With the resigning of Randall Cobb this week the Green Bay Packers have one of the best wide receiver groups in the league to catch passes from the best quarterback in the league, but the depth of the group is currently very shallow. Only Nelson, Cobb, and Adams have logged any kind of significant playing time in the NFL and Adams was a rookie last year. Those three have shown significant talent and can go toe-to-toe with any secondary and at least come out even, if not miles ahead. What’s behind Nelson, Cobb, and Adams is the question mark.
Where we are now:
Here are the wide receivers currently on the Packers roster:
- Jordy Nelson (2nd round, 2008)
- Randall Cobb (2nd round, 2011)
- Davante Adams (2nd round, 2014)
- Jared Abbrederis (5th round, 2014)
- Jeff Janis (7th round, 2014)
- Myles White (UDFA, 2013)
Jordy is by far and away the oldest of the receivers with at least twice as much NFL experience than any other receiver on the team. Last season was the best season Jordy put together in the pros, by far. With 1,519 yards (4th in NFL) and 13 touchdowns (T-2nd in NFL) Jordy was an unstoppable machine and seems to be the perfect fit on the outside with Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball.
Nelson has Rodgers’ trust and the two are almost always on the same page. At times you could see Rodgers give Nelson nothing more than a slight head nod at the line of scrimmage to switch up his route and the two would connect for a big play. Rodgers sings his praises and that comfort and trust level is invaluable in this offense.
With Nelson’s ability to play the outside, run go-routes down the sideline, position himself for jump balls, or play the slot, provides a versatility and skill set that is a key piece to this team and creates mismatches at all times.
Randall came into his own last year and dominated the slot like no player in the league and because of that he got paid. Cobb’s 12 touchdowns were 4th in the league and by far and away the most for any slot receiver. His sure hands and ability to make a play after the catch over the middle of the field compliment Jordy on the outside very well.
The unique thing about Cobb is his ability to play in the slot or in the backfield. I expect this to be an even bigger part of the offense next year because the Packers designed a great use for this skill set by putting Cobb in the backfield instead of Lacy when the team runs the no huddle. This allows the Packers to keep 5 receivers on the field but not abandon the run game. It also allows the Packers to move him off the line against more physical defenses so he can get a clean release.
Resigning Cobb was a must for this offense and keeps the best 1-2 punch in the league together for years to come.
Like most rookies, Adams had an up and down first season. The lows included consistent inconsistency, total disappearance at times, and key drops. The highs showed his ability to make big plays and tough catches as well as showing an ability to out physical defensive backs.
With rookies I like to see what potential a player shows and not focus so much on the results or what he can’t do. It is up to the coaching staff to harness that potential and develop the player into a threat. I saw enough out of Adams to think he can be a very valuable piece going forward if he can figure it out, creating a big mismatch for defenses as more attention is drawn to Randall Cobb and Jordy Nelson.
Rookie receivers are very rarely asked to do much, if anything, in this offense. Remember that it took Nelson 4 years to really breakout. For now, Adams’ future appears to be bright and he could end up being a key part of this offense by the end of next season.
As a 5th round pick last year Abbrederis was considered a low-risk, high-reward pick. He had a tremendous senior season at Wisconsin and because he was a Badger there was a lot of buzz about him going into the season.
Unfortunately Abbrederis tore the ACL in his right knee during camp so we never got to see how he stacked up at the NFL level. When he’s healthy he has average size and good speed. He’s not going to go up and out jump too many people, but he can still be a good possession receiver that can break big plays if he gets into the open field.
I’m not expecting much from him this season, but at some point this year he could compete for the number four spot on the depth chart. It wouldn’t be the biggest surprise if Abbrederis eventually (not this year) took the reigns as a go-to possession receiver, but I don’t think anyone is counting on that. At the very least, he adds good depth and competition to the group.
There is a LOT of hype around Janis, not because of anything he has done on the field, but what he can be once/if he figures things out. Physically, Janis is a freak. At 6’ 3” and 219 pounds he has the size of Jordy Nelson, but with a 4.42 40 yard dash time he has the speed of Percy Harvin, and with a 37.5 inch vertical Janis can get up half a foot higher than Nelson.
