At the conclusion of NFL Drafts over the past decade, the Green Bay Packers have been fairly successful in finding hidden gems in undrafted free agency. While the Packers may have signed another handful of players in April that will earn a longer stay in Green Bay, one offensive player stands out as a player who could reward the team’s patience in the long term.
The lone wide receiver pickup on draft weekend, Michigan State’s Darrell Stewart Jr. was a productive offensive weapon for the Spartans. Stewart amassed at least 48 receptions and 413 yards during each of his last three years in East Lansing, saving his best statistical season for last with a career high of 697 receiving yards and four touchdowns in just nine games.
Stewart was lined up both outside and in the slot as a collegian, with the latter projected to be his best positional fit as a pro. While the Packers do not necessarily use a protoypical slot receiver in their current offense, Stewart profiles as that very underrepresented player on the roster outside of Darrius Shepherd. Precise route-running and drops were issues for Stewart that may have contributed to his undrafted status, but for the Packers, the receiving game may not be Stewart’s only offensive fit.
The key to Stewart’s long-term potential in Green Bay will be utilizing him as a chess piece and getting the ball into his hands, much like the jack-of-all-trades he was at Michigan State. Built like a running back at six feet and 212 pounds, Stewart was frequently used on handoffs, particularly during his sophomore campaign when he averaged seven yards on 20 carries. That rushing ability on jet sweeps and end-arounds correlated directly with Stewart’s biggest strength as a wide receiver: producing after the catch. While his RAS score may give him just an “okay” grade in terms of explosion and he does not have elite breakaway speed, Stewart could give the Packers a similar type of multi-faceted weapon that they once had in Randall Cobb and Ty Montgomery with a bit more power.
Almost an identical size to Montgomery, Stewart could make a similar adjustment as a college receiver that could slide into the backfield in certain packages. His receiving ability could present the same kind of challenges that Cobb and Montgomery once posed, even if merely used on swing passes and dump-offs over the middle that utilized his YAC ability. Even more, his build and experience carrying the ball give Stewart the potential to receive carries and be more than a decoy. A willing blocker, Stewart would have plenty to learn in pass protection in the backfield, but enough development in that area to stick on the field could eventually make him a creative third-down piece.
Something both Cobb and Montgomery contributed to the Packers early in their careers was help on special teams. Stewart’s chance to earn a longer look will hinge deeply on the special teams units, and he has some experience in that regard as a returner. Although Tyler Ervin remains on the roster heading into training camp, Stewart figures to have every opportunity to earn a role as a returner with his rushing capabilities.
While Stewart may be more of a practice squad candidate at this point in June, there could be some long-range projection for the newcomer with a unique skill set in comparison to other offensive players on the Packers’ roster. He may not be a game-breaking athlete, but Stewart is certainly worth the low risk that comes with undrafted free agency and provides some intrigue. Lauded for his character, toughness, and effort, Stewart could be yet another post-draft find who pays off if his diverse skills can be maximized, especially for a wide receiver corps looking for a boost.