After highlighting the backfield for the Packers, it’s time to move on to the perimeter. And that means for us an in-depth look at the group that disappointed most last season: the Wide Receivers. Our third chapter of the Packers depth chart breakdown will focus on that group that hauls in the passes from Aaron Rodgers the most.
For this series, which will finish by training camp starts, we will look at each and every player on the roster, breaking down their strengths, weaknesses, their role, and their best and worst case scenarios. I will also project their role. Let’s dive into the depths of the Packers pool of talent.
Previous posts: Full Roster
#87 JORDY NELSON
6’3” 217 lbs. Age 31 (9th Season)
Drafted in the 2nd Round (36th overall) in 2008 from Kansas State
Strengths: Much like Aaron Rodgers, Jordy Nelson’s strengths can be filed under “everything.” He runs phenomenal routes, has one of the best pairs of hands in the league, has great chemistry with Rodgers, and can hit the home run on any route, short and long. He also is a leader in the locker room and elevates his teammates.
Weaknesses: The only glaring weakness is Jordy’s knee. After missing all of last season with a torn ACL, he looks to return to his 2014 form where he set a Packer record for receiving yards. But at age 31 we won’t know until he actually runs a route, plants, and takes a hit.
Underrated Attribute: blocking downfield
Role: #1 receiver, go-to-guy for Rodgers.
Best Case: Nelson returns to form starting in training camp and catches 100 passes for 1400 yards.
Worst Case: Nelson doesn’t regain his form despite his quick recovery and he struggles out of the gate and put up only around 70 catches.
Projection: He will be the #1 receiver for all 16 games and put up big numbers again, with 90 catches and 1300 yards, and his first All-Pro nod.
#18 RANDALL COBB
5’10” 192 lbs. Age 25 (6th Season)
Drafted in the 2nd Round (64th Overall) in 2011 from Kentucky
Strengths: Easily one of the top slot receivers in the NFL, Cobb is a master at finding space to make plays and can break tackles with agility rarely seen in the NFL. He has dependable hands and is extremely versatile with the ability to catch, run, and throw. He also is a willing blocker who is able to keep corners away from a running back. He also is a dynamite punt returner with the ability to break any play for a touchdown.
Weaknesses: Cobb showed some weakness last year as he isn’t the best on the boundary and his size can be a detriment if he is asked to be the #1 receiver. He can struggle with press coverage and doesn’t do well with double teams.
Underrated Attribute: Pick route running
Role: #2 receiver, potential punt returner.
Best Case: Randall regains is 2014 form and puts up more explosive Julian Edelman numbers with over 100 catches and around 1200 yards.
Worst Case: Cobb struggles to regain his form after a subpar season and falls even further with a copy of 2015.
Projection: Cobb will be the #2 receiver and come back to form with a big year with around 90 catches and 1000+ yards.
#17 DAVANTE ADAMS
6’1” 215 lbs. Age 23 (3rd Season)
Drafted in the 2nd Round (53rd Overall) in 2014 from Fresno State
Strengths: Davante Adams is a strong route runner who has shown the ability to break tackles and an ability like James Jones to make big plays. He has shown good awareness as seen with the fake-spike in Miami as well as the strength to beat press coverage.
Weaknesses: Let’s not sugar coat it, last year was forgettable at best for Adams. He got elevated to the #2 spot before he was ready, he got hurt in Week 2 and never regained his confidence and struggled with that mental block all season. His hands suffered (they were solid in his rookie year), and he never really gained any momentum until the end of the season when he looked really good against Washington before he tore his MCL.
Underrated Attribute: Breaking tackles.
Role: #3 receiver, second boundary receiver, red zone threat a la James Jones.
Best Case: Adams finally reaches his ceiling and become one of the best #3 receivers in the league putting up 60 catches and double digit touchdowns. His drops go way down and he shows why he got such high praise before last season began.
Worst Case: His mental block continues (as is the case for most Wisconsin teams) and he continues to struggle, getting demoted to a gameday inactive and eventually released in the offseason.
Projection: The optimist in me still thinks really highly of Adams and feels that he will become that next edition of James Jones who provides big plays and shows toughness and dependability that will endear him to Aaron Rodgers and co.
#88 TY MONTGOMERY
6’0” 216 lbs. Age 23 (2nd Season)
Drafted in the 3rd Round (94th Overall) in 2015 from Stanford
Strengths: Actual physical strength. Montgomery is possibly the strongest receiver, at least the most built, and it shows in his running style. He can avoid tackles but is the best on the roster at breaking arm tackles. He is an underrated route runner and excels on the little out routes and shallow crosses while doing well on pick plays. He also shows home run ability in the return game and out of the backfield, so much that he might eventually be able to move to running back.
