Almost a year ago, the Green Bay Packers were widely believed to be in need of a secondary wideout opposite Davante Adams. However, they opted to address their shortcomings at cornerback and center with their first two draft picks. In the third round, they turned to receiver, trading up to the 85th slot to select Amari Rodgers out of Clemson. Rodgers and Randall Cobb were the only major additions to the receiver room when the offseason was done.
Rodgers’ rookie season was underwhelming, to say the least. He caught four passes for 45 yards. But the majority of his playing time came as a returner, where he contributed heavily to a disaster of a special teams unit with a handful of muffed punts. I’m not suggesting that Rodgers can’t make a sizable leap in the coming years. However, now that Adams is off the roster, Rodgers is a cautionary tale of what could happen next season if Brian Gutekunst waits too long to draft No. 17’s replacement(s).
The Packers paid for it when they tried a cheap fix to their wideout depth issue. Receivers not named Davante Adams combined for one reception for six yards in the playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers. Early indications are that Gutekunst may be going back to that approach, at least to an extent. The only move they’ve made so far in a potential receiver room overhaul has been signing Sammy Watkins to a one-year, $1.85 million deal.
Despite the depth of this year’s receiver class, Green Bay must expend at least one, ideally two, premium picks (first- and second-rounders) on dynamic playmakers. They have basically been priced out of the exploding veteran wideout market, so a big splash for a star like Deebo Samuel or D.K. Metcalf might be off the table. Next week’s draft might be the one and only opportunity to find the weapons who are supposed to lead the Packers to a Super Bowl, something Adams never accomplished in his eight stellar seasons.
The urgency in Green Bay is reaching an all-time high, even if the front office isn’t acting like it yet. The roster is ready to go at nearly every other position. For every tackle or edge rusher that Gutekunst decides he needs come Thursday and Friday, the risk of winding up with another Amari Rodgers increases. So does the risk of yet another playoff failure.
So, who could become the playmaker they need? My favorite receiver in this draft is Alabama’s Jameson Williams. He is recovering from an ACL tear, which could push him far enough down the board for Green Bay to make a move. However, he is explosive enough to blow the top off coverage and polished enough to move the chains and finish drives. Williams has also shown off serious ability in the return game, something the Packers haven’t figured out for a long time.
Others that I believe are capable of stepping into a No. 1 role are Drake London, Garrett Wilson, and George Pickens. They are elite, proven receivers with the physical tools to dominate early. I’m wary of Chris Olave and Treylon Burks; I think they would best fit in an offense that already has weapons. I also believe the scenario to absolutely avoid is waiting too long to the point where Alec Pierce, Skyy Moore, or Christian Watson is Aaron Rodgers’ top target in Week 1.
With the draft less than a week away, we aren’t going to have to wait much longer to see how this Packers offense will take shape. Will Rodgers get his new Davante, or will Jordan Love have to start taking reps on the outside? With the championship window looking unnervingly thin, Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur are on the clock in more ways than one.