Packer Over/Unders: Receivers and Tight Ends

A look at the projected numbers for the Packers' new-look receiving corps. 

The Packers have a rich and interesting history of pass catchers, dating all the way back to Don Hutson’s revolutionary dominance in the ‘30s and ‘40s. Hutson displayed as much statistical dominance in his era as any player in NFL history. In 11 years he led the NFL in receiving touchdowns nine times, and his 1942 yardage and touchdown totals were more than double the next best receiver.

And the baton has been passed periodically from Hutson to Max McGee and Boyd Dowler in the Lombardi era to James Lofton then Sterling Sharpe, right on through Antonio Freeman, Donald Driver and Jordy Nelson.

The legacy of tight ends in Green Bay is…less rich. Paul Coffman’s 322 receptions is tops in team history for a tight end, and there was a 20-year succession of good but not great players from Mark Chmura to Bubba Franks to Jermichael Finley. Since 2013, however, the position has been fairly unproductive despite the brilliance of Aaron Rodgers.

And with Nelson’s departure to the Raiders, Davante Adams has officially taken up the torch as the Packers’ next primary receiver, and veteran additions Jimmy Graham and Marcedes Lewis look to be the most productive tight ends in 2018.

With several new faces, including three rookie wide receivers, it will be interesting to see how Rodgers and Mike McCarthy divide up the targets in the passing game.

Davante Adams over 84.5 receptions

Adams has recorded 75 and 74 catches the last couple of years, starting in 29 of 32 games. Now entering his fifth year in the league, the former second-round pick is finally the undisputed No. 1 option in the passing game, and I expect his numbers to show it.

He’s never been a huge big-play receiver, averaging 11.9 yards per catch in his career, but he was targeted over 115 times each of the last two seasons, and that number should be rising. Even in an offense that would like to spread the ball around, Rodgers has made it clear that he prefers to find trusted targets with whom he’s developed trust and chemistry. To tide you over until the regular season begins, enjoy this artistry: 

Geronimo Allison over 515.5 receiving yards

The third-year wideout seems like he could be the pivot point for the Packers’ passing attack this season. Despite just 35 career receptions Allison looks to be the presumptive starter opposite Adams at outside receiver. He should face plenty of single coverage and better matchups as the least established target in a starting lineup including Graham and Randall Cobb.

While some question Allison’s readiness for the role, I’ve long been a believer (full disclosure: I’m an Illinois fan). Opinions vary greatly on his 2018 outlook, with Yahoo! projecting roughly double the output that ESPN is. All he needs to do is beat opponents’ third- or fourth-best pass defenders to a modest, productive season. If Allison can make defenses pay for ignoring him, the Packers’ passing game has the potential to be best in the league.

Jimmy Graham under 720.5 receiving yards

Graham used to be a truly elite pass-catching tight end in New Orleans, challenged only by Rob Gronkowski for supremacy at the position. Those days, however, are likely in the rear-view mirror.

In a four-year stretch from 2011-2014 Graham was absurdly productive, averaging 89 catches, 1,100 yards and nearly 12 touchdowns per season. His numbers in Seattle are less impressive, including a season with just two touchdowns and last year, when he averaged just 9.1 yards per catch. He was still productive with Seahawks, he just wasn’t the assassin he was with the Saints.

I anticipate Green Bay to rotate tight ends more than most fans, working in Lewis regularly and limiting Graham’s opportunities and injury risk. Graham has always been a matchup nightmare for defenses in the red zone, and I expect him to haul in his share of touchdowns, but I just can’t see a return to All-Pro form for Graham, who will turn 32 this season. Only five tight ends topped 700 yards last year.

Marcedes Lewis over 11.5 receptions

I liked the Lewis signing just as much as when the Packers inked Graham this offseason. While his most notable contributions may be as a run blocker, the 34-year-old isn’t simply a nimble tackle. He’ll be involved in the passing game, especially off play-action.

Lewis has missed serious time in three of the last five seasons, hampering his numbers. But his 16-average since he turned 30 is still 25 catches.

Fantasy websites are nearly ignoring Lewis, with projections of just eight catches from ESPN and just two grabs from Yahoo!. I set the number a little higher just to make things a little more interesting, but I still think the veteran gets his fair share.

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Matt Kelley is a staff writer for Cheesehead TV. He can be found on Twitter via @hustleandheart1

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Comments (4)

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PatrickGB's picture

September 01, 2018 at 10:09 am

I expect with the changes to the roster and changes to the rule book the the middle of the field will finally be available for the Packers.
On the other hand the yards per catch for the team has gone down every season for a while. I say catches go up (J Morre excluded) but yardage remains about the same. However, TDs do go up.

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Qoojo's picture

September 01, 2018 at 10:35 am

I think Lewis will be a lot more involved in the offense because Graham will be a defacto 3rd WR with Lewis used as a traditional blocking TE.

I see a lot of 2 TE formations with Graham playing tight or anywhere, then throw Adams + whichever WR (Cobb/...) makes more sense depending on where Graham lines up.

Lewis will give them a legitimate run threat formation, which might not really happen until Jones gets back.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

September 01, 2018 at 10:58 am

Adams: take the over. 100 receptions might be high. He should see at least 30 more targets.

Allison: take the under. Hell, I would release him.

Lewis: Over on receptions, yards, TDs. He is going to catch some passes. Guess here is 30 for 310.

Graham: Take the over.

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Tundraboy's picture

September 01, 2018 at 03:53 pm

I just want to see then all healthy. We need them to be.

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