The first thing that I’d like to do here on Football Friday is voice my encouragement towards Jonathan Franklin. By all accounts he was a wonderful human being and I, for one really felt like he was talented. The short length of his career shouldn’t affect his ability to have a positive impact on the world. I am happy for Jonathan that he has such a positive attitude and is a man of Faith. He’ll always be a Green Bay Packer.
It’s hard not to get excited about the Green Bay Packers receiving corps. Aaron Rodgers is. Tom Clements is. Both men have described the receivers room as “as deep as since I have been here”. James Jones, Donald Driver, and Greg Jennings have all gone on down the road. The Packers cupboard certainly wasn’t left bare with Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and Jarret Boykin. Many teams would have been happy with those 3.
Ted Thompson is appearing to have learned from his most respected predecessor, former Packers GM Ron Wolf. Wolf said that one of his greatest regrets was not getting Brett Favre enough weapons. Thompson responded to Jones’ departure and the possible retirement of Jermichael Finley with the drafting of Davante Adams, Richard Rodgers, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis. Talented TE Colt Lyerla was added as a UDFA. The tight end room is not that crowded, but the receivers seem to have 9 players competing for 6 or even maybe just 5 spots. Holdovers Myles White, Kevin Dorsey, Alex Gillet and especially Chris Harper are vying for these spots as well.
For the purposes of this column I am going to award roster locks to Nelson, Cobb, Boykin, and Adams. I’m also going to predict that Gillet and Dorsey will absolutely not make the squad.
Jared Abbrederis- as insane as it sounds I almost elevated Abbrederis to “lock” status. Abbrederis provides the team with so many things. He is a capable returner,/ He projects as an effective slot receiver (though I believe he can play outside too). He provides insurance that the receiving corps in 2015 would still stay at least 3 deep if Cobb or Nelson left. He also is the first 5th round pick in recent memory to have his jersey sold out of the pro shop before his first NFL snap. Besides the fact that it would be a god awful PR move to release Abbrederis it also doesn’t make a whole lot of football sense. If this receiving corps stays together, next year’s “Fab 5” should be the best 5 WR set in Packers history.
Jeff Janis- so much intrigue. Physically Janis is unquestionably elite. He stands 6’3″, weighs 219 pounds and runs the 40 in a blazing 4.42 seconds. His 20 bench press reps at 225 pounds were the best at the combine, as was his 6.64 3 cone drill. All of that sounds like a first round pick, but due to the small school that he went to he was projected as a 3rd to 5th round pick. It’s possible that his small hands and lack of refinement caused him to fall to Green Bay in the 7th round. Janis was a Division II star that was not really required to run precise routes or catch the ball with his hands (not his body) to dominate his competition. If the Packers can work with Janis, either on the practice squad or as the 6th receiver on the roster, it’s possible that Janis has the highest ceiling of any of these players.
Chris Harper- Harper was a 4th round pick of the Seattle Seahawks but failed to crack the deepest roster in the league before last season. Seattle tried to sneak him on to their practice squad but he signed with the San Francisco 49ers instead. The 49ers saw his unique size (6’1″ 229) and tried to use him in different ways than as a receiver. Harper was worked in at H-back and tight end, positions he was not familiar with nor proficient at. Harper has made it clear that he is not just looking to make the team, that he intends to earn real playing time. He’s actually been quoted declaring his intentions to start. While I don’t think that is probably realistic for Harper, as a former 4th round pick he was a higher draft pick than any of his competitors for the 5th WR position and the Packers do not have a receiver of his size.
Myles White- I almost feel like I’m including White as a courtesy. I haven’t really ever liked him as a player. His 4.37 40 is great, but even that top end speed doesn’t make up for how skinny he is or how little he showed in his playing time last season. I just don’t think White is very quick, I don’t see a lot of “juice”. There is no question that Myles is the fastest wide receiver on the football team and getting meaningful snaps with the team during last season was important. White has experience, what I don’t think he has is the body to make it in the NFL. I think that White could definitely make a useful 5th, maybe even 4th wide receiver on a team one day, but when you’re rail thin and can’t tackle on special teams and you aren’t a returner it’s hard to make a club. Especially this club.
Prediction: as with cornerback (although admittedly less) this battle is important beyond just this season. There is a small chance that Jordy Nelson or Randall Cobb is playing for a different NFL team in 2015. I don’t think this will happen but it could. The Packers have to be 5 or 6 deep at receiver this season with young talent so that they can develop that talent and be 4 or 5 deep next year should one of the next year. Should the receiving corps stay together next season, with the rookies getting a year of experience, it just might be the best Packers group ever, 1-5.
As much as it sucks (and it really, really does) that Jonathan Franklin has to retire, it probably opens up a roster spot. With Kuhn’s ability to run the ball in a tight spot, the Packers probably only need to keep he and Lacy, Starks and Harris. As far as I’m concerned this almost guarantees the team keeps 6 receivers. What I am hoping, and what I honestly believe that the team is hoping as well is that they can keep Harper and practice squad Janis. Harper has been here a little bit longer and certainly provides something to the receiving corps with his size that no other player does. Janis, despite his measurables lasted until late in the 7th round before the Packers picked him so one would have to think that it’s certainly possible that he would slide onto the practice squad without being signed to an active roster. His raw ability, if developed has an extremely high ceiling but Harper’s potential, as well as his ability to be used on specials should help him crack the opening day 53.