Predicting the Wide Receiver Depth Chart

With the wide receiver position overstocked going into training camp, who stays and who goes?

Ah, Twitter. The land of opportunity and a variety of controversial opinions on all sorts of topics surrounding sports. LeBron James over Michael Jordan, Jeff Janis over Davante Adams, Tom Brady over Joe Montana. 

Wait, what? What was that second one?

Yes. Over the last few weeks (and months) I've personally seen an onslaught of Cheeseheads hopping on the Janis bandwagon and tossing Adams aside after his subpar 2015 campaign - a subpar 2015 campaign that can easily be broken down with simplicity.

We'll get to that. For now, it's easy to see that there's going to be some mighty position battles in Packers training camp come the end of July. One of those battles will be illuminated on the wide receiving corps where the Packers are arguably loaded with potential talent. As CheeseheadTV's own Thomas Hobbes investigated, not many NFL teams keep seven wide receivers on their roster. In fact, only 10% of them do. With that fact and given the Packers' recent depth history, it's likely the receivers are trimmed down to six - or possibly five - in favor of an extra offensive lineman or two. But who stays and who goes? Let's dive in.

 

WR1: Jordy Nelson

This was a given. Despite coming off a torn ACL and the surgery that ensued, nothing has changed with Green Bay's starting wideout. Nelson was coming off of a career year in 2014 when he suffered a non-contact ACL injury in the Packers' first possession in a preseason game in Pittsburgh. Although injuries such as that take anywhere between 8-12 months, Packers team doctors as well as Carole Vetter, an orthopaedic surgeon at Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin, said that he should make a full recovery. Coaches also believe Nelson is ahead of schedule. Unfortunately, being on the wrong side of 30 and coming off a surgery repairment, we won't know what we'll get out of Nelson in 2016. 

 

WR2: Randall Cobb

This one wasn't much of a head-scratcher either. Since bursting onto the scene in 2011 with 108-yard kick return for a touchdown in the season-opener, Cobb has proven to be versatile weapon. Whether you line him up as a receiver, in the backfield, let him play a role on special teams - you name it. He'll excel at it. In the wake of Nelson's injury last summer, Cobb was expected to translate his talents into the first-string spot fro 2015. Without Nelson, the Packers had no viable deep threat to spread the field, thus, leaving Cobb and co. at a loss. Although Cobb was coming off the best year of his career as well, his flaws as a primary target wide receiver outside of the slot were exposed and as a result, the Packers' passing game tanked. With Nelson back in the lineup, Cobb, Adams and the rest of the skill position players should be earning their paychecks this season.

 

WR3: Davante Adams

Now things start getting interesting. Popular opinion (at least via Twitter) would tell you that the fan favorite for the third-string gig rests within the grasp of Janis, especially after Packer fans were clamoring for him all of 2015. Contrary to popular belief, Adams should enter his third year in the league at coincidentally the third-string role as well as with the weight of expectations on his shoulders. After putting together about as decent of a year as you can expect from a third wide receiver in 2014 and being named the "Offseason MVP" by the coaches, Adams was primed for vast improvement in 2015. Again, Nelson being left out of the lineup left the receivers to fend for themselves. No underneath routes, no separation and a whole lot of ad-libbing from Aaron Rodgers. It's a stew for consistent mediocrity almost every time for most quarterbacks.

For a fun fact, although Adams was a spot or so higher on the depth chart, he had a more sufficient first two years in the league than Nelson did. In his sophomore season, Nelson had three drops on 31 targets compared to Adams' six drops on 94. Multiply Nelson's second-year drops just to get Adams' 2015 drop totals, and that's six drops on 62 targets. Nelson did also play a role on special teams which gives him more of a rock to lean on, but hey, I'm a big numbers guy. Improvement with Adams will take patience. 

 

WR4: Ty Montgomery

Almost as predictable as Montgomery is talented. There's a chance he can shine for the third-string slot, but realistically, not many see Adams being promoted or demoted at the moment. Fans haven't seen much of Montgomery before he suffered a high ankle sprain, only five games-worth. But for what they have seen, it's no secret that the former Stanford wideout has the brutality and quickness to be another weapon for Rodgers. Some may even argue he showed more in his five games than Adams has in his two years, which I'd have to blatantly disagree with. For a receiver of Montgomery's size, he's a bruiser and won't go down without a fight. Barring any health setbacks, we can expect to see Montgomery from special teams to being lined up as a tailback with the physicality he possesses. 

