Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers has played with a decent amount of rookie Wide Receivers since he became Green Bay’s starter in 2008. In fact, the year he stepped in as lead signal caller, he had a rookie wide receiver in the lineup with him by the name of Jordy Nelson. He went on to have a marvelously successful career, to say the least – but how much of an impact did he make purely as a rookie?
Today, we’ll take a look at a number of significant players Rodgers has played with as a starter and see how they fared in their rookie seasons. The reason being, the Packers drafted Christian Watson with the 34th overall pick and Romeo Doubs with the 132nd pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. While expectations need to be tapered and realistic, everyone with a rooting interest in the Packers is hoping for successful seasons from their top two rookie receivers.
2008 – Jordy Nelson (36th Overall)
As already mentioned, Jordy Nelson was a rookie for the 2008 Packers, the same year Aaron Rodgers became the teams starting QB. In a season where Rodgers threw 28 touchdowns next to 13 interceptions en route to a 6-10 campaign, Jordy Nelson was targeted 54 times on the season, with 33 receptions for 366 yards and 2 touchdowns.
On the 2008 team, Greg Jennings (80 catches) and Donald Driver (74 catches) were clearly the top pass catching options. However, outside of TE Donald Lee’s 39 receptions, Jordy Nelson was 3rd amongst receivers and 4th overall on the team in catches.
2011 – Randall Cobb (64th Overall)
Green Bay didn’t have a rookie Wide Receiver in the lineup in 2009 and 2010, thus Cobb being the next player to evaluate when the Packers took him in the 2nd round of the 2011 Draft. Cobb joined a Packers team fresh off a Super Bowl Championship, with established pass catchers in Greg Jennings, Donald Driver, James Jones, Jordy Nelson and Jermichael Finley already on the team.
Cobb still produced as a rookie, even with the plethora of talent and experience in front of him. He finished 2011 with 25 receptions (on 31 targets) for 375 yards and a touchdown. He also added a touchdown as a punt returner and kick returner, respectively.
2014 – Davante Adams (53rd Overall)
The 2014 Packers saw Aaron Rodgers win his then 2nd MVP Award during a 12-4 season. On that team, Davante Adams was a rookie, who was targeted 66 times. He hauled in 38 of those passes for 446 yards and 3 touchdowns in the regular season. He added another 8 catches for 124 yards and a touchdown in the Packers’ two playoff games. Adams was the 3rd WR on the team, firmly behind Jordy Nelson (98 receptions) and Randall Cobb (91 receptions).
2015 – Ty Montgomery (94th Overall)
Montgomery, who is still in the NFL as a member of the New England Patriots, was drafted by the Packers in 2015 with the intention of being a receiver. In his rookie season, he hadn’t started to earn rushing attempts (3 on the season) at the frequency that he does now.
While the Packers used him as a receiver, he finished his rookie season with 15 receptions for 136 yards and 2 touchdowns.
2016 – Trevor Davis (163rd Overall) and Geronimo Allison (Undrafted)
Davis had 3 catches for 24 yards and a touchdown in his rookie season with the Packers and Aaron Rodgers. He also added 9 punt returns for 115 yards (12.8 average).
Allison, an undrafted rookie receiver from University of Illinois, had 12 receptions (on 22 targets) for 202 yards and 2 touchdowns.
2018 – J’Mon Moore (133rd Overall), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (174th Overall) and Equanimeous St. Brown (207th Overall)
The 2018 Packers went 6-9-1 despite Aaron Rodgers starting all 16 games for the team. Davante Adams was the clear cut #1 receiving option (111 catches), however the depth behind him was thin.
A banged up Randall Cobb played in 9 games and finished the season with 38 catches. Tied with Cobb in receptions was Valdes-Scantling, who also added 581 yards (15.3 yards per reception) and 2 touchdowns to his 38 passes caught.
With receiving options as thin as they were in 2018 (Jimmy Graham was 2nd on the team with 55 catches), it opened the door for other younger players, like Equanimeous St. Brown. In his rookie season, St. Brown hauled in 21 passes for 328 yards.
The Packers highest draft selection among the 3 players, J’Mon Moore, caught 2 passes for 15 yards in his lone NFL season.
2019 – Allen Lazard (Undrafted)
Lazard was technically a rookie in 2018, where he caught 1 pass with the Packers (He spent most of the season on the Jacksonville Jaguars practice squad – the Packers didn’t claim him until December 18th, 2018). For the sake of the assignment, we’ll give Lazard the benefit of the doubt and look at his 2019 season.
He didn’t get into a game until Week 6 but he made the most of his opportunities from that point forward. He finished 2019 with 35 catches for 477 yards and 3 touchdowns in 11 games played. The 2019 Packers were so thin at WR that Lazard actually finished 2nd on the team in receptions at the receiver position.
2021 – Amari Rodgers (85th Overall)
Rodgers struggled in his rookie season and finished 2021 with 4 receptions and 45 yards receiving.
When we take the averages of all the players mentioned above, we get a rookie stat line of 21 receptions for 272 yards and 1.45 touchdowns. So, as we head into the 2022 season, it’s probably very fair to assume that Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs will take their lumps and have to learn the intricacies of the NFL, like the Jordy Nelson’s, Randall Cobb’s and Davante Adams’s of the world did before them.——————
Alex grew up in a family of Chicago Bears fans in the suburbs of Chicago but was always a Packers guy. Alex\'s AIM name when he was in elementary/middle school was PackerAlex. He now lives in Nashville, Tennessee and you can follow him on twitter at @Alex_Mayer93.