Green Bay Packers

Don't Forget About Devin Funchess

Photo Credit: Bob Donnan (USA TODAY Sports)

Devin Funchess is a name long forgotten by many Green Bay Packers fans, and rightfully so. The only reason anyone even remembered that he was still on the roster was because of his recent contract restructuring. A former second-round draft pick by the Carolina Panthers in 2015, Funchess never really found his footing in the NFL. However, he was not necessarily bad, which makes it difficult to project how he will play next season.

Funchess opted out last year due to COVID-19 concerns, and his 2019 season was far from noteworthy. He only played one game for the Indianapolis Colts, recording three receptions for 32 yards before shattering his collarbone, forcing him to miss the rest of the year.

However, in his best years with the Panthers, Funchess was a productive player and became a fan favorite. In his rookie season, he rode the Cam Newton MVP train and appeared in Super Bowl 50, losing to the Denver Broncos.

From 2016 onward, expectations were high for Funchess. While he did step up, it was never to the level that the Panthers organization had hoped. He had a solid 2017 campaign, boasting 63 receptions for 840 yards and eight touchdowns, which helped lead Carolina to their most recent playoff berth.

Funchess was projected to be one of the best receivers in the NFL heading into 2018. But the Panthers used their first-round pick on wide receiver D.J. Moore, who completely outshined him that year. Funchess finished with only 549 receiving yards; Moore had 788. At times Funchess appeared frustrated with getting outplayed by Moore, and he seemed to lack motivation in the latter half of the season.

Believing they had now found their No. 1 receiver, Carolina let Funchess go. It ended up being the right decision. Moore has had two consecutive 1,000-plus-yard seasons with below-average quarterback play from an injured Cam Newton, Kyle Allen, and Teddy Bridgewater.

But it’s worth considering that if you had said that the Packers had Funchess, Tavon Austin, and Davante Adams just a few years ago, Adams would likely be ranked last out of those three receivers. The Packers acquired a talented player in Funchess. Now he’s restructured his deal. The question is now: What should we expect from Funchess this year?

When Funchess was at his best, he was alongside another strong receiver. In 2016 through the first half of the 2017 season, he played with Kelvin Benjamin. Those were his most successful years. While he took a back seat to Moore in 2018, he still eclipsed 500 yards because defenses were focused on Carolina’s rising rookie star.

It goes without saying that Funchess will benefit from playing with Adams, who might be the best receiver in the league.

Funchess also should benefit from playing in a pro-style offense led by Aaron Rodgers. He played in a similar offense at Michigan, but Carolina never ran a standard pro-style offense because it was built around the play-action and Newton’s running ability. Playing with an elite, prototypical NFL quarterback should bring out the best in Funchess.

Lastly, while Funchess’ injury history is a reason for concern, it is important to remember that he has almost two years off from football now. That should be more than enough time for a collarbone to heal and to deal with the wear and tear every player experiences. While it took Rob Gronkowski a few games to return to form, for example, he looked like a younger version of himself after a year off. And Gronk is 31 and plays a more physically demanding position.

Imagine what these two years could do for a player as talented as Funchess. At 26, he should be entering the prime of his career. He’s also not expected to be the No. 1 receiver. Now that he’s had a change of scenery and he’s playing in a pro-style offense, it’s reasonable to think we could see Funchess make a leap this year.

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