GREEN BAY – Brian Gutekunst didn’t walk into the Packers’ draft room Saturday morning with the sole intention of taking three receivers on the final day of the 2018 NFL Draft.
As Saturday unfolded, however, Green Bay’s first-year general manager discovered a recurring trend in the fourth, fifth and sixth rounds.
Each time the Packers went on the clock, Gutekunst looked at his board and saw several tall and talented receivers staring back at him.
Sticking to the mantra of best available player, Gutekunst went to work in drafting Missouri’s J’Mon Moore in the fourth round (133rd overall), USF’s Marquez Valdes-Scantling (fifth, 174), and Notre Dame’s Equanimeous St. Brown (sixth, 207).
It’s the fourth time the Packers have selected three receivers in a single draft since the NFL moved to a seven-round format in 1994 and the first since taking Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis in 2014.
Moore, Valdes-Scantling and St. Brown boast different skill sets and backgrounds, but share a common bond in size and speed. All three stand taller than 6-foot-3 and can run sub-4.5-second times in the 40-yard dash.
“I think we had a good board with wide receivers this year,” Gutekunst said. “Some guys lasted up there a lot longer than we thought. We thought the ability to add some size and speed to our group was something we wanted to do.”
Moore had one of the more prolific college careers of any receiver in this year’s draft class. With 65 catches for 1,082 yards and 10 touchdowns last season, he became just the second receiver in Mizzou’s program history to record back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons.
The 6-3, 205-pounder has battled issues with drops in college, which led to Moore not starting in one early-season conference matchup with South Carolina last September.
However, Moore’s size, play speed and route-running ability eventually prevailed in big-time performances against Kentucky (seven catches for 86 yards and a touchdown) and Arkansas (10 catches for 160 yards and a touchdown).
Moore, who took a pre-draft visit with Green Bay, is aware of the question marks at receiver in the wake of Jordy Nelson’s departure this offseason. However, he hopes to provide some long-term answers for the future of the position.
“I’m glad that some people are questioning what’s going on with the receiver corps,” Moore said. “Because that gives me more fire to go out there and compete and make something happen, so people can no longer question what’s going on with the Green Bay Packers.”
Valdes-Scantling (6-4, 206) took a winding path to the NFL. An alumnus of Lakewood High School in St. Petersburg, the 6-4, 206-pound receiver is a former teammate of Shaquill and Shaquem Griffin, and patterns his game after another Lakewood alum, Louis Murphy, an eight-year NFL veteran.
A highly regarded prep prospect, Valdes-Scantling initially committed to NC State and caught 44 passes for 538 yards and a touchdown during his first two collegiate seasons.
Looking to take his game to the next level, Valdes-Scantling transferred home to South Florida in 2015. Heralded for his effort on the scout team during his redshirt season, Valdes-Scantling caught 75 passes for 1,294 yards (17.3 yards per catch) and 11 touchdowns for the Bulls.
As a senior, he set a new school record for season receiving yards (879) before propelling himself onto the Packers’ radar after running a 4.37 in the 40 at the combine.
“Just coming in and being the dominant guy … who they depended on to go out and be the No. 1 receiver,” said Valdes-Scantling when asked what led to the production during his senior year.
“In years past, it was always splitting it up with multiple guys and everyone touching the ball. We did that a lot last year, as well, but I was the main target. So I think I was just the main focus of last year’s progression in my game.”
The Packers then snagged a third receiver with their sixth-round pick in Notre Dame junior St. Brown, considered by some a top 100 prospect in this year’s draft. He said he declared early after being given a fourth-round grade by the draft advisory committee.
One of the top high-school recruits in the country in 2015, St. Brown shined as a true sophomore in 2016 when he caught 58 passes for 961 yards and nine TDs from new Packers quarterback DeShone Kizer, who was one of the first to call St. Brown after he was taken by the Packers last Saturday.
St. Brown, whose background was chronicled by HBO’s Real Sports in January, started weight training at 7 years old with his father, a two-time Mr. Universe. His mother, who was born in Germany, preached academics and speaks only German in the household to St. Brown and his two younger brothers.
The 6-5, 214-pounder, who is fluent in English, German and French, credits his eclectic upbringing for his success on the field and in the classroom.
“To me and my brothers it was normal,” St. Brown said. “We still had time to do all the fun activities with our friends. But we got our work done first with my mom, the education, and with my dad athletically. We always figured out a way to fit everything into our days and we still had a lot of free time.”
With the No. 3 spot open behind Adams and Randall Cobb, Green Bay is hopeful a new playmaker emerges from either its incoming rookie class or returning veterans Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis and Michael Clark.
Overall, the track record for the Packers over-drafting at offensive positions has been positive. They used the approach last year to help settle their backfield situation.
Looking strictly at the receiver position, Adams, Robert Brooks and Bill Schroeder all emerged as starters over the last 26 years from draft classes in which three receivers were selected.
“We didn’t come into the draft last year and say, ‘Hey, we’re drafting three running backs.’ And we didn’t come into this draft and say, ‘Hey, we’re drafting three receivers,’” Head Coach Mike McCarthy said. “I think it’s more of a reflection of how we felt about each prospect, where they were on the board and everything that was going on around it.
“Everybody has their own boards. … Then you have your needs and how they fit. Then you work through that and I thought Brian did a heck of a job sticking to his board.”
Make it 3
Packers history drafting three receivers
2018 – J’Mon Moore (4th round, 133rd overall), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5, 174), Equanimeous St. Brown (6, 207)
2014 – Davante Adams (2, 53), Jared Abbrederis (5, 176), Jeff Janis (7, 236)
2000 – Anthony Lucas (4, 114), Joey Jamison (5, 151), Charles Lee (7, 242)
1994 – Terry Mickens (5, 146), Jay Kearney (6, 169), Bill Schroeder (6, 181)
1992* – Robert Brooks (3, 62), Orlando McKay (5, 130), Chris Holder (7, 190)
*12-round NFL Draft