In the deepest receiver draft in years, the Green Bay Packers tripled down on drafting them, despite Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb’s presence on the roster. A year later, in an effort to buoy a sagging secondary, Ted Thompson doubled down on defensive back with back-to-back top picks at the position. That experiment went so poorly, Green Bay took the same tact just two years later, and once more the following year in Brian Gutekunst’s first year as GM. That same year, he drafted three receivers on Day 3 to restock the pass-catching shelves.
When the Packers see a problem, they attack it. Given this deep receiver draft, they could go about adding premiere talent in myriad ways.
Using recent models as guide posts, we can project what a draft might look like this year using the 2020 draft class and potential Packers selections.
2014 WR model
This looks like not only the most likely, but best model to apply to this draft given the shape of it. Much like the ‘14 class, this receiver class boasts a diverse, deep set of options and the Packers can not only find multiple players, but various types of players to bolster their offense. That’s what Ted Thompson did that year in picking Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis, and Jeff Janis in rounds 2, 5, and 7. Now, Matt LaFleur has made his preferences known about his receiver room: he wants diversity of skillset.
Do-it-all guy early: Michael Pittman Jr. — USC
This may seem like it runs counter to the diversity theory with Devin Funchess and Allen Lazard already on the roster, but Pittman’s ability to make plays down the field separates him from that group, injecting some much needed dynamic ability to this group.
According to Pro Football Focus, go routes made up 20% of Pittman’s routes, higher than speedsters Henry Ruggs III, Brandon Aiyuk, Jalen Reagor and Jerry Jeudy. Another nearly 25% of his routes were in-breakers like slants, crossers, and digs, a staple of any West Coast tree. Think Kenny Golladay 2.0.
Slot/niche/gadget guy middle rounds: Antonio Gibson — Memphis
Gibson screams “Matt LaFleur” type. He can play running back or receiver, put dynamic ability with the ball in his hands all over the field on tape and he fits athletic profile the Packers traditionally like. Gibson offers slot production, jet sweep explosiveness, backfield flexibility and return talent having led the FBS in yards after catch. Even though he’s taking Jared Abbrederis’ spot here, it’s really the Ty Montgomery do-over.
Upside athlete late: Tyrie Cleveland — Florida
His Relative Athlete Score is over 9.5. What else do you or Gutey need to know? If he becomes a useful special teams player, he doesn’t need to develop a cult following to be a good pick for the Packers.
2017 DB model
In some ways, this mirrors the 2018 model as well given the picks involved, just at a different position. The Packers picked Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson 1-2 a year after Kevin King and Josh Jones. With the picks involved, the Green Bay selections will be nearly identical to this draft (trade down to 33, draft another DB at 61). Sign a veteran, then draft two more high-pedigree players; It’s something we’ve seen Gutekunst, and Thompson execute in the past.
Trade down to get value: Brandon Aiyuk — Arizona State
Of the receivers likely to be available Gutey early, Aiyuk’s combination of run-after-catch, downfield explosiveness, and reliability catching the ball stands out. He’s not the size/speed monster, but he’s big enough and his athletic talent (hello 40’’ vertical) echoes Davante Adams. They could stick-and-pick Aiyuk at 30, or trade down and likely still snag him at the mid-30’s. The last time the Packers traded down to draft a receiver at the top of the second round, it worked out okay for them.
Double-down in the second: Donovan Peoples-Jones — Michigan
If there is a metaphoric Josh Jones in this draft (There is a literal Josh Jones too), it’s DPJ, the freak athlete with a TBD role in the NFL. He is a former top high school recruit who wound up in a dismal situation playing for a dinosaur head coach in an anachronistic offense with a dreadful thrower under center. Still, a 6-foot-2, 212-pound receiver who runs 4.48 with a 44.5’’ vertical screams “Packers type.”
He’s an upside project, but Peoples-Jones will be 21 throughout his entire rookie season. Plus with Funchess signed and Aiyuk going ahead of him, he’ll have time to develop. Getting Rick Wagner and Christian Kirksey in free agency also make a move like this easier and it’s possible we look back at this draft to say it was obvious that had been their intention all along.
2018 WR model
In terms of glaring weakness, the Packers run defense stands out last year. It’s not the most important facet of the game, but if Gutekunst believes in this staff of pass catchers more than the outside world, he could go back to the well on Day 3 in a deep class, look for role guys and hope he hits on some quality role players with Adams, Lazard, and Funchess shouldering the load. In the early rounds focus on tackle, interior defensive line, and another overhang defender, like Gutey did in ‘18 attempting to shore up the defense back-7.
That year, he spent three day-three picks on receivers J’Mon Moore, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown. Doing so again would make Packers Twitter glow white hot, but honestly the haul here would be intriguing for Green Bay.
Under-appreciated SEC faller: Bryan Edwards South Carolina
Edwards goes Day 2 if he’s healthy, but he’s not, so he likely won’t. He walked into the SEC making plays at 17 though, and had he tested, likely fits the profile of players the Packers tend to like. Irrespective of how the rest of the draft plays out
Group of 5 shot: Gabriel Davis — UCF
Just transpose one letter in the acronym and let’s go. David doesn’t do much like MVS, though he’s fast enough (4.54 at 6-foot-2 213 pounds, nearly identical to Davante Adams) and produced at a high level in college. Davis can play outside, allowing Adams to slide into the slot more often, or allowing Funchess/Lazard to play that big slot role. In another year, Davis could easily be a top-100 pick.
ACC star: Joe Reed — Virginia
OK, stretching here with Notre Dame an independent, but they play baskteball in the ACC, so let’s go with it. Reed’s athleticism matches what he put on tape. He’s versatile, athletic, and dynamic. He’s basically the cheaper version of the aforementioned Gibson.