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Countdown to Camp: Three groups compose Packers' new receiving corps

Roles and playing time to be sorted out at tight end as well

WRs Allen Lazard & Randall Cobb
WRs Allen Lazard & Randall Cobb

"Countdown to Camp" is a daily look at the Packers' roster, position by position, leading up to the start of training camp. The series continues with the wide receivers and tight ends.

GREEN BAY – As the Packers' receiving corps takes shape in the new post-Davante Adams world, the position can be broken down into three distinct groups.

There are proven veterans with potentially more being added to their collective plate. There is a rookie group with opportunity galore for whoever can get up to speed the fastest. And there are young holdovers who've gotten their feet wet and are looking to establish themselves to a greater degree.

First, the proven veterans. Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins have been there, done that over the course of their NFL careers. During the June minicamp, quarterback Aaron Rodgers indicated he sees this trio as the top three on the depth chart until further notice, and he suggested Lazard could emerge as the No. 1 receiver on the entire unit.

Given the new landscape, it's easy to see Lazard (6-5, 227) improving on his career-best numbers from 2021 (40 catches, 513 yards, eight TDs), as well as Cobb (28-375-5) playing a larger role now that he’s in his second season in Head Coach Matt LaFleur's offense.

After returning to the Packers during training camp last summer following a two-year absence from Green Bay, Cobb (5-10, 195) posted a pair of two-touchdown games (vs. Pittsburgh, at Arizona), and he was in the midst of his most productive game of the season when an injury struck. In late November against the Rams, he had four catches for 95 yards and a TD in the first half when he exited and missed the rest of the regular season.

Meanwhile, Watkins (6-1, 211) is looking to revive a career that has been slowed by injuries and sees him now playing for his fifth different team since 2016. The former fourth overall draft pick (2014) was off to a great start last year in Baltimore, with 18 catches for 292 yards over the first five games, before his health – which has forced him to miss nearly 30 games over his eight years in the league – betrayed him again.

Next up is the rookie class, with the Packers making their most significant draft investment at the wide receiver position since drafting Adams (and two others) back in 2014.

Green Bay traded up in the second round to select North Dakota State's Christian Watson at No. 34 overall, and then followed up by choosing Nevada's Romeo Doubs in the fourth round and Nebraska's Samori Toure in the seventh. In addition, Wisconsin's Danny Davis (6-1, 188) joined the group as an undrafted free agent.

Watson possesses the size (6-4, 208) and speed (4.36 in the 40 at the combine) that placed him in first-round draft conversations, and the only looming question is how rapidly he'll transition from the FCS level to the NFL.

Doubs (6-2, 204) put together back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons in the Mountain West Conference, while Toure (6-1, 191) had a record-setting career at Montana in the FCS before transferring to a higher level and showing he belonged, leading the Big Ten last season in yards per catch (19.5).

The following is the third installment in a series of photos examining the Packers' roster position by position. This installment examines the wide receivers/tight ends.

Last but certainly not least is the holdovers, all of whom have been on the Packers' active roster at one time or another and earned game experience. But with so much change afoot there won't be room for all of them in 2022 and the competition for roster/practice-squad spots will be fierce.

The group is led by 2021 third-round pick Amari Rodgers, whose rookie season (just four catches for 46 yards, plus struggles in the return game) did not go as hoped after a prominent career at Clemson. But Rodgers (5-9, 212) told reporters this offseason he's slimmed down, knows the playbook better, and is carrying himself with a lot more confidence in Year 2.

Also, Juwann Winfree (eight catches, 58 yards) and Malik Taylor (who caught just two passes last year after having five receptions for 66 yards and a TD in 2020) enter the new season more fluent in LaFleur's scheme with a chance to build on their previous flashes of potential. Winfree (6-1, 210) was perhaps headed for a roster spot last summer before an injury knocked him off course.

At tight end, while the Packers wait for Robert Tonyan (6-5, 240) to fully recover last season's ACL surgery, roles and playing time are very much to be determined.

The position's unquestioned leader is Marcedes Lewis (6-6, 267), who is tying the NFL record for most seasons by a tight end as he begins Year 17. After him, three young prospects considered on the rise – Tyler Davis, Josiah Deguara and Dominique Dafney – will be sorting out who's getting their number called and when.

Davis (6-4, 252) arrived during the early stages of the 2021 regular season from Indianapolis' practice squad and showed promise as the season wore on, prompting General Manager Brian Gutekunst to mention after the draft (when the Packers didn't select a tight end) that Davis was solidly in the team's plans.

Deguara (6-2, 238), a third-round pick in 2020, also was more visible later in the season vs. earlier, when he was still getting back to full speed following his ACL-shortened rookie year. He just completed his first full offseason in the NFL and is looking to step forward.

Dafney (6-2, 243), an undrafted prospect, shuttled between the active roster and practice squad as a rookie in 2020 and then made the team last year out of training camp only to miss five early-season games due to injury. He has four catches for 60 yards and a TD over his two years in Green Bay.

Rounding out the competition at tight end are two first-year players in Alizé Mack and Eli Wolf. Signed after last season concluded, Mack (6-4, 251) was originally a seventh-round pick by New Orleans in 2019 out of Notre Dame and has spent time on four different practice squads since. Wolf (6-4, 238) was claimed off waivers from the Colts this spring. Undrafted in 2020, he has been on two practice squads (Ravens, Colts) after playing at both Tennessee and Georgia in college.

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