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NCAA Football: Ohio at Penn State

NFL Draft 2023: Realistic wide receiver targets for the Packers

Here are a handful of receivers the Packers could look at through all three days of the draft.

Matthew OHaren-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers have a type. At least, they do at wide receiver.

History has shown as that the Packers look for a specific body type when drafting wide receivers, regardless of the round they were taken in. Receivers over 6’0” tall and heavier than 200 pounds are the ones that Packers fans have become accustomed to watching the team take year after year in the NFL draft.

Even Amari Rodgers, who came in at just 5’9”, met the team’s size thresholds at 212 pounds when the Packers took him in the third round of the 2021 NFL Draft. While this limits the pool of receiver prospects the Packers will seriously consider, it does give us a better framework of the guys to watch out for heading into April.

You won’t see exciting playmakers like Jordan Addison, Josh Downs, or Zay Flowers on this list, but let’s take a look at some realistic WR targets the Packers could look at on each day of the 2023 draft.

Day 1

NCAA Football: Fiesta Bowl-Texas Christian at Michigan Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports

Quentin Johnston, TCU

Prior to athletic testing at the combine, there’s only one receiver who has firmly established himself as a first-round prospect: TCU’s Quentin Johnston.

Johnston played a huge role in TCU’s success this year, catching 60 passes for 1,069 yards and six touchdowns despite dealing with a lingering ankle injury throughout the year. He is a dream fit for the Packers in terms of size, coming in at 6’4” and 215 pounds.

Even with that bigger frame, Johnston shows excellent explosiveness off of his release with very quick footwork to get in and out of his breaks. When he’s not able to create separation, he does a good job of tracking the ball and using his frame to box defenders out to routinely come away with 50-50 balls.

After the catch, Johnston is difficult to bring down thanks to his play strength and solid contact balance. I’m not certain that he’s the shiftiest receiver out there, but his size, speed, and strength combination would make him an exciting weapon alongside Christian Watson in 2023.

Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Ohio State

Jaxon Smith-Njigba just barely meets the size thresholds for the Packers, coming in at 6’1” and 200 pounds before official pre-draft measurements. He’s also a borderline first-round prospect after a disappointing 2022 season.

The Buckeyes wideout burst onto the scene in last year’s Rose Bowl, catching 15 passes for 347 yards and three touchdowns in the 48-45 win over Utah. That one game eclipsed all of his production in 2022, however, with the young receiver struggling to stay on the field due to a nagging hamstring injury.

Looking back at JSN’s 2021 tape, you can see the skill set that made him such an intriguing name coming into this draft cycle. He’s a smooth and elusive slot receiver with the ability to beat defensive backs by creating separation at the route stem or simply with speed.

The pre-draft process will be crucial for Smith-Njigba to clear out medically and put up legitimate athletic testing numbers. If he’s able to do that, then he could be an intriguing slot option for the Packers in the first round.

Day 2

NCAA Football: Tulsa at Southern Methodist Timothy Flores-USA TODAY Sports

Rashee Rice, SMU

Some draft analysts think that Rashee Rice is a first-round talent, and after watching his tape with SMU, it’s easy to see why.

After a couple of productive seasons for the Mustangs, Rice took his game to the next level in 2022. He finished the year with 96 receptions for 1,355 yards and 10 touchdowns, making him one of the most productive receivers in college football.

Rice is a jump ball and contested catch specialist. His size and awareness downfield helps him consistently gain good positioning when his QB throws it up for him to make a play against a defensive back, and his body control helped him make some ridiculous acrobatic catches on the sideline.

The SMU wideout isn’t afraid of contact after the catch either, using his play strength to run through defenders after the catch. I’m not sold on his explosiveness or play speed quite yet, but the Combine will play a huge factor on how teams view his athleticism at the next level.

Parker Washington, Penn State

Jahan Dotson was one of the more interesting receiver prospects in last year’s draft, but at 5’11” and 183 pounds, he didn’t quite meet Green Bay’s thresholds. The Packers could take a shot on his college teammate by drafting Parker Washington, even if he’s just outside of the team’s height threshold at 5’10” and 215 pounds.

Washington’s season was cut short, suffering a season-ending injury in November. Despite the injury, he still finished the year with 46 receptions for 611 yards and a pair of touchdowns.

Contact balance is easily Washington’s best trait. His ability to shake off tackles after the catch makes him a threat to turn into reception into an explosive play when defenses don’t respect his ability to break tackles. While he doesn’t have great length, he has the ability to consistently make catches outside of his frame.

Even if he’s a bit shorter than Green Bay would like, his size and contact balance makes him an appealing possession receiver that could get his fair share of targets to take some of the pressure off of Watson. If the Packers are willing to deviate slightly outside of their preferred measurables, Washington’s skill set would be great for Matt LaFleur’s offense.

A.T. Perry, Wake Forest

At 6’5” and 212 pounds, Wake Forest receiver A.T. Perry might have Brian Gutekunst and Matt LaFleur sweating.

Perry was the go-to downfield threat for the Demon Deacons and Sam Hartman in their extended mesh RPO offense. Over the last two seasons, Perry recorded some outrageous production with 152 receptions for 2,389 yards and 26 touchdowns.

Body control is where Perry consistently wins, and not just on jump balls. His ability to use his size against smaller DBs, positioning himself or leaning into them in order to break out and maximize separation, helped regularly put him in a position to make a play. He also does a good job of tracking the ball deep downfield to get under the deep ball for explosive plays.

Given his size, Perry’s contact balance and ability to make plays after the catch is a bit disappointing. He’ll also need to become a more aggressive and reliable blocker in the run game, especially if he ends up in Green Bay. Still, his size and body control will make him a legitimate playmaker at the NFL level.

Day 3

NCAA Football: Illinois at Virginia Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

Dontayvion Wicks, Virginia

Day 3 draft picks very rarely become star players, but it’s not impossible. Taking chances on players with real potential like Virginia’s Dontayvion Wicks would be a wise strategy, but there are some real concerns that come with the player.

Wicks had an impressive 2021 season, catching 57 passes for 1,203 yards and nine touchdowns, but that production fell off a cliff in 2022. He finished the year with 30 catches for 430 yards and a pair of scores while also racking up nine drops in the process.

The drops are a real concern and they show up on tape regularly, even on some of the easier pitch-and-catch plays. That being said, everything else about his game looks like a legitimate player, especially when watching him in 2021.

Wicks already has a great feel for how to run his routes, manipulating DBs with his eyes and shoulders to catch them flat footed before committing to his route. He also does a very good job of adjusting his route downfield on inaccurate throws to still come away with the catch.

The Virginia wideout also has the physical tools to be a legitimate blocker at the next level, but he’ll have a lot of questions to answer about his drops and dip in production in the pre-draft process.

Cedric Tillman, Tennessee

Tennessee’s Jalin Hyatt has become a hot name to talk about for the Packers with his top-end play speed and ability to stretch the field vertically. However, he’s on the light side and it’s his teammate, Cedric Tillman, who fits Green Bay’s thresholds.

Tillman is another receiver who saw a big dropoff in production compared to 2021, when he caught 64 passes for 1,081 yards and 12 scores. Injuries played a big part in that, but the Volunteers were also able to rely on other weapons besides Tillman in an impressive 2022 campaign.

At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Tillman certainly looks the part of an NFL receiver. He is a tough player who will keep fighting through contact before and after the catch to make a play for the offense.

However, Tillman lacks the explosiveness and lateral agility to be a consistent separator. He also struggles to consistently make catches outside of his frame, limiting his role offensively. Still, his size and competitive toughness could be worth a flier in the later rounds of the 2023 draft.


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