Analysis

Who Said Packers’ Receiving Corps Was a Weakness?

The Packers were highly criticized back in April for trading up to the first round and selecting quarterback Jordan Love with the 26th overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. Many believed their biggest need was at the receiver position. With the inconsistency of the wide receiver corps in 2019, that was tough to argue. On top of that, the 2020 wide receiver class was loaded with talent.

Instead of going after a wide receiver that might not be a sure thing with their second-round pick (No. 62), the Packers selected RB AJ Dillon – another puzzling move given Green Bay’s one-two punch at the position with Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams. Dillon had a light load to begin the season, but he came on strong down the stretch. So while quarterbacks are always looking for more playmakers, Aaron Rodgers at least saw his run game get a boost, and that’s certainly important to a quarterback’s success.

Green Bay walked away from the 2020 draft with nine new players, none at the wide receiver position. But GM Brian Gutekunst was adamant they made the right decision.

Gutekunst explained that the team’s highest-rated receivers were already off the board when they were set to pick, and they didn’t think it was worth adding a late-round wide receiver to the mix. There was confidence within the organization that the young receivers — and tight ends — already on the roster would continue to develop in 2020.

As it turns out, they weren’t wrong. As head coach Matt LaFleur said after Saturday’s 32-18 win over the Rams I the NFC Divisional playoffs, “We knew what we had.”

Let’s examine what LaFleur and the entire Packers’ organization saw in their pass-catchers, that many of us didn’t prior to the 2020 season.

Davante Adams

Adams has been the clear number one in Green Bay for the past few seasons. Adams and Rodgers have developed into one of the league’s deadliest passing combos. While Adams would surely benefit from another top-tier receiver on the field, he has shown that he can take on any coverage that is thrown his way.

Timeline:

● Played college at Fresno State

● Packers’ second-round pick in 2014

● Breakout season in 2016 (75 catches, 997 yards, 12 TDs)

● First Pro Bowl nod in 2017

● Rodgers’ No. 1 target, 2017-20

● 2020 stat line: 115 receptions, 1,374 yards, 18 TDs, 77.2% catch percentage. Randy Moss and Jerry Rice are only players in NFL history with more TDs in one season than Adams’ 18.

Body Type & Traits:

● 6-0, 215 pounds

● Dynamic route runner who can line up against the best CBs in the league and beat anyone

● A pure scorer who knows how to find the end zone

Adams has 100-plus receiving yards and/or a TD in 11 of his last 12 games (PFF)

Allen Lazard

Made his presence known at the end of the 2019 season. If it weren’t for a core injury that kept Lazard out for six games in 2020, there is no doubt he would have outperformed his stat line from last season. With Lazard showing growth at the end of the 2019 season, Green Bay must have felt comfortable with him as a viable No. 2 option opposite Adams.

Timeline:

● Played college at Iowa State

● Undrafted in 2018, signed with the Jaguars following the draft

● Signed with the Packers in December 2018

● Cut at the start of the 2019 season; brought back by the Packers

● 2019 stat line: 35 receptions, 477 yards, 3 TDs

● Had surgery on a core muscle in October 2020; out from Weeks 4-10

● Has developed into a go-to target for Rodgers

Body Type & Traits:

● 6-5, 227 pounds

● Cut weight before 2019 season, which paid notable dividends to his route-running ability

● Huge target for Rodgers – massive catch radius

● Can get open from any position on the field

● Key for Rodgers on third down

● Asset in the blocking game

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Allows Green Bay to stretch the ball downfield. His ability to get open deep, adds another element to this Packers’ offense that makes them hard to defend. With the threat of Valdes-Scantling burning you over the top, it allows for routes to open up underneath.

Timeline:

● Played college at N.C. State, then South Florida

● Paclers’ fifth-round draft pick, 2018

● Has dealt with a multitude of different knee and ankle injuries, but has appeared in all 16 games in each of his three seasons

Body Type & Traits:

● 6-4, 206 pounds

● Excellent straight-line speed – has been a one trick pony for Rodgers and the offense

● Ultimate deep ball threat for Rodgers

● Hit-or-miss type of target

● Average depth per target/reception: 20.9 yards/reception – 1st in the NFL

Is tied with three other players for the top spot for receptions of 40-plus yards in 2020 (6)

Robert Tonyan, TE

Tonyan has been a revelation in 2020 – though the Packers probably saw it coming. Tonyan has been an integral part of the Packer’s success this season, especially in the red zone. We have seen tight ends like Tonyan change the way defenses are constructed. Tonyan’s rare combination of size and speed has been a matchup nightmare for teams across the NFL.

Timeline:

● Played in college at Indiana State — arrived as a quarterback and made the transition to wide receiver

● Undrafted free agent, signed with the Lions in 2017

● Tonyan joined the Packers in December 2017

● Role was limited in both 2018 and 2019 – Tonyan had just 14 catches in those two seasons

● Took off in 2020 – many believe he should have been a Pro Bowl selection. 2020 stat line: 52 receptions, 586 yards, 11 TDs, 88.1% catch percentage

Body Type & Traits:

● 6-5, 237 pounds

● Rare combination of both size and speed (ran a 4.58 40-yard dash)

● Has become one of Rodgers’ favorite red-zone targets

● Breakout season in 2020 was a big reason for the Packers’ offensive success

Tied Travis Kelce for most TDs by a tight end during the 2020 regular season

Rodgers is having an MVP caliber season, despite all the talk about Green Bay’s lack of depth at the receiver position before the start of the season. As we have seen time and time again, the NFL’s best quarterbacks get the job done without “premier talent” on the outside. Green Bay knew their offensive line was one of the best in the league, and decided to add a tough runner to the backfield to solidify the run game instead of selecting a receiver that might not have panned out.

The NFC Championship Game will feature two quarterbacks that have defined their careers by making something out of nothing. Being one win away from a Super Bowl appearance, nobody Iis questioning Green Bay’s 2020 draft decisions now.

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