Over two weeks, Acme Packing Company will break down the Green Bay Packers’ 2018 roster position-by-position, providing our grades for each spot and looking ahead to free agency. Today, we continue with the wide receivers.
The Green Bay Packers’ receivers were all over the map this season in terms of experience and execution. Due to rampant injuries, rookies and young players were presented with opportunities that are unprecedented in an organization that typically limits rookie exposure. A few showed enormous potential, while a few others may have played their way right off of the roster going forward. Davante Adams led the way, and will likely continue to do so, but if this offense is going to do any damage in the future, it is going to need several players to develop, and a continued influx of talent.
The Veteran Starters
169 Targets, 111 Receptions (65.7% Catch Percentage), 1386 yards, 12.5 Yards per Reception, 13 TDs.
Adams is a spectacular all-around receiver and the rock of the passing game, but was also held back by an antiquated passing scheme, a poor supporting cast, and defenses designed to stop him. While Davante was undeniably brilliant, he ranked just 30th in DVOA among qualified receivers, and his production was really driven by volume.
Adams is one of the most well-rounded receivers and the league, but the Packers have never really played toward his greatest strength as a route-running savant on middle-distance routes. While he’s capable of hauling in bombs, as well as creating in space on short receptions, the Packers lost a ton of efficiency, and Davante a ton of YAC, by not hitting him in stride in the great expanses of the middle of the field. No one stands to benefit more from a scheme change than Adams, whose tape simply doesn’t match his already formidable production. He did his part; now Rodgers and Matt LaFleur have to do theirs.
61 targets, 38 Receptions (62.3%), 383 yards, 10.1 Yards per Reception, 2 TDS.
What a disaster. The still-not-that-old veteran had an absolute catastrophe of an injury-plagued season. Slot receivers generally sacrifice some yards-per-catch in favor of high catch percentages. Not Cobb, who managed to haul in just 62% of his targets while producing a paltry 10.1 yards per reception. Cobb was a net negative any time he stepped onto the field, and as an unrestricted free agent, he’s likely played his last down as a Packer. Cobb always relied more on savvy than speed, and as a smaller player, the pounding may be starting to add up. He was once able to occasionally step outside and create mismatches, but he’s now all but limited to the slot, and even then, he no longer dominates linebackers and safeties as he once did.
Cobb has always been at his best with two dominant receivers flanking him outside, and the 2018 Packers didn’t have that, but no team can afford this level of no-show from the slot. Cobb burned bright and fast, but the light is out.
30 Targets, 20 Receptions (66.7%), 303 yards, 15.2 Yards per Reception, 2 TDs
I’ve always thought of Allison as “just a guy,” but he put together a very nice start early season as the starter opposite Davante Adams. Allison was a dangerous deep receiver who really blossomed as a route-runner, and he opened things up for the rest of the passing game. If he had enough receptions to qualify, he would have been a top-20 receiver by DVOA, and he is likely a budding star going into next year. Crucially, Allison also had one thing that the rookie backups never really acquired: The trust of Aaron Rodgers. Outside of Adams, there was no one Rodgers was willing to trust with “unsafe” throws more than Allison, and he was rewarded handsomely for it.
Unfortunately a groin injury ended his season early, and as a restricted free agent, there is no guarantee that he will return, but if he is back and healthy, Allison would be a major boon to the 2019 passing game. Losing him was one of the biggest hidden stories of the season, as the Packers replaced his targets by funneling them to the hugely ineffective Randall Cobb and Jimmy Graham and the team was unable to overcome the immense drop-off.
73 Targets, 38 Receptions (52.1%), 581 yards, 15.3 Yards pre Reception, 2 TDS
The Packers picked three late-round rookie wide-receivers, and while they all shared a few similar traits, most analysts expected J’Mon Moore to be the polished, Davante Adams type, Marquez Valdes-Scantling to be a vertical burner and special teams ace, and the enormous Equanimeous St. Brown to be somewhere in between. MVS got the first big chance once Allison went down, and he made the most of it, putting his elite deep speed to good use. Unfortunately over the course of the season Mike McCarthy couldn’t seem to stop himself from putting him in less comfortable roles, especially as a bubble-screen target.
