With the news of off-season acquisition Devin Funchess opting out, the fantasy football community erupted into a frenzy regarding who would be Davante Adams’ right hand man. At one time, the second option in the Green Bay passing game was a fantasy asset. From 2013 to 2016, Aaron Rodgers’ WR2 saw an average of 108 targets for a 69-1000-9 line. Since those glory days, however, the second receiver has only mustered 83 targets for 56-588-3 which is not an option for our fake football teams.
Some of this decline is due to the lack of personnel at Rodgers’ disposal, and some of it is likely Father Time collecting on his debts. ARod’s attempts have dipped slightly since his high of 610 in 2016 but not drastically so. Green Bay was still middle-of-the-pack in passing attempts in 2019. The major change has been that no quality second option has emerged. Take for instance the discrepancies between the 2015 and 2019. seasons.
In 2015, Rodgers dished out 572 attempts and the target share was divided 23% to the WR1, then 17% 16% and 15% respectively to the remaining top four pass catchers. In 2019 Rodgers threw 569 times but the share was divided 22% then 11%, 10%, and 10%. The action sent to the peripheral pass catchers was much more diluted than in seasons past. Interestingly in 2019, for the first time in his career Rodgers’ second leading receiver was a running back.
Davante Adams will be the locked and loaded primary option for Rodgers. But I think given his history, ARod wants to utilize another wideout in the offense. If a receiver can emerge as the preferred alternative to Adams, I think Rodgers can still support a second fantasy starter. So, the question is who will be that guy? I have narrowed it down to 4 choices out of this band of misfit toys.
Allen Lazard (6’5″ 227 lbs, 24 years old)
Lazard was a four star recruit who played immediately as a freshman at Iowa State. He met the criteria for a breakout in 2015 as a true sophomore, commanding 27% of the team receptions and yards and served as the punt returner. As a junior he kept ascending, earning over 30% of the team receiving market share (MS). A step back as a senior may have left a bad taste in scouts mouths as despite a strong college career he was not chosen in the 2018 NFL draft.
Lazard was signed post-draft by the Packers and effectively “redshirted” in 2018 before showing up midway through 2019 in Green Bay. From week 6 on, he averaged 5 targets a game for a 3.2-43-0.27 line or a 51-688-4 season long pace. This is certainly admirable for a former UDFA, and that does fall in line with recent WR2 seasons for the Packers. He was in the slot for 31% of his snaps and showed an excellent catch radius with his massive frame. His yards per route run was a solid 2.19, good for 31st in the league.
Lazard possesses a number of qualities that are shared by late round or undrafted receivers who wind up being fantasy relevant. He played at a Power 5 school, had a teenage breakout, exceeded a 30% market share in a season, and he returned punts. Sitting in year one is also very normal for an undrafted rookie, Adam Thielen and Victor Cruz followed that same path.
I think Lazard will enter the season as the primary receiver not named Davante Adams. It is almost certainly his job to lose, however he didn’t do enough to be extended and is on a cheap one year contract. It’s conceivable Green Bay would want to see what their drafted players can offer since they will be with the team for at least 2021.
The Dark Horse
Equanimeous St. Brown (6’5″ 214 lbs, 23 years old)
St. Brown went to Notre Dame as a highly touted four star recruit and produced as a teenage sophomore, earning a 28% MS. He was tracking to be a sought after draft pick, but fell back to a meager 20% MS as junior. The 2017 Irish offense was atrocious, but ESB lead the team in receiving although the raw numbers were forgettable. Following this nightmare campaign, he bolted to the NFL after three years in college.
Green Bay stopped his slide by selecting him in the sixth round of the 2018 NFL draft. He saw his first action the fifth game, turning five targets into a 3-89 line and had two other games with 5 targets. He took 99 snaps out of the slot (23%) and showed slick route running and good speed when called upon. Sadly, he suffered a high ankle sprain and missed the entire 2019 season.
His college pedigree and early production hint that there is still hope for NFL success.
The best place for production as a compliment to Adams is in the slot, and ESB is likely going to play that role. As mentioned above, Lazard also succeeded in the slot last year so it’s his job to lose. I like both talents, and think St. Brown is a good player who has had to fight through some bad luck both with team context and injury. If it’s not Lazard, I think ESB has the best chance of all the Packers receivers to be fantasy relevant in 2020.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6’4″ 206 lbs, 25 years old)
Originally enrolled at NC State, Valdes-Scantling transferred back home to The University of South Florida after two lackluster years for the Wolfpack. He finally saw the field as a redshirt junior but didn’t break out until his final year of eligibility with a 29% MS for the Bulls.
MVS was taken in the 5th round of 2018, and worked his way into the starting lineup by week 4 of his rookie season. He saw over 90% of the snaps in 5 games and turned in a respectable 38-581-2 debut. There was excitement for a sophomore leap but it didn’t happen for Valdes-Scantling.
His role changed and after seeing 41% slot snaps as a rookie, he lined up in the slot only 12.6% of the time in 2019. He was used primarily as a low volume deep threat, with the 2nd highest average depth of target (16.9 yards) for any WR with over 50 targets. Additionally, he only saw more than five targets in a game once after week 4. As expected, his catch rate was low but even for a deep target it was a dreadful 46.4%. Subjectively, it seemed that Rodgers lost some faith in MVS down the stretch.
If his role stays the same as a complimentary field stretching Z receiver, I don’t see Valdes-Scantling becoming a useful fantasy asset. He has two competitors for slot duty and with his size and speed he profiles more for the role he had in 2019. There will be spike games but he won’t be a weekly starter for fantasy teams.
The Mystery Man
Reggie Begelton (6’0″ 200 lbs, 26 years old)
The man from Beaumont has taken a long and winding road to finally appear on this list. Begelton attended FCS school Lamar University and led the team as a redshirt sophomore with a 25% MS. As a senior in 2015 he got over a 30% MS and He finished as Lamar’s career receptions leader with 227 catches for 2435 yards and 20 touchdowns. A fifth year senior from an FCS school has a slim chance of entering the NFL, and Begelton went undrafted. He took his talents to the Canadian Football League where he struggled for two seasons but caught fire for 102-1444-10 in 2019.
Rumor has it that Green Bay scouted Begelton way back at his pro day in 2015 where he posted a respectable 4.53 second forty time and a 39.5″ vertical. He has also worked out with the Raiders, Saints and Falcons over the years but never signed with any teams. Finally after his award winning 2019, Green Bay chose to give him a reserve/futures contract. There is almost no money guaranteed so he will still have to earn his place on the roster.
Reggie Begelton has had slow starts at every stop on his football journey, but has always found a way to impress. From the few highlights I can get my hands on, one unique quality is his ability to stay up after the catch and gain extra yards. Begelton is slippery in the open field and can be a weapon in the intermediate area. Begelton is the longest of long shots to contribute in a meaningful way and even less likely to make your fantasy starting lineup. In the deepest of leagues where the waiver is desolate, he is worth a stash because dreams can come true. 2020 needs a Cinderella story and I am rooting for him.
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