How Should the Pack Go About Filling Its Slot Receiver Hole?

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WR Randall Cobb

Randall Cobb (18) catches a touchdown pass against Chicago Bears cornerback Bryce Callahan (37) in the first quarter at Lambeau Field. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

For better or worse, Randall Cobb has been almost exclusively the team’s predominant slot receiver for the past eight seasons.

For better was 2014, when Cobb put up these numbers: 91 catches, 1,287 yards, 12 TDs. He also had good numbers in 2012 (80, 954, and 8) and 2015 (79, 829, and 6).

For worse was 2018, when, beset by injuries, he was a wipeout: 38 catches, 383 yards, and 2 TDs – not what you want heading into a new contract year.

I’m not Pro Football Focus, so I can’t break down those stats according to lining up in the slot or wide, though I would say with each passing year Randall has been lining up more and more in the slot.

At any rate, Packer fans probably assume that a good slot receiver is a Cobb-type athlete: small, quick, and able to get separation across the middle and on short routes. That’s something I’ll examine in a moment.

The overwhelming sentiment is that Cobb won’t be with the team in 2019. Even if he takes a massive pay cut from his $10 million annual payouts, most feel Cobb is no longer starter quality, including as a slot man. Assuming that likelihood, do the Packers have any receivers who could prosper in the slot, and what attributes should a slot receiver have in the first place?

Top NFL Slot Receivers

Pro Football Focus picked out the league’s top five slot receivers in an article run on December 8 last year. They compiled receivers’ stats to that point in the season for only when they lined up in the slot. Here you go, from #5 to #1:

  • The Jags’ Dede Westbrook had 525 yards and 4 TDs. He had 13 explosive plays (15-plus yards) from the slot.
  • The Vikes’ Adam Thielen had 60 catches for 616 yards, 7 TDs and 34 first downs (tied for first among slot receivers).
  • The Chiefs’ Tyreek Hill had 35 catches for 628 yards, and 8 TDs. His average depth of catch, 15.6 yards was the greatest among slot receivers with 25 or more targets.
  • The Steelers’ Juju Smith-Schuster had 50 catches for 675 yards and 3 TD’s, and he was first among slot receivers in most contested catches (10) and second in most explosive plays (155).
  • Leader of the pack was the Bengals’ Tyler Boyd, with 730 yards, including 307 yards after catch (most among slot receivers), and 34 first downs.

Slot Receiver Characteristics

There’s a lot of variance in the above five guys.

Westbrook was a fourth-round selection in the 2017 draft, the fifteenth wide receiver taken. He’s 6’ and 178#, and his Pro Day times included a 4.39 40-yard dash, but mediocre agility and jump numbers and a pathetic 8 bench presses.

Thielen, out of Minnesota State U, Mankato, has progressed in five years as a pro to being named to the Pro Bowl the last two years. He’s 6’2” and 200#, has 4.49 speed, has average agility and jump scores, went undrafted in 2013, and spent his first year as a pro on the Vikes’ practice squad.

Tyreek Hill, who stands 5’10” and weighs 185, has had three increasingly more productive years with the Chiefs – topped off by an 87-catch, 1,479 yard, and 12 TD year through the air in 2018. For extra measure, he rushed for another 151 yards, and returned 20 punts for 213 yards. Nicknamed “cheetah”, he has a 4.29 dash time and wonderful agility and jump scores. Kansas City picked off their three-time Pro Bowler in the fifth round of the draft 2016.

Smith-Schuster is a 6’2” 215-pounder out of USC. The Steelers chose him 62nd overall in the 2018 draft. He elected to do some tests at the NFL Combine and others at a Pro Day event, and recorded a 4.54 dash time, good agility times and average jump numbers.

