This is the third in a series of stories that’s examining the Packers’ roster, position by position, heading into training camp. The series continues with the wide receivers and tight ends.
GREEN BAY – Competition at wide receiver is a storyline in every Packers training camp.
It’s just a bigger storyline this year than usual.
With Jordy Nelson gone, Davante Adams and Randall Cobb ascending to the top two spots in the pecking order, and three rookie draft picks added to the rest of the young hopefuls, wide receiver might be at the top of the list for positions to watch this summer.
Adams is coming off his first Pro Bowl campaign while the former Pro Bowler Cobb will aspire to return to his 2014 career-best numbers with potentially more opportunities coming his way.
Beginning with the No. 3 spot, though, it’s wide open.
Third-year pro Geronimo Allison has the most game experience and production of the remaining group (40 catches, 520 yards, two TDs over the last two years, including playoffs) and should be the front-runner as camp opens, but he’s taking nothing for granted with a lot of young talent on his heels.
A year ago, the 6-foot-6 Michael Clark went all the way from undrafted prospect with one year of major college football under his belt to a late-season promotion to the active roster. He caught four passes for 41 yards over Green Bay’s final two games.
Trevor Davis, a fifth-round pick in 2016, has made his biggest impact over two seasons as a return man, but his speed and knowledge of the system will keep him in the mix.
A fifth-round pick in 2017, DeAngelo Yancey spent his entire rookie season on the practice squad, but has reshaped his body for a second go-round at an active-roster spot. Wisconsin-Whitewater’s Jake Kumerow was signed to the practice squad late last season and showed some flashes this spring during OTAs and minicamp.
And then there are the three rookie draft picks, Missouri’s J’Mon Moore, South Florida’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown, all taken on the third day of the 2018 draft.
They bring additional size to the group, as all three are listed between 6-3 and 6-5, and from 205-214 pounds. But they all brought something different to the table in spring workouts.
Moore has the most powerful frame of the three, and the reliability of his hands, which was mentioned so often during the draft, has not been an issue thus far. He had a pair of 1,000-yard seasons in the Southeastern Conference.
Valdes-Scantling is the fastest of the bunch and seemed to pick up the playbook quickly this spring, lining up in multiple spots. St. Brown has an off-the-charts catch radius and familiarity with former Fighting Irish teammate DeShone Kizer, from whom he may be catching a lot of passes during camp and preseason games.
How many make the roster and how the depth chart lines up will be watched closely as the preseason concludes.
There’s less mystery at tight end, where free-agent acquisitions Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis immediately join 2017 free-agent pickup Lance Kendricks as the veterans leading the unit.
Graham posted the fourth double-digit touchdown season of his career last year in Seattle, but overall his three seasons with the Seahawks didn’t measure up statistically to his first five NFL campaigns, in New Orleans.
Upon arriving in Green Bay, Graham sounded like a player out to prove he can get back to 80-catch, 1,000-yard seasons, and confident he can do so with Aaron Rodgers as his quarterback.
After 12 years in Jacksonville, Lewis is with another team for the first time. Known as a polished blocker, he remains a significant red-zone threat, to which his five TD catches last year testify.
Kendricks’ production last year (18 catches, 203 yards, one TD) isn’t what he was hoping for in his first season in Green Bay, but 50 catches, 500-plus yards and five scores were his high-water marks with the Rams.
Four young tight ends, all undrafted, are vying to push the veterans in front of them, starting with Emanuel Byrd. Signed to the practice squad at midseason as a rookie, Byrd was on the active roster for last year’s finale and caught two passes for 31 yards.
Indiana State’s Robert Tonyan spent the final month of 2017 on the practice squad, while rookies Kevin Rader and Ryan Smith are from Youngstown State and Miami (Ohio), respectively.
In their college days, Tonyan finished as his school’s career TD receptions leader (20), Rader transitioned from the defensive line and averaged a healthy 14.3 yards per catch at tight end, and Smith compiled over 1,000 yards receiving.