The Professor’s 2021 NFL Preview: NFC North – Green Bay Packers

TheProfessor_NFL Preview Packers

Green Bay Packers

Team Projection

TeamPoints ForPoints AgainstGames FavoredPythagorean Expected Wins

Green Bay’s season ultimately hinges on whether or not Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback. Rodgers recaptured his peak form in 2020 and won the league MVP. If he’s back, there’s every reason to expect him to be in the running for the award again, and the Packers will be a Super Bowl contender. If he’s gone, second-year quarterback Jordan Love takes over, and all bets are off.

The roster around Rodgers has talent across the board. Green Bay’s cap situation caused them to avoid free agency for the most part, but they did retain running back Aaron Jones and corner Kevin King, which is a mixed bag, as there are plenty of Packers fans who would have preferred that the Tampa Bay debacle in the NFC Championship would be they saw of King. The lanky corner brings length, but his lack of acceleration and change of direction skills are a huge issue at a position where those traits are critical. The team did allow one key free agent to walk, as center Corey Linsley signed with the Los Angeles Chargers on a deal that made him the highest-paid center in the league.

Fortunately, Green Bay may have found replacements for both King and Linsley with their first two draft picks. They drafted corner Eric Stokes, who brings elite speed, with their first-round pick, and then added center Josh Myers with their second-round pick in the hopes that one Ohio State center can replace another (Linsley was a fourth-round pick out of Ohio State). In both cases, the players won’t be handed a starting role; the Packers return the starting corner trio from their nickel package, and Elgton Jenkins showed the versatility to excel at the center when Linsley was hurt last year, which would allow Jon Runyan Jr. to slide into Jenkins’s spot at left guard. They also added lineman Royce Newman and Cole Van Lanen in the fourth and sixth rounds, respectively, and it’s possible one of them could surprise.

The Packers used their third-round pick to add Clemson receiver Amari Rodgers, who draft analysts pegged as a slot receiver. Davante Adams is capable of filling any receiving role in this offense, but while the Packers had a big receiver in Allen Lazard, a deep threat in Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and a reliable tight end option in Robert Tonyan, they didn’t have a pure slot, so Rodgers should complement the rest of the group nicely. On defense, Packers fans will have to hope that new defensive coordinator Joe Barry figures out a way to get more out of this group on a consistent basis than former coordinator Mike Pettine managed.

There were some weak points on this defense last season, but they also have three elite players in defensive tackle Kenny Clark, edge Za’Darius Smith, and corner Jaire Alexander, along with four plus players in edges Preston Smith and Rashan Gary and safeties Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage. If Stokes beats out King for a starting job, they will upgrade their biggest weakness, and while the plan to count on inside linebackers Krys Barnes and Kamal Martin to build on solid rookie seasons make that position a bit of a question mark, this unit should have enough talent to be in the top third of the league.

It still all comes back to whether Rodgers or Love is the quarterback. If it is Love, he could hardly ask to step into a better situation. He’ll have a strong run game, an offensive line that will be above-average at the least, arguably the league’s best wide receiver, and a head coach/offensive coordinator who schemes it up about as well as anyone in Matt LaFleur. It’s hard to imagine them making the Super Bowl without Rodgers, but Love could certainly get his career off to a hot start if he’s handed the ball. Packers fans, however, will certainly hope that it’s #12 under center once the season starts.

QB Passing Projections

Jordan Love2817341.5559.80.616.063392.826.917.914.37

QB Rushing Projections

Jordan Love281753.64.1219.82.511.82614.37

Skill Projections, Rushing

Aaron JonesRB5917201.94.70948.04.644.347.310.39
AJ DillonRB13917146.34.80702.
Amari RodgersWR219179.15.6851.
Dexter WilliamsRB3321744.52.76122.

Skill Projections, Receiving

Davante AdamsWR211764.7108.810.441136.19.430.035.013.20
Aaron JonesRB591762.936.96.08223.92.310.58.510.39
Allen LazardWR1341762.251.911.76610.33.614.913.46.39
AJ DillonRB1391768.315.37.69117.
Robert TonyanTE1491773.940.910.42425.84.49.916.25.25
Marquez Valdes-ScantlingWR1721742.831.412.89405.
Amari RodgersWR2191763.623.59.57224.
Josiah DeguaraTE3041742.510.910.40113.
Marcedes LewisTE3271758.710.27.8780.
Jace SternbergerTE3291762.611.94.6755.
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Steven Clinton, better known as "The Professor", is a former D-1 Quality Control Assistant (Northwestern, Toledo) who holds a B.A. in Economics and M.S. in Predictive Analytics from Northwestern University. He maintains an end-to-end NFL game projection model and is a film junkie who breaks down the tape of every NFL game.