Fantasy Impact: Martellus Bennett goes to the Packers
It seems as if there is a tight end every year who signs with the Packers, leading fantasy players to expect big things, only to disappoint in the long run. On Friday evening, the Packers made some noise in free agency by acquiring tight end Martellus Bennett. They signed him to a three-year deal worth a reported $21 million. Will he be the next to disappoint?
Most have the playoffs fresh on their mind, which is when former Packers tight end Jared Cook had some of his best games of the season (his best game was with Jordy Nelson out of the lineup). Because of that, fantasy players were itching at the chance to draft him in 2017 if he were to re-sign with the team. Bennett is most definitely an upgrade over Cook, but was the signing necessary with the way the Packers use their tight ends?
I’d argue that it was more of a luxury, as the Packers have not targeted their tight ends collectively more than 115 times since way back in 2009. There hasn’t been one single tight end that played for the Packers to see more than 92 targets in Aaron Rodgers’ entire time quarterbacking in this league. There were nine tight ends in 2016 alone that saw more targets than that, including Antonio Gates.
When you try to manufacture targets for Bennett, it simply doesn’t add up to the top-five potential that some think. Over the last seven seasons, the Packers have been in the bottom-10 of tight end target percentage. That’s big in its own way, but when you add in the fact that the Packers don’t pass as much as most teams (outside of 2016 when they lost their top two running backs and their defense was arguably the worst in the NFL), their percentage is on an even lower number to begin with. They have averaged just 540 pass attempts per year since 2010.
One of the areas to look at when creating projections is whether or not there is a coaching or quarterback change, because those are the two factors that can heavily change a team year-over-year. In this case, Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers have both been in place for a long time. If you think that Bennett is so good that it’ll force McCarthy to change his offense, or Rodgers to change the way he plays the game, you can do that, but it’s not likely. Rodgers is methodical in his approach, which is why his numbers are so consistent.
As mentioned in the beginning of this article, Bennett is an upgrade on Cook, which will lead to more fantasy points, but how many is what’s important. Even if you were to go back to the Jermichael Finley days with the Packers (was considered a freak athlete), most projected him for top-five numbers every year, myself included. But he disappointed most years, finishing inside the top-18 tight ends just twice, with his highest finish of TE5 coming in 2011 when he saw 92 targets.
We now have enough data to figure out how the Packers and Rodgers will run their offense, and how they’ll distribute the targets. That number can vary, but it won’t change dramatically. Remember that there has been just three times where a tight end has finished top-18 with Rodgers at quarterback. If Bennett can stay healthy for all 16 games, he’s likely going to be looking at 80-90 targets, which is most definitely enough to finish in the top-10. But top-five? Don’t bet on it. I’d start to consider him as the No. 8 tight end off the board.