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Packers Training Camp Preview: Youth at WR poses questions behind Adams & Cobb

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A bevy of young talent will attempt to crack a wide open position.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Carolina Panthers USA TODAY NETWORK-Wisconsin

Continuing our series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster prior to training camp, we examine the wide receiver position and reveal our pre-camp predictions for the team’s 2018 53-man roster. Follow along over the next two weeks as we break down the roster position-by-position and reveal our predictions.

Last season, the Packers brought in one of their most talented pass catching units in years. The group featured Jordy Nelson, apparently fully recovered from his ACL tear, leading the way, buoyed by breakout star Davante Adams and slot machine Randall Cobb, who had always excelled with two good outside receivers opening up the middle. The free agent signing of tight end Martellus Bennett led many to believe that this would be one among the best offensive seasons the Packers would ever enjoy with Aaron Rodgers under center.

Instead, everything crumbled to pieces like a displaced collarbone. Nelson was productive with Rodgers, but a lot of players are productive with Rodgers, and once Rodgers was lost for the year it became obvious that Nelson was a shell of his former self. Davante Adams held up his end of the bargain, upping his game and actually producing slightly better with Brett Hundley, and Cobb was mostly fine. However, the bench proved to be a major weakness. Misses on higher-round picks (like Ty Montgomery as a WR), and failed developmental projects like Jeff Janis left the cupboard bare, and with Nelson moving on to the Jon Gruden trainwreck out west, there was no heir apparent in sight at the start of free agency.

Many, myself included, thought Brian Gutekunst would look to free agency, or to a high draft pick to shore up the position. A free agent acquisition isn’t fully out of the question, but in the 2018 Draft his approach was mixed, spending some mid-round capital and plenty of late capital, on tall, athletic projects. This will be the position to watch in camp, as anyone can make a case to make the team, and outside of Adams, almost anyone could be gone.

Davante Adams

NFL Years of Experience - 4
Current Contract - Year one of a 4-year, $58,000,000 contract, $18,000,000 signing bonus, $30,000,000 guaranteed; 2018 cap hit $10.537M
2017 Stats - 74 receptions on 117 targets (63.2%), 885 yards, 12.0 yards per reception, 10 touchdowns

The clear star of the group, Adams took a few years to really develop, but once he did he quickly became one of the NFL’s best. His stat-lines of the past two seasons do not do justice to his true contributions or level of play. Adams is one of the league’s best route-runners, and he can out-physical almost any corner in the league. His hands have improved dramatically since his rookie season, and he is a threat running any branch of the route tree, from slant to go. It’s a crime that he lacks a 1000-yard season, and if he finally gets a full slate of games with Rodgers the rest of the world will finally learn just how good he is. Among the most important players on the team, an injury to Adams would be devastating for the offense.

Randall Cobb

NFL Years of Experience - 7
Current Contract - Final year of a 4-year contract, $12,700,000, $3,250,000 guaranteed; 2018 cap hit $12.718M
2017 Stats - 66 catches on 92 targets (71.7%), 653 yards (9.9 yards per reception), 4 TDs. 9 carries for 17 yards.

In his first four seasons with the Packers, Randall Cobb averaged over 14 yards per reception three times, with the lone outlier sitting right at 12.0. Since that time, he’s never eclipsed 11, and in 2017, he fell under 10 for the first time. Cobb as the big play slot guy is a distant memory to many, and his decline in efficiency tracks a general decline in the Packer passing game dating to the 2015 injury to Nelson.

Despite Cobb’s lack of eye-popping numbers, however, the route-running and agility are still present, and at 28, it’s still possible that Cobb could capture the magic of his first few seasons with the proper supporting cast around him. The problem with Cobb, as always, is that he is strictly a complementary player; a double down that can give you an enormous advantage, or, if the outside wideouts struggle, drag you down at an additional position.

Cobb is in the final year of his contract, and while he’s still a useful player on the right team, he’s also a bit of a luxury. On a deeper team he would be at risk of being cut, but as it stands this may very well be his swan song as a Packer. He is the most likely future New England Patriot on the team.

Geronimo Allison

NFL Years of Experience - 2
Current Contract - 1 year, $630,000. $0.00 Guaranteed.
2017 Stats - 23 catches on 39 targets (59%), 253 yards, 0 TDs.

Allison is, in some ways “just a guy.” The undrafted free agent out of Illinois doesn’t blow you away athletically, his hands are average, and he’s not a straight line burner. All of those caveats aside, Allison gets solid reviews as a locker room presence, a student of the game, and a workhorse. He has two years of experience in the system, and even though he is a legacy holdover from the Ted Thompson era, his height and athletic profile are somewhat similar to Gutekunst’s slew of recent draft picks. If the new front office has a vision for the position, Allison doesn’t seem like a bad fit.

As likely to be a starting outside receiver as he is to be cut outright, Allison has the most to gain, and lose, of any receiver this training camp.

Trevor Davis

NFL Years of Experience - 2
Current Contract - 3rd years of a 4 year, $2,567,176 contract, $227,176 guaranteed
2017 Stats - 5 receptions, 7 targets, (71.4%), 70 yards, 14 yards per reception, 0 TDs. 24 punt returns, 289 yards, 31 kick returns, 707 yards

Davis has been a disappointment since he was drafted in the 5th round of the 2016 draft, two picks ahead of Tyreek Hill. Davis is small, fast, and shifty, but his poor route running and seeming lack of understanding of the offense prevents him from seeing the field unless it’s an emergency, and sometimes, not even then. He does contribute as a returner on special teams, but as the NFL moves away from the return game in general, that particular skill becomes less and less valuable.

