For the Packers, Wide Receiver has almost always been the deepest position on the team since the McCarthy era started. Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb are the biggest names going back to 2005. But even guys like Koren Robinson, Ruvell Martin, and Jarrett Boykin have been able to contribute on a team run by McCarthy. And that won’t change in 2017.
Nelson and Cobb are still here, but they are joined by a bevy of talented guys including one of last year’s breakout stars, two draft picks, an undrafted find, the ultimate fan-driven cult hero, a bloodline, and even a former basketball player who brings the rarest height to the position. And while I’m not nearly enough to completely break everything down, I can’t get up to practice much to see firsthand, but I will provide at least a snapshot as to what each of the candidates brings to the table.
For brevity, we’ll pass up on the analysis for the three locks for the team: Nelson, Cobb, and Davante Adams. We all know already what they can bring. This is more to focus on what’s behind them. And we’ll start with:
The likeliest of guys to make the squad from this list, Allison was a real revelation during last year’s camp, showing great hands, savvy route running and quickly gaining the trust of Aaron Rodgers, which is extremely vital to getting on the field (more on that later). But while Allison has the tools to be a good possession receiver at this level, he needs to put his past behind him. Suspended for the season opener, he will be slightly behind the eight-ball once that runs out and may be passed over by some of the guys on this list who are just as talented but still need some more refinement that Allison showed almost immediately last year.
The most popular of the sleeper picks from this draft class, Dupre was viewed as a top flight talent when he committed to LSU a few years ago. The #1 recruit at wideout, he had huge expectations on him, and he didn’t quite reach them in Les Miles’ system. Yes, part of that is the quarterback play or lack there of in Baton Rouge, but Dupre also had concentration lapses that led to drops. That appears to be behind him early on in camp and he has been consistently praised by coaches and writers of the packers, including Aaron Nagler of Packersnews.
That’s encouraging for a seventh round pick. I’m not expecting Donald Driver, but I was excited when he was picked and I can’t wait to see him in preseason action.
The other 2017 draft pick in this group, Yancey hasn’t made as many splash plays in practice, but he also hasn’t drawn the ire of coaches. Noticeably slimmer in training camp than he was in OTAs, Yancey is a big play specialist who uses his size and football IQ to make an impact. Much like Geronimo Allison, but a slightly better athlete. Yancey will be given every chance to stick and could force the Packers to keep up to 7 receivers on the 53.
Davis came into the league last year as a guy who is really fast but needed to get a lot bigger and stronger. And for the most part, that is still true. He has gotten bigger though, and is flashing more in camp this year now that the pads have come on. He also spent a lot of time working on his special teams play according to beat writer Ryan Wood. A favorite to be the guy running back kicks and punts this year, that is likely where his niche will be early on in his career, but don’t count him out of offensive plans. He got into a few games last year and did catch a touchdown.
The People’s Champ and special teams ace is in a real competition for his roster spot this year. An athletic marvel who compares to Jordy Nelson, Janis has had opportunities to break out but hasn’t ever really been able to put it together as a receiver. Over the years, he has been a good straight line guy, but outside of that he doesn’t appear to have the trust of Aaron Rodgers, which has really dampened his chances to get onto the field more on offense. And it could be his ticket off the team. But in his favor, he has become the offensive version of Jarrett Bush, being arguably the best gunner on the team. But if someone like Yancey can show those same skills, Janis could be looking for another team.
The “bloodline” entry ont his list, McCaffrey has all the measurables and history to be an impact player. His dad was a Pro-Bowl level receiver, his brother was a Top 10 draft pick this year. So it’s understandable that Max might have fallen under the radar, but he is definitely a guy to keep an eye on. Catching everything in sight and showing an aptitude for multiple roles, McCaffrey is a guy who has shown up in camp in a big way, and if he really shows up in preseason games, could push for a spot.
Part of the BYU rookie trifecta on the roster joining Taysom Hill and Jamaal Williams, Pearson has been quiet the past few days, but early on turned some heads with his ability to get open, especially from Nagler’s point of view. A long shot for sure still because of the guys in front of him, but he could be a guy we look at after camp as a tough cut and a surefire practice squad candidate.
A former basketball player who only played one year of football at Marshall and it shows with Clark. Mixing in flashes of amazing athleticism and excellent skills in jump balls with the occasional mental lapse that comes with being only having one year of college football, Clark is a developmental prospect all the way. At 6’6″ and with a 33 inch vertical, he could with time develop into a phenomenal deep threat, but there is a lot of molding to be done. It’ll be a task though that coach Luke Getsy will be more than happy to undertake. Receivers with Clark’s size and athleticism are rare. He could be a find if he refines himself and can transition completely from basketball to football.
Summarizing, these guys could all make things difficult for the coaching staff as to who makes the final 53. That’s not to discount Montay Crockett, but these guys all have shown flashes of being guy that the coaches are forced to keep.——————
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 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.