Heading into the 2008 season, the big question in Titletown surrounded quarterback Aaron Rodgers and whether or not he could make Packers fans (and fantasy owners) forget the immortal Brett Favre. After all, he had thrown a mere 59 passes with one touchdown in three seasons at the NFL level, and he was considered somewhat of an injury risk as well.
Well, Rodgers was able to prove his naysayers wrong and put up Favre-like numbers in his first full season as the Packers' No. 1 quarterback. The Cal product threw for 4,038 yards, rushed for another 207 yards and finished with 32 total touchdowns.
After such a tremendous campaign, Rodgers is now listed among the elite signal-callers in fantasy football and will be held to a much higher standard.
Of course, there's always the chance that he'll turn into the 2008 version of Ben Roethlisberger, who floundered last season after putting up monster numbers in 2007. But several different factors should keep Rodgers from seeing a significant decrease in production.
First and foremost is the fact that Rodgers wasn't your typical first-year starter. He sat behind Favre for three seasons and learned from one of the greatest quarterbacks to ever lace up a pair of cleats. Rodgers also has the physical tools to become one of the league's best field generals. He possesses good arm strength, makes smart decisions with the football (he threw just 13 interceptions last season) and is elusive enough to avoid pass rushers and make plays under pressure.
Rodgers also has the advantage of playing with one the better wide receiver corps in the NFL.
Greg Jennings is establishing himself as a top-notch option at his position, posting 133 receptions, 2,212 yards and 21 touchdowns over the past two seasons.
Alongside Jennings is Donald Driver, a veteran receiver who has posted five consecutive 1,000-yard seasons. While his best fantasy campaigns are in the rearview mirror, Driver can still make plays and will remain a popular option for Rodgers.
Rodgers should also have better support out of the backfield in the form of Ryan Grant, who will benefit from a healthy offseason and a full training camp. Grant hasn't seen an entire camp as a member of the Packers -- he was acquired from the Giants at the end of the 2007 camp, and a holdout and hamstring issues limited him in 2008.
Finally, Rodgers has an attractive slate of games on the schedule. Based on the final totals from last season, he'll face eight teams (11 games) that ranked 15th or worst in the league against the pass. That list includes the 49ers (20th), Cardinals (22nd), Lions (27th; two games), Bears (30th; two games) and Seahawks (32nd).
Fantasy leaguers should always temper their excitement for a player coming off a career season -- those who drafted Derek Anderson in 2008 know that all too well. But based on Rodgers' physical tools, the talent around him and what looks like a favorable schedule, he doesn't seemed destined to experience a fall from grace.