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Packers 2019 Acquisitions: Green Bay gets next to nothing from new receivers

The Packers got one catch and two turnovers in six games from the new faces at wideout.

NFL: Detroit Lions at Green Bay Packers Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports

Each winter, Acme Packing Company breaks down the Green Bay Packers’ roster from the previous year by position to examine the team’s performance and needs in the offseason. Today we continue this series by looking at the wide receiver position.

While the Green Bay Packers spent a great deal of money and draft picks to improve their defense in 2019, they did essentially none of those things with the team’s wide receiver group. Just two players who were not on the roster as of January 1st of last year spent time on the 53-man roster during the 2019 season, and only one of those was ever active for a single game.

Instead, the Packers decided to rely on a few of their 2018 draft picks and some other young holdovers from the previous season to find production alongside Davante Adams and Geronimo Allison. One of those players, Allen Lazard, found a connection with Aaron Rodgers and looks to be a significant contributor moving forward. But the two new faces that the team did acquire provided essentially no contributions at all in 2019.

Darrius Shepherd

How Acquired: Undrafted rookie free agent (signed after rookie minicamp tryout)
2019 Stats: 6 games played, 2 targets, 1 reception, 1 yard; 9 kickoff returns, 147 yards (16.3 average); 2 punt returns, minus-9 yards

A surprise throughout rookie camp, then OTAs and minicamp, and then training camp, Shepherd was one of the great undrafted stories to come through Green Bay in some time. After going unsigned after the draft, he showed up at rookie minicamp and earned himself a contract, eventually playing well enough in training camp to find his way onto the 53-man roster. Shepherd brought a shiftiness in the slot that the Packers did not have in any of the big-bodied receivers on the roster at that time, as well as some return ability.

Shepherd ended up suiting up in six games for the Packers, going inactive in weeks one and two before playing in weeks three through eight. When back for returns, however, he looked indecisive and uncomfortable at times, and fumbled a punt return against the Lions in week six. That game also saw him get his most playing time on offense, a 29-snap workload that was effectively a disaster. Shepherd caught one of his two targets in that game for a gain of one yard, but the other pass thrown his way went off his facemask and into the hands of a Lions defender.

A few weeks later, the Packers released Shepherd but brought him back on the practice squad, where he spent the remainder of the season. Now on a reserve/futures contract, Shepherd will get another opportunity in 2020 to show growth and consistency as he fights yet again for a roster spot.

Ryan Grant

How Acquired: Signed as street free agent on October 19, 2019
2019 Stats (all with Raiders): 2 games, 9 targets, 4 receptions, 14 yards

Grant spent 2018 with the Indianapolis Colts, then signed a one-year contract with the Oakland Raiders in April of last year. In Oakland, Grant was around for two games before Jon Gruden and company cut him loose by late September.

When the Packers signed Grant in October, fans were excited. In came a receiver who had over 900 receiving yards combined in the past two seasons, presumably headed to Green Bay to pitch in as a reliable veteran receiver to bring some steady if unspectacular production to the wideout group.

Instead, Grant languished on the gameday inactive list week after week, never seeing the field for the Packers. Questions abounded as to why he was getting snubbed in favor of players like Geronimo Allison and Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whose playing time dipped late in the season. Instead, head coach Matt LaFleur insisted that he would be made an active player if the coaching staff decided he had earned that spot over one of the other receivers. Clearly, they never felt that was the case, and Grant never played a single snap in Green Bay.