 

WR5: Jeff Janis

The golden boy of Cheeseheads everywhere finally makes an appearance, but it isn't where most fans thought he would be. After a 2015 season riddled with blows to the health of the wide receiving depth and the cries of fans for head coach Mike McCarthy to play Janis, they finally got their wish in the week six contest against the visiting Chargers. Janis hauled in two of his four targets for 79 yards and showcased his speed for all of Lambeau Field to see. Much to the chagrin of those same fans, the Packers didn't utilize Janis until the Divisional round where they needed him desperately. With no Adams and Cobb who had to leave the game with a punctured lung, the tandem of Janis and Abbrederis combined for 11 receptions, 200 of Rodgers' 261 passing yards and two touchdowns. Including Janis' 61-yard reception on 4th and 20 and his 41-yard touchdown snag on a Hail Mary to tie the game and send it into overtime.

Some may speculate that was where the hype for Janis was born because let's be honest, that was an insane ability to track the ball out of the air and manage to make the catch over one of the NFL's best cornerbacks. Regardless, it isn't a masked fact that Janis' route running abilities need some work, hence the likely reason why he didn't see the field much in 2015. With a body type similar to Nelson's and a clear upside to make a catch in traffic, Janis could be a true threat for the Packers moving forward with some perfecting on his routes. But don't put all of your eggs in one basket for a guy who had one standout performance.

 

WR6: Trevor Davis

Davis takes hold of the sixth and final slot for the receiving corps. As a fifth-round pick and yet to play a single snap at the professional level, Davis didn't find his edge on special teams until he transferred from Hawaii to California, where he doubled as an elusive weapon on special teams and as a prime target for number-one overall pick Jared Goff. Due to his versatility and upside as a kick returner, that gives Davis the edge over Abbrederis to round out the wide receivers. What he can do in the Packers offense is still just as much of a mystery, but with Davis, this means less of a reason to put top targets at risk running back kicks such as Montgomery or Cobb and instead, let their roles reside in the offensive scheme and the offensive scheme only. 

 

Despite Janis' sloppy route running and one breakout performance, he holds a clear edge over Abbrederis due to his value as a gunner on special teams. Abbrederis, who has a torn ACL and a rib injury under his resume, is the lone wolf to possibly be demoted to the practice squad as a reserve. The six wide receivers as opposed to seven opens the door for possibly a 10th offensive lineman, a position where depth is always valued. Especially when you're the Green Bay Packers and went nearly two months last season without your original starting five. 

Barring any changes through training camp and beyond, this will likely be the group that takes the field for the Packers on September 11th in Jacksonville. Predictions are fun.

__________________________

Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Comments (49)

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Point-Packer's picture

June 21, 2016 at 02:02 pm

Once again: would Adams have caught that Hail Mary? Not a chance in hell. You're fooling yourself if you think otherwise.

Everyone keeps comparing Adams first few years to Nelson and Jones and Jennings, etc. None had the opportunity that Adams had. Guy is slow, not a great route runner and has bad hands. Not one of the three prior mentioned had that combo of liabilities before they broke out.

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PackerAaron's picture

June 21, 2016 at 05:16 pm

"Guy is slow, not a great route runner and has bad hands."

You just described a young James Jones. *shrugs*

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4thand1's picture

June 21, 2016 at 05:40 pm

first few years? He's played 2, he will be better this year.

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 21, 2016 at 06:55 pm

Sometimes they never do get better and sometimes guys beneath a player improves and takes away a players position and they can't get it back. I look at Robert Ferguson as a guy who never improved. He was pretty much the same. Just so/so, made a play here and there but never ever took off. About the only positive I see of Adams at this point is he can dunk a basketball really really well. It helps when these Packers players take on the city cops in charity hoops I guess. Maybe he improves but then again maybe he doesn't. His confidence is totally shot at this point while Jeff Janis' confidence, speed, knowledge and strength is at an all time high. Adams is in position to be knocked out. The pressure is on him big league!!

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:32 pm

You're fooling yourself if you think that one play is a proper way to measure a WR's overall talent.

In my defense, I haven't seen anyone compare Adams to Jones or Jennings - really just Nelson. And I understand why. The only thing Adams and Jones have in common is that both were never really the speediest guys to line up on the perimeter. Effective in space, sure. But not the kind of burners you'd expect in a receiver. Jones still got the job done for a combined eight years in GB.

