Marquez Valdes-Scantling – Part of the Best WR Group in Years

Stocked with a vast array of talent, the Green Bay Packers WR room is as strong as ever, and my money is on Marquez Valdes-Scantling taking that final step to becoming a premier player.

As of this writing, expectations are the Packers keep six WRs on the 53-man roster. However, Devin Funchess is now out of the mix after being placed on injured reserve.

Therefore, I envision Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Randall Cobb, Alan Lazard, Malik Taylor, and rookie Amari Rodgers becoming the final  WR group entering the season.  The big assumption here is the Packers keep six receivers.  In 2020, the final 53 man roster only had five.

That, of course, is pure speculation. Another player, Juwann Winfree, has played well enough to earn the last roster spot, and with practice squad players having to clear free-agent waiver wires first, the only way to protect Winfree is a spot on the 53.   

So the Packers likely release him and risk him going unclaimed, thus making him available to be added to their practice squad.  Although Winfree has looked solid in training camp, I wish there was a better way to secure his services.

I am not sure how things would have shaken out had Funchess not come up injured. However, he also was impressive in training camp, and I felt his NFL experience would have been a valuable asset.  

However, with him out of the picture, I believe Malik Taylor secures that final spot after having a decent training camp showing and playing well in both pre-season games. In addition, Taylor’s value on special teams certainly works in his favor.

Davante Adams is the super-star of this room, no question about that.  Despite often facing double coverages, he undoubtedly will team up with Aaron Rodgers for his share of big plays and a fat stat line.

MVS Time to Shine

The guy I like most this year for taking that next step is Marquez Valdes-Scantling.  Entering his fourth professional season, the 5th round draft pick in 2018  has steadily improved each campaign and earned high praise and confidence from Aaron Rodgers.

His 2020 stat line was 33 receptions for 690 yards and 6 touchdowns.  More impressive, he had six receptions of 40 + yards and had a league-best 20.9 per catch average. 

The 26-year old from South Florida is also the fastest guy on the team. In addition, MVS provides the one legitimate deep threat with his ability to stretch defenses for Matt LeFleur’s offense.

His downside in the past was the glaring dropped passes. However, if he can improve on his 52.4% catch rate, it appears his quickness off the ball and enhanced route running may be a factor in his greater development. Things could point to a big year for the veteran player in a final contract season. 

It should also be noted that deep passes like those thrown to MVS are the most difficult to complete.  Because of his advanced speed, Aaron Rodgers often has to lead him by overthrowing the ball a bit. 

The timing between QB and deep-threat WR has to be spot on for those types of big plays. But, in fairness, the deep-threat wide receiver on any team is likely to have a lower catch rate than the other more multi-purpose pass catchers.

The upcoming season looks bright for MVS at this point. He took a significant step up last season and has become a favorite of Aaron Rodgers. After seeing him in training camp this summer, I have little doubt he becomes a key component in this high-potent offense.

Final Cuts Looming

By this time next week, we will all know how the opening day roster plays out.  The Packers will be releasing players who perhaps may not have lived up to prior expectations.

Unfortunately, they will also be forced to cut some potentially good players as well.  Such is life in the NFL.

After a somewhat weak showing in camp, I expect one of the more prominent names cut is Equanimeous St. Brown. 

Another I think the Packers would like to keep is Reggie Begelton, a practice squad player from last season.

Tight End Position Also Interesting

Another position that appears to have tough decisions is at the tight end position.

Robert Tonyan leads that group and is a lock, and with Mercedes Lewis such a factor in run blocking and given his veteran leadership presence, I think he returns for a final season too.

That’s where things get a bit dicey.  How many TEs the Packers decide to keep is not known, but they kept four in 2020.

So after Tonyan and Lewis, it seems Joshiah Deguara, a third-round draft pick in 2020, will earn a roster spot.

Presuming they keep four again leaves one place left for Jace Sternberger, a round 3 draft pick in 2019, Dominique Dafney, a Street Free Agent in 2020, and Bronson Kaufusi, another Street Free Agent entering his third season.

Sternberger struggled early in camp before practices took place with full pads, but since has looked good.  He also had some quality play in the pre-season games, so his stock may be rising after appearing to be falling fast.

Dafney has not stood out to any significant degree in camp, but I know the coaching staff like him.

The one guy I like is Bronson Kaufusi.  He has looked good at times and is physically a monster.  He stands 6 feet, 6 inches, and weighs 275 pounds.

Despite his massive frame, he has displayed quickness (for someone that size) and some agility.  He has almost 10-inch hands and can catch the ball.

 I would not be surprised if he somehow found a place on the team being utilized both for blocking and receiving at TE, but also on occasion lining up at the fullback position.