Wide receiver has long been the talk of the town for Packer fans everywhere. Due to the lack of depth in this positional group over the past few seasons, the team has struggled to find consistency, especially at the second spot opposite all-pro Davante Adams.
Along with this, they have also undergone difficulties in finding players lower down on the depth chart to help make key plays in big moments. Operating under the philosophy of finding talent at the position later on in the draft, the franchise has not addressed the spot in the first round of the draft since 2002.
Breaking down the Packers’ wide receiver room heading into 2021, Matt Lafleur’s group enters next season with one of the most complete positional groups in recent memory.
Currently set to have 11 players fight for six spots, the group already has five members who have all but locked up roster spots. Returning after an ongoing battle with the front office as he negotiates a new contract extension, Adams will be back in 2021 as the number one wide receiver option for Aaron Rodgers. Pacing the team with 115 receptions a year ago, the 28-year-old racked up 1,374 yards and 18 touchdowns in just 14 games.
Additionally, both Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling will look to build off strong 2020 campaigns. Remaining one of the best deep threats across the NFL, Valdes-Scantling led all wideouts with 20.4 yards averaged per catch last season. Out for an extended period of time after undergoing core muscle surgery, Lazard still averaged career highs in receptions and yards per game.
Return of a Longtime Veteran
Back after spending two years in Dallas and Houston, Cobb will look to provide a veteran presence both in the locker room and for rookie Amari Rodgers. Trying to find his footing with the disappointing Houston Texans a year ago, the former second-round pick hauled in just 38 passes with 11 yards averaged per reception.
Paired with Clemson’s all-time leading wide receiver in Rodgers, look for the young wideout to have a significant role in his first year with the team. Lauded for his route running abilities during his four-year college tenure, the Knoxville, Tennessee native has the timing and feel to win from the slot and the outside.
Faced with a challenging final decision as they look to fill the sixth and final wide receiver spot on the 53 man roster, both Devin Funchess and Juwann Winfree have enjoyed strong performances in camp. This leaves a compelling decision for Gutekunst and company, with six players competing to make the opening day lineup.
Breaking Down the Packers Wide Receiver Room
Adams set new career highs in one of his finest seasons as a pro a year ago. He broke Sterling Sharpe‘s franchise record for receptions in a season (112) with 115 catches in just 14 games. Furthermore, the former second-round pick led all wideouts with 18 touchdown grabs. As consistent as they come with 98 yards averaged per game, he made the pro bowl for the fourth consecutive season while also earning his first-ever first-team all-pro honors.
Dubbed by many as the best wide receiver in the game over the last three years, he will be paired with the league’s reigning MVP in Rodgers for another season in Green Bay. Routinely able to beat the game’s top corners from both the slot and out wide, the seven-year veteran has recently made his intentions know to be the highest-paid player at this position across the NFL.
Davante Adams is a case study in analytics – Acme Packing Company
Lazard got off to a rapid start before being placed on the injured reserve list in week four. Racking up 13 receptions in three games, the former undrafted free agent amassed 254 receiving yards. In addition to this, he hauled in two touchdown passes while averaging more than 18 yards per catch.
Forced to undergo core muscle injury, he would ultimately miss six weeks before returning in week ten against the Indianapolis Colts. Quickly becoming a go-to guy in Lafleur’s offense, Lazard has earned the praise of his coaching staff and teammates for his toughness and reliability. One of the best blockers across the league at his position, the Packers tendered the exclusive rights free-agent, making him a sure wide receiver to make the final roster.
A polarizing player during his first three seasons in Green Bay, Valdes-Scantling once again battled consistency and drop issues during his 2020 campaign. He finished with a new career-high in drops (7), allowing him to earn just an overall grade of 57.7, according to Pro Football Focus. However, he still set new career highs in yards (690), touchdowns (6), and yards per reception (20.9).
Appearing in over 82 percent of the team’s offensive snaps during weeks 3-11, the former fifth round pick saw his playing time fall to just an average of 58.3 percent during the final three weeks of the season. Exploding in the NFC title game, he caught four balls for 115 yards and a touchdown. Still offering tremendous upside at 6’4, Valdes-Scantling offers LaFleur and company a much-needed speed element at wide receiver.
Selected by the Packers in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft, Rodgers will look to provide a different element at wide receiver for the team in 2020. They have been searching for consistent production in the slot since the departure of Cobb after the 2018 season. Operating in that position for 353 of his snaps last season, he led Clemson with 77 receptions for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns.
The Tennessee native offers upside on special teams both as a kick and punt returner to go along with this. Handling both duties at different points during his four-year college career, he amassed 529 yards while running back punts. Averaging over 7.8 yards per return, he also ran back two kicks for touchdowns.