That’s where the comparisons stop though, because Janis is raw, like wash your hands after handling that chicken raw. He has a long way to go and even during Boykin’s incredibly disappointing year last year Janis had commented on how far ahead Boykin was compared to himself in terms of development. Physically there is a lot to love with Janis, if he can start to figure it out, watch out.
I am not counting on anything from him going forward, but he will get a shot this year to prove himself. If he can even get into the four-wide sets and just be a big playmaker and a threat who touches the ball two or three times a game, I’d consider that to be a success for this coming season. At the very least, he’s exciting.
Similar to Janis, White is a raw prospect that the Packers are hoping they can develop enough to get him on the field. White does not have the size of Janis, but he does have the ability to get up (he had the same 37.5 inch vertical that Janis did) and he does have the speed, in fact, he has more.
Coming out of college White says his best 40 time was 4.30 seconds… that’s absurdly fast. He has stuck around as an undrafted free agent for two seasons, so clearly the team likes him. For now, he still has a lot to prove. Nothing in sports is more exciting than a guy who can run really fast and the Packers need someone who can take the top off the defense. White’s skills fill a need, hopefully he can find a way to have his production match.
Where we want to be:
The Packers are not where they want to be at the wide receiver position, but they’re close. If you could promise them that none of the receivers would get injured, I think they would be content with who they had. However if Cobb or Nelson, or to a lesser extent Adams, goes down, especially for an extended period of time, the Packers will be in trouble. This isn’t to say that Abbrederis/Janis/White can’t get the job done, but it would be nice to not have to sink or swim with them as a relied on player right now.
The two things the Packers starting receiving corps are missing is a big Vincent Jackson-sized receiver who can go up and high point the ball and a guy to take the top off the defense and stretch the field with regularity.
Between Abbrederis, Janis, and White the Packers may have the guy they need to stretch the field, but there isn’t any one in that group bigger than what the Packers are already running out as starters. I think this is because Ted Thompson likes to be able to move the next man up should they lose a receiver to injury or free agency. Cobb slides into Jennings’ spot and Davante Adams, James Jones, and Jordy Nelson are all similar.
Adams and Nelson both have decent size (6’2” and 6’3” respectively) but Cobb is a small receiver forced to play the slot or in the backfield. It has been awhile since the Packers had a receiver larger than 6’3″.
How do we get there:
Ron Wolf had a philosophy that you can never have too many quarterbacks or receivers and tried to take at least one every draft. Ted Thompson seems to have adopted this philosophy and I would be shocked if the Packers didn’t end up with at least one tight end and one receiver this draft (and some end of the draft or UDFA quarterback as well).
The starting three receivers for the Packers right now are good and the Packers can do damage with them. However last year was a little flukey with how healthy all three stayed for the duration of the season. The Packers need to build depth and because of that I would expect the Packers to draft a receiver in the first four rounds that fits the Nelson-Adams-James Jones mold and can step in if there is injury.
They do need a big receiving threat and a speed guy, but I will assume that the big receiver will likely end up being a tight end (come onnnnnn Maxx Williams!) and I’m okay with that. I don’t have an issue with drafting a large receiver but it seems like it would be more effective to have a starting tight end who is large and athletic because we could run him out there with Nelson/Cobb/Adams a little more often than going four-wide.
The Packers will likely hope that one of their three speed guys at the bottom of the receiving depth chart can step up. Because of his size, if the Packers feel Janis can make big strides this season he can fill that Nelson-Adams replacement and they may not draft a receiver until late or may go with a bigger receiver like Devin Funchess.
The Packers already are set at starting receiver, they just need to add depth. It is one of their strongest position groups on the team and they are one of the best receiving groups in the league. The Packer receiving group is basically just one piece away from being rock solid.
Mike Reuter lives in the Twin Cities and is a graduate of the University of St. Thomas. He is a mobile tech enthusiast, a 19 year Gopher Football season ticket holder and a huge Packers fan. Mike is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @uofmike.