The Green Bay Packers’ draft philosophy has always been to “take the best player available”, much like most other NFL teams. The Packers’ hand may be forced in this draft, however, due to the extenuating circumstances that they are currently facing.
Davante Adams chose to follow his dream of playing for the Raiders, and in doing so, he essentially kneecapped a franchise that was already looking to draft a receiver or two in the upcoming 2022 NFL Draft. Even if the Packers are able to acquire a top tier veteran receiver via trade or free agency, the team will still need to look to the draft for receivers in order to strengthen their most glaring positional weakness.
What To Expect
The good news is that this is a deep draft class at the receiver position. Unfortunately, there is not as much top end talent as we have seen in the previous two drafts. The bulk of the talent in 2022 is in developmental prospects, and there are a few that possess the size and speed that Brian Gutekunst looks for. Of course, the downside to developmental prospects at the receiver position is that Aaron Rodgers has little to no patience for them.
I expect that the Packers will add a veteran receiver at some point to help bridge this gap. I doubt that they will trade for a player, though. A free agent along the lines of Will Fuller or Sammy Watkins is more likely. Someone who isn’t expensive, yet has enough talent and football IQ to make an immediate impact. This will help to ease the transition while the Packers’ rookies learn the ropes.
With all of this being said, here is a list of five receivers I believe the Packers may target in the upcoming draft.
*Please bear in mind that these are players I believe MIGHT be available when the Packers make their selections at various points in the draft.*
#1: Chris Olave
Profile: 6’0″ – 187 lbs – 31 1/8 Arm – 9 1/2″ Hands – 4.39 40 yard dash – 32″ Vert – 124″ Broad Jump
2021 Ohio State Stats: 65 rec – 936 yds – 13 TDs
Olave is a tad shy of the typical size that Gutekunst looks for in a wide receiver, but his ability to immediately contribute may make him worthy of exception. He is one of the most polished prospects in this year’s draft. Olave showed that he was a cut above the rest at the combine, and his tape backs it up.
He is a smooth receiver with breakaway speed at every level. Olave can create separation almost effortlessly. The only real issue that some scouts have with Olave is that he might not have the strength to consistently win against NFL corners at his current weight. However, even if he is somehow unable to add weight, his footwork has proven to be good enough to beat press coverage. If Olave falls to the 22nd spot in the first round, it’s hard to imagine the Packers passing on him.
#2: George Pickens
The Packers met with WRs Jameson Williams, Chris Olave and George Pickens at the NFL Scouting Combine. https://t.co/0vRy9VgmzW— The Packers Wire (@ThePackersWire) March 4, 2022
Profile: 6’3″ – 195 lbs – 32 3/8″ Arm – 8 3/4″ Hands – 4.47 40 yard dash – 33″ Vert – 125″ Broad Jump
*2021 Georgia Stats: 5 rec – 107 yds. *Missed most of the 2021 season due to a torn ACL
Pickens is a tall receiver with great body control. He has strong hands and a large catch radius. Pickens is second only to Drake London in this draft in 50/50 ball/contested catch situations. He has great speed for his size and is surprisingly fluid while running routes.
Concerns regarding Pickens are his injury history and the fact that he is sometimes neutralized by more physical corners. The high ceiling might tempt a team to take him late in the first round, but the second round is a more likely landing spot for this Georgia receiver.
#3: Christian Watson
Profile: 6’4″ – 208 lbs – 32 1/2″ Arm – 10 1/8″ Hands – 4.36 40 Yard Dash – 38.5″ Vert – 136″ Broad Jump
2021 North Dakota State Stats: 43 rec – 800 yds – 7 TDs
Christian Watson is perhaps the most polarizing player in the draft. There are people who believe he is a first round pick, and there are those that believe he is a priority UFA. Watson was a dominant player at North Dakota, but the level of talent he faced there is what raises questions.
His measurables were cumulatively the best at the combine among receivers. Picture MVS with better hands, a bit more bend, and an astonishing vertical leap. Watson also has NFL bloodlines; his father played safety in the league for five years. His ability as a receiver, returner, blocker, and runner out of the backfield may earn him a selection in the second round. Personally, I think he is more of a third or fourth round pick.
#4: Alec Pierce
Profile: 6’3″ – 211 lbs – 33″ Arm – 9″ Hands – 4.41 40 Yard Dash – 40.5″ Vert – 129″ Broad Jump
2021 Cincinnati Stats: 52 rec – 884 yds – 8 TDs
Alec is an upright runner who lacks bend, so he will probably be limited to linear routes. He is a big, strong receiver with an elite catch radius to match his vertical leap. Pierce has the potential to be a decent possession receiver who can be a mismatch in the red zone. Reeling in catches in the middle of the field shouldn’t be a problem for him.
Pierce’s 4.41 40 is definitely fast, but I believe he plays faster than the 40 time indicates. Alec Pierce is the player that most closely resembles MVS in this draft, in my opinion. The difference between Pierce and Watson is that I see the comparison to MVS as Watson’s floor, whereas with Pierce, the comparison is likely his ceiling. I see Pierce as a third or fourth round pick.
#5: Kevin Austin Jr.
Profile: 6’2″ – 200 lbs – 32 7/8 Arm – 9″ Hands – 4.43 40 Yard Dash – 39″ Vert – 132″ Broad Jump
2021 Notre Dame Stats: 48 rec – 888 yds – 7 TDs
Austin is easily the most raw of this bunch, and he will need the most time to develop. His route running abilities will need to be heavily coached up. Austin missed the entire 2019 season for violating team rules, and most of 2020 due to injury.
There is a lot of upside to Kevin Austin Jr. He has an amazing combination of strength and speed that shows up on tape. Austin showed a tremendous amount of improvement through the last five games of the season. He appears to be a very coachable young man who is just beginning to tap into his true ability.
His improvement against press coverage was most notable, and Austin Jr. should be able to use his size to beat defenders going forward. Kevin could fall to the fifth round or below due to his lack of experience, but I also wouldn’t be surprised if he was taken earlier due to the great potential he has shown.
Tyquan Thornton – Baylor: Tyquan had the best 40 time out of all the receivers at the combine with a 4.28. He had great success at Baylor, both as a receiver and returner. Thornton is a big target at 6’3″, but at only 181 lbs, he may struggle in the NFL. His speed alone will almost certainly make him worth a shot on day three.
Velus Jones – Tennessee: Jones is probably the best blocker in the draft, and we all know how far that can get you in Matt LaFleur’s offense. Velus shared SEC Special Teams Player of the Year honors with Alabama receiver Jameson Williams in 2021 as a returner. His merit as a special teamer will certainly get him drafted, but he could prove to be more than capable as a receiver as well.
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