The Green Bay Packers are struggling to throw the football right now. Quarterback Aaron Rodgers is limited in going under center due to this thumb injury, but it’s also worth noting that the Packers’ opponents are game-planning calls against certain personnel packages.
Sure, this will probably get better when Rodgers is healthy and his rookie receivers begin developing, but the team has another problem on the horizon: 2023 free agency. As it stands today, Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins are going to be free agents in February, leaving just the rookies and Amari Rodgers as Green Bay’s only receivers under contract.
The Packers are already set to be over the cap in 2023. The likes of Elgton Jenkins, Robert Tonyan and Adrian Amos need new deals in the offseason. There’s a good chance Green Bay will need to look at the draft, not free agency or the trade market, to add another contributing receiver to the team.
The receiver position has had some pretty significant guardrails on them since head coach Matt LaFleur has taken over as the team’s head coach. The play-action-based offense demands receivers who can add on as blockers on first- and second-down, which is why they have looked at size at the position. Below are the Packers’ top receivers, in terms of receiving yards, and their height and weight since LaFleur took over in 2019.
- Davante Adams: 3,924 yards (6’1”, 212 pounds)
- Allen Lazard: 1,781 (6’5”, 227)
- Marques Valdes Scantling: 1,572 (6’4”, 206)
- Randall Cobb: 635 (5’10”, 191)
- Geronimo Allison: 287 (6’3”, 196)
- Romeo Doubs: 234 (6’2”, 204)
- Jake Kumerow: 219 (6’5”, 209)
- Equanimeous St. Brown: 215 (6’5”, 214)
- Sammy Watkins: 147 (6’1”, 211)
This does not include rookie second-round pick Christian Watson (6’5”, 208), who has been dealing with hamstring injuries and will almost certainly jump up the list by the end of 2022. With the exception of Cobb and Allison, all of the receivers the Packers have consistently fielded under LaFleur have been at least 6’0” and weighed at least 200 pounds. Cobb, as we all remember, was brought in for quarterback Aaron Rodgers. General manager Brian Gutekunst stated at the time that the team wouldn’t have brought him in without Rodgers’ request. Allison, unlike the other receivers on the list, was a leftover from the Mike McCarthy era, only played for LaFleur in the head coach’s first season and bulked up to 202 pounds while in the league.
The upcoming draft class has receiver talent, but players like Jordan Addison of USC, who won the Biletnikoff Award at Pitt in 2021, is clearly not a fit for the Packers’ scheme standing at 6’0” and just 175 pounds. So who are the “Green Bay receivers” in the 2023 draft class?
To answer that question, let’s look at the 2023 Consensus Big Board, and focus on receivers who are projected to come off the board around the first two rounds of the draft and who possess the frames that the Packers look for.
Quentin Johnston, TCU
Standing at 6’4” and 215 pounds, Johnston is the gem of the class from Green Bay’s perspective. As a sophomore, Johnston was a First-Team All-Big 12 receiver and is well on his way to breaking his career highs this season. Playing in an Air Raid system that was similar to what Doubs played in at Nevada last season, Johnston has recorded 93 receptions for 1,695 yards and 11 touchdowns with the Horned Frogs. This is what APC’s Tyler Brooke wrote about Johnston earlier this month in his weekly prospect preview:
After a quiet start to his junior season, Johnston had his breakout game against Kansas, catching 14 passes for 206 yards and a touchdown. Given his size at 6’4” and 210 pounds, it’s almost a guarantee that he’s already on the radar for Matt LaFleur.
Johnston has good explosiveness and foot quickness off of his release and in and out of his breaks. He’s already an impressive player in contested-catch situations, doing a good job of tracking the ball and high-pointing it, along with the physical toughness to box out defensive backs.
Packers fans will love to hear that Johnston is also a fearsome blocker for his teammates, showing excellent willingness and effort to use his size to his advantage. If that doesn’t scream future Packers receiver, I’m not sure what does.
Kayshon Boutte, LSU
The other big fish as far as thicker receivers in this class go is Kayshon Boutte, who is listed at 6’0” and 205 pounds. Boutte was a five-star recruit coming out of high school, the second-ranked receiver in his class, and had a phenomenal 735-yard season as a true freshman with the LSU Tigers.
Unfortunately, his production has dropped in every season since 2020, as he has recorded 509 yards as a sophomore and 288 yards as a junior. One reason for this is his season-ending ankle injury in 2021, which ended his campaign after just six games. It has been reported that Boutte had multiple ankle surgeries since the injury.
Despite his lack of production this year, Boutte is still widely considered to be a first-round prospect. Boutte’s eight drops going into last week led the SEC, but there’s still a lot of potential in his game if he can get back on the course he was on in his freshman and sophomore seasons.
Cedric Tillman, Tennessee
Any player from the Tennessee offense is going to be very hard to evaluate this season. The Briles-style offense that the Volunteers run has little translation to an NFL style of play, which has led to bust receivers like Corey Coleman in the past.
Cedric Tillman (6’3”, 215 pounds) looks like a player that the Packers want, but it’s unclear how many years it will take for him to adjust to the pro game. Currently, Tillman is fourth on the undefeated Volunteers in receiving yards after recording a breakout 1,081-yard season as a fourth-year junior in 2021.
Rashee Rice, SMU
Production is not a problem for SMU’s Rashee Rice. At a listed 6’2” and 203 pounds, Rice has already recorded 190 receptions for 2,558 yards and 19 touchdowns at the college level and will likely crack 3,000 by the end of this season.
Likely a second- or third-round pick, Rice is a bit of a do-it-all receiver who could play outside or inside at any down and distance at the next level. If the Packers miss out on one of the bigger names in the class, he’s a name to highlight.
A.T. Perry, Wake Forest
Green Bay already has length long-term at receiver in Christian Watson, but if they want to add more, A.T. Perry (6’5”, 205 pounds) is the name to keep an eye on in this class. Perry broke out with a 1,293-yard season in 2021 as a redshirt sophomore and is on pace to crack 1,000 yards again this year if he doesn’t opt out of bowl season.
He’s a smoother and faster receiver than you’d think for a player as long as he is, which could lead to a quick rise in his stock depending on how his combine goes. As we saw in the last year, receivers are going off the board more often than we’ve ever seen in the first two rounds of the draft. If Perry can document legit 4.4-second 40-yard speed, he could be one of the hottest names in the class very quickly.