Green Bay Packers

Can Green Bay Finally Have A 1,000-Yard Receiver In 2024?

Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

Jordan Love was one of the league’s best passers in the second half of the 2023 season, even though the Green Bay Packers didn’t have a true WR1. Instead, the Packers deployed a fluid and capable pass-catching group. One player could tear through a defense one week, while another would be the focus the following week.

There has been much discourse about Green Bay’s receiving corps, but what exactly is a WR1? The term has its roots in fantasy football, but it simply means the team’s “go-to” receiving threat in casual conversation. There isn’t a numerical definition, but most teams have a No. 1 receiving threat. This player isn’t always a wide receiver. It can be a tight end like Travis Kelce, who fills this role for the Kansas City Chiefs.

Will a player emerge this season for the Packers as the unambiguous WR1? It’s an intangible metric, so instead, let’s focus on a specific category: yards. No Packers receiver reached 1,000 yards in 2022 and 2023. Will one of their players change this in 2024? If so, who is most likely to rise above the fray?

Why use 1,000 yards as a metric? It’s a nice, even, pleasing number — and usually a good indication of a team’s leading option. Not every team has a receiver who reaches this zenith. Sometimes, a player has an excellent season but falls just short, like Davante Adams in 2016 and 2019 (997 yards). In 2023, 28 players had over 1,000 yards: 27 wide receivers and San Francisco 49ers tight end George Kittle. The Philadelphia Eagles, Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and Niners had two players on this list.

Adams was the Packers’ last 1,000-yard receiver in 2021, his final season in Green Bay, with a whopping 1,553 yards. Green Bay’s last season with two such receivers was in 2014. It was an Aaron Rodgers MVP season, where Jordy Nelson had 1,519 yards, and Randall Cobb had 1,287. The 2016 Packers came close, with Adams three yards shy of the big 1k while Nelson had 1,257.

Love has worked with mostly rookie and second-year receiving options who were still developing and learning Green Bay’s offense. He favored the play that was there over forcing the ball to a preferred target, leading to a balanced offense that succeeded despite no one coming particularly close to that 1,000-yard metric.

Green Bay’s passing leaders in 2023 were Jayden Reed (793), Romeo Doubs (674), Dontayvion Wicks (581), Christian Watson (422), Tucker Kraft (355), Luke Musgrave (352), and Aaron Jones (233). All but Jones will return and should play significant roles in the offense.

Love is blessed with plenty of capable weapons. But with 17 games on the schedule and the offense expecting to take a leap forward, it’s reasonable to expect one of these players to top 1,000 yards, even if Love still spreads the ball around. As long as the offense builds on last season, it’s reasonable to think that one of these players will break 1,000 yards.

So, who?

Christian Watson should be the most likely option because he’s a playmaker when on the field. Even when he’s not the focus of a play, Watson forces the defense to react to his presence. I still believe he has the highest ceiling of any receiver on this team and can be a traditional “WR1.”

However, Watson will need to stay healthy and consistent to get there. Availability is the key to breaking into the four digits. Thanks to various soft-tissue injuries, Watson has played only 23 out of 34 regular-season games. It was clear that he wasn’t completely healthy in some of those games, moving slower and generally being less “big” than we know he can.

A new strength-and-conditioning staff and Watson’s deeper medical explorations into his injuries this offseason should help him stay on the field longer. If he can stay healthy, he can raise the offense to another level and ascend into the top tier of wide receivers.

However, Jayden Reed is also worth considering, mainly because he led the team in receiving yards last season. Smaller receivers are accomplishing more in the league every year. While Reed is far from a slot-only player, we’ve seen primary slot players break the 1,000-yard mark, including Randall Cobb in Green Bay.

The Packers can use him on jet sweeps and in the backfield, so Reed could easily top 1,000 all-purpose yards. In terms of pure receiving, he’s a big-play threat with good YAC ability. Reed’s ability to generate big plays means he’s fully in the mix as the receiving yard leader again.

Dontayvion Wicks grew into a dominant presence as the 2023 season went on. He was viewed as one of Green Bay’s best-kept secrets, and now, national audiences are starting to realize the former fifth-rounder’s potential. Wicks already looks like he might be the best route-runner on the team, and his YAC potential has barely been unleashed. Wicks might take the biggest Year 2 leap of anyone on the team, given the opportunity, and he could develop into a complete WR1.

As mentioned, only one tight end broke 1,000 yards last season: George Kittle. Travis Kelce (984), Evan Engram (963), and T.J. Hockenson (960) all came close. Because tight ends have dual duties as blockers, it’s generally harder to break 1k.

Therefore, Luke Musgrave has a difficult path to reach that mark, but he can develop into an elite tight end in Year 2 and push for it. Tight end is a notoriously difficult position to transition to the NFL. Still, Musgrave slid into the TE1 role immediately and looked great, even as a blocker, where it was suspected he could struggle. Musgrave showed flashes before his kidney, like, exploded. Now, he’s fully back in the lineup. He might not play quite as many snaps per game thanks to Tucker Kraft’s growth, but he’ll have a much bigger season.

Luck plays a big part in breaking 1,000 yards. Football is a violent game, and injuries happen. Matt LaFleur and Jordan Love will cook with the ingredients they have. Green Bay’s offense should be frustrating for fantasy football managers, thanks to someone new leading games from week to week. But even with all of these factors, the Packers have real potential for multiple players to break out and give the Jordan Love era its first 1,000-yard receiver.

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Photo Credit: Charles LeClaire-USA TODAY Sports

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