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dobber's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:53 pm

"Once again: would Adams have caught that Hail Mary? Not a chance in hell. You're fooling yourself if you think otherwise."

I think many would have said the same thing about Richard Rodgers prior to the end of the Detroit game...

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 22, 2016 at 12:16 am

RR has great hands and makes contested catches. I've never really seen anyone contest that assertion. Maybe some would have said the same thing about RR, but I shouldn't think too many would have.

As far as that goes, I can see Adams making that catch. The guy can jump.

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 21, 2016 at 02:35 pm

I'll be honest. I've never been a big Randall Cobb fan. I think he's overrated. He's never been the fastest receiver, he's not the biggest and he doesn't do one thing great. He's a utility knife but he is a good guy and is smart and that counts for a lot.

As far as pure talent goes with strength and speed I would put Janis and Montgomery ahead of Cobb. Davis could be intriguing with his speed only. I said it before and I'll say it again, Jeff Janis will not be denied the no. 3 receiver this season. I see Davante Adams being the odd man out. Ted will trade him to Cleveland for a case of Lake Erie bottled water.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:34 pm

I want to disagree with you because Cobb's one of my favorite guys on this squad. But unfortunately for me, you're on the money. Cobb wasn't fit to be a number one. Versatile? Absolutely. That's his upside and it's a tremendous upside to have.

As far as Adams being trade bait goes... Ehhh, we're on opposite ends of the spectrum with that one. Don't think TT trades a second-rounder so recklessly. We'll cross that bridge after 2016.

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ray nichkee's picture

June 21, 2016 at 02:36 pm

Is Aberderis eligible for the practice squad? No one has mentioned yet that one of these bottom depth guys could be used as trade bait. Another DL that could be in the rotation would be nice.

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 21, 2016 at 02:42 pm

Abby is a lock IMPO. To me it's Davante or as you say Dropvante Adams that will be used in a trade. I see it clear as day I can taste it. He's the odd man that doesn't fit with this team. Just too damn slow. The Packers are looking for speed as they were one of the slowest in the league last year.

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marpag1's picture

June 21, 2016 at 06:07 pm

Trade? Very little chance of that, IMO. These guys don't command enough value for someone to trade for them. They'll just wait for the cuts to be made. Even if someone does want to make a deal, it won't be anything to get excited about. Trading a late-round, developmental guy who hasn't proven anything isn't going to net you anything more than a different late-round, developmental guy who hasn't proven anything.

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 21, 2016 at 06:37 pm

" Even if someone does want to make a deal, it won't be anything to get excited about. "

Exactly, which is why I said Ted would trade Adams for case of Lake Erie bottled water.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:43 pm

For eligibility, a player can't be on the active roster for more than six games in a season. However, that player can still be eligible if they were on the 45-man gameday roster for less than nine regular season games. In Abbrederis' case, he was on the gameday roster for nine exactly I believe. All the information you need on practice squad eligibility can be found here. I'm a terrible source, haha.

http://www.cincyjungle.com/2014/8/31/6089749/nfl-practice-squad-eligibil...

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Tarynfor12's picture

June 21, 2016 at 03:22 pm

Most know I am strong supporter of Jeff Janis but, If a receiver were going to be traded it would likely be Janis to team that will use him for his limited routes as many suggest. New England would be great as having Janis luring deep cover only takes one from Gronk.
This is all based on the Special Teams play of Davis and the trust in the health of Abberderis and the outlook of Montgomery. : )

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stockholder's picture

June 21, 2016 at 04:52 pm

Adams is not a #3. He is like an accident waiting to happen! Janis is the most tradable. WR - #3. Should be Janis, until he blows it. Adams cannot stand on his combine numbers. This Camp battle should be about who has regressed. Not favoritism!

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dobber's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:00 pm

"This Camp battle should be about who has regressed."

I'm really hoping this camp battle will be about who has PROgressed, not who has REgressed.

If it's about regression, that doesn't necessarily bode well for this group.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:39 pm

He was a #3 with Nelson/Cobb leading the way and he was a #3 with Cobb/Jones as well. You have to remember he's still a young, inexperienced receiver who was tossed into an unfortunate role in 2015. 12 struggled, TEs struggled, WRs especially struggled. The amplified blame shouldn't be placed on Adams entirely nor should he be shunned for a mediocre sophomore season. He's on the roster for a reason. But like I said above, 2016 will be the be-all and end-all to dictate where Adams will be.