Bengals WR Tyler Boyd

Tyler Boyd (83) dives with the ball against Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive back Isaiah Johnson (39) during the first half at Paul Brown Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David Kohl-USA TODAY Sports

Tyler Boyd, probably the least known of the bunch, out of the U. of Pittsburgh, is a 3-year veteran with the Bengals. He measures 6’2” and 203 pounds, and he was drafted 55th overall in 2016. His combine numbers, including 4.58 speed, are ordinary. Prior to last year he had only started three games, but in 2018 he caught 76 of 108 throws for 1,028 yards and 7 TDs.

PFF counted Westbrook as having taken 90% of his snaps from the slot; Boyd’s ratio was 75%, Smith-Schuster’s was 67.5%, Thielen’s was 58%, and Hill’s was just 44%.

Slot Receivers’ Variance

There appears to be no ideal size for a slot receiver. Westbrook and Hill are lightweights. Three of the above five stand 6’2” tall.

Perhaps surprisingly, only speed-demon Hill and Westbrook are impressively fast. Hill is the only one whose agility test results (20-yard short shuttle and 3-cone drill) jump off the page.

While two of the five players were middle-second-round draft choices, two others were mid-rounders and Thielen went undrafted.

Interestingly, slot receiver appears to be largely a young man’s calling. Other than the 28-year-old Thielen, the other four guys cited by PFF are all 25 years old or younger. Cobb was terrific – when he was in his early- to mid- twenties. There’s always the exception, too: Julian Edelman, at age 32, just put on a slot receiver clinic at the Super Bowl.

The one thing the great slot guys seem to have in common is lightning-quick cutting ability – and I’ll concede that the eye test is better at identifying this than are those agility drill test scores.

J'Mon Moore Packers WR

J’Mon Moore (82) during training camp at Ray Nitschke Field. Mandatory Credit: Jim Matthews/Green Bay Press-Gazette via USA TODAY Sports

Prospects for Current Packers

Assuming Randall Cobb (by the way, he’s short at 5’10” but perhaps too stocky at 192 pounds or so) is not re-signed, we have, coming into their second year, J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Jake Kumerow. We also have Geronimo Allison and Davante Adams.

Maybe this is why Teo Redding is also on the roster? Out of Bowling Green, he’s 6’2” and 176, but only ran a 4.46 – not impressive for such a featherweight.

My initial reaction is that Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown are just too tall to have the maneuverability called for in a highly effective slot receiver. And I’ve said over and over that Allison isn’t a shifty guy.

J’Mon Moore, at 6’3” and 205 pounds, is pretty comparable in size to Thielen, Smith-Schuster, and Boyd – but he seems to need a lot more grooming if he is too someday be of value to the team.

Kumerow? He’s 6’4” and 209 pounds, and he ran a 4.54 Pro Day dash. Though his agility and jump scores are average at best, he has shown quickness and shiftiness in both the preseason and regular season. Anything is possible?

Davante Adams, the bearer of lightning-quick moves, is darn-near ideal for the slot. When he has lined up there, good things have usually happened. Trouble is, he already has a position as wide receiver. Maybe in his latter years of play, Davante will be moved in, but for now it’s pretty certain he’ll only man the slot on occasion.

Green Bay has a serious gap to fill at slot receiver. Because the need is immediate, a free agency pickup seems like the best option, whereas it takes time for a draft choice to excel – unless you are Tyreek or maybe Juju.

Let’s see now, who’s about 5’8” and 180 pounds, who’s got first-class change of direction ability, who has seven years of proven experience, and who’s missed but one game in the last five years – and is available? Better get Cole Beasley on the phone!

About The Author

The old trial attorney never lost a case – he misplaced a few, but those files were found eventually. His arguments are water-tight, his logic unassailable, and his verdicts non-appealable. Resistance is futile.

16 Comments on "How Should the Pack Go About Filling Its Slot Receiver Hole?"

  1. Markus

    Just trade for Antonio Brown already. Stop being afraid of him being a locker room distraction. Belichick and the Pats have been notorious for taking similar risks like this, and it always seems to pay off for them with yet another Lombardi Trophy. It’s time for the Packers front office to grow a pair and make this happen.