Aaron Rodgers compounded the issue with a seeming inability to hit MVS short, which led to fewer throws to MVS deep. None of this should take away from the fact that he had an impressive rookie season for a late-rounder, and that if he is used properly as a field-stretching deep runner, he can really help an offense. Not every rookie puts up nearly 600 yards, and if he can play to his strengths in 2019, he will do some serious damage to opposing safeties.
Equanimeous St. Brown
36 Targets, 21 Receptions (58.3%), 328 yards, 15.6 Yards per Reception, 0 TDs.
ESB was the final receiver drafted by the Packers, but by the end of the 2018 season he looked like the best of the bunch. There’s a lot to like about St. Brown, from his enormous frame to his insane catch radius to his ability to play both in the slot and outside. ESB is also the youngest of the three at just 22, and there is still some projectability there to unlock.
He didn’t start to see regular targets until late in the year, but when it was all said and done he managed a higher catch percentage than MVS while also out-gaining his speedy counterpart on a per-catch basis. Rodgers purportedly had trust issues with the rookie wideouts, leading to a paucity of targets, but this says more about Rodgers than St. Brown, as he could frequently be found running open while Rodgers forced yet another ball to the covered and injured Jimmy Graham. If anyone from this draft class is likely going to become a star, it’s Equanimeous.
11 Targets, 8 Receptions (72.7%), 103 yards, 12.9 Yards per Reception, 1 TD
The Great Whitewater Hope came crashing down to earth once he joined the team late in the season. Kumerow looked like an advanced route runner in preseason, and some added bulk had him looking like a potential sleeper to make the team and become a major contributor. Instead, he mostly piled up garbage-time catches, and couldn’t create separation from real NFL corners. If he was still a young kid there would be reason for optimism, but he will be 27 next season, and there isn’t must projectability left in him. As an end-of-the-bench guy and a local hero, you could do worse, but the WR position figures to be hyper-competitive in 2019, and Kumerow will likely find himself looking for work elsewhere.
3 Targets, 2 Receptions (66.7%), 15 yards, 7.5 Yards per Reception, 0 TDs
You never can tell until a player actually sets foot on the field. J’Mon Moore looks so much like Davante Adams on his college tape that it’s almost eerie. Some players just have a certain effortless way of changing direction, and driving themselves downhill at all times, and Moore has it. Davante Adams struggled for his first few years in the league, and so caution is warranted with Moore, but Adams never looked quite this bad. Moore’s biggest issue is an almost comical inability to track the ball, and while Adams entered the league with poor hands, it was never like this.
The best thing you can say about Moore is that he really only needs to fix one problem. If he does, the talent and agility is apparent, but his rookie cohorts have already impressed and there are only so many spots to go around. If Moore can’t regain his confidence and get the drops under control, he won’t last very long.
1 Target, 1 Reception (100%), 7 yards, 7 yards per Reception, 0 TDs
Fun fact! The combine measureable aggregation tool Mockdraftable lists physical comparables for all of the players in their database. The closest comp for Equanimeous St. Brown is Kenny Golladay of the Detroit Lions. His second closest comp is Lazard.
The enormous Iowa State product, a late season pickup, caught the only ball thrown his way, and as a raw physical specimen, he’s intriguing. It’s too early to say if there’s anything there, but if the new regime can coach up Lazard into a half-decent technical receiver, he will scare the pants out of smaller corners.
0 Targets. 4 Punt Returns, 44 yards, 1 kick return, 20 yards.
While Trevor Davis has been the one-eyed king of Ron Zook’s kingdom of blind special-teams players for several years, it’s getting harder to justify keeping him around given that he was targeted exactly zero times in the passing game this year. Even Allen Lazard caught one ball.
Davis is still probably the most athletic player on the team, but his route-running is maddening, and even though he is perfectly capable of fielding kicks and high punts, he seems entirely incapable of tracking an Aaron Rodgers deep ball. Some guys just don’t have it.
Overall Grade: B-
There’s a huge variance among the receivers from Davante’s work in the A range to Cobb’s utter failure, but we ultimately find that the promise of the rookies along with Adams workmanlike effort warrants something like a B-minus. There is plenty of room for improvement, but the tools are there, and a new scheme, some development, and some fat-trimming could lead to big things for this unit in 2019. Don’t be surprised if it’s the receivers who take the biggest step forward.