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gr7070's picture

June 21, 2016 at 04:58 pm

I think Montgomery will be the #3 WR by week 4 at the latest, and Janis #4 WR by week 8.

And those who compare Adams to Jones, Driver, Jordy, etc are only doing so with receptions and yards. If you look at some advanced metrics the comparison falls apart. Montgomery's advanced metrics were quite promising for a rookie.

Cobb, prior to last year, has had great advanced stats.

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ZacharyJacobson's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:45 pm

Montgomery would be the more realistic WR3 rather than Janis. I could see that shift as a realistic chance of happening though. Janis at 4 would be fine by me.

That's exactly what those comparisons are - mere numbers. Interesting ones at that, despite Adams' few more opportunities than Nelson in his first two seasons. I'm by no means a boxscore-watcher.

Wait, someone compared Adams' numbers to Driver's?

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gr7070's picture

June 21, 2016 at 09:14 pm

Some numbers matter a lot more than others.

http://m.cheeseheadtv.com/blog/i-believe-in-davante-adams

Sorry, he was only compared to Jennings, Jordy, Jones, and Cobb. That's totally different

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Nick Perry's picture

June 22, 2016 at 06:47 am

I'm with you on Montgomery and think he could very well be the #3 to open the season, it all depends on his health. If he's able to take part in TC he could very well be #3. Janis has to prove he understands the routes, why he runs this route of that when the defense does this or that. So far he hasn't mastered that but when/if he does the thought of how great this offense will be is awesome!

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John Galt III's picture

June 21, 2016 at 06:34 pm

Injuries

All these guys make it because MM and TT can't have enough receivers after last year. They will keep all these (6) guys unless one of them gets injured in the preseason, then who knows:

Geronimo Allison - 6' 3"
Devonte Robisnson - 4.32 speed

I am a broken record - Line up Jordy Nelson on one side and Janis on the other - even if Janis is a decoy most of the time the CB's are going to get burned and will force the Safeties to play much deeper than they want to. That is worth a fortune right there in screwing up defenses, but that is the idea.

On of these days MM will figure this out.

Example; A team has two Megatrons or two Gronks - don't think that gives DC's fits?

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 21, 2016 at 06:40 pm

Stop JGIII, you are killing me with common sense. I can't take it anymore. A big thumbs up to you. Excellent post. Janis needs to be on that damn field this season and he will be. That I can tell you.

Ted

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DrealynWilliams's picture

June 21, 2016 at 07:51 pm

One of these days you two will figure out Football is much more than combine numbers and stature.

Charles Rogers
Reggie Williams
Braylon Edwards
Demaryius Thomas (EDIT:Arrelious Benn)
Cordarrelle Patterson
Kellen Winslow
Matt Jones

** Might be able to throw Vernon Davis in there (6th overall)

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marpag1's picture

June 21, 2016 at 07:26 pm

Uh... not exactly sure what your point is, but Demaryius Thomas is a three time Pro-Bowl stud with 5,800 yards and 41 TDs in his past four years...

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DrealynWilliams's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:38 pm

Meant Arrelious Benn. Same Draft class.

Accidentally copied the wrong name. Demaryius' name was mentioned beside Benn's.

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Spud Rapids's picture

June 22, 2016 at 11:55 am

I think football is a little more complicated than place i big fast receiver on the edge and running him deep. This isn't backyard flag football, this is the NFL where you need more than speed and size.

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dobber's picture

June 22, 2016 at 01:36 pm

"I think football is a little more complicated than place i big fast receiver on the edge and running him deep."

Not according to Al Davis...

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marpag1's picture

June 21, 2016 at 07:19 pm

So all we need are two Megatrons or two Gronks? Well, why didn't somebody just say so....

Do you think these Megatrons and Gronks are currently on the roster?

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dobber's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:09 pm

"Line up Jordy Nelson on one side and Janis on the other - even if Janis is a decoy most of the time the CB's are going to get burned and will force the Safeties to play much deeper than they want to."

No idea it was this simple...

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 21, 2016 at 09:04 pm

"No idea it was this simple..."

Well Dobber, now you know. Results coming soon believe me. I've known JGIII for a couple years here now and to me the guy is a quiet genius that actually doesn't get the credit he deserves. He's usually overshadowed by motor mouth from the south.

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John Galt III's picture

June 22, 2016 at 03:25 pm

Thanks - My son played D1 football a few years back and was All State in HS. I run stuff by him and he asks his NFL player friends when he as a chance. Then I write.

