This week saw the first handful of NFL players that have chosen to opt-out of the 2020 seasons due to COVID-19-related concerns. New Packers WR Devin Funchess is one of these players and is the first (and currently only) Packer to do so. Funchess has experience with the virus, as he spent the offseason caring for family members who had the disease.
While the health of his family is a priority, many are now curious about the Packers’ options at wide receiver. The free-agent was the only wide receiver added to the team this offseason, leaving what is viewed outside the team as a bare cupboard even emptier. Despite popular opinion, those in charge at 1265 Lombardi clearly believe in this group. The talent is there; it just needs experience and polishing.
Despite having more experience than everyone in the room but Davante Adams, Funchess had an uphill battle. Its common knowledge that Rodgers needs to build trust in his receivers. In a massively reduced season, this was going to be hard to acquire. Less practice and no preseason reps mean fewer chances to build that trust. Funchess was also new to the offense.
Davante Adams is one of the top four receivers in this league, regardless of what silly lists might say. He was always going to be WR1. Allen Lazard proved himself a rising star in 2019, and his quarterback has lavished praise upon the young receiver countless times. It’s hard to not picture Lazard as the clear WR2 going into the season.
At best, that would have left Funchess as WR3. Even then, I still think Equanimeous St. Brown is going to surprise people. While his 2019 season was lost to injury, his rookie season was promising, with improvement every week. He still needs to work his way into the offense and build more tape, but I truly believe EQ can have a great season as a consistent WR3. His low draft capital was less about potential skill and more about off-field concerns, which he’s proven wrong thus far.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling still likely plays a major role as well. His 2019 was disappointing but injury sapped much from the speedy target. 2020 is a chance for him to build chemistry with Rodgers, and, if nothing else, fill a needed role on certain plays.
Funchess’ absence possibly helps Jake Kumerow as well. Depending on how many receivers the Packers choose to keep in 2020, Kumerow was likely the bubble player. Now, the lusciously-locked receiver has a chance to play a role. Kumerow is one of the better blocking receivers on the team and made good plays when able in 2019, and Aaron Rodgers loves him.
The Packers won’t just be doing aerial damage with wide receivers either. There is a very good chance for Jace Sternberger to ball out as a receiver, and the team likely uses multiple tight end sets as well. It’s not ridiculous to think Sternberger is in the team’s top three reception leaders in 2020.
The Packers likely use their running backs in the passing game to a strong effect as well. Aaron Jones was one of the team’s best pass-catchers in 2019, and Jamaal Williams is adept in that role, too. If AJ Dillon can catch well, the team won’t be hurting for pass-catching. It just may not come in a traditional form.
The Packers would love to see Funchess become an important member of the team; he’s a talented player and could do well in Green Bay. He’ll get another chance to do so next year. But he made the difficult decision to look out for his family, and he shouldn’t be scorned. The Packers may be in better shape in the passing game than they’ve appeared this offseason, and LaFleur is creative enough to get those yards in other ways.Matt Hendershott is a Packers fan and Miller High Life enthusiast from Northwest Ohio. He has a Master of Arts in Media and Communication from Bowling Green State University. You can follow him on Twitter @MattHendershott.