At the time of publication, the Green Bay Packers have five receivers on their roster. On the surface, that’s not a bad number. However, only three of them -Randall Cobb, Amari Rodgers, and Juwan Winfree- logged offensive snaps in 2021.
It’s still up-in-the-air, but the team should bring Davante Adams back for at least one more year, which obviously strengthens the receiver room. There’s also a chance Green Bay re-signs Allen Lazard and/or Marquez Valdes-Scantling. But even then, the Packers would be wise to look elsewhere for help.
The draft is a great place to start. This talent associated with this year’s crop of receivers is expected to run deep and 40 of them have been invited to the NFL Combine. So, which ones should the Packers keep an eye on the most?
*Please note this exercise only lists healthy players who have been invited to the combine
Christian Watson, North Dakota State Bison
Pre-combine target range: Round 4
Adams can do it all, but he doesn’t have elite speed. That hasn’t stopped him from being one of the game’s best deep receivers, however. He finished 2021 with the sixth-best reception rate (48.1%), fifth-most yards (453), and tied for the fourth-best yards per route run mark among receivers with at least 19 targets of 20+ air yards, per Pro Football Focus.
But, just imagine if the Packers had a threat like Watson next to him. Watson is much like Adams in the sense that he can play anywhere, but he has game-breaking speed. He also excels at tracking the ball downfield and he routinely wins against contested catches. Valdes-Scantling has done pretty well in that role for the Packers, but he may not be back in 2022. Watson can also make plays after the catch.
The break by Christian Watson is soooooooo smooth here. Puts the DB on the ground and creates nice separation. pic.twitter.com/8yMHQchVxI— Ben Glassmire (@BenGlassmireNFL) February 2, 2022
NDSU WR Christian Watson (6’3/206) is on the receiving end of several Trey Lance bombs you’ve seen— Thor Nystrom (@thorku) June 18, 2020
Here he does all the work himself
Watson’s a super legit NFL prospect, a rJR who could bounce if he goes off in 2020
Having Watson on the roster would really force defenses into a bind. They would have to leave either him or Adams 1-on-1 while the other is bracketed, which would create all kinds of problems.
It’s not all about going deep with Watson, however. He can line up anywhere and present problems and that is guaranteed to take pressure off Adams. Watson is also a willing run blocker, which is huge in Matt LaFleur’s system.
Chris Olave, Ohio State Buckeyes
Pre-combine target range: Round 1
Ok, so I had to put a top-tier guy on here just in case Adams doesn’t return.
Of all the available prospects, Olave seems like he is the best bet to potentially replace the All-Pro receiver.
The former Buckeye doesn’t have elite size at 6-foot-1, 188-pounds, but he’s an excellent route runner, elite at creating separation, and has good enough hands.
Routes like this with that footwork is precisely why Chris Olave should be a first round lock.— Corey Seeley (@coreyalex) February 16, 2022
High floor receiver who could make an immediate impact whether he’s WR1 or WR3 on an NFL team. pic.twitter.com/SMJqwTNPh6
Does that sound familiar?
Olave’s strengths are in the vertical passing game and on routes where quarterbacks can take advantage of his run-after-the catch-abilities. Think shallow crossers, digs, slants, etc. when it comes to what Olave can do.
The Packers would have to make some moves in order to acquire Olave, but if he turns out to be the player most project, there shouldn’t be an issue with paying extra in order to make sure you get your guy.
WR Calvin Austin III, Memphis Tigers
Pre-combine target range: Rounds 3-4
Think of the current Arizona Cardinal/former Purdue Boilermaker Rondale Moore when it comes to Austin and what he can do on the field. The Packers don’t have anyone on the roster with that type of skillset, which could aid in the potential decision to draft Austin.
He’s only listed at 5-foot-9, 162-pounds, but the kid is a stick of dynamite with the ball in his hands. Remember the adjective “jitterbug” that was used quite a bit to describe players such as Wes Welker and Co. a few years back? Well, imagine a jitterbug that was just injected with 100 cc’s of steroids and then drank 10 Red Bulls – that’s Austin.
Austin can bring a whole new dynamic to the Packers offense and provide them with a rare skillset that is a problem for NFL defenses if utilized correctly. The Packers took Amari Rodgers in last year’s draft hoping that he would become that all-purpose guy, but that didn’t work out, at all, in Year One. As a matter of fact, you can’t blame the coaching staff if they feel a little burned by Rodgers after last year.
He also has experience returning kicks, which could make it even more enticing for the Packers to draft him.
There are obviously other options, but these three guys make a ton of sense and need to be on the Packers’ radar when the receivers take the field on March 3.
Featured image via-Joe Rondone/The Commercial Appeal / USA TODAY NETWORK