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marpag1's picture

June 22, 2016 at 06:43 am

I got this, dobber. I'll be stopping by "Gronks R Us" a little later in the day. I'll grab a couple.

Problem solved.

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dobber's picture

June 22, 2016 at 01:37 pm

Cool. I'll get you a $20 next time I'm in town...

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dobber's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:03 pm

Davonte Robinson was cut a couple weeks ago...

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Dustin Evans's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:06 pm

I say have a committee of packages for WR to keep all these guys fresh. Role in different WR packages like are DC Capers does with are dime look and nickel, ect. Substitute different WR with formations. I say keep Abby just because he knows the play book. We now have 6 legitimate WR from last year and before with experience and a repore with Rodgers why waist such a good thing, use them all!

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dobber's picture

June 21, 2016 at 08:58 pm

In essence, this story is saying that with the exception of the addition of Davis, the WR depth chart looks pretty much what it looked like going into 2015. Seems about right.

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Since'61's picture

June 21, 2016 at 09:42 pm

5 out of the 6 WRs covered by Zachary can play special teams in addition to their WR roles. Adams is the only one who has not played on STs, unless I've missed it along the way. Depending on his health I could see Abby as the 6th WR and Adams as the odd man out unless the Packers keep 7 WRs. We still need to get through the pre-season, hopefully without injuries, to sort this out but for me at this point it's between Abby and Adams for the #6 spot on the WR depth chart. I wouldn't mind seeing the rookie Trevor Davis snag the #3 spot. Thanks, Since '61

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al bundy's picture

June 21, 2016 at 10:19 pm

As good analysis as any. Lets not forget the possibility that when your talking 6 or 7 guys making it, there is a high probability one or more will get injured in training camp or pre season and it could be down to 5?
Still not sure of this Montgomery thing. I've had multiple high ankle sprains and ligament strains and they dont take this long to heal. Gotta be something else so he may be one of those not to be counted on.

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MarkinMadison's picture

June 21, 2016 at 10:47 pm

You can get as amped up about Abby as you want but he still hasn't made it through an off season healthy. Best bet for Abby is IR.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 22, 2016 at 01:41 am

Outside WRs: Nelson, (J. Cook) Adams, Abby, Janis, Davis;
Slot WRs: Cobb, Montgomery (Nelson, Abby, Davis* Cook).

The above would be my depth chart for pure receiving ability. I'd suggest that Nelson, Janis (as gunner, KR), Cobb, and Monty if healthy are locks. Leaves Adams, Abby, Davis fighting to make the team.

*I haven't seen enough of Davis to be sure whether he can play slot: his measurables scream yes, his tape not so much.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

June 22, 2016 at 02:04 pm

The good thing about the WRs the Pack select is they can be effective at X,Y and Z. I hate that the 2-plays I always refer to didn't end up being TDs (1 QB fault, the other WR simple drop and both WRs burnt the CB from the snap).

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hailmaryaaron1919's picture

June 22, 2016 at 11:53 am

Is there anyone on the roster that can legitimately replace Jordy should he not be able to come back? I would think you have to stash a few of these on the fence receivers until we all know where Nelson is at. Receivers with major knee injuries don't have a great track record for coming back, and if they do.. not the same person. My biggest fear is that Jordy coming back wont fix the offense and we will have to wait 3 years until our freshman class can gain experience enough to be effective.

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Oppy's picture

June 22, 2016 at 06:17 pm

I'm sooo not sold on Trevor Davis.

I hope for the best, but you look at the knocks on this guys' game. Yes, he has good hands. Yes he's fast as hell.

Straight line speed. Fast as hell.

Knocks are that he has little quickness or burst, has troubles separating from defenders. Doesn't cut well. Trouble beating the press.

We just left a season where the issue was our WRs couldn't gain separation. Troubles beating press...

This kid should be an immediate boost on STs, but from what I've read about him, I'd bank on Abby being above him on the depth chart this year while Davis is being developed as a WR

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hailmaryaaron1919's picture

June 24, 2016 at 10:00 am

He should fit right in as a Packer receiver for not being able to beat press coverage!

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DrealynWilliams's picture

June 24, 2016 at 11:16 am

Same here @Oppy. I don't see a developmental WR beating out any of our last year WRs.

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PETER MAIZ's picture

June 23, 2016 at 10:06 pm

Davis returning kicks? I thought Janis was doing that. But Davis needs to do something, right. He'll need work to develop his WR skills.

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