Weaknesses: The biggest weakness for Montgomery is a lack of experience. He didn’t get much time on offense last year before an ankle injury ended his campaign and so we don’t fully know where his ceiling will hit. He also is undersized for his style of play and that may shrink his role.
Underrated Attribute: Catching in traffic.
Role: Likely #4 or #5 receiver and kick returner. He will also see action on special teams.
Best Case: Montgomery grows tremendously and supplants Davante Adams as the #3 receiver and puts up around 50 catches and scores touchdowns three ways (receiving, running, kick return).
Worst Case: Montgomery starts the season on PUP and never really gets going, leading to a lost season.
Projection: Depending on his recovery, I am leaning toward him starting on PUP and then becoming the special teams weapon later in the season and the #5 receiver.
#83 JEFF JANIS
6’3” 219 lbs. Age 25 (3rd Season)
Drafted in the 7th Round (236th Overall) in 2014 from Saginaw Valley State
Strengths: Janis is the best physical specimen in the receiving corp, with the size of Jordy Nelson and the athleticism of Donald Driver. He excels at making big plays and making guys miss in the open field. He is a dynamite kick returner who can break one at any time and is also the best gunner on the team and could be a top special teamer in the NFL.
Weaknesses: For all is natural talent, Janis still doesn’t have complete trust from Aaron Rodgers, and that comes down to his inability to sell his routes well. He is great on the go route but really struggles with his crossing and hook routes. His rounds his cuts off and sometimes runs upright, telegraphing his routes. He also at times lets the ball into his body a little too much.
Underrated Attribute: Open field tackling. Weird to see this from a receiver but he was great at bringing down punt returners.
Role: Anywhere between the #3 and #6 receiver.
Best Case: Janis explodes in year 3 and becomes the #3 receiver and ends up with double digit touchdowns and 50 catches.
Worst Case: Janis still doesn’t get the trust of Aaron Rodgers and languishes on special teams, only seeing the field on offense if injuries hit.
Projection: Janis I feel will start to gain the trust of Rodgers but still only catches around 30 balls but becomes a Pro Bowler on special teams and starts to be groomed as Jordy Nelson’s heir.
#84 JARED ABBREDERIS
6’1” 195 lbs. Age 25 (3rd Season)
Drafted in the 5th Round (176th Overall) in 2014 from Wisconsin
Strengths: Abbrederis is arguably the best pure route runner on the team and shows pretty dependable hands and a high football IQ. He can make guys miss and can return punts well, showing sure hands and good decision making with the ball. He also is fearless, willing to take a hit and has the trust of Aaron Rodgers.
Weaknesses: Tying with his strengths, he is willing to take a hit over the middle, but as a smaller receiver he has some major durability concerns. He hasn’t been fully healthy in two years and one more injury could end his career. He also doesn’t have that pure deep speed but he plays much faster than his 40 time.
Underrated Attribute: Agility.
Role: Anywhere between #3 and off the team.
Best Case: Abbrederis stays healthy and shows why he was drafted with the Erik Walden compensatory pick, rising up the depth chart and catching around 40 passes and occasionally returning punts.
Worst Case: Abbrederis gets hurt again and ends up on either IR or cut and retired before the preseason ends.
Projection: I think Abbrederis makes the team and becomes the #4 receiver with Montgomery on the shelf, showing potential and the ability to be a dependable option for Rodgers for years to come.
#11 TREVOR DAVIS
6’1” 188 lbs. Age 22 (Rookie)
Drafted in the 5th Round (163rd Overall) in 2016 from California
Strengths: Davis has sprinter’s speed and is explosive with his straight lines. A true home run threat, he plays a lot like Mike Wallace did early on his career, and can be a top flight deep guy. He has great hands and shows good body control for his age and experience and runs decent routes. He is also a good return option and might be the guy taking the opening kickoff of the season back.
Weaknesses: Davis is a rookie, so the experience isn’t there and neither is his chemistry with Rodgers. He also is slight for his 6’1” frame which could make him susceptible to injury or at least some dangerous hits.
Underrated Attribute: Hands
Role: Davis is likely the #5 or #6 receiver and kick returner who may not always be a gameday active.
Best Case: Davis grows into his role quickly, works his butt off on the practice field and sees more and more time as the season goes on, finishing with 15-20 catches and a couple touchdowns.
