32 For 32: Is Aaron Rodgers Still The Best Fantasy QB?
Fantasy football is a game full of variance. From week to week, we’ve come to expect certain players will exceed our expectations, while others will send us into a deep, dark spiral of sadness, failing to hit the scoring thresholds we’ve placed on them. Aaron Rodgers, however, is one of the best examples of an exception to this rule. He’s tied for third in NFL history for the most seasons with at least 4,000 yards passing and 30 touchdowns (5). He’s also tied with Tom Brady for the most seasons in NFL history with 30 or more touchdowns and 10 or fewer interceptions.
According to the most current set of 2QB Dynasty ADP, Rodgers is the first QB off the board (1.06 overall). Should we worry about the collarbone injury — the second such injury since 2013 — Rodgers suffered last season? How about the fact he turns 35 this December? Has he been surpassed as the no-brainer QB1 in 2QB formats?
Since becoming Green Bay’s starting QB in 2008, Rodgers has finished as the overall fantasy QB1 or QB2 in 7-of-10 seasons. In two of the three seasons he failed to meet this lofty goal, he played in just seven and nine games, respectively. In terms of year-over-year fantasy scoring at the QB position, Rodgers is the gold standard. While his year-long finishes are insanely impressive, we know fantasy football is a weekly game. It just so happens that on a week-to-week basis, Rodgers is again one of the most consistent QBs in fantasy.
Over the past two seasons, Philip Rivers has been the most consistent week-to-week fantasy scorer at QB. (Lower CV = more consistent). pic.twitter.com/p6Q07wsuth
— TJ Hernandez (@TJHernandez) March 5, 2018
Not only has Rodgers been the highest-scoring fantasy QB on a per-game average over the last two seasons, but he’s also the fourth-most consistent. While Russell Wilson, for instance, offers greater weekly upside, there’s something to be said for rostering a QB you are confident will produce at an elite level almost every single week.
Thanks to the work done by Josh Hermsmeyer we can easily visualize just how efficient Rodgers has been in comparison to his NFL peers. To do this we’ll reference Passing Air Conversion Ratio (PACR), the most predictive metric we have for quantifying QB passing efficiency.
As we can see, Rodgers has been equal or better than the league average since 2009 at nearly every depth of target (five yards to 40 yards) with a clean pocket. He’s also completed passes at or above league average at nearly every depth of target over the course of his career. Rodgers has shown particular acumen on throws between 30 and 35 yards downfield, which are high-value situations for fantasy purposes.
CHANGES FOR 2018
As is often the case, Rodgers’ situation heading into the 2018 season includes some alterations to his surrounding cast. Most notably, Jordy Nelson is now an Oakland Raider, which opens up 15.7 percent of the team’s total targets from last season. Martellus Bennett’s 38 targets will also be up for grabs. This likely means a bump in opportunity for both Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, as well as the newly-signed Jimmy Graham. On paper, the loss of Nelson looks to have substantial implications, seeing as he’s been Rodgers’ most efficient target over the last three seasons.
But where the changes are set to potentially benefit Rodgers could be inside the red zone. Nelson converted 42 percent of his red zone targets into touchdowns last season, pacing the remaining duo of Adams (30%) and Cobb (33%). Graham saw a league-high 26 red zone targets in 2017, converting 38 percent of the time. It’s entirely possible Graham assumes the primary red zone target role formerly occupied by Nelson. And if so, given what we saw last season, the ingredients are there for Rodgers to mitigate any losses in that area due to Nelson’s departure.
THE BACKUP SITUATION
If you’re familiar with 2QB leagues, you already know that scouting depth charts for viable backups can give you an advantage when injuries hit. Green Bay traded Damarious Randall to Cleveland in exchange for DeShone Kizer this offseason, giving Brett Hundley a competitive push. Both Hundley and Kizer tossed more interceptions than touchdowns last season while averaging less than five adjusted yards per attempt.
Even with the change in scenery, Kizer’s future is hazy. And Hundley has shown himself to be a slightly below-average NFL second-stringer. Pinning your fantasy hopes on either will almost certainly cause massive amounts of heartburn.
IS RODGERS WORTHY OF THE 1.01 IN 2QB DRAFTS?
My own personal strategy in regular 2QB redraft formats is almost always to draft a WR or RB with the first overall pick, but I wouldn’t fault you if you went with Rodgers instead. In dynasty leagues, the question becomes a bit more difficult. Because of the age difference, I would likely rank Wilson ahead of Rodgers, with Carson Wentz a close third. It’s possible we see Rodgers play late into his 30s, perhaps even following in Tom Brady’s longevity-laden footsteps. But it’s important to note that only five quarterbacks aged 34 and older have scored 300 or more points in a season this century.
Assuming he stays healthy — which he’s done for the vast majority of his career — Aaron Rodgers is almost guaranteed to be among the best fantasy signal-callers next season. He’s proven to be one of the most consistent fantasy QBs both from a weekly and season-long perspective that we’ve ever seen. In a game with inherent ebbs and flows, it’s a wise move to invest in a steady asset like Rodgers.