    • Kato

      Antonio Brown and his nearly $20 million per year? Fuck that. Btw did anyone see his indecipherable tweets today? Zero grasp of the English language

      • Howard

        Kato. The cost to the team that traded for him beside the draft pick would be 15.125 mil. first year, 11.3 2nd year, and 12.5 3rd year. Pittsburgh will have to incur the signing bonuses and the restructuring bonuses.

        My guess is whomever trades for Brown would have to deal with Brown wanting to get more guareenteed money on a restructure of his current deal. Without more money Brown will become a problem for his new team. Indecipherable tweets would come fast and furious from Brown, along with mysteries injuries.

        • PF4L

          My guess is if he can’t handle the targets Schuster gets, how is he going to handle Adam’s targets?

          Without crying, yelling and stomping his feet like a 6 year old.

          Call me crazy, but to me, if an athlete hasn’t grown up by the time he’s 30, i’ll pass.

          This team doesn’t need another disease.Lets fix the rest of the disease that’s already there.

    • Kato

      “After the coach tell the team I quit while nursing some bumps then invite me to watch the show with same guys thinking I quit i can not stand with that! I’m the bad guy doe we miss post season think about it”

      “No conflict just a matter of respect! Mutual respect! He has a owner mentality like he can call out anybody including coaches. Players know but they can’t say anything about it otherwise they meal ticket gone. It’s a dirty game within a game. #truth”

      What the actual fuck is he saying?

  2. PF4L

    Somehow the years of 16 and 17 didn’t get a mention.

    I don’t recall any of these other receivers demanding #1 receiver money to sign a new deal.Yes, money spent matters when looking at production. If you don’t think it matters, you may be qualified for employment with the Green Bay Packers. Also where are guys like Landry and Edleman?

    So i think you give Ty a shot in the slot, i think they owe him that much. It can be argued it should have happened a year or 2 ago.

      • PF4L

        Fair enough….Tyler Anthony

        I guess i’m stupid…..i was thinking that a catch rate of 74% against attempts was somewhat solid. Of course, those aren’t elite catch rate #’s like superstars Cobb and Graham give you, but i thought it was workable

        But then again maybe it’s the booze talkin. Plus, we’d probably have to pay him like $900,000. I doubt we could get a decent return for our money like we get with our current superstars.

        • PF4L

          Giving it more careful consideration. Tyler Anthony would really have to step up his game. The Packers spent 23 million on Cobb and Graham and they were rewarded with 4 td’s…..combined

          Just to match one of those 2, he would need to score two td’s. If we got greedy, could we expect 4 TD’s from him, just one player?

          Maybe i’m sobering up… he’d never score 4 TD’s in a season to equal those two superstars, that’s almost humanly impossible.

          So in retrospect, and sobering up……i don’t think we could risk that 900K. Lets sign an UDFA for half that cash….problem solved.

  3. Skinny

    Other than Cobb none of their WRs are really slot guys. If they would have left Montgomery at WR he would have been a great slot WR. But if Beasley gets out of Dallas definitely would be interested. Also if Amendola gets out of Miami id be interested.

  4. Howard

    “There’s always the exception, too: Julian Edelman, at age 32, just put on a slot receiver clinic at the Super Bowl.”

    Agree with you Rob that Edelman had a great Super Bowl. I wonder how much PED use had to do with Edelman’s exception (age 32) to the rule? Remember when discussing how great Edelman is and was someone needs to address the 4 game suspension at the start of this season for PEDs.

    Edelman has used PEDs. No question about it, thus the suspension. How often Edelman has used PEDs without being caught over the years is the only open question?

    They call them Performance Enhancing Drugs/Substances for a reason.

  5. V

    You could also look to draft more smaller, shifty backs who prove to have good hands like Aaron Jones does.
    Draft names to consider WR/RB include:
    Andy Isabella
    Deebo Samuel
    Devin Singletary
    Darrell Henderson

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