Brought in by the Packers earlier on in the month, the team acquired the longtime wide receiver for a sixth-round draft pick. One of the reported conditions attached to the return of Rodgers for the 2021 season, he will look to provide a veteran presence in the slot for the franchise’s rookie third-round selection. Not a move the franchise has made historically; Cobb started just two games for Houston last year after missing time with a pedal toe sprain.
Posting his lowest receiving yards total since his final season with Green Bay in 2018, the soon to be 31 year old averaged just 44.1 yards per game. However, with a proven track record over his ten-year career in the NFL and familiarity with Rodgers, Cobb will help in the team’s quest to return to the Super Bowl.
Randall Cobb on the Horizon?
Fighting for the Final Spot
Missing nearly two football seasons, Funchess suffered a broken collarbone in week one of the 2019 season. A member of the Indianapolis Colts at the time, the University of Michigan alum was placed on the injured reserve list, leading him to miss the rest of the season. Signed by the Packers in April of 2020, he choose to opt-out of last season due to Covid-19 concerns.
Failing to play an entire season since 2017, Funchess enjoyed the strongest season of his five-year NFL tenure. One of the go-to guys for Cam Newton, the 27-year-old led the Carolina Panthers with 840 reception yards and eight touchdown grabs. A big and physical wide receiver, he was able to show out in the team’s first preseason game after collecting six passes for 70 yards.
Drafted by the Denver Broncos in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft, Winfree appeared in just three games for the team before being waived. Signed to Green Bay’s practice squad last October, the University of Colorado alum was activated for the team’s games against the Jacksonville Jaguars and Detroit Lions. He played in eight snaps on offense and 21 snaps on special teams while being reverted to the practice squad after each game.
Earning the praise of LaFleur and the rest of the Packer’s coaching brass during the offseason workout program, Winfree shined with many of his fellow wide receivers missing. Able to carry it over to training camp, he has mainly been a special teams contributor over his young career, which could give him an edge to win the final spot.
Equanimeous St. Brown
Entering his fourth season in Green Bay, St. Brown showed flashes during his rookie season in 2018. A sixth-round pick of the Packers after a stellar career at the University of Notre Dame, the wide receiver caught 21 passes for 328 yards. This was highlighted by a three for 89 performance against the Detroit Lions in week five. Forced to miss the 2019 season after suffering an ankle injury, St. Brown struggled to replicate those numbers a year ago. He battled drop issues and appeared in just 12 games for the Packers while hauling in just seven receptions.
However, the 24-year-old began to have an increased role on special teams, with his snap count increasing from 15 in 2018 to 41 in 2020. Under contract for one more season, it remains more likely than not that the team will cut ties with him to allow him to get a new start elsewhere.
Taylor was signed to the Packers practice squad after a brief stint with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers after going undrafted. Earning the fifth receiver spot a year ago out of training camp, he played in 15 games for the team. A core contributor for Maurice Drayton’s group, Taylor saw the majority of his playing time come on kick and punt returns. The Fresno State product amassed just five receptions for 66 yards and a touchdown in week 13 against the Philadelphia Eagles.
A member of the first-team special teams unit during training camp, if Taylor earns a spot on the 53 man roster, that is where it will likely come. Nonetheless, as he begins to become weeded out in a suddenly crowded receiver room, a spot in the opening day lineup is a long shot at this point.
Probable Cut/Practice Squad Candidates
Signed to a reserve/futures contract earlier in the year, Blair played wide receiver at Alcon State University. The school’s leading receiver during his junior season in 2018, the 23-year-old racked up 529 yards and six touchdowns, with over 12 yards averaged per catch. Carrying over into his 2019 campaign, he ranked sixth in the nation in yards per reception (21.9).
The big-play threat in Elliott Wratten’s offense, Blair led the team with 931 receiving yards and seven touchdowns. Posting six 100 yard games over the course of the season, he has home run ability while offering substantial size at 6’2. Currently nursing an ankle injury, he was held out of the Packers’ first joint practice with the New York Jets.
A three-year member of the Calgary Stampeders in the Canadian Football League, Begelton posted a team-high 149 receptions for 2,236 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2019. A member of the Packers practice squad last season, he was on a week-to-week basis, forcing him to claw and constantly compete for a roster spot.
Appearing in just one game against the Atlanta Falcons in week four, he played two special teams snaps. Begelton is continuing to work on his special teams game in an effort to make the final roster. One of the oldest members of the wide receiver group at 27 years old, he re-upped with the franchise on a reserve futures contract.
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