Aaron Rodgers to Jordy Nelson: Welcome Back, Old Friend
Editor’s Note: This guest post was written by TJ Calkins. Follow him on Twitter @tjcalkins. He was #2 in MFL best ball ROI in 2015. … And is the commissioner of the prestigious Elite Lemonade League.
Recency bias is a hell of a thing. It’s loosely defined as missing the big picture because of a recent occurrence more fresh in our minds. It’s like a virus that easily spreads and has afflicted many fantasy football players at one point or another in their careers. When enough time passes, it becomes easier and easier to forget why we don’t want to touch that metaphorical hot pan again, or in better cases, what players and pairings made us winners prior to 2015. Jordy Nelson is one of the latter and has officially been activated from the PUP list. While there shouldn’t have been any hesitation to draft him or Aaron Rodgers to begin with, there’s absolutely no reason to have any now.
Aaron Rodgers and Jordy Nelson Need Each Other
Aaron Rodgers is the engine that runs the offense in Green Bay, but Jordy is the premium gas that makes it hum. They are one of, if not the best tandem in the league when they have each other. Over the last five seasons, there have been two instances where both Rodgers and Jordy played 16 games. In those seasons, 2011 and 2014, both players finished second at their respective positions in fantasy points. Rodgers also finished as the QB2 in 2013, only needing 12 games of Jordy’s presence to do it. In 2012, Rodgers missed seven games and finished as the QB23, while Jordy still managed a WR11 finish. In 2015, as we know all too well, Rodgers played a full season without Jordy and was only the QB8, his only finish outside the top-two in a healthy season over the past five years.
Without Jordy on the field, Rodgers’ stats suffer in every department, in a major way. Rodgers has played 52 games with Jordy since 2011, and 20 games without. According to Rotoviz’s Game Splits App, Rodgers averages 22.4 completions per game on just 33.3 attempts when Jordy plays. In games without Jordy, his attempts spike to 35.3 but the average completion total falls to 21.7.
When Jordy plays, Rodgers averages an obscene 8.78 yards per attempt and 285.6 yards per game. That is quite a contrast to the pedestrian 6.88 yards per attempt and 241.3 yards per game when Nelson sits. Also greatly affected are Rodgers’ touchdown and interception numbers. With Jordy, Rodgers carries a 2.52:0.48 touchdown-to-interception ratio while only managing a 1.96:0.4 ratio without him.
For the most part, it seems Rodgers and the offense as a whole are positively affected by Jordy’s presence, and there is indeed reciprocity in the need for each other. In the last five seasons, Jordy has played 52 games with Rodgers and eight without. In the eight games without Rodgers, Jordy averages 7.9 looks per game and 5.1 catches. That market share translates to an average of 74.9 receiving yards per game to go with 0.5 TDs. With Rodgers under center, Jordy’s targets per game decrease to 7.4 and his reception average takes a tiny dip to 5.0. Despite the smaller market share, Jordy’s receiving numbers spike to 81.6 yards and 0.8 TDs per game.
Jordy Nelson’s Impact on the Green Bay Offense
There is another notable beneficiary to Jordy’s presence in the GB offense, Randall Cobb. Cobb has played 33 career games with Jordy and 20 without. Cobb is the victim of an even greater fall off in production than Rodgers when Jordy is unable to suit up. Cobb averages a line of 5.5/71.7/0.7 on 7.6 targets when Nelson plays. Sans Jordy, that line plummets to 5.0/56.8/0.4 on a slightly greater 7.8 targets per game.
To touch on the offense as a whole, the Packers’ passing attack finished in the top-ten every year between 2011 and 2014. The absence of Jordy last season dropped their NFL passing rank to a previously unthinkable 25th in the league.
Even with all this statistical evidence at our disposal, both Jordy and Rodgers are coming cheaper than they were in 2015. In MFL public leagues, Rodgers was drafted on average 27th overall in 2015 and is now going 51st overall (Editor’s note: Rodgers’ 2QB ADP dropped from 2.0 overall in 2015 to 10.1 overall this year). Jordy finished 2015 with an overall ADP of 18th despite going undrafted in nearly 600 drafts after his preseason injury. He would have ranked higher in 2015 ADP if he stayed healthy. In 2016, Jordy is still only being taken 17th overall on average, which is quite a bargain based on last year’s price.
Elite Production at a Discount is Rare
There are very few opportunities in fantasy football to find the simplicity of proven, elite production at a discount, and we have one staring us directly in the face. Worry of injury for historically non-oft injured players like Jordy (and Rodgers) is far too cautious an approach for fantasy success. Fading Jordy or Rodgers is the byproduct of recency bias and it’s evil cousin, groupthink. Don’t make that mistake. Take the plunge on Rodgers and his elite WR1 as often as possible in drafts.