It’s often said that the definition of insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result. The Green Bay Packers are starting to get to that point. In the decade since Aaron Rodgers‘ only Super Bowl win, the Packers have trapped themselves in a cycle of convincing regular season performances and spectacular playoff collapses. Over the past year, Rodgers has been called insane for various reasons, but his open contemplation of a departure from Green Bay in the coming weeks reflects a desire to switch things up on the field.
Matt LaFleur has pledged to be “relentless in that pursuit to get [them] over the hump.” However, salary cap trouble will severely handcuff their ability to bring in elite talent, let alone hold on to the contributors they already have. Therefore, the draft is incredibly important.
Year after year, fans and the media unleash a collective scream for Green Bay’s front office to add a top-tier receiving threat opposite Adams. Year after year, Brian Gutekunst goes in another direction. After Rodgers completed only one pass for six yards to receivers not named Davante Adams in last month’s playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers, any argument against a receiver in the first round has been vanquished.
The Packers will pick from a familiar section of the board on draft night, as they currently hold the 28th selection. Contrary to previous years, this is right about where pundits expect the top receiver in the class to come off the board, and the Packers cannot afford to look anywhere else.
Alabama star Jameson Williams caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns in his sole season with the Crimson Tide. He would bring a level of explosiveness and play-making ability that Green Bay hasn’t seen out of a WR2 since Jordy Nelson retired. Williams also showed out on special teams, taking a pair of kickoffs to the house and making highlight-reel tackles as a punt team gunner. You may have heard that the Packers have struggled in those areas lately, making him almost everything LaFleur’s squad lacks, packed into a 6’2″, 189 lb. frame.
Over the past few years, Green Bay has passed on the likes of A.J. Brown, D.K. Metcalf, Tee Higgins, Deebo Samuel, and Elijah Moore in the early rounds. The last time they selected a wideout in the first two rounds was in 2014. They were rewarded with Adams, who has amassed more than 8,000 yards and 73 touchdowns in eight stellar seasons. One would imagine that, combined with the fact that the loaded 2010 corps (Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, Jordy Nelson, James Jones) won them a Super Bowl, would be enough of an incentive to prioritize the position. However, that has not been the case in Gutekunst’s tenure.
Last year, Gutekunst took Clemson standout Amari Rodgers in the third round, ensuring that the Packers would head into 2021 with at least one “A. Rodgers” on the roster. But Amari Rodgers recorded only four receptions and two muffed punts in his disappointing rookie campaign, emphasizing that a stingy approach to improving the receiver room will not suffice.
Unfortunately, Williams has slid from a top-10 lock to a late first-rounder for a reason. On Jan. 10, he tore his ACL in Alabama’s National Championship contest versus Georgia. As a result, his Week 1 status is in doubt. NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah projects him to come off the board 27th, as does ESPN’s Todd McShay. Williams told reporters Wednesday that he’s “hearing five to seven months, but [he’s] hearing [he’s] ahead of schedule.” Despite being unable to compete, he showed off his rehab progress at the NFL Combine, walking without a brace or crutches less than two months after surgery.
After David Bakhtiari‘s tumultuous ACL recovery caused him to miss basically all of the 2021 season, Packers fans may question if another rehabbing star is worth the wait. Ideally, the organization will see past that fear because the truth is that the Packers have not had trouble winning regular-season games. Steamrolling the lackluster NFC North and cruising to a top seed in the NFC hasn’t been the issue. That isn’t the hump LaFleur insists they will get over. They need another dynamic playmaker in clutch time to put their solid roster over the top come January.
Rashan Gary‘s breakout season proved he is more than capable of holding down the fort at outside linebacker should the Packers move on from Za’Darius Smith. Bakhtiari and Elgton Jenkins‘ return will strengthen an offensive line that held up pretty well on its own. If De’Vondre Campbell returns to the middle of the defense, a WR2 becomes the only area of major concern.
Clearly, additional air support is not something LaFleur and Gutekunst have felt they’ve needed. With Adams set to receive massive compensation later this month, it may be even more tempting to address the position with a cheap Amari Rodgers or J’Mon Moore-esque solution, but breaking the cycle means doing things differently. Shamelessly loading up on offensive weapons has brought championships to Kansas City, Tampa Bay, and Los Angeles over the past three years. A Davante Adams and Jameson Williams receiving duo puts Green Bay firmly in that mix. It’s time to pull the trigger.