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Handicapping the Packers’ wide receiver roster battle in 2019

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Where does the receiver group stand entering OTAs?

NFL: Green Bay Packers at New York Jets Vincent Carchietta-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers will go into the start of Organized Team Activities next week with a whopping 12 wide receivers on their 90-man roster. Although only one or two players are well and truly guaranteed to have a place on the team when the cut-down to 53 takes place after training camp, it is clear now that there are tiers of players at the position that can be separated based on their likelihood of making the team.

Today, APC examines the players in play to catch passes from Aaron Rodgers in the coming weeks and sorts them into a few categories.

Locks

Davante Adams

Not much to discuss here, folks. Adams is a top-five NFL receiver who nearly cracked 1,400 yards a year ago with 13 touchdowns. Still just 26 until Christmas Eve, he’s only going to get better over the next couple of seasons.

Geronimo Allison

The Packers offered Allison a one-year restricted free agent tender this offseason, then locked him up with a one-year contract for a $2.8 total value, exceeding that tender’s number. Before his injury last year, Allison was on pace for over 1,100 yards through four games, and he continues to be overlooked by NFL writers who criticize the Packers’ receiver depth. Beyond that, he appears to be a nice fit for the slot receiver position in Matt LaFleur’s offense.

Given that contract and his trust level with Aaron Rodgers, he’s not going anywhere this year.

Safe bets

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

Last year’s fifth-round draft pick had one of the better years for a Packers rookie receiver in recent memory, thanks to added opportunities after injuries to Allison and Randall Cobb. However, he did much of his damage in a seven-week stretch around midseason and faded noticeably down the stretch as another rookie earned more targets and playing time.

Still, the exceptional speed that MVS possesses should be an exciting weapon for Matt LaFleur, who loves to design shot plays for his fastest receivers. That puts MVS squarely in the running for a key role in 2019. The only danger is if he completely falls apart in training camp.

Equanimeous St. Brown

Like MVS above, St. Brown flashed plenty of ability, using his size and route-running to work his way open for Rodgers. He earned more playing time in the latter stages of the season, and capped off his rookie year with a very impressive five-target, five-reception, 94-yard day against the Jets prior to suffering a concussion. Expect EQ to be a key component of this roster, though he could get passed up if one of the bubble players has an exceptional camp.

Bubble players

Trevor Davis

Entering the final year of his rookie contract, Davis is essentially a return specialist. He has flashed plenty of ability there, particularly on punt returns, and the Packers don’t have another explosive option on returns — Tramon Williams is reliable but not spectacular, while Jaire Alexander will probably be kept off that job to focus on defense instead. If Davis can provide any semblance of a contribution as a receiver, he could earn a roster spot for his special teams contributions alone.

Jake Kumerow

Through two preseason games last summer, it looked like Kumerow was well on his way to being the Packers’ #4 receiver. He was catching everything, he seemed to be connecting with Rodgers, and he made a few big plays in games. Then, he injured his shoulder on a roll into the end zone, costing him the first half of the season.

Still, once he returned, Kumerow made a few great plays, including a big 49-yard touchdown in the Packers’ comeback over the Jets. He looks like a great #4 or #5 option who would be willing to pitch in on special teams, and there’s always room for a player like that. He’ll need to beat out at least one of the other bubble players here to get there, though.

J’Mon Moore

The highest-drafted of the Packers’ 2018 rookie receivers, Moore’s only notable catch in preseason was hauling in a case of the drops. The route-running skills that made him a fourth-round pick still look good and that could be his ticket onto the team as a #5 — but only if he can catch the ball consistently and show effort on every play.

Dark horses

Allen Lazard

Lazard’s 6-foot-5, 227-pound frame makes him seem like a potential big slot option. He’s not bulky enough for now to make a switch to tight end, but he could create similar matchup problems on the inside that a tight end would flexed out off the line of scrimmage. Lazard was a consistent threat for four years at Iowa State, particularly in the red zone, and with a year of NFL experience under his belt he may make some noise in training camp and could take a spot away from one of the bubble players with a good preseason.

Darrius Shepherd

Shepherd provides a combination of qualities that few other players on the roster do: production from the slot plus return ability. He was a slot machine for North Dakota State over the past few years, and contributed on punt returns as well. That makes him a sneaky play to steal away a roster spot from someone like Davis.

Long shots

Jawill Davis

Like Trevor, Jawill Davis is also a return specialist who will need to make his mark on special teams in order to gain any serious traction towards a roster spot. He has great straight-line speed but is not very shifty.

Matthew Eaton

Think of Eaton as like a more agile Geronimo Allison, but with a significantly lower production level in college. Eaton is 6-foot-4 and 209 pounds, and he ran a 4.66-second 40-yard dash at Iowa State’s Pro Day. Allison is 6-foot-3 and 202, and his 40 was 4.67 seconds at the 2016 Combine. Eaton’s got a half-second edge on Allison’s 3-cone time, though, the only major testing difference between the two.

However, Eaton — who transferred to Ames from Temple — was always a depth receiver, sitting behind Lazard, Hakeem Butler, and a few other players in the receiving pecking order. As a result, he finished his career with just 49 receptions for 523 yards and six touchdowns, numbers that Allison eclipsed easily. There doesn’t appear to be much room for him here, and a standout performance in camp is probably necessary for him to find a practice squad spot.

Teo Redding

The former Bowling Green Falcon finished last season on the Packers’ practice squad after spending training camp with the Detroit Lions and getting a week’s work on the practice squad in Washington. Redding has the best all-around movement skills in this tier of players, as he’s pretty fast (4.46), pretty explosive (38.5-inch vert, 11-foot broad), and agile (6.85 3-cone) but he’s also very lightly built at 6-foot-1 and just 176 pounds. The odds of him making a strong roster push are probably low as a result.