Allen Lazard Is a Fantasy Football Breakout Candidate in 2020
Have you ever felt that – even if you’re all alone – something or someone is out there watching you? That even though you’ve never seen them, maybe you’re not the only one hurtling through the universe? I don’t know if Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and top wide receiver Davante Adams believe in extraterrestrials, but they often appear to be the only life forms in their passing offense. In 2019, however, Allen Lazard made contact; in 2020, he intends to touch down – a lot.
Affectionately known as “Alien Lizard” online, the formerly undrafted receiver went positively extraterrestrial in his first full season. After spending 2018 on the Jacksonville Jaguars’ practice squad, the Packers signed Lazard and worked him slowly into the rotation following a preseason concussion. In Week 6, he saw his first offensive snap rate over 20 percent and responded with a 4-catch, 65-yard, one-touchdown outing, pulling down a crucial late-game score himself. That was the beginning of a receiving line that ended with 477 yards and three touchdowns on 35 catches (in essentially 11 games) for Lazard.
Now, the 24-year old heads into his second season as a nominal starter in an Aaron Rodgers offense. Can he build on his “redshirt rookie” 2019 season? Is Allen Lazard a legit 2020 fantasy sleeper?
Attack of the 6-Foot-5 Receiver: Allen Lazard’s Potential
It’s no surprise Lazard flashed potential: despite going undrafted in 2018, Lazard stands 6-foot-5, weighs 230 pounds, and ran a 4.55 forty-yard dash. Per Mockdraftable, his best physical comparisons in NFL Combine history include Babytron (Kenny Golladay) and occasional on-field sensation Josh Gordon. While there’s no guarantee he reaches that potential, Lazard is not just a flash-in-the-pan type with no future outlook. There’s a legitimate chance for his talent to stick.
Even better for his chances is the fact that quarterback Aaron Rodgers’s skill set at this point in his career meshes really well with Lazard’s strengths. Those strengths are his contested catch ability, downfield ball tracking, body control, and brute force.
Lazard isn’t a burner by any means, and – in an era where speed and agility have become the gold standard – this is seen as a flaw. Due to his massive frame, however, he can overpower many would-be tacklers. Who needs to avoid them when you can just run them over?
On this play in Lazard’s Week 6 offensive debut, he squares up with a cornerback at the 31-yard line, then plows the smaller man forward another four yards. He isn’t a major yards-after-catch (YAC) threat, but Lazard did rack up a solid 4.0 YAC per reception last year – same as Adam Thielen, Brandin Cooks, Mike Evans, Tyler Boyd, and Michael Thomas. This is due primarily to his strength, but also thanks to his next trait.
As mentioned before, without top-end speed Lazard needs a different way to get open for a catch. He uses his strength to beat press-jamming at the line of scrimmage, but then is able to turn his sizable frame to shield the ball from the defender, catching with arms extended to add even more distance between the two.
Per PlayerProfiler, Lazard saw just the 93rd-most average cushion (the distance afforded by his assigned defender) among qualifying receivers, but earned the 26th-most separation on his targets. Pretty good for a slow guy, huh?
Lazard’s final skills somewhat meld together: body control and downfield ball tracking. These two are by far the most important ones to the way the Packers’ passing attack operates, which has been famous for playing “playground football” when a play breaks down since Aaron Rodgers took the helm. With Rodgers’s pinpoint accuracy plummeting as he ages (his Adjusted Completion Rate per Pro Football Focus has been 21st or worse three of his last four full seasons), he needs receivers who can adjust to balls that aren’t picture-perfect, go up, and get them. That’s what Lazard excels at.
My Wideout’s an Alien: Lazard as Green Bay’s WR2
If not for the slow wind up, Allen Lazard was on a full-season pace for 694 receiving yards and 4.4 touchdowns on 51 receptions. Those theoretical 146.8 PPR fantasy points would have earned Lazard a spot inside the top-50 wide receivers last year. His PPR points per game would have ranked 57th among wide receivers to play at least 10 games as well, ahead of sexier upside picks like Cooks and Corey Davis.
Much of Allen Lazard’s 2019 value came as a result of earning 13.8 percent of the Packers’ targets when active. While not an overwhelming number by any means, this isn’t terrible for essentially a rookie who didn’t get up to speed with the offense until a third of the way through the regular season. It’s also worth noting that Lazard was the second-most targeted player in that span of time, behind only star Davante Adams. Even when the full lineup was healthy in the eight final games, Lazard’s target share dipped to just 13.6 percent.
In addition, nearly 20 percent of the target share from last year was vacated thanks to the Packers letting go of tight end Jimmy Graham and wide receiver Geronimo Allison. It’s likely that up-and-coming tight end Jace Sternberger and free agent acquisition wide receiver Devin Funchess all pick away at it, among others. Still, that does mean there is wiggle room for Lazard’s role to grow – and that’s without even factoring in possible negative regression for Adams’s whopping 32.6 percent target share.
That’s not a bad situation to be in for a second receiver on a team.
Brainwashed by Allen Lazard People
Our own JJ Zachariason recently did a study on where breakout wide receivers in fantasy football come from, and it’s a good sounding board for Allen Lazard’s theory of the case. JJ identifies four qualities that most breakout receivers tend to have: they come from ambiguous wide receiver groups, they don’t always have a great fantasy quarterback throwing to them, they tend to be young, and they tend to have displayed prior production to some extent.
For us, Lazard checks three of those boxes: he plays in a wide-open depth chart (behind Adams), he is entering just his second full season in the NFL, and even though he doesn’t meet JJ’s target share threshold of 16 percent, he was darn close. The key here, though, is the fourth point of JJ’s list: the quarterback.
In order for Lazard to take a step forward, fantasy owners need Rodgers to have a vintage year and supply enough value to both Adams and a second receiver. Without that quantity and quality, the production pie just won’t be big enough to feed two pass-catching mouths. Barring that, Adams would need to relinquish a sizable amount of his stranglehold on the passing looks.
Our projections on numberFire have Lazard as the 77th-best fantasy wide receiver in PPR formats, and – per BestBall10s ADP – Lazard is going as the 66th wideout in drafts. Is Lazard a guaranteed breakout in 2020? No, not in the least. Is he worth putting your faith in as a 15th-round shooting star sleeper who could put up otherworldly numbers should Adams get injured once again? Absolutely.