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Packers’ Receivers Are Mostly a Supporting Cast

Training camp is a fun time to follow — and get all dreamy about — the prospects of rookies and new players. Due to the Green Bay Packers heavy reliance on their passing attack, much attention is properly focused every August on the team’s wide receiver corps.

While I’ll keep my fingers crossed that any number of these guys will step up their game, the reality seems to be that the Packers have but one wide receiver (who gets to play, so excluding Jeff Janis) on the roster with above average skills. As he has been for the last several seasons, Jordy Nelson remains the backbone of the Packers’ receiving unit.

Nelson’s 2016 Season

Had coach Mike McCarthy not been over-cautious with Nelson at the start of last year, Nelson’s stats might have exceeded his personal best year of 2014. As I worried at the time, coach McCarthy’s paranoia about bringing Jordy back too soon after his ACL surgery did indeed result in somewhat reduced stats for Nelson last year.

Breaking Jordy’s performance down into quarters of the 2016 season, for the first four games, Nelson averaged 61 receiving yards per game. In the second quarter, he averaged 66. Over the last two quarters of the season, however, Jordy averaged 93.5 yards per game – nearly as much as in 2014, when he ran up 1,519 yards and averaged 94.9 yards per game.

Given the above stats, there is no evidence to suggest that Jordy has passed – or yet reached – his peak. And he only recently turned 32.

Rodgers to Nelson Is the NFL’s Top Combo

Last year, I dredged up a pretty telling study in which an analyst calculated the quarterback ratings just when top quarterbacks threw to their top receivers. The conclusion: by a wide margin – the Aaron Rodgers/Jordy Nelson duo was the most efficient and productive QB-WR combination in the league for several years running, prior to Jordy’s knee injury.

The health of Rodgers and Nelson will again be indispensable if the Packers are to make a bona fide postseason run.

Team Remains Thin at WR

Veterans Randall Cobb and Davante Adams cannot dominate an opponent, or handle double-teams, like Jordy can.

Prior to this year’s draft, I gave my opinion as to how thin the receiving corps was after Nelson, Cobb, and Adams. I was disappointed that the team passed the first two draft rounds without selecting a wide receiver and shocked they waited until the fifth round.

Many fans have attached unreasonable hopes for Trevor Davis and Geronimo Allison, who at best can provide support, but cannot lead the Packers’ offense to success. Though the duo continues to get some buzz among fans, the fact is they combined for only 226 receiving yards in 2016.

DeAngelo Yancey, Malachi Dupre, and Max McCaffrey, drafted in the fifth round, seventh round, and originally undrafted, certainly won’t be a significant part of this year’s offense. This is especially so since Rodgers tends to only involve receivers after a lengthy apprenticeship. It took both Jordy and Donald Driver four years before either one accumulated more than 600 annual receiving yards.

Bottom line: despite the lesson of 2015, the Packers have made no contingency plans if Jordy Nelson misses several games this year due to injury. Green Bay’s season hopes are hanging by a pretty thin thread.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Deepsky August 4, 2017

    You say “only recently turned 32” for Nelson, but by 32, Antonio Freeman, Sterling Sharpe, Greg Jennings, Robert Brooks, Don Hutson, and Boyd Dowler were all retired. Yeah, I know Sharpe and Brooks were injured.

    James Lofton and Donald Driver are the only major exceptions for a top receiver not having retired by 32.

    But your major point is correct, Nelson is the only receiver on the team that teams fear.

    I think the Packers may have at least one good receiver on the team in the rookie and second year players group. They definitely continued this year to address the speed issue.

  2. Carl August 4, 2017

    Compared to the rest of the league, the Packers are fine at WR. Other positions like corner are much more worrisome. Taking a WR early in the draft was not going to happen unless a very good guy dropped. It’s reaching to call WR a spot to be concerned about.

    1. PF4L August 4, 2017

      Carl is right, you have real issues on defense, some you’ve had for years. so to make receiver a priority is misguided.

      This philosophy is fine if you have the mindset that the team should rely on the offense to win them a Super Bowl. But that alone rarely gets it done, as the Falcons found out.

      If we hit better on some defensive draft picks, maybe we wouldn’t have to keep going back to the draft for defensive players and we could pick up a receiver or tight end, but that’s not reality. The reality is Ted’s history since 2011 has been badly missing on defensive players in the draft, most notably Def. lineman, linebackers, and corners. His track record is abysmal in those area’s.

