The Green Bay Packers have one of the deepest 90-man rosters in the NFL, which is a good thing. But it means that when it comes time to whittle it down to the final 53, the team will face some difficult decisions.
One of the most challenging decisions for general manager Ted Thompson will be deciding what to do at wide receiver. After drafting Trevor Davis of California in the fifth round of the 2016 NFL draft, the Packers are loaded at the position, especially with the return of Jordy Nelson from an ACL injury that sidelined him for 2015.
In addition to Nelson and Davis, the Packers have Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery and Jared Abbrederis. The latter five all played extensively last season and while all had their struggles, they all had bright spots too.
With the return of Nelson, there is little doubt that he will assume his old place at the top of the depth chart. Cobb is also expected to be the No. 1 guy in the slot. After that, it’s basically a free-for-all.
(Here’s a reminder of what Mr. Nelson can do in case you forgot):
Of course, there is plenty of buzz about Janis, following after his seven-catch, 145-yard, two-touchdown, performance against the Arizona Cardinals in the NFC playoffs. In that game, he caught essentially two Hail Mary passes on the Packers’ final drive, which produced a game-tying touchdown on the final play of regulation.
Yet, other than that game, Janis caught just two passes for 79 yards. Abbrederis didn’t do much more, catching nine passes for 111 yards in the regular season, as well as four for 55 against Arizona. Yet, by the end of the season, he had earned the trust of quarterback Aaron Rodgers.
Adams struggled with injuries throughout 2015, as did Montgomery and for that matter Cobb. However, Adams had four catches for 54 yards against the Vikings, then four for 48 and a touchdown against Washington in the playoffs, before re-injuring himself.
Without Nelson, the Packers pass offense struggled immensely, particularly in terms of stretching the field and creating big plays. With the perennial Pro-Bowler back in the fold, Cobb can resume his natural role as the second receiver while Adams, Janis, Montgomery, Abbrederis and Davis can compete for the other spots.
Davis wasn’t an early-round pick like Montgomery and Adams, but he he has speed and plenty of explosiveness. He also has kickoff return ability and is a guy the Packers feel is capable of stretching the field. With how much Thompson loves his draft picks, it’s hard to envision Green Bay moving on from Davis after one training camp, unless he’s a complete dud.
These comments from west-coast scout Sam Seale following the draft offer some insight into how Green Bay view Davis:
“Like last year, sitting at home watching TV where everybody was daring us to go deep. I don’t think they’d do that with this kid. I’m hoping they do. I figure if they do that, after the first four, five games you won’t see that anymore.”
With Davis and a number of other young, promising receivers, it leaves the Packers with the possibility of keeping seven wide outs on their 53-man roster or letting go of a pretty good football player.
Certainly, injuries can play a role and if someone ends up on injured reserve because of one, that could change things in a heartbeat. However, if all seven receivers stay healthy, the decision on who to cut would be tremendously difficult.
All five pass catchers after Nelson and Cobb are young and have upside. And outside of Davis and Janis, all the receivers have had injury issues recently, which means having some extra depth wouldn’t be a bad thing.
Thus, instead of jettisoning a talented player like Adams, Janis or Abbrederis, the Packers should be bold and just keep seven receivers on their 53-man roster. With as much as they throw the football, it can easily be justified and after all the injuries the team suffered at the position a year ago, Green Bay knows better than anybody you can never have enough good players at any position.
So while seven receivers seems like a lot, if they are all among the best 53 players on Green Bay’s roster, then from this perspective, the Packers have little choice but to stick with them.