This is the third in a series of stories that’s examining the Packers’ roster, position by position, heading into the 2018 NFL Draft. The series continues with the wide receivers and tight ends.
GREEN BAY – The Packers need to establish a fresh pipeline of perimeter weapons for the back half of quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ career.
Getting that pipeline flowing with young, early-impact talent almost certainly begins with this draft.
Jordy Nelson is gone. So are Jeff Janis and Richard Rodgers. Davante Adams has a new long-term deal, but Randall Cobb is in the final year of his contract.
Jimmy Graham was signed as a free agent, but he’s on the north side of 30, as is fellow veteran tight end Lance Kendricks now.
Receivers Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis and Michael Clark are all young players who have flashed at times, with Allison by far the most productive of the group (35 catches, 455 yards, two TDs over the last two years).
At 6-6, 217, Clark strikes a potentially imposing figure on the outside, but his four catches for 41 yards in the final two games last season are all the raw prospect has beyond just one season of college football.
DeAngelo Yancey will get his chance to step forward after a year on the practice squad, while young tight end Emanuel Byrd is in a similar situation after a late-season appearance on the active roster.
Receiver Colby Pearson is back for another run at a roster spot, and small-school prospects Jake Kumerow at receiver (Wisconsin-Whitewater) and Robert Tonyan at tight end (Indiana State) will look to make an impression in 2018 as well.
Take a look at photos of Packers WR Davante Adams from the 2017 season. Photos by Evan Siegle and Corey Wilson, packers.com
But that’s a lot of names in the wait-and-see category. The Packers know what they have in Adams, Cobb, Graham, and to some extent Kendricks and Allison. After that, the territory is vastly unknown.
Which is why in this draft, with 12 total picks going in, the Packers appear in line for their most significant investment in Rodgers’ perimeter pass-catchers since 2014, when Adams and Richard Rodgers were selected in the second and third rounds, respectively.
Since then, the Packers have drafted only one receiver or tight end earlier than the fifth round. That was in 2015, but Ty Montgomery is a running back now. And of the four selections from the fifth through seventh rounds in the last three drafts, just Davis and Yancey remain, with Davis’ eight catches for 29 yards and a TD the only offensive production on the books.
As has been well-documented, the second round has served as the Packers’ honey hole at wide receiver over the last dozen years, with Greg Jennings, Nelson, Cobb and Adams all being chosen then. Tight ends Jermichael Finley and Rodgers were both found in the third (as was receiver James Jones, for the record).
Take a look at photos of Packers WR Randall Cobb from the 2017 season. Photos by Evan Siegle and Corey Wilson, packers.com
With multiple needs on defense and an open starting spot on the offensive line, it’s difficult to gauge just how new GM Brian Gutekunst will spend his resources. But he has more draft capital than the Packers have possessed in recent memory.
Not only are his first three picks in the middle of each round (14th, 13th and 12th, respectively) as opposed to the 20s or later, but one of Green Bay’s compensatory picks came at the end of the fourth round. Also, the DeShone Kizer-Damarious Randall trade with the Browns shifted the Packers’ fourth- and fifth-round picks to the first selection in each.
That gives Gutekunst six picks through the top spot of the fifth round, which is No. 138 overall. For comparison’s sake, Davis was taken at No. 163 and Yancey at 175.
So, the Packers can address a lot of areas, with a better chance of finding NFL-ready talent, in those first half-dozen picks. Adams and Richard Rodgers both became key players down the stretch of their rookie seasons in 2014, when the Packers came an eyelash from the Super Bowl.
The pipeline awaits.