In his latest mock drafts and podcasts, Mel Kiper Jr. has been vocal about Green Bay’s need to address the wide receiver position. The shakiness at the position a year ago, on top of the contract extension given to Aaron Rodgers and departure of Randall Cobb, offered three very important factors in Kiper’s recent decision to give Ole Miss’s D.K. Metcalf to Green Bay with the 12th overall pick.
But although the draft offers plenty of high-upside options in the first two days, Kiper did not account for the Packers’ returning youth on the roster anticipated to make leaps in 2019.
Of course, Green Bay drafted three receivers in 2018 and the expectation is a more consistent output in year two. Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown showed spurts of potential at opposite points in their rookie seasons. They each leapfrogged the man picked ahead of them, J’Mon Moore, en route to displaying their size-speed combinations. While the jury is still out on Moore, whose issues catching the ball covered up his ability to gain separation, he offers quiet similarities to a young Davante Adams in his strengths and struggles. Moore, like the other two, is far from a finalized product and a full offseason with an NFL coaching staff should help him improve his focus issues as a rookie.
Outside of the trio of second-year players, the Packers should aid blossoming star Davante Adams with a healthy Jake Kumerow and Geronimo Allison. A training camp darling Kumerow was one of Rodgers’ favorite preseason targets before injury and still found some targets upon his late-season return. Meanwhile, Allison seemed primed for a breakout season in the midst of Jordy Nelson’s departure. Unfortunately, a concussion slowed Allison after a hot start. A groin injury then shut him down at mid-season. Re-signed to a one-year deal, Allison has plenty to prove in 2019 and could be the slot receiver the Packers had trouble finding production from last season throughout Cobb’s own injuries. As ESPN’s Rob Demovsky recently mentioned, 43.6% of Allison’s career receptions have come from the slot.
The list above suggests that the Packers have six capable returning receivers already for next season, That does not include return man Trevor Davis, who is also re-joining the active roster. Outside of Adams, not a single receiver on the roster is entering more than their fourth professional season. The unit’s potential is as high as it has been in a long time and the growth in chemistry with Rodgers could be more evident next season. With Matt LaFleur’s offense figuring to promote balance after demonstrated success in running the football in his previous stops, Green Bay’s aerial attack should be a lot less predictable, especially in play action.
Grooming a rookie to make immediate and high-impact contributions in year one is not an easy task, and even a high-round selection will experience highs and lows during the course of the regular season. First-round prospects like Metcalf and Marquise Brown will still have to adjust to the nuances of the NFL game despite their electric athletic traits. But while a second-round receiver remains a definite possibility for the Packers this year, expect the major on-field improvements at the position to come from the current players already on the roster.