Something has gone wrong – very wrong – in the two years since Green Bay made MVS a fifth-round draft choice in 2018. The guy has gone from one who has flashed with brilliance to being an afterthought on a team desperate for even moderately skilled and reliable receivers. I’ve yet to see anyone in the organization provide a reasonable explanation for his stunning letdown.
MVS certainly possesses some outstanding physical abilities. The guy is a lanky 6’4” with a 40-yard dash time of 4.37 – a dynamite combination of traits. It is true that he passed on doing the two agility tests at the NFL Combine, suggesting that he might have poor ability at changing directions and/or stop-and-go maneuvers.
Injuries don’t provide an explanation. He played in every game in 2019 (and 2018) and was only listed as questionable once – and in that game, against Oakland, he had catches of 74 with 59 yards.
A look at his game-by-game stats reveals a pattern that might be telling. From Games 4 through 9 of his rookie season, MVS rang up 38 receptions for 399 yards. But in the final seven games of the year, all he managed was 15 catches for 179 yards.
Last season, when so many were expecting him to have a break-out year, his streakiness was even more evident. In his first seven games he caught 21 passes for 416 yards; in his final eight games, however, he dropped off a cliff: 5 catches for 36 yards. In those early games, the guy’s deep-ball threat was on full display; then in the final eight games, he had only one catch of over 7 yards, an 11-yarder in the final regular season game.
Could it be that QB Aaron Rodgers began looking elsewhere when wanting to throw? There’s strong evidence this was the case: in the nine games from October 14 through December 23, MVS was targeted only 17 tunes, and had only seven catches – that would be a decent one-game production for Davante Adams.
Did Aaron lose faith in MVS? Did he decide to shun him for some reason? Or did Aaron look elsewhere only because MVS wasn’t running good routes or gaining separation?
Did play caller Matt LaFleur stop calling his number? Is the lack of statistical success due to the coaches cutting back his playing time? In the middle of his terrible slump, MVS reached a low point of being in on only 17 percent of the offensive plays against Carolina in Week 10.
Do MVS’s problems have to do with the mental side of the game? Maybe he’s developed an attitudinal problem. Maybe he’s the one who has lost faith and confidence – in himself. Perhaps he hasn’t taken well to having his playing time reduced.
When the team assembled for training camp in July, QB Rodgers said this in an interview with James Jones:
“I think one guy that has really jumped out, in the spring, was Marquez. He’s always timing really fast. Now he’s playing to his time. Marquez is starting to play with more confidence, and that’s pretty good to see.”
As the season got underway, MVS was the clear choice as the WR2 behind Adams, but by mid-season Allen Lazard had surpassed him.
As the 2019 season was winding down last December, head coach LaFleur insisted he and the other offensive coaches needed to do more to keep Valdes-Scantling involved:
“We’ve got to look critically at ourselves and what we’re asking him to do, and making sure we’re putting him in position to get some of those balls. Because he does have a great talent. Shoot, he’s a guy that when he comes off the ball, he’s tough to defend, because he can run so well. So we have to make sure we put him in positions where he can use that to his advantage. You can’t coach or teach that speed.”
If that’s what was needed, the coaches failed miserably at positioning MVS, because in the two playoff games his total output was one 8-yard reception.
Also in mid-December, receivers coach Alvis Whitted took a crack at identifying the problem:
“I think for him, this is the first time he’s actually been in some adversity. He’s battling through some stuff. He’s got some ankle and knee injuries and he’s just fighting to try to get back to himself. He’s done a good job of really working through that stuff in practice, fighting through it in the games, but he’s just slowly getting back to himself. He’s in his second year, he’s never really faced adversity like that, but this is the National Football League.”
It sounds like Whitted is describing a player who lacks maturity. MVS will turn 26, in October, however – about the time by which Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, and Greg Jennings had busted out. He’s also approaching the peak of his athleticism, which I consider to be age 27.
On the Other Hand. . .
Maybe the fact that MVS went undrafted until overall pick # 174 provides us with a clue to his downfall. Rotoworld had some harsh scouting assessments after MVS finished his college career at South Florida:
“Beyond the straight-ahead run [speed], though, Valdes-Scantling is an inconsistent route runner and remains raw on many technical levels. Consider him a possible Day 3 project. At the very least, his speed and size combo is intriguing.”
“Valdes-Scantling is a work in progress who hasn’t learned how to create leverage within his linear routes and doesn’t have the ball skills he will need to win downfield.” The 6-foot-4, 206-pound wideout did impress in Indianapolis at the combine with a 4.37 second 40 yard dash, but his inconsistent production right in 2017 makes him a late-round prospect right now.”
“Valdes-Scantling’s sheer size and speed give him Devery Henderson-like potential, but his ball skills and route running are both well below average on tape. Valdes-Scantling is a one-trick pony, and isn’t great at the one trick.”
I must take exception to that snarky “isn’t great” comment. Despite diminishing playing time, in each of his two years MVS has five receptions of 38 yards or longer – the man is a substantial deep threat.
The person in Green Bay who’s most disappointed in MVS’s descent is probably GM Brian Gutekunst. I’m convinced the reason he failed to draft a wide receiver last season was because he was counting on MVS to have a breakout second year in the league.
Gutekunst might now feel forced to select a receiver in Rounds 1 or 2 of the upcoming draft. I see some are saying that Funchess is just a one-year band-aid – and he was given just a 1-year deal. If Gutey drafts a receiver, and chooses well, that probably knocks MVS another step down on the depth chart: behind Adams, Lazard, and Funchess.
I view MVS’s meltdown as the single biggest reason the 2019 Packers offense wound up with only the 18th best yardage: 345.5 per game. It threw off the receiver rotation, slowed the emergence of Lazard, and denied opportunities to Kumerow.
The one positive: he reduced Geronimo’s playing time. Pro Football Focus gave MVS a player grade that ranked him 103 out of 122 qualifying receivers (Adams was 4th, Lazard 58th, Kumerow 87th, and Allison 111th). He was targeted 56 times in 2018, but hauled in only 26, a terrible 46.4 catch percentage.
Last season was such a downer for Marquez that he might never again earn sufficient playing time to regain the team’s trust. I hope MVS didn’t squander his big NFL opportunity, but he needs to rebound with a great preseason (if there is one) if he has any chance of being in the starting lineup in September.