the pistol formation. The new quarterback is the primary ball-carrier, while backfield mates are used as blockers, which creates an extra blocker for the ball-carrier.

While I don’t agree with wasting a positional player by keeping the quarterback on the field, the blocking advantages create big plays on the ground. That carries value in the red-zone, where the field shortens and defenses like to stack the box. Hill has just enough juice as a passer to keep safeties back but we’ll let time tell if he ever develops into more than just a Wildcat quarterback.

Jordan Love may not be the same athlete as Young, Jackson, and Hill, so these comparisons aren’t perfect, but Love did finish top-5 in the forty-yard dash for quarterbacks in the 2020 Combine. He’s a talented enough runner to provide the Packers a different element and the Packers spent a first round-pick on Love so I can guarantee that they will do everything they can to ensure that Love develops into an elite quarterback.

Barring any injury, Love will be the backup to Aaron Rodgers for at least two years. That offers plenty of time for Love to develop, so there’s no reason to sacrifice wins in 2020 to create on-field opportunities for Love.

With a shortened offseason, Love may not be able to lead the offense in any capacity, right away, but if he can develop as the year rolls on, it wouldn’t surprise me if LaFleur chooses to install a package that gets Love on the field and he’d be wise to follow templates that have had success in the past.

If LaFleur does create a package for Love, it should start with the RPO offense. Run-Pass Option offenses are predicated on successful ground games and easy reads for the quarterback. Pre-snap reads were Love’s Achille’s heel during his 2019 season. Typically, the only pre-snap read for the quarterback is determining which defender is the option-man.

He’ll watch that player and choose to give the ball to the running back or keep it, depending on what the option-man does. If the quarterback keeps the ball its typically to throw it instead of run, which is the major distinction from the run-option offense. When it’s used properly, the RPO offense leads to big gains for the running back and quick hitters to open receivers downfield.

The Green Bay Packers play-action offense already prioritizes the run-game, with an emphasis on the outside zone, which is a staple of the RPO offense. A Love-led RPO package would fit seamlessly into LaFleur’s offense. This would provide Love an opportunity to see early success and build confidence during his rookie season.

The RPO doesn’t offer the same blocking advantages as the Saints’ Wildcat offense but if Love can offer value as a runner that would make this package a more viable option in the red-zone. Since they are the quickest route to the endzone, red-zone opportunities carry more fantasy football value than any other. If Love steals red-zone opportunities from Rodgers, that could have huge implications on Rodgers’ fantasy football production.

If he takes yet another step back in 2020, Rodgers may fall out of contention as a number one quarterback. However, the entire idea of giving Love his own special package hasn’t been decided on yet, and again, this likely wouldn’t occur until Love proves that he can handle the responsibility.

I still recommend selecting Aaron Rodgers as a starting quarterback for your fantasy football team but if Jordan Love begins to steal opportunities from Rodgers, you’d be wise to sell high. Good luck to you all and stay tuned for more news and hot takes.

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