      Rob…..The reason we can’t draft more offensive players higher is because of past sins in the draft. Who is responsible for that? That’s where your angst should be directed. Write an article about his failure on defense in the draft, and then you’ll realize why we can’t prioritize a receiver in the draft.

      You want a blue chip receiver in the draft, we get it. But realize why they can’t go get one.

      My solution is for Ted to retire. Like 3 or 4 years ago.

  3. Empacador August 4, 2017

    So in other words, Adams shouldn’t be getting paid by the Packers? Somehow I’m OK with that, but we will see what reality brings in the not too distant future.

  4. Nick August 4, 2017

    Is there any team in the league with two WRs who can dominate a game and handle double teams? Duh the offense would be worse without their number one WR, as would any other team.

  5. Kato August 4, 2017

    I was going to comment on why exactly the packers can’t spend a top pick on WR, but PF4L already answered in the exact manner I was going to.

  6. PF4L August 6, 2017

    To all debates, there are counterpoints to be made. I wanted to wait and see if Rob would make a counterpoint in defense of his stance. There are two points to bolster Rob’s point of view.

    1) Rob could have acknowledged the fact that Ted keeps missing on defensive picks, therefore with his better history of offensive picks, he’d be better off taking a receiver, instead of picking up a player who merely takes up space on the roster. Under that philosophy going all in on offense seems somewhat logical.

    2) If you hit on a receiver in the draft, he comes much cheaper than what Cobbs currently paid. Thus making the resigning of Adams much more manageable.

    Now that move would take some balls. It would involve trading Cobb, and eating some dead money. Maybe using that extra 9.4 million on a proven defensive player in free agency. But if someone would like to explain to me how the Packers couldn’t survive without Cobb, or explain to me how he is worth 10 million/year. I’d love to hear it.

    Someday Ted will leave the Packers with the legacy of replacing Favre with Rodgers and winning a Super Bowl. Which i have given Ted countless credit for over the years. But at the same time that doesn’t give him a lifelong pass on his other failures.

    His other legacy will be a dreadful history of drafting defense and an astonishingly amazing amount of job security for in essence, drafting a HOF QB.

    1. Empacador August 8, 2017

      I’m pretty sure when Cobb signed his deal, he was considered a vital cog in the Green Bay offensive machine. He was going to allow McCarthy to REALLY dig into his substantial playbook and get some shit done!

      I think it’s safe to say when Cobb got his millions, at least for the one season he played his ass off. Using Cobb as a “wrinkle” out of the backfield and on returns made him somewhat more valuable. Plus they were using him like that before his contract season. And that is the concern with Adams. He has never done any of those things, yet some are talking about him getting paid? Adams better have like 1750 yards and 125 receptions before they consider paying him.

      1. PF4L August 8, 2017

        Isn’t everyone a vital cog when they get their big deal?

        Cobb hasn’t returned a kickoff since 2012, He’s only returned 25 punts in the last 4 years. Most of Cobb’s rushing attempts came in the last 3 years, and at 3.5 ypc, i don’t think he was keeping any def. coordinators up at night.

        When you look at Cobbs stats from 2014 to present, you see a heavy decline across the board.

        If Adams has another season like last season, he will be paid, one way or another. My guess is it will be from the Packers, if that happens, Cobb is probably as good as gone. You can’t have a receiver catching 600 yards with a cap hit of 12.75 million. At the end of the day, Adams has to perform this season, or all bets are off.

        We all like Cobb, but back when he signed his deal, he insisted on getting paid like a #1 wr. But the last 2 years his numbers reflect a #2 and #3.

        1. Empacador August 8, 2017

          Don’t misunderstand me, I wasn’t defending Cobb. He hasn’t earned what they pay him. They were counting on him to continue doing the things he had been doing, but as you pointed out, he has declined everywhere.

          However, Cobb was doing more things than Adams ever has. Adams has never been run out of the backfield or used for returns that I can recall. I agree Adams needs to perform this season. That goes for Cobb too. If Adams is going to be Bill Schroeder and barely crack 1,000 yards, let someone else overpay him. Because if Jordy is gone in a couple years, I don’t see Adams ever performing as a #1. Oh he might be paid like one, but I think we will be talking about him like we talk about Cobb being overpaid.