The news about Jordy Nelson’s knee injury was gut-wrenching. Seeing any player go down with something as frustrating as a torn ACL always is. But, as the NFL mantra goes: Next man up.
That same ideal applied to my next gut reaction: The Green Bay Packers — and quarterback Aaron Rodgers — don’t have anyone to replace his production. Randall Cobb and second-year player Davante Adams become the de facto Nos. 1 and 2 receivers on the depth chart, but that doesn’t mean they’ll play that way.
Of course, thousands of fantasy footballs owners — especially the ones who already drafted Nelson in their leagues — were scrambling, hoping and rationalizing in the same manner. So in that spirit, I’m taking a look at what Nelson’s injury means for the rest of the Packers receivers and, by extension, your fantasy teams.
The first thing to remember is that it’s still the reigning NFL MVP under center in Green Bay. Rodgers is still the best quarterback in the league, and he likes to spread the ball. That’s encouraging. For those worrying about Cobb’s ability to step into the No. 1 role — and, in turn, face more No. 1 cornerbacks and double teams — don’t. Cobb will be just fine.
Adams, though, could be another story. Just because Cobb made 91 catches for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns as the No. 2 Packers receiver last season doesn’t mean Adams will.
Nelson caught 98 passes on 151 targets — both the most on the team, and both representing 28 percent of Rodgers’ total completions and pass attempts. Those are big shoes to fill, even for the 6-foot-1, 215-pound Adams.
There are a lot of factors at play, including the different defenders he’ll see in his new role. For example, with Nelson and Cobb on the field last season, Adams was covered mainly by Kyle Arrington — not Darrelle Revis or Brandon Browner — when the New England Patriots visited Green Bay in November.
He’ll see different coverage and better defenders, and the Packers’ schedule already slates them against some of the best cornerbacks in the league: Richard Sherman with Seattle (Week 2), E.J. Gaines with St. Louis (Week 4), Brandon Flowers with San Diego (Week 6), Chris Harris and Aqib Talib with Denver (Week 8), Josh Norman with Carolina (Week 9), Xavier Rhodes with Minnesota (Weeks 11, 17), Patrick Peterson with Arizona (Week 16) and an improving Dallas defense (Week 14).
It should go without saying that Adams isn’t the player Nelson is — particularly on big- and long-play potential — and the stats back it up.
But there are still 151 targets to replace, and though Adams has a different skillset than Nelson, he’s still a good receiver. In 2014, he caught 57 percent (38/66) of targets thrown to him for 446 yards and three touchdowns. At that rate, with 100 targets — which seems like a reasonable projection — he would be on pace for 58 catches for 675 yards and 4.5 touchdowns.
In other words, a mediocre flex option. But those numbers feel too low for the No. 2 WR in a Rodgers-led offense. Could he reach 75 catches, 850 yards and eight touchdowns? Probably. But don’t be surprised if Jeff Janis, Andrew Quarless and Richard Rodgers all see increased targets, too.
In all likelihood, Adams will be a mid-to-low WR2 or a decent flex option.
So, where should you take him (or at least expect him to be taken)? Before Nelson’s injury, Adams’ average draft position (ADP) was 123 — 46th among wide receivers in ESPN standard leagues. Since Nelson’s injury, Adams has shot up nearly 27 spots to an ADP of 97 — 36th among receivers.
Where you take him ultimately comes down to your comfort level and how you value him, but any time between the fifth and eighth rounds seems reasonable in standard leagues, and maybe a tad higher if WRs are flying off the board in your PPR leagues.
He won’t end up as a Top 15 WR, but he could be a valuable low-end asset come draft day.
Thumbnail photo via Benny Sieu/USA TODAY Sports Images