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Packers 2021 Roster Preview: WR group has versatility and an elite weapon

Almost everyone has a role and Davante Adams is the ultimate alpha

Divisional Round - Los Angeles Rams v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

The Green Bay Packers report for training camp on July 27th, with the team’s first practice coming the next day. In the week leading up to camp, Acme Packing Company will break down the Packers’ 90-man roster and give our predictions for who will make the initial 53 at the end of camp. Seven APC contributors submitted their 53-man predictions, and we have combined those picks into our annual consolidated prediction.

Our analysis of the Packers’ 90-man roster carries on with a look at wide receiver, where the organization finally added some new blood to a position that has gotten very little love from the front office since Davante Adams was drafted in 2014.

Wide Receivers on the 90-man roster

Davante Adams

NFL Experience: 8th season
2020 Stats (14 games): 115 catches on 149 targets (77.2% catch rate), 1,374 yards, 18 touchdowns
2021 Cap Hit: 16.787 million

The man who needs no introduction. Davante Adams had turned himself into a strong volume option at a time when Green Bay desperately needed one. As stars of a past era aged out, Green Bay spent most of its draft capital on the defensive side of the ball, which had allowed the wide receiver depth to decay dramatically. Adams efficiency suffered as a by-product of this as he was often force-fed the ball in sub-optimal situations.

That all changed in 2021, where he combined his normal elite volume with a career high in yards-per-target and touchdowns. Adams has a legit case as WR1 in all of football, and is almost an efficient NFL offense by himself.

Marquez Valdes-Scantling

NFL Experience: 4th season
2020 Stats (16 games): 33 catches on 63 targets (52.4% catch rate), 690 yards, 6 touchdowns
2021 Cap Hit: 2.237 million

The only true deep threat on the team fits Matt LaFleur’s system perfectly as not only can he stretch the field vertically, but he is a bully in the running game as a blocker, both against corners and motioning down into the formation. The drops are infuriating, but the peaks are incredibly high.

He posted a career-best 11 yards-per-target and a league leading 20.9 yards per reception in 2020. If he can track the ball a little bit better, he could become one of the league’s most feared deep threats.

Allen Lazard

NFL Experience: 3rd season
2020 Stats (10 games): 33 catches on 46 targets (71.7% catch rate), 451 yards, 3 touchdowns
2021 Cap Hit: 850k

Allen Lazard is ol’ reliable, or young reliable, I guess. Always a favorite of DVOA (where his 28.3% ranked fourth amongst players with 10-49 targets). While he is not slow, his game doesn’t play particularly fast until he gets out in the open field, like the dagger play against Los Angeles in the playoffs.

He was off to a phenomenal start in 2020 until a core injury slowed him down. If he has a healthy 2021, it will be interesting to see if he can continue the pace he was off to in the first month of the season.

Equanimeous St. Brown

NFL Experience: 4th season
2020 Stats (12 games): 7 catches on 13 targets (53.8% catch rate), 117 yards, 1 touchdown
2021 Cap Hit: 880k

A bit of a favorite as a potential steal in his draft class, St. Brown has been unable to stay on the field and been pretty uninspiring when he has been on the field. One thing working in his favor is that he is one of the only players on the team that may be able to fill the vertical spacing role if Marquez Valdes-Scantling were to be injured.

Amari Rodgers

NFL Experience: Rookie (3rd-round draft pick)
2020 Stats (12 games at Clemson): 77 catches, 1,020 yards, 7 touchdowns
2021 Cap Hit: 660k

The first wide receiver selected in the first two days since Davante Adams in 2014 (if you’ll allow omitting Ty Montgomery), Amari Rodgers looks like a bully slot receiver. Reports out of mini-camp had him working some jets, so it looks like he will play the Tyler Ervin role while also being a capable wide receiver, unlike Ervin. His bully running style also makes him a yards-after-catch threat, so it will be interesting to see how LaFleur utilizes him.

Devin Funchess

NFL Experience: 6th season
2020 Stats: None, opted out due to COVID
2021 Cap Hit: 1.517 million

Remember the Packers signing Devin Funchess? The big bodied receiver opted out of the 2020 season due to COVID and now returns to the Packers without a clear role. Allen Lazard firmly established himself as the big bodied possession receiver, and the breakout of Robert Tonyan at tight end means the Packers now have three quality possession options. Funchess’s play has been pretty mediocre for his career, so I would not be surprised if Green Bay did not keep him considering he’s not a versatile piece and is a zero on special teams.

Malik Taylor

NFL Experience: 2nd season
2020 Stats (15 games): 5 catches on 6 targets (83.3% catch rate), 66 yards, 1 touchdown
2021 Cap Hit: 780k

Taylor didn’t get many snaps on offense, but was fifth on the team in special teams snaps last year. He made a couple of plays and converted first downs on four of his five catches. Taylor was on the first team special teams units during mini-camps, and that’s probably his route to a roster spot.

Juwann Winfree

NFL Experience: 2nd season
2020 Stats (2 games): No stats
2021 Cap Hit: 780k

Winfree only saw the field for eight offensive snaps last year with Green Bay and twenty-one special teams snaps. Winfree’s athletic profile is pretty standard for a wide receiver, so if he is going to make the roster, it will be usurping Malik Taylor as the special teams guy.

DeAndre Thompkins

NFL Experience: 1st season
2020 Stats: None
2021 Cap Hit: 660k

Thompkins is a straight-line blazer with a 4.34 forty yard dash. He was a returner in college, so that is probably his only real chance at the roster. He has bounced around practice squads since the 2019 season and seems like a stretch to make the team.

Bailey Gaither

NFL Experience: Rookie (UDFA)
2020 Stats (7 games at San Jose State): 41 catches, 725 yards, 4 touchdowns
2021 Cap Hit: 662k

Gaither is another player with some return experience, although he has not returned a kick since 2018. Another guy who is a good, not great athlete with pretty generic size. Likely a camp body who might make the practice squad.

Chris Blair

NFL Experience: 1Rookie (UDFA)
2020 Stats: None, season cancelled due to COVID-19
2019 Stats: 44 catches, 931 yards, 7 touchdowns
2021 Cap Hit: 660k

Blair did not play in 2020 as the FCS teams had their fall seasons cancelled due to COVID-19. Blair last played a competitive football game on December 21st of 2019. With that long layoff and a lower level of competition, it would be pretty surprising if Blair factored into roster decisions for the Packers. Another guy who might make a practice squad somewhere, but likely is just a temporary camp body.

Reggie Begelton

NFL Experience: 1st season
2020 Stats (1 game): None
2021 Cap Hit: 660k

Remember the Reggie Begelton Hype Train of 2020? The former CFL star was a hot story in the awful summer of 2020, but ended up not posting a single stat in 2020 and playing only four total snaps. He’s now nearly 28 years old, which makes him already entering the post-peak years. He was an interesting story last year, but there should be no real expectations here.

APC 53-man roster prediction

Starters: Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard

Backups: Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor, Equanimeous St. Brown

The only true starter for the Packers is Davante Adams. The other three who will likely see serious time, barring injury, will be Valdes-Scantling, Lazard, and Rodgers in various roles to fit their skillsets.

Malik Taylor makes the roster as a special teams star and a guy who can be an emergency option in a couple of roles. We expect the Packers to take one last swing on the upside of Equanimeous St. Brown, especially since the team has no real alternative as a vertical option if anything happens to Valdes-Scantling. Devin Funchess narrowly misses the cut, as the Packers have enough big-bodied receivers and cannot afford to keep a seventh wideout on the 53.