After Packers GM Brian Gutekunst immediately grabbed ILB Christian Kirksey and RT Rick Wagner in the free market scramble, he shopped around a bit longer before adding wide receiver Devin Funchess. Funchess, was previously profiled by Total Packers (here), though the details of his contract have strangely not yet been disclosed [Editor’s Note: since this was submitted, early details of the contract have been released].
After four years under his meager rookie contract with the Panthers, Funchess struck it rich in 2019 with a 1-year $10 million deal with Indianapolis. In his first and only game with the Colts, he broke his collarbone; though eligible later in the season to return from injured reserve, his team failed to re-activate him – a worrisome sign. The Colts’ return on their 7-figure investment was one 3-yard reception.
Funchess had his high-water mark in year three, when he caught 63 balls for 840 yards and eight touchdowns. Led by QB Cam Newton, the Panthers made the playoffs that year, and Devin had four receptions for 89 yards in a narrow 31-26 postseason loss to the Saints. Carolina’s new quarterback is Teddy Bridgewater, while Newton is currently a free agent.
Devin’s combine-like numbers (though not achieved at the NFL Combine) were unremarkable, except for his 4.70 dash time (4th percentile).
Devin is indeed a big body, at 6’4” and 235 pounds. Despite three non-standout seasons at Michigan, he still became an early second round (41st overall) draft pick by the Panthers in 2015. Though he is still only 25, he’s about to enter his sixth year in the pros, and with his third team.
Film highlights depict a guy who seldom achieves much separation, though he’s adept at using his body to shield off defenders. Most of his catches have been from ten to twenty yards downfield. Unfortunately he has a reputation for dropping passes – something highlight reels don’t reveal.
The acquisition of Funchess prompts several questions.
How do the Packers intend to use him? Given the team’s gross negligence over the last three years at providing Aaron Rodgers with capable receivers, I’ve vowed I’m through trying to predict whether the Pack will draft any wide receivers in about a month. It appears to me, however, that Funchess will be competing in training camp for the number two starting receiver behind Davante Adams. His competition: Allen Lazard. It may well be that this duo and Adams will all be on the field for most offensive snaps – but the more pertinent question is who Rodgers will choose to throw the ball to – and Aaron seemed to take a liking to Lazard as last season progressed.
These moves and considerations beg another question: will Green Bay also select a wide receiver in Round 1 or 2 of the upcoming draft? Since I have no idea why Thompson, and then Gutekunst, failed to do this over the last three drafts, I’m going to just sit and watch when the upcoming draft rolls around.
Actually, I do have a hunch why Gutey chose not to draft a WR last year: I believe he and the coaching staff were counting on Marquez Valdes-Scantling to have a stupendous second year in the league. Based on comments coming out of the 2019 training camp, boosters of Marquez were expecting him to just about double his rookie numbers. Instead of improving on his promising rookie season of 38 catches for 581 yards and 2 TDs, Marquez regressed to 26, 452, and 2. This under-performance was one of the biggest shockers of 2019 – by season’s end Marquez was barely getting any playing time – Rodgers seemed to rarely even look in his direction.
Does the addition of Funchess upgrade or downgrade the receiving corps? Perhaps he balances the loss of Jimmy Graham. But merely maintaining the receiving corps at the same level as that of 2019 doesn’t cut it. Unless Gutekunst brings more receiving talent to the roster, via draft, trade, or grabbing another free agent, it’s up to Lazard, MVS, or Funchess to deliver a break-out season.
My breakout candidate is Allen Lazard. Allen is almost as big a Devin. He’s more agile, much faster, gets more open, and has more yards-after-catch potential. He took full advantage of his opportunity upon finally being thrown to in Game 6 last year. On the season Allen caught 35 passes for 477 yards and three TDs. He did all this in only 11 games.
In college, Funchess had 748 yards receiving in his best year at Michigan; Lazard had seasons at Iowa State of 1,018, 941, and 808 yards. Lazard has always over-achieved, while Funchess has done the opposite.
Who is the best fit at Green Bay? In other words, who is the best match for Rodgers? It seems to me that over the years Rodgers has had the most success with crafty route runners who could attain ample separation: Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, young Randall Cobb, Davante. He’s been less productive when throwing to lumbering physical receivers – and Funchess lumbers. Lazard is both an attractive target with a big catch radius and a capable route runner. Funchess has been cast off by both of his previous pro teams.
In line with my previous post, this third free agent signing strikes me as yet another roster move toward mediocrity.
Lazard’s heroics in 2019 managed to largely make up for MVS’s horrendous decline in 2019. I’m okay with Funchess being a starting receiver for the Pack, but in 2020 I’d like to see many more of Rodgers’ lasers going Lazard’s way.