Even with wide receiver Devin Funchess being placed on IR with a hamstring injury and possibly missing his third-straight season, the Packers still have an abundance of wide receivers and not enough active roster spots. With Funchess’ absence, the wide receiver group appears to have an opening.
Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Amari Rodgers are locks. Allen Lazard should also make it. The team will most likely keep six receivers, so that means they will need to fill one spot. Equanimeous St. Brown would be the top candidate, but it appears that he may have suffered another injury. That means that Malik Taylor, who is crucial to special teams and a solid receiver, will most likely be the sixth receiver for Week 1 against the New Orleans Saints.
But don’t expect those six to make up the receiver group the entire year. By the end of 2021, I believe Juwann Winfree will not only be on the active 53-man roster, but will also score a touchdown before the regular season is over.
The New York native was drafted in the sixth round of the 2019 draft by the Denver Broncos. He was conveniently drafted in the same state as his college, the University of Colorado. He played in three games for Denver before landing on the injured reserve list in December. He was waived by the Broncos in early September of 2020.
A month later, the Green Bay Packers signed him to their practice squad. Due to injuries at wide receiver, Winfree was on the active roster during Weeks 10 and 14. He signed a reserves/futures contract with the Packers in late January of 2021 just under $800k.
He may be the low man on the totem pole right now, but a lot can change during a season. He is technically now the seventh receiver for the Packers. If someone gets hurt, he should be the next man up.
Hopefully, Winfree can stay healthy. He has not practiced much this week going into Green Bay’s final preseason game. A player like Juwann could use all of the reps he can get. This will be his third year in the league and he still hasn’t recorded his first NFL reception.
His main competition right now is Reggie Begelton. Begelton was almost signed to a reserves/futures contract in January after playing in the CFL for three seasons. Since St. Brown and Winfree have been battling injuries, Begelton has been getting the starting reps. The Packers are sitting more of their starting players and need receivers right now to fill their last preseason game roster. If Begelton has a great final game and impresses on special teams, he may get ahead of Winfree.
Winfree was impressive in camp before he was sidelined. The talent is there. In his last two years at Colorado, he averaged 325 yards and two touchdowns a season. That isn’t noteworthy at first glance, but considering that the offense scored 1.6 passing touchdowns per game in 2018, it makes more sense. He was also injured throughout most of the 2018 season. The receiver still hasn’t had much of a chance to show his talent. Before his injury in 2019, he made some eye-catching grabs.
While there is no proof of this, some believe the Packers are having Winfree sit out and not push him too play too much so he can remain on their practice squad. Every team now gets to have 16 players, a rule carried over from last year’s COVID-related rule changes. Hopefully the 24-year-old remains in Green Bay. The past few years, the Packers have needed depth at the wideout position. The chances of them not needing a receiver ready to prove themselves at some point is very slim.
There is no saying Winfree will break out, but the Packers have always done well with low-risk, high-reward receivers. Donald Driver was expected to be a nobody when he started with the Packers, and now he is known as one of the best to play for the Green and Gold.
My money is on Winfree to have a touchdown before the end of 2021.