Green Bay Packers’ training camp is just under a month away, and one of the most interesting position battles to watch will be at receiver. In 2015 the depth of the receiving unit was tested more than ever before, and the backups stepped up to the occasion. The team now has more talented players at the position than it knows what to do with, which, don’t get me wrong, is a very good problem to have. Of the 11 receivers currently on the 90 man roster, seven would be locks for the team under normal circumstances while the other four would be left to compete for the last slot or practice squad. When the time comes for final cuts, Green Bay will face two decisions, how many wide receivers do they keep, and who do they keep.
In looking at how many wideouts the team will keep, it’s helpful to note that in Mike McCarthy’s first ten seasons in Green Bay, they’ve gone into a season with six receivers four times (2006, 2007, 2011, 2012), and five receivers six times (2008, 2009, 2010, 2013, 2014, 2015). Given that the team has never entered a season with seven receivers on the roster, and it would be difficult to get all seven guys time on the field, it seems likely that at least one quality receiver is going to have to be cut, and possibly two. Though they haven’t kept six since 2012, it seems most likely that they will do so this season on account of the surplus talent they have. As for who the team keeps, the following is a projected depth chart of the 11 guys currently on the roster.
- Jordy Nelson – Nelson is clearly the Packers best receiver, even coming off a torn ACL and a missed 2015 season. His speed, hands, route running, and rapport with Aaron Rodgers make him one of the best in the game.
- Randall Cobb – Another obvious choice, Cobb paced the Packers in targets and catches in 2015. With 2016 being his age 26 season, he could be entering the prime of his career.
- Davante Adams – It’s no secret that Davante Adams had a rough second NFL season, recording just 483 yards and one touchdown despite his increased role in the offense. Some have called for others, such as Jeff Janis or Jared Abbrederis (the two combined for 11 receptions, 200 yards, and two touchdowns in the playoff loss to Arizona) to take his place, but that criticism isn’t quite fair. With Nelson out and Cobb playing through injuries much of the year, teams were able to focus on Adams, who previously had benefited off of the coverage focused on Nelson and Cobb. Despite seeing much more defensive attention, Davante saw an increase in catches and yards. There is a reason Adams was third on the depth chart the past two seasons (prior to Nelson’s injury), and there’s every reason to think he’ll remain in that position this year.
- Ty Montgomery – Montgomery looked promising before his rookie season was cut short after just five games, in which saw him record 136 yards and two touchdowns on 15 receptions. Assuming he can return to his pre-injury form, Montgomery is a quality receiver who can also be a kickoff and punt returner if called upon.
- Jeff Janis – This is where things get interesting, as the five through seven slots are near interchangeable. After recording two catches for 101 yards and a touchdown on the final offensive drive of Green Bay’s season, Janis is on everybody’s radar, and he gets the nod from me as the team’s number five. While many would like for him to see more of a role on offense, he simply isn’t a quality route runner. He can run fast and he can catch, but it takes more than that to be an NFL player. That being said, Janis is a near lock for the team due to his skill as a gunner and return man on special teams.
- Trevor Davis – Davis, the Packer’s 5th round pick in the 2016 draft, is a speedy/athletic receiver (4.42 second 40, 6.6 second three-cone, 38.5 inch vertical) and yet another special teams threat who could be the team’s main return man.
- Jared Abbrederis – Unfortunately for Abbrederis, he’s likely the odd man out given the talent at receiver. Abbrederis is a quality route runner with good hands, but his speed and measurables don’t jump off the page (4.5 second 40, 30.5 inch vertical), which makes it tough for him to earn a spot in this loaded group.
- Herb Waters – The last four spots are the hardest to decipher, and the bottom guys will likely just be competing for a practice squad spot. Waters, an undrafted rookie out of Miami, has flashed blazing speed (ran a reported 4.33 second 40 at his pro day) and generated buzz in both OTA’s and minicamp with his knack for big plays in practice.
- Geronimo Allison – Undrafted out of Illinois, Allison may have snuck into the tail end of the draft if he had performed better at the combine (ran a putrid 4.67 second 40). He’s a tall and lanky (6-foot-3, 196 lbs) wideout with decent hands. He and Waters are the most likely to land on the practice squad.
- Jamel Johnson – Johnson, undrafted out of Alabama State two years ago, was signed to the Packers practice squad in December of last year while the team was in dire need of receivers. He’s a big bodied wideout (6-foot-2, 227 lbs) with decent strength and athleticism (18 bench reps and a 38 inch vertical at his pro day in 2014). If he can use his size to dominate corners at the line of scrimmage he’ll have a chance at the practice squad once again.
- Ed Williams – Williams was with the Packers for training camp last season, eventually losing a spot on the practice squad to Jared Abbrederis. He came out of division II Fort Hays State as an average guy in near all measurements (6-foot, 190 lbs, 4.53 second 40). He’ll need to impress with his technique and knowledge of the playbook to have a chance.