The Green Bay Packers have never been a team to give up prematurely on early-to-mid round draft picks.
With new General Manager Brian Gutekunst providing some form of continuity in form of philosophy from the Ted Thompson regime, there may still be a level of vested interest in recent draft picks trying to find their way in the NFL. But with a draft that yielded three wide receivers, particularly ones with size and speed that can stretch the field, one has to wonder about the chances for third-year pro Trevor Davis to make the final roster.
From strictly a numbers standpoint, the receiver position will be tight this upcoming season. Davante Adams is a lock to make the final roster, with Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison figuring to be safe bets. After the trio of veterans, rookies Equanimeous St. Brown, J’Mon Moore, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling represent a strong attempt by Green Bay to shore up receiving depth on the outside after Jordy Nelson’s release. This makes six players at the position, not counting the versatile Ty Montgomery, former fifth round pick and practice squad holdover DeAngelo Yancey, or promising developmental player Michael Clark.
Where does Davis fit into the equation?
Since 2010, the Packers have kept only five receivers on the opening 53-man roster six times. That includes last season when Allison was suspended for week one and not included on the active roster. Allison’s suspension bought Davis a second shot on the roster, as well as special teams ace Jeff Janis despite the Packers drafting Yancey and Malachi Dupre. Green Bay did stray away from its typical squad numbers in 2016, choosing to keep seven receivers on the final roster in a competitive final cutdown of several first and second-year talents. While the Packers surely could go that route once again in 2018 to keep its most experienced punt returner in Davis, it would constitute a potential repeat of waiting too long on potential (Janis) for a player totaling eight receptions in two years.
The California product has not grown as a skill position player as hoped over the course of his first two seasons, struggling to perfect the route-running and ball-tracking skills needed to compliment his ability to separate downfield. Though he has contributed in the return game, Davis is too often overshadowed by the slow progress he’s made in the passing game as symbolized in the video below.
'ALLIGATOR ARMS' Trevor Davis.. Not a very good effort pic.twitter.com/i4LDMzbevI— truthteller4ever (@mickeyfinnagain) December 24, 2017
Although Davis’s calling card has been special teams play, it has been wildly inconsistent at times. Muffs plagued Davis as a rookie, while his number of fair catches inside the 10-yard line left fans scratching their heads in confusion during his sophomore campaign. Yet, it was Davis’s 65-yard, fourth quarter punt return against the Cleveland Browns that helped keep Green Bay’s postseason hopes alive late in the season. In addition, his 12.0-yard return average fielding punts in 2017 ranked Davis third in the league. The occasional spark on punts has been welcomed at times, but Davis is certainly replaceable as a kick returner with a fairly average 22.8-yard clip (7th in 2017) as the league sees less and less returnable kickoffs.
Special teams alone might not be enough for Davis to earn a final roster spot in 2018, due in part to a pair of roster additions. Though his injury history and thinner frame is a deterrent, first round pick Jaire Alexander has had at least some success as a punt returner in college and possesses some explosion with the ball in his hands. Valdes-Scantling could also become a contributor on returns, though he is inexperienced in the role and may not have the desired lateral quickness. However, the elite straight-line speed is there for MVS, who returned just two kickoffs in college, to find a niche on special teams early in his career. Along with the two rookies, Cobb and Montgomery offer NFL experience and adequate rates of success for the Packers to lean on if necessary.
While Davis is a relatively inexpensive piece on the Packers’ roster with two years left on his rookie contract, time may be running out for his potential to be realized in a green and gold uniform. The Packers waited out the development of Janis for four seasons in hopes that his receiving acumen would catch up to that of his special teams prowess. Although Janis made an impact as a gunner and filled in as a kickoff returner as needed during his tenure, he never became the all-around package in Green Bay. With other positions on the roster needing extra depth, especially on the defensive side of the ball, can the Packers afford to wait out another project in Davis?