It’s not often that an NFL player coming off five straight Pro Bowls and two consecutive first-team All-Pro appearances gets traded. For the Green Bay Packers, however, getting some compensation for Davante Adams was preferable to letting him walk in free agency. So when Adams made it clear to the team that he did not want to return for 2022, they franchise tagged him and sent him to the Las Vegas Raiders for picks in the first and second round of this year’s NFL Draft.
Meanwhile, deep threat Marquez Valdes-Scantling was a free agent himself, and he took off for a three-year, $30 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs, leaving the Packers with just two wide receivers on the roster who surpassed 100 receiving yards in 2021.
Enter three draft picks and a budget free agent addition to try to supplement the nearly 2,000 yards of receiving production that left in the offseason. The Packers did not go after one of the higher-priced options on the market, instead getting a one-year deal for a veteran and selecting receivers in the early, middle, and late parts of the 2022 NFL Draft.
With these additions combined with a handful of returning players, the Packers have ten players in the wide receiver room with two weeks to go before training camp begins. Here’s a look at the men who will be fighting for something like six or seven spots on the initial 53-man roster.
How acquired: via trade from Houston Texans in 2021
NFL experience: 12th season
2021 stats: 12 games; 28 receptions on 39 targets, 375 yards (13.4 yards per reception), 5 touchdowns
It seemed that one of the conditions for Aaron Rodgers’ return to Green Bay in 2021 was that the team re-acquire Cobb, one of his closest friends, after a two-year absence. The wily veteran has missed 11 games over the past two years with injuries, but proved to be a helpful safety valve for Rodgers on third downs and in the red zone last season before an injury knocked him out of the final five games of the regular season.
With one year left on a big contract he signed with the Texans prior to 2020, the Packers were able to work out a deal with Cobb to take a pay cut and drop his cap hit for 2022, keeping him around as the elder statesman in the wide receiver room this season.
How acquired: Unrestricted free agent signing in 2022
NFL experience: 9th season
2021 stats: (with Ravens) 13 games; 27 receptions on 49 targets, 394 yards (14.6 yards per reception), 1 touchdown
With a focus on the 2022 NFL Draft to replenish the receiver room (more on that later), the only addition that the Packers made at the position in free agency was to add Watkins, who played for the Los Angeles Rams during Matt LaFleur’s one year as that team’s offensive coordinator in 2017. A top-ten overall draft pick by the Bills in 2014, Watkins had an impressive start to his career with over 2,000 receiving yards combined in his first two seasons. However, he recorded just one year with more than 600 yards since then, when he helped the Chiefs to a Super Bowl title in 2019.
Having entered the league at just 21 years old, Watkins is a rare player who has eight years of NFL experience under his belt despite barely being 29 years old. Last year in Baltimore, he finished as the Ravens’ fourth-leading receiver as he was unable to develop a strong connection with Lamar Jackson. He’ll hope to lock in a spot on the 53-man roster with a good training camp and parlay a cheap one-year contract into a bigger deal in 2023.
How acquired: signed off Jaguars’ practice squad in 2018
NFL experience: 4th season
2021 stats: 15 games; 40 receptions on 60 targets, 513 yards (12.8 yards per reception), 8 touchdowns
As the Packers’ big slot receiver and run game enforcer, Lazard continued to carve out his significant role in the team’s offense with a third straight season of at least 450 yards. His receptions, yards, and touchdown totals were all career highs, though his per-game efficiency dropped a bit from 2020, when he had somewhat similar numbers (33 catches, 451 yards) in just ten games.
A restricted free agent in the offseason, Lazard received the second-round tender but did not sign that tender until after minicamp, thus skipping all of the team’s offseason practices without penalty. Still, with few other veteran options on the roster, Lazard currently projects as the Packers’ WR1.
How acquired: Street free agent signing in 2019
NFL experience: 3rd season
2021 stats: 10 games; 2 receptions on 3 targets, 14 yards (7.0 yards per reception)
A core special teamer for the past two seasons, Taylor has yet to make any notable impact on the Packers’ offense. When the team desperately needed receivers against the Cardinals last season after positive COVID-19 tests by Lazard and Adams and an injury to Valdes-Scantling, it was not Taylor who received significant snaps, but rather practice squad call-up Juwann Winfree. In fact, Taylor only received more than five offensive snaps in one 2021 game, that coming in the week 1 blowout loss to the Saints.
If the Packers’ rookie additions can prove to be useful members of the special teams units, it’s hard to see Taylor finding his way back onto the roster in 2022.
