Green Bay Packers: The NFL’s version of the 2018-19 Toronto Raptors

    Depth, Kawhi Leonard, Aaron Rodgers, Lil Wayne and Drake— comparing the Green Bay Packers to the champion Toronto Raptors.

    While the NFL season lies dormant leading up to the start of training camp, the NBA Finals have taken center stage in the sports world over the past couple weeks. The Toronto Raptors were crowned champs after a gritty six-game victory over the injury-laden Golden State Warriors. The Raptors rise to champions begs the question; who is the NFL’s version of the Toronto Raptors? Is it fair to compare a former expansion team from Canada to one of the most historic sports franchises in American sports? Well, if you answered yes, then let’s compare the Raptors and the Green Bay Packers.

    Building Blocks

    Well, first things first they’re each from the North. In all seriousness, when comparing teams from different sports, we have to start with the philosophy behind the team. How was the team built? The Raptors were a steady force in the Eastern Conference, but couldn’t get over the hump until 2019. Raptors President Masai Ujiri pushed all his chips in when he traded franchise player DeMar DeRozan to San Antonio for Kawhi Leonard. Even with consistent, yet marginal success, Ujiri identified his franchise could never take the next step without making changes.

    A similar yet different situation happened in Green Bay. Longtime Packers executive Ted Thompson generally stayed quiet in free agency, but with continued disappointment since 2011 Green Bay needed to make a change. New general manager Brian Gutekunst broke out the checkbook and signed multiple free agents this offseason. Gutekunst revamped Green Bay’s defense with Adrian Amos, Preston Smith, and Za’Darius Smith. If Gutekunst’s additions can have half the impact Leonard had on the Raptors, the Packers should be in good shape.

    Aaron “The Claw” Rodgers

    After his finals MVP performance, some argue Leonard is the best player in the NBA. Even with his elite skill on the floor, the conversation around Leonard is always dictated by what he’s doing off the court. Whether it’s fake stories about his love for apples or speculation about his exit from San Antonio, the outside buzz about his personality can sometimes cloud people’s opinion of “the board man.” Remind you of anyone?

    Aaron Rodgers has the power to carry any team on a Raptors-esque run to a championship. Rodgers may be misunderstood by some, but when healthy he’s one of the best players in the league. Neither may be electric off the field/court, but both instill fear in their opponents in only a way they can.

    The “Packtors”

    Although it may seem silly, the Raptors and Packers have several players that compare in similar roles and stories. Before we get there, we have to look at the head coaches. Each team is being led by a rookie head coach. Both Matt LaFleur and Nick Nurse have their experience as assistants, but never at the top level. Each coach also replaced solidified veteran coaches. Nurse replaced former NBA Coach of the Year, Dwane Casey and LaFleur is taking over for former champion Mike McCarthy.

    It’s incredibly tough to compare football and basketball players, but there are certain roles and moves that both the Raptors and Packers share. Fred VanVleet is comparable to Packers running back Aaron Jones. VanVleet shined in spurts for the Raptors. When Nurse called his number, he hit timely shots off the bench. VanVleet’s effective yet limited role helped the Raptors playoff run and was reminiscent to the Packers young RB Jones. We’ve yet to see Jones star as the every-down back, but when he’s gotten the ball, he’s proven to be a weapon. If Jones can step up when he gets his chance as VanVleet did, it will add a whole new dynamic to Green Bay’s offense.

    Davante Adams has burst onto the scene as one of the best receivers in the NFL, his release off the ball is so lethal it’s simply unstoppable. Adams first step off the line of scrimmage has a similar result to Pascal Siakam’s spin move. Siakam’s length mixed with his swift spin move in the lane puts defenders on skates akin to Adams’ route running. Both are on a rising trajectory that’ll push their teams through contention.

    Depth

    The last key ingredient to the Raptors championship run was their depth. Players like Danny Green, Norman Powell, Serge Ibaka, and even Patrick McCaw were all able to have an impact vs. Golden State. They were able to outlast the Warriors when they went down with an injury. In recent years the Packers have lacked in this category, but things look different on paper in 2019, especially on defense. The Packers, who have been tabbed as an offensive team for years, boast one of the deeper secondaries in the NFC with Amos, Jaire Alexander, Kevin King, Josh Jackson, and Darnell Savage. Their depth in the secondary and defensive line will help the Packers get the ball back in the hands of Rodgers.

    Drake — Lil Wayne

    Weirdly enough Drake led many headlines during the Raptors run, so who could match “Drizzy’s” fandom? Did we already forget about Lil Wayne’s “Green & Yellow?” Lil Weezy is a loyal Packers fan that could provide the same spark Drake did for the Raptors.

    Tommy Call is a writer for PFN covering the NFL. You can find him @tommy_III on Twitter.

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