Packers’ Receivers: It’s Time to Fish or Cut Bait
From the moment Gutey and the boys drafted three wide receivers in successive rounds of the 2018 draft, I knew it was going to be trouble. The Packers had accumulated too many players at the same position.
Worse yet, as mid- to late-round picks, they were not bad, but maybe not good enough to be more than a backup. It was clear that the Packers were going to keep all three draftees around for at least a year, which meant the roster was going to be thin at some other positions.
Because Green Bay has so many receivers of roughly equal ability, and still uncertain potential, the team has some difficult decisions to make in 2019. The sooner they decide who to keep and who to drop the better.
We’ll put Davante Adams in the keeper column, but who else? Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown are neck and neck – both flashed ability and performed above expectations as rookies. They’ll undoubtedly going to be given another year to see which one – or possibly both – emerges as a bona fide starter.
Given that they are big-bodied and very fast, I’m confident both will have solid NFL careers somewhere. Do the Packers have the time to develop them, and do they have the roster space?
I suspect the highest of the draftees, fourth-rounder J’Mon Moore, will stay on through training camp, but he’ll have to show marked improvement if he’s to make the final roster. His minimal lack of playing time last season indicates the coaching staff was unpleasantly surprised by what they saw of him.
There were some mixed signals regarding Geronimo Allison, who I spoke of in early February [Link: Will Geronimo Get a New Contract, or Be the Odd Man Out? (2/5)] Off to a fine start last season, Geronimo got a concussion in week four, and was later placed on Injured Reserve after undergoing groin surgery.
As a restricted free agent, he was only given an “original round tender,” which still allowed other teams to make offers that the Pack could then match. [Link: Packers News: Jake Ryan Leaving for the Jaguars, Geronimo Allison Signs One-Year Contract, Adrian Amos to be 31 (3/17)] Days later, though, the Packers secured him, though pretty cheaply ($2.025 million), and only for a year. Not a great vote of confidence by the front office. Still, one of the WR jobs is his to lose (pending the draft).
I think we can write off Trevor Davis. Given the excess of receiver candidates, he’s used up his allotted draft and develop time.
Jake Kumerow, like Max McCaffrey before him, is intriguing – and enough so that he too will probably be picked off if he’s placed on the practice squad. He needs a very solid pre-season if he’s to cement a spot on the 53-man roster. Time is running out on the 27-year-old.
Allen Lazard is 6’5” and 227 – as if we needed another large WR with potential. He finished up at Iowa State in 2017 holding most of the school’s receiving records, and he was named to a couple of All-Big 12 teams.
After going undrafted and spending much of the 2018 on the Jaguars’ practice squad, Lazard was picked up by the Packers in December. Since they were already stocked with big receivers, someone must see something to like in Lazard. He does lack the speed (4.55) of MVS and EQ, but he was a beast in college.
No one is talking about free agent Randall Cobb lately. If no other team is interested in him, could he still be part of this conversation – at a bargain basement price? Who else would be a capable slot receiver?
Green Bay doesn’t have the luxury of waiting to the end of preseason to determine how much talent these young guys possess. That’s because most observers are convinced Green Bay will be drafting another wide receiver in one of the first three rounds: at overall selection 12, 30, 44, or 76. In contrast, Moore was taken with pick 133, MVS at 174, and EQ at 207.
Green Bay’s confidence in how fast and well their existing receivers will develop should dictate if, and which one, of those four picks will be used for a WR. That assessment needs to be made by draft day, April 25.
Given this surplus of WR’s, it would be great if they could trade one or two away, but only VMS and EQ have displayed enough potential for that to happen.
What this all goes to show is that Green Bay would have been wiser to draft one high-potential receiver than to load up on developmental prospects for such a critical position on a team led by Aaron Rodgers. GM Gutekunst, however, would probably respond that last season the best player available when the team’s late-round picks came up kept being a wide receiver.
Doubling the challenge, at tight end we have the same damn situation: one obvious starter, and three borderline or unproven backups. I’ll get into that at another time, but the Packers are already four-deep there: Jimmy Graham, Lance Kendricks, Marcedes Lewis, and Robert Tonyan, Jr. As with the WR’s, a host of experts feel that another of those first four picks will be used for another tight end.