In 2019, the Green Bay Packers’ roster looks very different from how it appeared at the end of the 2018 season. A large group of free agents, draft picks, and undrafted rookies will come to training camp to challenge for roster spots and a role on the team’s regular season 53-man roster. Over the next two weeks, Acme Packing Company will break down the roster position-by-position and reveal our compiled predictions for the 53-man roster.
The 2019 Packers’ receiver battle is less about “who” and more about “how many?” We know, more or less, who the guys in the mix will be. Unfortunately for the guys on the bottom of that list, there are seven legitimate names in the mix and Green Bay simply can’t afford to keep them all.
Injuries often sort these things out, as they did last year with Jake Kumerow and Trevor Davis. That paved the way for J’Mon Moore to make the team despite an underwhelming (and that’s putting it diplomatically) training camp and preseason.
Brian Gutekunst will have to balance special teams value, offensive impact, and position scarcity concerns. How many safeties or outside linebackers the Packers want to keep could end up being of greater import to the decision of how many receivers make the roster than the play on the field for these guys. It’s going to be so close, those sorts of factors on the margins could wind up deciding the final list.
Here’s the APC’s prediction of how this plays out.
Starters: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison
The only debate here is the order and whether or not to include Allison in this list. For now—and that’s a big caveat—Valdes-Scantling has been running as the second receiver when there’s only been two on the field. Allison comes in for three receiver sets to play the slot.
We can have interesting discussions about how the playing time will shake out between MVS and Allison, how often the Packers will even play three receivers, but that’s not for this space. This group of three will somehow make up the three priority targets in the passing game.
Backups: Equanimeous St. Brown, Jake Kumerow, Trevor Davis
Nothing beyond St. Brown on this list should be taken for granted. The 22-year-old ex-Notre Dame star showed enough in 2018 to earn his way back onto this roster as a potential future fixture in this offense with talent for days.
On the other hand, Kumerow is the oldest of this group (in fact, he’s older than Adams), with limited special teams value and an undefined role in the offense. If the Packers can’t going to play three and four receivers often, do they really believe he can make a big enough impact to justify rostering a receiver who can’t help them in the return game? We are banking on his chemistry with Aaron Rodgers and his Touchdown Jesus spirit to carry the day.
Davis faces the opposite problem: he’s a special teams-only player with a nebulous offensive role. Matt LaFleur could certainly find a role for him as a bubble screen receiver who can run jet sweeps and take the top off a defense, but we’ve never seen him in such a role. Davis’ only defined niche on this team comes on special teams where he’s clearly the best returner the Packers have. Early praise from the coaching staff about his offensive abilities portend a good chance to make this roster if he follows through.
Released: J’Mon Moore, Jawill Davis, Teo Redding, Darrius Shepherd
We are not anti-Moore at APC; this is simply a numbers game. He would have to become so much better at receiver to get into the mix, it’s natural to be dubious of his ability to get there. We simply haven’t seen it. That’s not to say he can’t do it. It’s also worth nothing he just missed out in our voting, and this author did have him on the roster because his development and upside is worth missing out on whatever short-term continuity the team would get from Kumerow.
If he plays well, he’ll make the team and if he doesn’t, no one has to worry about him sneaking onto the practice squad. He’ll make it.
Davis may not make the 53 in Green Bay, but don’t be surprised if he also ends up on the practice squad, particularly with his return ability and athleticism. If it’s not with the Packers, he’ll likely end up on a roster somewhere. The same can’t be said for Redding and Shepherd who are simply fringe NFL players based on what we’ve seen to this point.