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Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions: The 2023 Green Bay Packers

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Welcome to Sleepers, Busts and Bold Predictions for the 2023 fantasy football season. All summer, our analysts, two at a time, will preview all 32 NFL teams for the upcoming season. We’ll pick a pair of sleepers, a pair of busts and a pair of bold predictions. Sometimes they’ll be the same pick! Sometimes they will directly disagree! And that’s fine. Today: The Green Bay Packers.

 

Below, Daniel Kelley and Jeremy Popielarz tackle the Packers, starting with their picks in “The Answers,” then expanding on their picks in “The Explanation.”

2023 Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions: Green Bay Packers

The Answers

Favorite Sleeper

Kelley: AJ Dillon
Popielarz: AJ Dillon

Biggest Bust

Kelley: Christian Watson
Popielarz: Christian Watson

Bold Prediction

Kelley: No Packers pass-catcher is a fantasy starter
Popielarz: Jayden Reed is the top-scoring Packers receiver

The Explanations

Sleepers

AJ Dillon Green Bay Packers 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions

Kelley: AJ Dillon

In 2021, AJ Dillon had 187 carries for 803 yards, with 7 total touchdowns and 37 targets. He finished as the PPR RB23. He was a popular breakout pick.

In 2022, AJ Dillon had 186 carries for 770 yards, with 7 total touchdowns and 43 targets. He finished as the PPR RB26. He was an unmitigated disaster.

The last sentences of those paragraphs were an oversimplification, but Dillon’s fantasy outlook has really been colored by perspective, since we expected him to break out last year and he didn’t, really. But now, instead of a quarterback who can (in theory, at least) carry the team to victory on the strength of his arm, Dillon and the Packers have Jordan Love, who might be excellent but who isn’t going to be asked to prove it (yet). That should mean even more work for Dillon and Aaron Jones behind the league’s No. 7 offensive line. And it’s worth noting — this is Jones’ age-29 season, compared to age-25 for Dillon. If Jones starts his decline, Dillon is the clear beneficiary.

Popielarz: AJ Dillon

AJ Dillon is currently the RB35 in ADP, per FantasyPros consensus, which seems extremely low. Dillon had a down season in 2022, only producing 976 scrimmage yards on 214 touches, down from his 1,116 yards and 221 touches in 2021. On the plus side, he matched his career high with seven total touchdowns. Dillon had 536 yards after contact, top 30 in the league. On the other hand, his 0.12 missed tackles forced per attempt was in the bottom third of the league. 

This year with limited playmakers for a second straight year and Aaron Jones a year older, I expect Dillon to continue to see a significant workload. In the last two seasons, he has finished as a top-30 running back in PPR scoring on the back of 200-plus touches. I expect Dillon to see an increase in red zone touches and total opportunities, which will lead to another top-24 finish in PPR scoring in 2023, so getting him as the RB35 is good value. 

 

Busts

Kelley: Christian Watson

Christian Watson scored 7 touchdowns on 66 targets last year, a 10.6% rate. Min. 50 targets, the only players who scored at a higher rate were two tight ends (George Kittle and Juwan Johnson), a running back (Jerick McKinnon) and Jahan Dotson, who scored the same number of touchdowns on 5 fewer targets (and is also a candidate to score less often in 2023). That’s 60-plus words to say: He’s going to have less TD success in 2023.

Obviously, Watson can offset any scoring regression with more targets, more receptions and more yards. And as the more-or-less clear WR1 in the Packers offense, he likely will. That said, take out one hot month (24.8 PPR points per game in Weeks 10-13, 6.5 otherwise) and Watson was basically irrelevant in 2022, and now he’s paired with a quarterback who is about as much of an unknown quantity as possible — Jordan Love is entering his fourth season and has all of 83 career pass attempts, only two games with 10 or more. If you could get Watson somewhere in the range of his 2022 finish — WR21 in PPR leagues — great, no complaints. But you can’t. By current ADP, Christian Watson is going as WR22, the same range as players like Amari Cooper (WR20), Jerry Jeudy (WR21) and Drake London (WR23). You’ll have to take Watson somewhere around his ceiling in 2023, and you never want to take a player at his ceiling.

Christian Watson Green Bay Packers 2023 Fantasy Football Sleepers, Busts & Bold Predictions

Popielarz: Christian Watson

After an impressive rookie season where Christian Watson was dependent on touchdowns to be fantasy relevant, many have him set for a huge year. I disagree. Last year, Watson finished as the WR41 in PPR scoring with only 164.1 points. This was in large part due to a very slow start and missing three games over the course the season. If we look at Week 10 and on, Watson was the WR9 with 137.4 points, but 35% of these points came via touchdowns. In the three of four games during this span that he failed to find the end zone, he did not top 11 PPR points and didn’t finish higher than the WR40. 

Heading into 2023, his situation didn’t get any better — it arguably got worse. The Packers made it a point to bring in more playmakers for new starting quarterback Jordan Love, who has limited game action at the NFL level and is a downgrade from Aaron Rodgers. Jayden Reed, Luke Musgrave, Tucker Kraft and Dontayvion Wicks all join Romeo Doubs and Watson, creating a fairly unproven but crowded pass-catching core. With this added competition and a likely regression in touchdowns, Watson is set up to disappoint managers this season. 

 

Bold Predictions

Kelley: No Packers Pass-Catcher Is a Fantasy Starter

I addressed Watson above. After him, the relevant wide receivers in Green Bay are fellow second-year man Romeo Doubs and rookie second-rounder Jayden Reed. The team also added two tight ends in the draft, picking Luke Musgrave in the second round and Tucker Kraft in the third. There’s a world where that unit reaches the top of our pass-catching unit rankings in, say, 2025 or 2026. In 2023, though, it’s a bunch of low-floor options who are just good enough to cannibalize one another. For fantasy, the Packers could have two of the top-25 tight ends and three of the top-50 receivers without having any top-20 tight ends or any top-30 receivers.

Popielarz: Jayden Reed Is the Top-Scoring Packers Receiver

Jayden Reed is entering the league out of Michigan State. As a Spartan, his numbers weren’t exactly eye-popping, but on the tape you can see this kid can play. Reed has a knack for winning in contested situations despite only standing 6-foot-0 and weighing 185 pounds. This is made possible by his physicality and ability to contort his body into any position needed to box out defenders. Reed is an impressive receiver who will do best operating out of the slot for the Packers, especially with the space Watson and Musgrave should open up on clearing routes. That could lead to Reed becoming a safety blanket for Love more than any other player on this roster besides Aaron Jones

I expect this to create a ton of high-percentage targets that Reed will cash in for tons of production. This has the makings of Amon-Ra St. Brown all over again — a slightly under-athletic receiver who has a knack for winning within routes and at the catch point. I am not guaranteeing an impressive run like St. Brown had as a rookie, but I do think Reed will lead the Packers in PPR points in 2023. 

 
Previous NFC North Division Winners: Are the Lions Getting Overhyped? Next 2023 Fantasy Coaching & Coordinator Breakdown: Los Angeles Rams