Packers Have Difficult Decision to Make at Wide Receiver

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.

chris peterson

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3 Comments
James Drumheller III

I think the biggest question mark is who will be the other perimeter receiver with Jordy.Cobb is the slot receiver and Adams will have to show he can be the guy across from Jordy. With Jordy back healthy Adams should be the guy. Arod has been saying how much he likes Abbrederis and the way he runs routes. He seems to be able to find the holes in the defense and is a sure handed receiver.It’s Jordy,Cobb and a question mark for the third starting receiver who could make plays with the coverage shifting back to Jordy who is without a doubt the Number One receiver.

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Danang Marine

Janis deserves the first opportunity for the #3 spot, it was a huge coaching error not to play him until he was basically the last man standing at WR. Check out the comments/statistics from packerstalk.com on Adams 2015 season, he had his chance week after week, now it is Janis’s turn because he EARNED IT. Often times, Adams seemed a little like a scapegoat for the lack of offensive production – but the numbers indicate that he was among the least efficient receivers in the NFL.

According to Football Outsiders’ advanced metrics—Defense-adjusted Yards Above Replacement (DYAR) and Defense-Adjusted Value Over Average (DVOA) – Adams’ overall rating in 2015 was second-last among receivers who qualify (targeted at least 50 times), and better only than Tavon Austin of the St. Louis Rams.

In layman’s terms, DYAR ranks a wide receiver’s overall value, while DVOA ranks a wide receiver’s value-per-play. Of the 87 receivers targeted 50 or more times, Adams was No. 86 in DYAR and No. 84 in DVOA.

Adams’ yard-per-catch average (9.7) exceeded only Austin (9.1) and the Lions’ Golden Tate (9.0), and was the worst the Packers had seen since 1951.

Adams had just one touchdown reception in 2015 – a number that seems nearly impossible for a receiver that was healthy most of the season and the reigning NFL MVP throwing him the ball.

Although General Manager Ted Thompson has never missed on a WR/TE drafted in the top three rounds – Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Jermichael Finley and Randall Cobb are among the pass catchers drafted in either Rd. 2 or Rd. 3 – it might be time we chalk up Adams as a miss.

I’m tempted to say that he deserves one more season to earn his keep, but with Nelson returning and the emergence of Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis, Adams’ productivity does not warrant playing time. There is also the potential of Ty Montgomery making an impact after an ankle injury cut his rookie campaign short, and the chance Thompson uses a Day 1 or Day 2 pick on a wide receiver.

One play in particular stands out to me in my “does-this-player-really-want-to-be-on-the-field?” evaluation of Adams.

Week 12. Thanksgiving night – Packers v. Bears. Brett Favre’s name and retired No. 4 jersey revealed on Lambeau Field’s North façade at halftime. An ailing, yet exuberant Bart Starr emerged from the tunnel to greet Favre and congratulate him.

The Packers trailed 17-13 with just over three minutes in the fourth quarter, but were driving on the Chicago defense and at midfield. Rodgers looked to Adams on a routine slant, and Adams was bumped off of his route by Chris Prosinksi, gave zero effort to fight through the screen and allowed an otherwise on-target pass from Rodgers to drift into the arms of Tracy Porter.

Remarkably, the Packers had another chance to take the lead with under 30 seconds to play. A fourth-and-goal pass thrown to Adams, that was objectively a touch high, went through the hands of Adams.

The Bears won 17-13.

I’ll admit, one play should not determine the fate of a player … but numbers indicate that Adams is consistently lackluster.

When factoring a healthy Jordy Nelson into any equation, there is no legitimate playing time that Adams should see. Though he’ll likely be on the 2016 Packers roster, we should not consider Adams as the Packers look to remedy their offense.

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chris peterson

You make some very good points. O agree 100% about Janis. I actually wrote a post where I criticized MM for that. I also called for Abby and Janis to play multiple times down the stretch. Adams was terrible last season. No question. He showed signs in the last game or two he was healthy. I think health will be a big factor. I think Janis will get his chance. He will make the team, especially cause he is a special teams beast. He will get his chance on offense and I think everyone will be better for having Nelson back this season.

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