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Packers 2018 Additions: Young WRs showed promise & inconsistency as offense sputtered

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The Packers cut Jordy Nelson, then drafted three receivers in a massive overhaul at the position that yielded mixed results.

Green Bay Packers v New York Jets
Equanimeous St. Brown had a quintessential rookie season, showing flashes of promise along with bouts of inconsistency.
Photo by Sarah Stier/Getty Images

Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company takes a look at each position group on the Green Bay Packers and provides grades and insight on how they performed in the 2018 season. Today, we examine the wide receivers.

Brian Gutekunst made his first big bet as general manager of the Green Bay Packerswhen he released Jordy Nelson last spring, a move that angered fans and the starting quarterback. To replace Nelson, Gutekunst signed Jimmy Graham, a de facto receiver, and went to the receiver well three times in the draft on Day 3.

For a plethora of reasons, this plan didn’t yield the positive results Green Bay was looking for. Geronimo Allison and Randall Cobb missed more than half a season each, Graham never became a focal point of the offense, and the top rookie by draft status couldn’t find the field. This confluence of factors pushed fifth- and sixth-round picks into the starting lineups where they showed off physical ability, but also revealed a lack of polish and precision.

J’Mon Moore

How acquired: Drafted in the fourth round (Pick 133 overall)
Stats: 2 catches, 15 yards

Oof. Numbers often lie, but the stat line for Moore perfectly encapsulates his disappointing rookie season. Moore fell behind his rookie counterparts almost immediately in training camp after some solid early reviews. His route running drew comparisons to a young Davante Adams, but Moore struggled mightily with his hands (just like Adams) and never earned the opportunity to play despite the myriad injuries at the position.

Moore ended up playing just under 7% of offensive snaps, but was the most active receiver on special teams, getting over 31% of snaps there, mostly as a punt gunner. A fourth-round pick who turns out to be nothing more than a special teams player shouldn’t be considered a bust, but given how much better his cohorts at the position look, it’s hard to imagine this pick looking like anything less than a failure if Moore doesn’t find a way to break into the offense in 2019 and beyond.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

How acquired: Drafted in the fifth round Pick 174 overall)
Stats: 38 catches, 581 yards (15.3 YPC), 2 touchdowns

Somehow, MVS was the only receiver to play in all 16 games last year for the Packers, speaking to the disfunction and lack of cohesion in this offense. Valdes-Scantling came out of the draft looking like a special teams contributor who might be able to give a team something as a deep threat. He turned out to be the most pro-ready of the three receivers Green Bay selected, and he was the only other receiver besides Davante Adams to play more than half of the offensive snaps (he played 64.4%).

Earning Rodgers’ trust early, MVS made nine starts in the middle of the season after Geronimo Allison was out. Starting with a stretch in early October, the rookie from South Florida looked to be breaking out with a pair of 100-yard games sandwiched around a game in which he caught a beautiful go route for a touchdown against the Rams.

When Mike McCarthy lost his job, Joe Philbin slid MVS out of the starting lineup in favor of fellow rookie Equanimeous St. Brown, though an injury to EQ led to a 75-yard performance against the Jets from Valdes-Scantling.

With the ability to get deep and a better-than-expected contested catch talent, MVS should have a bright future, at the very least as a deep threat. Even if this is all he ever is, the Packers hit on something with their fifth-round pick.

Equanimeous St. Brown

How acquired: Drafted in the sixth round (Pick 207 overall)
Stats: 21 catches, 328 yards (15.6 YPC)

The last of the receivers taken, the Notre Dame product may have offered the most tantalizing pure talent of the group. Plenty of draft observers, this author included, believed EQ possessed Day 2 talent, but somehow fell all the way to the sixth round.

St. Brown offered hints and flashes at his talent with speed to go with his excellent size (6’5 214). That never quite translated into a clear role in the offense despite seven starts in 2018. There were big plays after the catch, like his 54-yard catch-and-run against the Lions to set up a late field goal. He became the go-to deep crosser on play action shot plays, throws Rodgers flat missed on a handful of occasions, despite EQ working open. And before a vicious hit ended his season, the talented rookie went 5/5 for 94 yards against the Jets.

If one of these players is likely to be a big-time impact player moving forward, the money should be on St. Brown. Aaron Rodgers praised his route running, and suggested more opportunities would come, but as this offense stagnated and scuffled, Rodgers couldn’t make it happen for him. The hope would be with a new offense and a healthy quarterback, this ultra-talented receiver could step into a role as a big slot weapon for the Packers and unlock that potential.