While we’re in the throes of predicting what the Green Bay Packers will do later this month in the NFL Draft, it seems fitting to take a break from my positional review series to talk about an ascending wide receiver prospect.
He tallied 2,100 receiving yards and 15 touchdowns in his collegiate career playing in a power 5 conference while shining in the biggest moments, playing with the consensus #1 overall pick at quarterback.
Half of you would surrender the 22nd overall draft pick for this mystery man without asking a follow-up.
Put your picks away, the prospect I’m talking about is Packers second year wide receiver Amari Rodgers.
I believe the great Yogi Berra once said “He’s so new, people forgot about him”…or something like that.
Yet here we are, lost in the draft fervor, trying to figure out how spend all four of the Packers top-60 picks on wide receivers when there’s a young guy currently on the roster who could factor significantly in the 2022 pass catching plans.
Just a year ago, Packers general manager elected to use his third round draft selection (#85 overall) on the shifty, well built receiver out of Clemson.
So, why have Packer fans forgotten (or refused to acknowledge) that Amari Rodgers still exists?
He had a rough rookie season.
He’s not a freak athlete.
He’s not Davante Adams or anyone resembling him.
Hurry up and wait
As Peter Bukowski of the Locked On Packers podcast frequently says “Most rookies are bad.”
When talking about rookie wide receivers, you can say that with emphasis.
I’m well aware that Ja’Marr Chase and his 1,500 rookie receiving yards exist, but Amari Rodgers ain’t that guy.
Brian Gutekunst surely thought that he was filling multiple needs when he drafted Rodgers.
Filling an immediate need at punt returner and then allowing him to work his way into the offense as a slot receiver or backfield motion man.
Rodgers did indeed return punts for the Packers in his rookie season, an area in which he had much success in college.
It was an adventure every time the ball was headed his way, making questionable decisions and having great difficulty fielding the ball cleanly.
Rodgers was charged with two fumbles, recovering one of them. He had another muff that was wiped out by a penalty against the Bears and bobbled numerous others.
What was no fault of Amari Rodgers was that the other Rodgers, the anointed one, quarterback Aaron Rodgers was in the midst of a standoff with his employer.
As a condition of Aaron Rodgers coming back into the fold, the Packers re-acquired wide receiver Randall Cobb from the Houston Texans on July 28th..
The biggest problem for Amari Rodgers (then, and now) is that Cobb has virtually the same receiver profile, and the almighty trust of QB1.
Rodgers did see the field a small amount on offense, making four receptions for 45 yards on 8 targets. One of his most notable moments on offense (read: blunders) was in the week 18 loss against the Lions where he tipped a ball thrown by Jordan Love directly into the hands of a defender for a pick.
He certainly didn’t flash anything in his rookie season that would deem worthy of extended playing time, but Randall Cobb usurping the majority of his potential offensive snaps didn’t help either.
His grade as an NFL receiver is far from complete.
Floor & Ceiling
Not everyone acclimates to the NFL at the same speed, not everyone makes the most of their first opportunities.
What are some reasonable comps for a guy like Amari Rodgers?
I did some digging using Kent Lee Platte’s Relative Athletic Score (RAS) comparison tool.
Floor: Ty Montgomery
I think an easy comp for Packers fans is a relatively recent draft pick in Ty Montgomery out of Stanford.
Ty famously made the switch from receiver to running back for the Packers midseason, but actually ran the ball a decent amount in college (39 attempts, 334 yards).
Montgomery is the better athlete, but he’s also got more of a running back build being taller, heavier and a little bit slower. Interesting that Amari Rodgers came in with the more impressive bench press numbers.
Montgomery & Rodgers were both 3rd round picks, both non-traditional wide receiver types with RB builds and both had basically redshirt rookie seasons.
Ty Montgomery is a useful piece that is heading into his 8th year in the NFL but has never found more success than he had with the Packers. A serviceable depth piece but not a difference maker.
Similarly, I don’t see Amari Rodgers entirely flaming out, but it’s certainly possible that he doesn’t carve out more than a niche role in the league.
Closest Comp: Randall Cobb
You can draw some easy parallels between Rodgers and Cobb.
Firstly, Brian Gutekunst was likely the guy who told Ted Thompson “Look, the guy is a subpar athlete but just look at the tape!” regarding Cobb.
And since the departure of Randall Cobb the Packers offense had been lacking a shifty chain mover.
It’s hard to believe that Rodgers is a better athlete than Cobb (by a pretty wide margin), but that just serves to demonstrate that raw athleticism is only one piece of the puzzle.
Both Cobb and Rodgers have great collegiate tape, were utilized in multiple ways (in Cobb’s case he did everything except throw the ball to himself) and tested poorly.
Cobb had a much better rookie season than Rodgers, but he actually saw the field and was targeted. I guess it helps to return a kickoff 108 yards for a touchdown in your first career game, but I digress.
While Rodgers is still technically blocked by Randall Cobb on the depth chart, I think this will ultimately be a positive for Rodgers. The veteran Cobb will undoubtedly show Rodgers how to win consistently in the NFL with a similar skillset and limitations.
It would not surprise me one bit if Rodgers was eating into Cobb’s snaps by midseason and ultimately came close to matching Cobb’s best years in green & gold over his career.
Ceiling: Golden Tate
I know, I know.
Golden Tate will always be a villain in Packers lore for the “Fail Mary” game against the Seahawks in 2012. Please don’t make me sell my Packers stock for the comparison.
There is probably an argument to be made that Randall Cobb is a “better” ceiling for Rodgers than Tate, but I think Tate has been slightly more impactful over his career. Also, I think Rodgers is a better athlete than Cobb and has an outside shot to surpass what he’s done in the NFL.
Tate’s career arc started out similarly to Rodgers. Returning kicks as a rookie and being eased into a role in the offense.
Rodgers is not quite the athlete that Tate is, most notably in the timed speed category. But as we well know, there is speed & speed.
Rodgers is not a blazer, but offers great functional speed. He is not going to take the top off of a defense, but can utilize his combo of strength and route running ability to create space and then turn on the jets.
One key similarity speaks less about the skills of Tate or Rodgers, and more who is throwing them the rock.
Russell Wilson’s ability to throw the prettiest deep ball in the NFL was a perfect match for Golden Tate’s ability to slip by defenders. Aaron Rodgers is the 1B to Wilson’s 1A in deep throws, and I believe that there is similar potential for Amari Rodgers to get loose deep as he did many times at Clemson.
There’s no doubt that Amari Rodgers has his work cut out for him after a lackluster rookie year, but we’re fooling ourselves if we don’t think he’s going to get a serious shot on offense.
Interestingly, Amari Rodgers is still just 22 years old and doesn’t turn 23 until the end of September.
That makes him a full four months younger (23 on 5/12) than noted Packers draft crush Christian Watson out of North Dakota State.
He’s also only about 8 months older than Treylon Burks, Jahan Dotson and Justyn Ross.
There is the outside chance that Rodgers is the next J’Mon Moore and just isn’t an NFL caliber receiver. But how can we bet against the Packers track record drafting pass catchers?
For the record, I fully support using at least one of the Packers top 60 picks on a receiver. Rodgers is never going to be Davante Adams, and they need to find a guy who is (good luck!).
But the book is far from closed on the young, dynamic guy from Clemson.
You can follow Adam on twitter at @adamjcarlson28.