GREEN BAY – Spending an entire rookie season on the practice squad and then seeing the Packers draft three players at his position can’t be the most comforting feeling for receiver DeAngelo Yancey.
But last year’s fifth-round draft pick from Purdue isn’t getting caught up in the forgotten-man narrative.
He learned last year there’s no such thing as status. It worked against him, getting cut and never seeing the active roster despite his draft position. He sees no reason it can’t work in his favor the second go-round.
“Once that helmet goes on,” Yancey said, “there’s no favoritism.”
Packers rookies did on-field work inside the Don Hutson Center on Friday. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com.
Yancey participated in the Packers’ rookie orientation again this past weekend, as practice-squad holdovers do. It was a different experience, though, and not just because he knew the playbook better.
He’s physically different, having dropped around 15 pounds from a year ago, into the low 210s. Over the past year, he cleaned up his diet, added more cardio to his workouts, and now he feels better about how he moves.
And he’s not just moving faster, but playing faster. He said “play speed” is the No. 1 thing in his game that improved over his full season on the practice squad.
“I’m more decisive in and out of routes. I know what I have to do,” he said.
“Coming out here now, everything is a little slower for me.”
If there was a moment he really noticed the game slowing down, it was last December, when none other than Aaron Rodgers was the scout team quarterback on his road back from a broken collarbone.
Yancey ran routes for the scout team offense all year, and he admitted to being nervous getting back in the huddle with Rodgers for the first time since training camp.
But the reps he got during that time were invaluable, because his confidence grew, which has led to a more relaxed approach coming back for 2018.
“It only lasted for a few practices, but anytime you get a chance to get in and throw with 12, … he’s a guy who confirms if you did a good job,” Yancey said. “You run your route, catch it and look back, and he’ll have the thumbs up coming. It’s always nice to get a look knowing you did something right.”
Green Bay Packers rookies practiced in the Don Hutson Center on May 5, 2018. Photos by Evan Siegle, packers.com.
Yancey said he treats every practice rep like a game snap now, an approach he didn’t totally buy into as a rookie. Asked what it will take to make the 53-man roster in a crowded receiver field this summer, he quickly points to consistency and special-teams contributions.
“That’s ultimately what’s going to get me over the hump,” he said.
It’s a significant mountain to climb. After Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, the Packers’ depth chart at receiver is a work in progress, but there’s no shortage of candidates jockeying for position.
Geronimo Allison and Trevor Davis are headed into their third seasons, Michael Clark cracked the active roster late last year as an undrafted rookie, Colby Pearson and Division III prospect Jake Kumerow were late-season signees to the practice squad in 2017, and draft picks J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown have all been thrown into the mix now, too.
That’s nine receivers, including Yancey, vying for less than a handful of spots on the 53.
Yancey is ready to put the helmet on.
“It’s the nature of the league,” he said. “Every year, somebody comes in to replace the guy they previously just got.
“It’ll be very competitive. Every guy brings something different to the table, and the competitiveness will be off the charts.”