Davis will have an uphill battle to make the team. He’s shown virtually nothing outside of drawing a truly epic pass interference penalty, and if the light doesn’t come on soon, it’s going to stay dark.

Michael Clark

NFL Years of Experience - 1 year
Current Contract - 1 year, $555,000
2017 Stats - 4 receptions, 14 targets, 41 yards, 0 TDs.

The undrafted free agent is bigger than everyone else, and...that’s pretty much it. Clark used that massive frame to put up one productive season of college football at Marshall, but in his limited time in with the Packers last season, he showed just how far he still has to go. An awful route runner who can’t get himself open, he also lacks the solid hands that might allow him to body defensive backs out of the way for contested catches.

Clark could use more time honing his skills on the practice squad, because as it stands he’s not helping an NFL team.

DeAngelo Yancey

NFL Years of Experience - 1 year (practice squad)
Current Contract - 1 years, $480,000
2017 Stats - None

Only one foolish APC contributor voted for Yancey on the 53-man roster, and that man was me. At 6-foot-2 and 220, Yancey is a bruiser along the lines of Ty Montgomery, but unlike Montgomery, he boasts a much more refined, diverse skill set than most of the receivers on the team, and I’ll always be impressed with his production in college with substandard quarterbacks. In particular, his 6 catch, 155 yard, 2 TD effort against a very good Wisconsin defense in 2016 stands out.

Yancey has had his struggles, including in the most recent round of OTAs, but he’s smart, his Mockdraftables comparable list features James Jones, and as a position-agnostic athlete he is a near perfect comp for Clay Matthews. What’s not to like?

Jake Kumerow

NFL Years of Experience - 3 (almost entirely on practice squads)
Current Contract - 1 year, $480,000
2017 Stats - None

A product of Division III Wisconsin-Whitewater, Kumerow’s 6-foot-4, 209-pound build fits the bigger-receiver style that the Packers have gone for lately. As an athlete, he’s fast enough and quick enough, but won’t stand out in any area.

Kumerow spent all of the 2015 and 2016 seasons with the Bengals, earning a call-up from the practice squad to the 53-man roster for the final game of his second year (though he did not dress for that game). Last year, he was injured in training camp and cut loose, landing first on the Patriots’ practice squad for a time before signing on the Packers’ squad. With practice squad eligibility all but up, this is probably Kumerow’s last realistic shot at an NFL career, but the odds are stacked against him.

J’Mon Moore

NFL Years of Experience - Rookie
Current Contract - 4 years, $2,912,359, $452,359 guaranteed
2017 Stats (Missouri) - 65 receptions, 1082 yards, 16.6 yards per reception, 10 TDs.

Moore is big and strong, and he posted impressive combine scores on...well, pretty much everything except the 40-yard dash, but that doesn’t tell the entire story. Moore is a go-up-and-get-it specialist, and spent a good deal of time physically dominating smaller corners, but his tape is also filled with the occasional breathtaking move or double move. Moore is a natural hands-catcher, never letting the ball get into his body, and his vision when being closely covered is almost supernatural. Rarely does he signal that the ball is in flight, waiting until the last moment to snatch it out of the air.

Criticisms of Moore focus on the way he dominated in college, and you will see him described as “raw” (and occasionally as a locker room problem), but I would caution tape-watchers against confusing Missouri’s offensive scheme, which did in fact include a lot of checkdowns and screens, with Moore’s skills when asked to do more. He probably will need work, like any rookie, but the ability, and some of the polish, is already present.

After watching Moore in some depth I’m much higher on his than I was pre-draft, and to cap off everything else, he put a solid dent in his slow combine 40-time at his pro day, taking a 4.6 and turning it into a 4.48. Moore is the best bet to turn into something special, maybe sooner than people think.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

NFL Years of Experience - Rookie
Current Contract - 4 year, $2,677,553 contract, $217,553 guaranteed.
2017 Stats (South Florida) - 53 catches, 879 yards, 16.6 yards per reception, 6 TDs. 8 Carries, 108 yards, 1 TD.

If you want to understand why I think J’Mon Moore is more advanced as a receiver than some scouting reports give him credit for, watch his highlight reel and then follow it up with Valdes-Scantling’s. MVS is the epitome of a raw receiver, having excelled in college almost exclusively on “go” routes, and on poorly defended screens. MVS is a giant at 6-4 and an absolute burner, having posted a 4.37 40-yard dash, but he didn’t run agility drills, and his tape doesn’t exactly provide a showcase of agility. His hands are fine.

While he does possess classic returner skills, he was not used as a returner in college and its an open question as to how much he could contribute on special teams. He’s big enough to be an asset, but his frame doesn’t scream “gunner.” If MVS can learn some of the finer points of football and put his good speed to good use he can certainly be a weapon, if only in certain packages, but it’s also easy to envision him as Jeff Janis or worse. This will be his age 24 season, making him one of the older rookies you’ll see.

Equanimeous St. Brown

NFL Years of Experience - Rookie
Current Contract - 4 year, $2,578,408 contract $118,408 guaranteed
2017 Stats (Notre Dame) - 33 receptions, 515 yards, 15.6 yards per reception, 4 TDs

St. Brown is the son of a world class bodybuilder and and a German woman, and he’s a monster of a man at 6-5, 214 pounds, but he’s also extremely raw, and was mostly effective on bombs and wide open plays. He’s not as adept at using his size and speed as you might like, and without DeShone Kizer slinging balls in his junior season, his production fell off a cliff.

Still, you could do far worse with a supplemental 6th-round pick, and St. Brown’s physical makeup isn’t in question. He wasn’t in the best spot to learn the finer points of offensive gameplay at a small, unaffiliated college that historically struggles on offense, and if the professionals can teach him a few things, that frame may allow him to contribute. It probably won’t be this year.