The Green Bay Packers receiving corps may be their greatest uncertainty this season. The team was left with a massive void after Davante Adams departed, and it is up to the current assembly of pass-catching talent to account for his production.
Over the 2021 season, Adams accounted for 31.8% of Aaron Rodgers’ targets (169 of 531) and 34.3% of the team’s total receiving yards (1,553 of 4,526). That’s a significant target and production share for a single player. To put it in perspective, Adams is just one of 17 Green Bay players who had at least one ball thrown their way last season, representing just under 6% of the available receiving personnel. He hoarded quite a bit of Rodgers’ attention for one player on a team. Not that this target share wasn’t entirely warranted, but Rodgers’ laser focus on Adams has been much discussed the past few seasons.
In 2022, the team will need to adopt more of a Marxist approach and place emphasis on the redistribution of wealth. Rodgers will no longer be able to facilitate the capitalistic approach. Instead, more of the middle class will have to step up, while the “have nots” may finally see an opportunity to get their fair share. This season may provide a rare opportunity to look at a team with no clear No. 1 receiver but still has an effective pass-catching group.
Projecting the exact numbers for each player may be difficult, but looking at previous stat lines paints a clearer picture of who will emerge as Green Bay’s top receiver in 2022. Of course, there is variance within scheme and coaching preferences, but we can divvy the numbers to get a realistic glimpse of who will be doing what this season.
Of Green Bay’s 4,526 total passing yards last year, 3,121 were caught by wide receivers, or roughly 69%. Assuming that Rodgers starts every game and throws 4,000 yards this year, that leaves 2,760 yards for the remaining WRs. The top five this year are slated to be (in no particular order): Allen Lazard, Christian Watson, Sammy Watkins, Randall Cobb, and Amari Rodgers. These players should account for most of that yardage, though it remains to be seen if any of them will stand out.
Lazard is seemingly the most likely choice to take on WR1 responsibilities this year. He is now the longest-tenured WR on the team and could have the best chemistry with Rodgers (Randall Cobb aside, obviously). His 68% catch rate over the last few seasons is steady enough to maintain that trust from Rodgers, and it would seem the stars are aligning for Lazard to have the best season of his career.
On the other hand, it’s fair to wonder if Lazard is what he is at this point. He enters his fifth season having never had more than 40 catches or 513 receiving yards, both career highs that came in 2021. Lazard has also struggled with injuries, having only once played in a full slate of games. The idea of Lazard stepping into this No. 1 role is a great story for the undrafted player out of Iowa State, but passionate supporters may want to pump the brakes on their fan fiction. Lazard will likely be a critical red-zone threat this year due to his size, but to expect him to be a consistent force between the 20s is unrealistic.
Yardage Projection: 660
Watson is the most interesting candidate on this list. Because he’s a rookie, there is no pro tape to estimate how he will fare against NFL defenses. It remains to be seen how he will adjust to the league’s speed, but Watson comes in with arguably the most prepared mindset of a No. 1 receiver.
Last season, NDSU quarterbacks threw for 2,263 yards, 800 of which went to Watson. That would be good for 35% of the team’s yards, putting Watson on par with Adams’ 34.3% workload in 2021. Considering he missed three games, this bodes well for his level of impact. Obviously, the number of targets and receptions would have to be much higher for Watson to replicate this production in Green Bay. However, this is likely partly why Brian Gutekunst and the Packers prioritized snagging him in the second round.
Watson is a physical freak, running a 4.36 40-yard dash at 6’5″. There will be ample opportunity for him to prove himself this year. Still, it is wise to temper expectations for a rookie coming into this storied offense catered around a quarterback whose trust is notoriously tough to gain. If Watson can form that bond early, he will be rewarded often. If not, it is a good thing that Green Bay is a historically patient franchise in terms of developing players it drafts.
Yardage Projection: 900
Unfortunately, calling Watkins a bust is a fair assessment, given his career has gone so far, but at least he knows it. Watkins acknowledged that his time in the NFL has certainly not met the expectations of a fourth-overall pick, but lucky for him, there will be plenty of opportunities to revitalize himself with the Packers.
The question has never been his talent. Rather, his injury history has hampered what could have been a sensational career. The only full season he’s played is his rookie year with the Buffalo Bills in 2014, and the Kansas City Chiefs and Baltimore Ravens relegated him to more of a WR3 role. But considering Watkins signed for the veteran minimum with Green Bay, his talent may be a bargain.
We are only a few years removed from Watkins catching five passes for 98 yards in a Super Bowl victory. At 29 years old, he still has some productive years in him. Plus, some of the pressure on him is alleviated due to his lower standing on the depth chart. Therefore, all signs indicate Watkins having a limited but efficient year with the Packers.
Yardage Projection: 600
Randall Cobb + Amari Rodgers
Cobb’s current role on the team fluctuates. He is around when they need him in a pinch, but there are younger and more effective options to plug in.
Cobb has two things going for him: His well-established relationship with Aaron Rodgers and Amari Rodgers’ underwhelming play. Cobb was acquired to mentor Amari Rodgers under the guise that Rodgers would eventually take Cobb’s place. Still, Rodgers has consistently underwhelmed at nearly every facet of his game. This has made it hard to keep him on the field, which is one reason Cobb saw increased opportunities last season.
He had a solid WR4 season last year with 375 yards, but he only played in 12 games. Cobb’s availability is also suspect, which may open the door for Amari Rodgers to prove he can do better.
Amari Rodgers will have two other rookies, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure, breathing down his neck for playing time, but he will have the first chance to show he belongs on this squad. The 45 receiving yards he accrued last year simply will not cut it, so his leash will be short, but the team believes in him strongly enough to give him another opportunity.
Yardage Projections: Cobb – 250, Rodgers – 175, other WRs – 175