In 2016, the Green Bay Packers top three wide receivers, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, and Davante Adams combined to have 232 receptions for 2,864 yards and 30 touchdown receptions. A season later, that same trio, albeit with Brett Hundley playing the majority of the season with Aaron Rodgers out due to a broken collarbone, combined for 193 receptions, 2,020 yards and 20 touchdown receptions. It was a mighty drop for the Packers wide receivers, especially with most experts believing that the Packers had one of the top trio of receivers in the NFL.
Losing arguably the best quarterback in the NFL was a major factor in the drop, but still, it was noticeable how much the play of the Packers receivers dropped this past season. But don’t blame Adams, who even with Hundley put up strong numbers this season with 74 receptions for 885 yards and 10 touchdown receptions. While Adams impressed and got a new deal in the process, the same can’t be said about Cobb and especially Nelson.
Although Cobb’s numbers improved from 2016 to 2017, he hasn’t been nearly worth the contract he signed back in 2015. Cobb still has some value, but not nearly at the price it is costing the Packers. The biggest drop from this group comes from Nelson. The one-time top receiving option in the Packers offense saw his production drop mightily. In 2016 he hauled in 97 receptions for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdown receptions, while last season, he caught just 53 receptions for 482 yards and just six touchdown receptions.
While Adams has emerged as the number one receiving option for the Packers, Nelson and Cobb are starting to show some wear on their treads and don’t appear to be the receivers they once were. It appears that top personnel evaluator Brian Gutekunst is facing a crossroads at the wide receiver position for the Packers. It’s a unit in need of an influx of youth.
The Green Bay Packers Wide Receiving Corps Needs an Influx of Youth
Now before Packers fans get worked into a tizzy and proclaim we are being too harsh on Nelson and Cobb, we aren’t saying that the two veteran receivers don’t have a spot in the Packers receiving corps. Both still deserve to be on the team, but from what went down last season, those roles should be scaled back. There isn’t much behind the Packers top receiving trio either. Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, and Jeff Janis, the Packers top reserves at wide receiver, combined to have just 30 receptions. The Packers do have an intriguing prospect in former college basketball player Michael Clark, but he is very raw and it will take the 6’6” receiver some time to develop into an NFL caliber wide receiver.
One of the biggest traits missing in the Packers wide receivers is burner type speed. Packersnews.com had a report, which was originally posted in the New York Times, which stated that the Packers had the slowest group of wide receivers in the NFL. The Packers fastest two receivers are Davis and Janis, who will be a free agent in March, but both have struggled to play in the Packers offense and are considered more of special teams players than wide receivers. Without having the type of receiver who can take the top off an opposing defense, it might force Gutekunst to look at a wide receiver early in this year’s draft, possibly even the first round.
Possible Prospects for the Packers at the Top of the Draft
With pass rusher and cornerback at the top of the Packers draft need list, it would be hard to believe that the Packers would spend a first-round pick on a wide receiver. But Gutekunst learned his trade under Ron Wolf and Ted Thompson and they always believed in a “draft the best player available” philosophy. If that’s a wide receiver when they’re on the clock at number 14, there is little doubt that Gutekunst would have a problem pulling the trigger.
This draft doesn’t possess the type of franchise wide receiver some past drafts have had, but still, there are prospects that could help and help immediately. If the Packers wait until the second round or even third round to grab a wide receiver, there possibly could be some prospects available that still could be immediate contributors.
Here are some prospects who could be available with their first-round pick, but also at 45 when they select in the second round.
Possible First Round Prospects
Calvin Ridley, Alabama
Ridley should be the first wide receiver off the board in this year’s draft. He played three seasons for the Tide before entering this year’s draft as a junior.
During his three-year career at Alabama, his best season was as a freshman when he caught 89 passes for 1,045 yards and seven touchdown receptions. Although his numbers dropped after his freshman campaign, a lot of that is due to the lack of quality quarterback play and the offense being more based on running the ball.
Although he is 6’1”, he only weighs 190 lbs., which is pretty light for a wide receiver. However, he has the speed and athletic ability to be a top pass catcher in the NFL. Ridley is comparable to former Alabama and current Oakland Raider wide receiver Amari Cooper.
James Washington, Oklahoma State
Washington was ultra-productive at Oklahoma State where they utilized a wide open spread passing attack. A four-year player for the Cowboys, Washington totaled 226 receptions for 4,472 receiving yards and 39 receiving touchdowns. This past season, which was his best as a Cowboy, he was Mason Rudolph’s top target. He had 74 receptions for 1,549 yards and 13 receiving touchdowns.
Still, as good as his numbers were, there are some caution flags when it comes to Washington. As many people know, the Big 12 conference isn’t known for their defense, especially in pass situations. Washington wasn’t challenged much at the line of scrimmage, something he will face a lot of at the NFL level. Also, Washington doesn’t have a wide receiver’s build, being 6’0” and 205 lbs… Washington is built more like current Packers running back and former wide receiver Ty Montgomery.
As mentioned, some experts have him slotted in the mid first round, while others have him falling to the second.
Possible Second Round Prospects
Michael Gallup, Colorado State
Gallup is a favorite of ours and would be a very solid fit in the Packers corps of wide receivers, especially if the Packers wait until the second or even the third round to address the position.
Gallup was the biggest playmaker for Colorado State. Every time you tuned into a Colorado State game, especially in the New Mexico Bowl this past season, Gallup seemed to be making plays. Although he was just a two-year player for Colorado State as a junior college transfer, Gallup put up some staggering numbers. This past season, Gallup registered 100 receptions for 1,413 yards and hauled in seven touchdown catches.
But like most of the wide receivers in this draft, there are some questions with Gallup. As mentioned earlier, he only played two seasons at Colorado State. Also, he didn’t face the best competition playing at Fort Collins. Gallup isn’t a burner and he does remind many of current Packers wide receiver Davante Adams.
Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
Ateman is a big-bodied receiver who played opposite of Washington at Oklahoma State.
Recently, John Bava of LWOS did a profile of Ateman and discussed his positives as well as some of his negatives.
At 6’4” and 225 lbs., Ateman would add some great size to the Packers receiving corps. Him and Clark’s size would be quite the matchup nightmare against smaller opposing cornerbacks.
The Packers might part ways with Nelson and/or Cobb this offseason, if they do, they will need to add more depth and it quite possibly through this year’s NFL draft.