Packers remain confident in upside of young receiving corps

Green Bay believes potential should lead to greater production in 2020

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WR Allen Lazard

GREEN BAY – There was perhaps no bigger hot-button issue among Packers fans this offseason than the team's decision not to select a receiver in this past April's NFL Draft.

Heralded as the deepest class of receivers in years, most pundits had Green Bay pegged as a likely candidate to draft one sometime in the first two days.

Until, of course, the Packers didn't.

After six receivers went off the board in the first 25 selections and having already added veteran Devin Funchess in free agency, General Manager Brian Gutekunst shifted his focus to other areas of the offense and entrusted the Packers' young receiving corps to seize a massive opportunity behind two-time Pro Bowler Davante Adams heading into 2020.

"I thought the top was one of the stronger drafts at the wide receiver class that I can remember," said Gutekunst in April. "But the runs went pretty early and once we got to a certain spot, with the group we had coming back – it wasn't like we weren't looking to add to that competition – we just felt there wasn't a lot of great candidates that were locks to make our team next year."

As much attention as the receiver position received from draftniks, a deeper dive into the numbers and depth chart might explain why the Packers went the direction they did.

For starters, Green Bay no longer is the same spread-'em-out shotgun offense it was when the receiving corps played a combined 3,327 snaps in 2015. In fact, the 2,734 snaps played by Packers receivers in 2019 were their fewest in a season since the NFL began charting snap totals on game books in 2012.

Yet, the opportunities were there for receivers to grasp onto Head Coach Matt LaFleur's scheme. In 2019, former undrafted free agent Allen Lazardemerged as the Packers' No. 2 receiver with 35 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdowns over the final 11 regular-season games.

With only two veterans (Adams and Jake Kumerow) older than 26 years old, the Packers tout a young and experienced receiving corps hungry to prove itself in 2020.

"For them to not pick a guy early on to me says they really like our guys and have faith in them," said quarterback Aaron Rodgers in May. "It all starts with Davante and his abilities. He's a dynamic player. When you have a dynamic guy like that, he opens up the field for the rest of the guys.

"That's where you saw guys like Allen Lazard make big strides. You saw Jake make big plays. You saw MVS ( Marquez Valdes-Scantling) have games where he was a big factor for us. … I feel really good about that group and obviously the front office did, as well."

Equanimeous St. Brown and Funchess appear to be on track to return to the field after injury-shortened 2019 campaigns. Funchess, a sixth-year pro with 164 career receptions, was slated to start last year in Indianapolis before suffering a season-ending collarbone injury in the Colts' opener against the Los Angeles Chargers.

Green Bay had high hopes last year for St. Brown before the former sixth-round pick sustained an ankle injury in the team's third preseason game against Oakland that landed him on season-ending injured reserve.

And then there's Valdes-Scantling, a fifth-round pick in the same 2018 draft that brought St. Brown to Green Bay. The 6-foot-4, 206-pound receiver had an explosive rookie campaign before hitting some turbulence in Year 2. Following his 133-yard performance in a 42-24 win over Oakland in Week 8, Valdes-Scantling had only five catches for 36 yards for the rest of the year.

"You look at Marquez Valdes-Scantling, he's got the speed to run by anybody in this league," said LaFleur earlier this offseason. "We need him to make a jump."

At the top of the depth chart, the Packers know what they have in Adams. The seventh-year receiver would've likely had back-to-back seasons with at least 100 catches and 1,200 yards had it not been for a midseason turf-toe injury that cost him four games.

The rest is up for the young receiving corps to decide, and youth remains on the position's side with St. Brown (23), Lazard (24) and Valdes-Scantling (25) all with their best football still ahead of them.

"I'm excited about getting 'EQ' back from injury and seeing how he feels," Rodgers said. "He really made some great strides his rookie year especially towards the end of the season making plays for us and just kind of growing each week.

"MVS is a guy who I have a ton of confidence in. I really feel like if he can continue to grow that he can really add to our football team, and I look for him to make big strides."

Packers receivers snap totals since 2012

2019: 2734

2018: 2976

2017: 2896

2016: 3135* (not included are the 391 snaps Ty Montgomery split between receiver and running back)

2015: 3327

2014: 2871

2013: 3057

2012: 2896

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