Handicapping Packers’ WR3 Competition
No one, including general manager Brian Gutekunst, expected three wide receivers to be drafted by the Green Bay Packers. The GM has said it was unexpected that such talented players would drop to the lower rounds, but once they did he couldn’t pass them up.
Unlike during the Ted Thompson era, training camp and preseason performance, and not draft order, will determine which receivers make the roster and in what order. We hope so anyway.
Of the three newcomers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling is the least likely to get significant playing time in 2018. He’s considered very much the rawest of the prospects. In two years at N.C. State, his receiving yardage was under 300 each time.
He then red-shirted for a year after transferring to South Florida. In two years there he was used almost exclusively as a deep threat. Though he had just 22 catches in his initial year, they went for 415 yards (18.9 average) and five touchdowns. His final year was more impressive: 53 catches, 879 yards and six TDs.
In addition to being 6’ 4”, Valdes-Scantling has speed. When is the last time the Packers had a receiver with 4.37 dash speed? Javon Walker was timed at 4.38 in 2002. He’s almost certain to make the roster on that basis alone, but he’s too undeveloped to rapidly gain Aaron Rodgers’ trust. One scout’s assessment: a stash-and-coach prospect, lacking ball skills.
Almost everyone feels the Packers got a steal in the sixth round, when it was a shock that Equanimeous St. Brown had yet to be taken. At 6’ 5” and 214 pounds, St. Brown is imposing and his 4.48 dash speed is impressive for such a tall man.
Though he suffered in his senior year by Notre Dame having an inferior passing quarterback, in 2016 with DeShone Kizer at quarterback, ESB had a fabulous year. With his gigantic catch radius and height, he hauled in 56 throws for 961 yards and nine TDs. Some scouts see him as an occasional threat, but not as a high-volume receiver and his competitiveness has come into question. In preseason games, Kizer will probably be looking his way with regularity.
J’Mon Moore is easily the best all-around athlete of the three. His NFL Combine dash time of 4.60 caused concern, but he turned in a 4.49 time on March 22 at a pro day event. Based on his highlight tapes, I’m confident that the 4.49 time is the more indicative of his speed. His agility scores are outstanding (88th and 96th percentiles).
It’s his collegiate career, however, that distances him from his two new teammates. As a junior, he had 62 catches 1,012 yards (tops in the SEC) and eight scores. He followed that up with 65 catches, 1,082 yards and 10 TDs. Despite these stats, some scouts say he has lapses in his concentration and needs more work on his route-running. On paper, Moore has a substantial lead over the other two players. He’ll be 23 in two weeks – mature for a draftee.
Final Roster Early Handicapping
Preseason performance, not college reputations, will dictate the pecking order of the team’s receiving corps. I’m very confident that all three will make the roster. The odd man out among Packers’ receivers could well be Trevor Davis. It’s my guess that Geronimo Allison, with two years of continuity with the team, makes the cut and might start on opening day, but that one or even two of the rookies will soon receive more playing time.
Though Davis seemed to have some job security due to his punt return ability, one look at the highlight tapes of Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson reveals open field skills more electrifying than Trevor is capable of. Finally, given the abilities of the three rookies, there is little reason for Green Bay to spend additional years developing 6’6” Michael Clark.
Because Aaron Rodgers requires a lot of time to feel comfortable with new receivers, I suspect that the third starting receiver will be determined rapidly – even before the exhibition games occur. Doing so will allow the two to have as much time as possible to get in synch with each other. More than anyone else in the organization, it’s Rodgers who will be most challenged to adjust to all of the changes that 2018 has heralded.