Worst Case: Davis never really develops and becomes the next Cory Rodgers and doesn’t make it out of camp.
Projection: Davis makes the team as the final receiver and shows enough potential to be a weapon. He won’t always be active but will be dangerous when he does see the field. His upside is very high with his speed.
#81 GERONIMO ALLISON
6’3” 202 lbs. Age 22 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from Illinois
Strengths: A big, physical receiver who is a serious jump ball threat, Allison was extremely productive at Illinois, with his route running and his ability to beat press coverage his best traits. He engages defenders both with his routes and as a blocker and is hard to bring down once he has the ball. He also has the experience of being the guy on a team and making the big catch.
Weaknesses: Not ideal speed for a boundary receiver, definitely a possession guy. Doesn’t make consistent breaks and telegraphs his underneath routes, leading to defenders being glued to him. Also drops focus at times, leading to drops.
Underrated Attribute: Boundary body control.
Role: He could surprise as the final receiver but is most likely ticketed for the practice squad.
Best Case: Allison could be the final guy named to the roster and become a gameday inactive all season as he develops so another team can’t poach him.
Worst Case: Allison suffers from dropsies and his lack of speed hurt him dramatically, leading to him being cut midway through camp.
Projection: He will make it to the end of camp but never really had a spot on the team and becomes a priority member of the practice squad with another shot in 2017.
#16 HERB WATERS
6’0” 188 lbs. Age 23 (Rookie)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on May 6, 2016 from Miami (FL)
Strengths: Great hands catcher, rarely lets the ball get into his body, and he is a dependable route runner, able to get open in any situation and make the catch. Is able to shield off defenders well and catch in traffic, and has the effort level you want in a receiver fighting for a roster spot.
Weaknesses: Undersized for his abilities, doesn’t have the deep speed you expect from a smaller receiver.
Underrated Attribute: Toughness over the middle
Role: Like Allison, Waters is likely ticketed for the practice squad but could surprise if he can play special teams well.
Best Case: Like Allison, if Waters is extremely impressive, he could take the 7th receivers spot and be a consistent gameday inactive.
Worst Case: His size works against him and he struggles to get open underneath and doesn’t make it past first cuts.
Projection: I think he makes it to the final game and becomes a practice squad member or gets claimed by another team with a need at receiver.
#19 ED WILLIAMS
6’0” 196 lbs. Age 25 (2nd Season)
Signed as an Undrafted Free Agent on August 3, 2015 from Fort Hays State
Strengths: Decent speed and showed something to Mike McCarthy as he was kept on the practice squad all last year. Good hands and has a good grasp of the offense. Runs routes well and is a willing blocker and special teamer.
Weaknesses: Small school product who was hurt part of last preseason and saw limited action. Older receiver for his draft class and that limits his ceiling.
Underrated Attribute: Football IQ
Role: Likely either the final receiver or a practice squad guy.
Best Case: Like the guys above him, he could surprise and be the gameday inactive receiver all year.
Worst Case: He never develops after last season and doesn’t survive first cuts.
Projection: I think he makes it to the final game before being cut and catching on with another team’s practice squad.
#10 JAMEL JOHNSON
6’2” 217 lbs. Age 24 (2nd Season)
Signed in 2016 as a Free Agent out of Alabama State
Strengths: Good size for an outside receiver, shows good vertical and can high point the ball. Smart player who always seems to be in position to make a good play for his team, either as a blocker or receiver. Willing to make the tough catch.
Weaknesses: Not productive in college (3rd leading receiver at Alabama State) and didn’t play at all in 2014. Not a real deep threat and doesn’t have the ideal burst to create separation on underneath routes.
Underrated Attribute: Vertical (38”)
Role: Likely practice squad candidate at best (signed three year futures contract)
Best Case: Best case for Johnson is the practice squad this year. He is in just too much of a logjam.
Worst Case: Johnson is older for his experience level and hasn’t played much since 2013-2014. He doesn’t make it past the Hall of Fame game.
Projection: I think that Johnson makes one or two nice plays in camp but gets caught in a numbers game and gets cut on the way down to 75.
Summarizing my projections
First Cuts: J. Johnson
Final Cuts: Williams, Waters (PS), Allison (PS)
Making the Team: Nelson, Cobb, Adams, Abbrederis, Janis, Davis, Montgomery (PUP)
There is so much talent here that this could be a goldmine for years for the Packers, but our next position is not. They have struggled since 2013 and need their big free agent to come through, and that is the tight ends. Look for that article on Saturday.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.