The Green Bay Packers’ season officially ended a little over a week ago. Now that the team is locked in at the 30th pick in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft, it’s time to look towards the future and to some possibilities for who might be a new member of the Green and Gold come late April.
The 2019 iteration of the Packers went much farther than initially anticipated during the last offseason, however. With a new coach and system, plenty of new pieces needing to fall into place, and a tough division, 13 wins seemed unlikely. Nevertheless, they persisted and fell one game short of a trip to Miami for Super Bowl LIV.
Like in previous offseasons, we at Acme Packing Company will take a look at what mock drafts around sports media are projecting for the Packers at 30. Spoilers: for now, it’s all wide receivers.
The Packers’ passing game largely stayed on a middling pace this season, with running back Aaron Jones and wideout Allen Lazard eventually stepping up later in the season. Without Geronimo Allison or Marquez Valdes-Scantling locking down the WR2 position, the Packers looked nearly devoid of wideout talent when Adams missed four games during the middle part of the season.
In a league that’s increasingly bending rules to make scoring points easier, it’s baffling that the Packers have been willing to put so much on the shoulders of Aaron Rodgers alone to carry them. In the beginning of Rodgers’ career, it didn’t matter much who he was throwing to, so long as Rodgers trusted him. But to make this offense hum and to keep up with other offenses in the league, the Packers need more weapons on offense.
Adams can run routes on just about any cornerback in the league and others such as Jimmy Graham, Lazard, Jake Kumerow and occasionally Marcedes Lewis have stepped up to make plays in big moments. But those names don’t exactly inspire confidence. Lazard could take another step next season, but he could also slip in his second full season, in a similar way that MVS did in 2019. Kumerow has heart, but he’s not beating one-on-one matchups often, and the two TEs may not be/shouldn’t be on the roster next season.
According to Over the Cap, the Packers have a little under $28 million in cap space next season. That is a fair chunk of change, but that’ll take a big cut if Bryan Bulaga or Blake Martinez get extended. Cutting Jimmy Graham — which is the smart move — would help the Packers gain an additional $8 million in cap space. Hitting as well in free agency this year as they did last year seems like a stretch, but having $40 million in cap space is a good place to start. Veteran receivers like A.J. Green and Emmanuel Sanders could be available for a reasonable price and Robby Anderson might even be worth a look as a later-stage free agent who can be a downfield option.
The Packers will have plenty of chances to address this hole in the draft, though, and should not have to fully rely on free agency.
Of course, the draft is incredibly fluid at this time of year. Players mocked here could very well not end up in the first round and other unknowns could vault up the boards with a tremendous showing at the Combine. But either way, scouts agree that this WR class is stacked.
Sports Illustrated & CBS Sports: Laviska Shenault Jr., Colorado
Shenault is about as good as a pass-catching prospect as you can hope for around the end of the first round. At 6-foot-2 and 220 pounds, Shenault is built like a running back and was used frequently at Colorado as a utility player. He has great balance, burst, and displays a willingness to fight for extra yards. In Matt LaFleur’s offense, Shenault would be put to use frequently used in jet sweeps and as a decoy, consistently making him someone opposing defenses would have to account for.
Shenault lacks a certain refinement in running routes, but he has the physical tools to work on that. He’s not a “bad” route runner by any means; he just needs to prove he can beat one-on-one coverage against NFL DBs. He is otherwise great at tracking deep balls and has great hands. Overall, he has the tools to be a starting wide out for the Packers from day one.
Bleacher Report: Justin Jefferson, LSU
If you watched any of projected number one overall pick Joe Burrow this college football season, you probably saw him link up with the 6-foot-3 Jefferson. The dynamic wide receiver lined up frequently in the slot and his long strides allow him to cover ground quickly. He doesn’t have the largest frame of some other WR prospects, but he wins a lot of one-on-one battles with defensive backs when the ball is coming his way, which is important because he doesn’t always separate unless he’s galloping downfield. Like Shenault, he’s not the most crisp route runner, but he tends to find a way to get open regardless, whether that’s finding gaps in coverage, extending plays, or just being patient.
A wide receiver who knows how to keep a play alive would fit right in with Rodgers, who has been extra cautious in his passing the past two seasons.
SB Nation: K.J. Hamler, Penn State
K.J. Hamler is a blur. His elite speed and quick feet make him hard for defenders to get a clean shot on him and his ability to fly by them and return kicks will be a huge asset in the league for the right team. A good 40 time at the combine could launch him up draft boards, but its his in-game speed and acceleration with pads on that make him an exciting prospect to watch. He reminds me a little bit of John Brown in that you might know he’s going to run a deep route, but somehow he still keeps getting behind the defense anyway.
Like Brown, he’s not very big at 5-foot-9 and 176 pounds, but there was the same worry for another Brown last year: Hollywood. Hopefully a degree of toughness will make up for Hamler’s lack of size. As a field stretcher for the Packers, he could provide a bit of burst and blow past secondary defenders if the play action game starts to roll a bit more often.
The Draft Network: Jalen Reagor, TCU
Reagor reminds me of a 200-meter sprinter who cooks the first 50 meters coming out of the turn. You really need to get him going north and south to see that top gear kick in and he isn’t as fast around the turn. Reagor has elite speed, but doesn’t jump out as a shifty ball carrier. He makes up for this by processing angles quickly and making defenders miss until he can really open it up.
Reagor plays bigger than 5-foot-11 and can win plenty of jump balls. He’s a player who shouldn’t be limited to a particular spot on the field and his route tree suggests he can be more than a guy who tracks passes downfield. His straight-line speed and running back-like frame remind me a little bit of fellow Big 12 product, James Washington. Reagor has better hands, though, especially when making some contested catches.