When your starting quarterback twice fails to throw for over 100 yards in a full game, it’s tough to be successful as a wide receiver regardless of your ability level.
That is exactly what happened to the Green Bay Packers’ wide receivers in 2017. After Aaron Rodgers was lost for basically the final 10 plus games of the regular season with a broken collarbone, the receiver group as a whole struggled to develop any kind of chemistry with new starting quarterback Brett Hundley.
It does not matter how good you are as a receiver or as a route runner. If the quarterback can’t move the ball down the field, your receivers aren’t going to be successful. That’s basic football.
If Rodgers stayed healthy the entire season, then the group would clearly have had a better performance. They were arguably a victim of circumstance more than any other position on the roster.
Let’s go through the receivers player by player and see how 2017 went for the wide receivers.
The fourth year receiver had quite the year. After a nasty helmet to helmet collision against the Chicago Bears that saw him leave the game in an ambulance, Adams did not miss any games and was able to miraculously play the following week and even caught the game-winning touchdown against the Dallas Cowboys.
In the wake of Aaron Rodgers breaking his collarbone, Adams was the only receiver that developed any kind of rapport with Hundley once he entered the lineup. It was his play after Rodgers got hurt that likely sealed the big extension he signed at the end of the season. His game winning touchdown in overtime against the winless Cleveland Browns spared the Packers from one of the most embarrassing defeats in team history.
Adams unfortunately saw his season end on yet another helmet to helmet collision and suffered a second concussion. With nothing left for the team to play for, Adams missed the final two games (though he was cleared and made a Pro Bowl appearance as an injury replacement).
For the season, Adams saw his total yardage drop about 250 yards from 2016 but had Rodgers not gotten hurt he clearly would have gotten his first career 1,000 yard season.
Much like Rodgers missed Nelson in 2015, so did Nelson miss Rodgers in 2017.
When Rodgers disappeared from the lineup, so apparently did Nelson. Nelson caught two of his six touchdown passes on the season in the win over the Cincinnati Bengals in Week 3. Also worth noting is that all six of Nelson’s touchdowns were thrown by Aaron Rodgers. He also never had more than 35 yards receiving in any game after their MVP quarterback went down.
There will be plenty of debate this off-season on whether or not Nelson has lost a step. He will be 32 when the season opens but his chemistry with Rodgers is so undeniable that the Packers at least have to give Nelson a pass on 2017 to see if he can get back on the right track. Improved quarterback play will benefit him more than anyone.
As much as everyone dogged Cobb all season, he actually had a more statistically successfully season than Nelson. He had 66 catches versus 53 for Nelson and gained 653 yards against Nelson’s total of 482. He even caught touchdown passes from Hundley.
In fact, Cobb had more yards and catches in 2017 than in 2016 and had an equal amount of touchdown catches.
His performance the last two years however is definitely reason to be concerned especially given how he played in 2015 which was his last 1,000 yard season. Cobb’s status with the team will definitely be something to watch as the offseason unfolds.
Allison made a splash during the “run the table” phase of Green Bay’s 2016 season, but he was invisible for most of 2017 making 23 catches for 253 yards and no touchdowns in 15 games.
He also was suspended for the first game of the season due to violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
It’s too early to tell but depending on what happens with Cobb and Nelson plus whatever new talent the team brings in via free agency and the draft, Allison could find himself on the roster bubble come training camp.
2017 solidified Janis’ reputation as a special teams ace and not much else.
Two catches for twelve yards was the receiving stat line for the overhyped former seventh round pick. Set to hit free agency in March, how much the Packers tuly value his abilities on special teams will determine whether or not he is brought back.
During training camp, it was thought Davis’ best shot to make the roster would be as a return man and that’s exactly what happened.
Since this is strictly a wide receiver evaluation, Davis had five catches for 70 yards. He wasn’t much more impactful as a a returner either, though a 65-yard punt return did set up the game winning touchdown against the Browns.
The 6’5” rookie saw brief action late in the season and should compete for a roster spot next fall.
Position Grade: C
It was not a very good year for the receiving group as a whole, yet it was not entirely their fault.
Had Rodgers remained healthy, this grade could have been much higher. Hundley held this group back, especially when he didn’t even hit 100 yards passing in two games.
This group could also look much different in 2018. It can’t be ruled that Nelon and perhaps also Cobb could be gone during the offseason. No one knows what new general manager Brian Gutekunst is thinking and planning on in regards to Rodgers’ targets.
Overall, the receivers get an average grade. Did Rodgers make them all look that much better or was Hundley all that terrible? There is no clear answer to that question, hence the C grade.
Hopefully for the Packers, Gutekunst infuses enough new talent into this position to bring them up to a B on skill alone. Rodgers can take care of the rest.