How acquired: Street free agent signing in 2020
NFL experience: 3rd season
2021 stats: 7 games; 8 receptions on 13 targets, 58 yards (7.3 yards per reception)
Another career special-teamer, Winfree saw a few brief callups from the practice squad in 2020 before his notable contributions in last season’s win over the Cardinals. In that game, he came off the practice squad again to play 54 snaps on offense, catching four passes for 30 yards. He would also play a key role as a gunner in the final month of the season and in the Divisional Playoffs, where he even played over Taylor in that role.
How acquired: 2021 draft pick (round 3, #85 overall)
NFL experience: 2nd season
2021 stats: 16 games; 4 receptions on 8 targets, 45 yards (11.3 yards per reception); 20 punt returns, 166 yards (8.3 yards per return); 11 kickoff returns, 199 yards (18.1 yards per return)
Perhaps no returning receiver has had more digital ink spilled about him this offseason than Rodgers, the Packers’ third-round draft pick last year. Billed as a do-it-all, versatile weapon on both offense and special teams, Rodgers was simply...not a weapon.
He was no higher than fifth in the pecking order at wide receiver coming into the season, but there should have been opportunities for him to see the field in creative ways. Instead, Rodgers received only 103 snaps on offense with almost half of those snaps coming in week one and week 18 (when the team benched nearly everyone for the first half). He barely even saw the field even in that chaotic game against the Cardinals, getting only 16 snaps in a game when it was all hands on deck.
It would be uncharacteristic for the Packers to give up on a day-two draft pick before his second year even begins, but it is equally uncharacteristic for a day-two draft pick to have such an abysmal rookie year without an injury playing a factor.
How acquired: 2022 draft pick (round 2, #34 overall)
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: (at North Dakota State) 12 games; 43 receptions, 801 yards (18.6 yards per reception), 7 touchdowns; 15 rushing attempts, 114 yards (7.6 yards per attempt), 1 touchdown; 10 kickoff returns, 227 yards (22.7 yards per return)
We finally get to the new additions part of the receiver room (apologies with Watkins) with one of the most athletic receiver prospects in recent memory. Watson, the 6-foot-4 freak, posted a 9.96 RAS at the 2022 Combine after a productive career for the Bison. Questions about FCS competition and his ability to make a quick transition to the NFL level will need answers, but his size and athletic ability give him an All-Pro ceiling.
It is notable as well that the Packers gave up a large amount of resources to acquire Watson, effectively spending both of their second round picks (#53 from the Raiders in the Adams trade and their own #59) to trade up for him. Now the job of developing him falls to the coaching staff, who will also need to find ways to get him the football quickly, allowing him to use his superior speed and explosiveness.
Interestingly, Watson is the only Packers draft pick yet to sign his rookie contract. Many second-rounders have not yet signed, however, as teams have struggled to agree to terms with players drafted between picks 33 and 50 thanks to a player-friendly precedent set shortly after the draft by the Houston Texans.
How acquired: 2022 draft pick (round 4, #132 overall)
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: (at Nevada) 11 games; 80 receptions, 1109 yards (13.9 yards per reception), 11 touchdowns; 12 punt returns, 170 yards (14.2 yards per return)
Early on day three of the draft, the Packers plucked Doubs as their second draft pick at wideout. In Nevada’s Air Raid offense, Doubs was the primary receiver for two straight years, eclipsing the 1,000-yard mark in both 2020 and 2021. He has plenty of speed to threaten defenses deep, good route-running skills, and a fearless nature over the middle. He can also pitch in on punt returns, a valuable skill that could threaten to make Rodgers expendable.
How acquired: 2022 draft pick (round 7, #258 overall)
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: (at Nebraska) 12 games, 46 receptions, 898 yards (19.5 yards per reception), 5 touchdowns; 8 rushing attempts, 63 yards (7.9 yards per attempt), 1 touchdown
Toure led the Big Ten in yards per catch in 2021, his only season of FBS football after transferring from the University of Montana as a graduate student. His big breakout for Montana came as a junior in 2019, when he set a school record with 1,495 receiving yards on 87 catches.
How acquired: Undrafted free agent signing in 2022
NFL experience: Rookie
2021 stats: (at Wisconsin) 9 games; 32 receptions, 478 yards (14.9 yards per reception), 2 touchdowns
The Packers added one more rookie receiver after the 2022 NFL Draft, signing Davis as an undrafted player out of Wisconsin. Over five years with the Badgers, Davis showed glimpses of being an impact player, but never quite put it all together. Still, he did set a career high in receiving yards in 2021 as he led the team in that category.