The Five Best WR Trios In Packers History

The Packers have had great groups of receiving options

The Green Bay Packers go through a transition period in their wide receiver room. After losing Davante Adams, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and Equanimeous St-Brown, the team has added Sammy Watkins, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs, and Samori Toure. For now, it's impossible to predict how these players will perform and if they are going to get along. But it's the perfect time to remember other Packers wide receiver cores which worked pretty well. The idea of this post came after this tweet from Joe Dolan:

So, let's take a look at the five best Packers WR trios of all-time.

2014 - Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams
It could be 2016, when Adams was better established as a good receiver, but 2014 was a magical year for the Packers passing offense for the entire season — that’s why Aaron Rodgers was the MVP. Jordy and Cobb entered the league three years apart, but their different styles and trajectories made them hit their absolute primes at the same time. Nelson put up incredible numbers, with 1,519 yards and 13 touchdowns (98 receptions, 15.5 yards per reception and 94.9 yards per game). Meanwhile, even playing primarily from the slot, Cobb had 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns (91 receptions, 14.1 yards per reception and 80.4 yards per game). Adams was in his first NFL season, but he had the best season for a rookie wide receiver in Aaron Rodgers' era to that point — and since, Marquez Valdes-Scantling in 2018 is the only one who surpassed him. Davante had 446 and three touchdowns (38 receptions and 11.7 yards per reception). The trio was an integral part of a team that reached the NFC championship game and could certainly have won the Super Bowl.

1997 - Antonio Freeman, Robert Brooks, Derrick Mayes
It was a very different era of football, and playing three wide receivers at the same time was rare. That's why it was much more difficult to have a productive third receiver than it is nowadays. Nevertheless, second-year player Derrick Mayes had a decent role as a receiver, with 290 yards in 18 receptions, adding to his importance as a punt returner. But, obviously, the greatness of the receiving core belonged to the starters Antonio Freeman and Robert Brooks. Freeman ended up being the best year of his career in 1998, but he still had a great season in 1997, with 1,243 yards and 12 touchdowns. The big difference that year is that Robert Brooks was still playing at a high level and got 1,010 yards and seven touchdowns, solid numbers for a WR2 that he wouldn't repeat one year later.

2011 - Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones/Donald Driver
In 2011, the best individual year of Aaron Rodgers' career, the receiver core was more a quartet than a trio. Theoretically, the starting group had Greg Jennings as primary receiver, even though he frequently aligned in the slot, plus Jordy Nelson and Donald Driver. That was more than enough to be a great trio. But that passing offense still had James Jones playing at a good level — as we're not talking about tight ends, I won't extensively mention Jermichael Finley, who ended up ahead of Jones and Driver in receiving yards and touchdowns that year.
As Jennings missed three games because of injury, Jordy was the leading receiver, with 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. Jennings had 949 yards and nine touchdowns. James Jones didn't start a single game, but played an extensive role and finished the season ahead of Driver with 635 yards and seven touchdowns. Driver, in his second to last NFL season (and the last productive one), had 445 yards and six TDs.

2004 - Javon Walker, Donald Driver, Robert Ferguson
Javon Walker is frequently mentioned because he still is the last wide receiver selected by the Packers in the first round of the draft. He didn't pan out the way Green Bay expected, but had one great season in 2004, with 1,382 yards and 12 touchdowns. The performance led up to a contract dispute that forced Ted Thompson to trade him to the Denver Broncos in 2006, after an ACL injury in 2005. Also in 2004, Donald Driver had the first of three consecutive seasons with at least 1,200 yards, the prime of his career. Driver finished the year with 1,208 yards and nine touchdowns. The third receiver was Robert Ferguson, another example of a player drafted by the Packers that played for the Minnesota Vikings after leaving Green Bay. Ferguson' best season was in 2003, when he was a starter, but he still had 367 yards and one touchdown in 2004 as a tertiary option alongside tight end Bubba Franks.

1994 - Sterling Sharpe, Robert Brooks, Anthony Morgan
I really wanted to include a season where one of the receivers was Sterling Sharpe, a historically underrated star. And the most complete trio of his time in Green Bay was in 1994, the last year before a serious neck injury abruptly ended his career. Sharpe amounted 1,119 yards and 18 touchdowns. Robert Brooks had 648 yards and four touchdowns, and Anthony Morgan finished the season with 397 yards and four touchdowns, awesome numbers for the two secondary options behind a star weapon.

Honorable mention
1945 - Don Hutson, Clyde Goodnight, Nolan Luhn

In the 1940s, the concept of the wide receiver wasn't even fully established. Most teams just used "ends", who were players aligning side by side with the tackles (which today is the tight end role). Eventually, these ends started playing more open, as split ends, and the wide receiver position began to emerge. Even in times when the running game was largely predominant, end Don Hutson emerged as an elite talent. In 1942, for example, he had 1,211 yards and 17 touchdowns in 11 games, both numbers that were NFL records by the time of his retirement. In 1945, the Packers still had Hutson in the last year of his career, with 834 yards and nine touchdowns, but also had two other ends with some production: Clyde Goodnight (283 yards, three touchdowns) and Nolan Luhn (151 yards, one touchdown).

Do you have any other group that comes to mind when we talk about great Packers receiving trios? Let’s talk!

Photo: Mark Hoffman via Imagn Content Services, LLC

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Wendell Ferreira covers the Green Bay Packers for Zone Coverage and Cheesehead TV. He is a Brazilian journalist with over a decade of experience covering the NFL, soccer, NBA, and MMA. Follow him on twitter at @wendellfp  

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3 points

Comments (42)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2022 at 10:03 am

Hutson, Blood and Gantenbein...

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Swisch's picture

May 31, 2022 at 01:39 pm

Did Hutson and Blood play together?

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13TimeChamps's picture

May 31, 2022 at 02:04 pm

Yes...1935 and 1936.

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Swisch's picture

May 31, 2022 at 02:19 pm

Cool!
Thanks 13TC.
That could be a great book on the both of them.
Blood, as I understand it, was quite the character, rough and tumble, dashing and daring, even reckless -- maybe revolutioning the game with his ability to catch passes out of the backfield.
Hutson was seemingly more refined and regal, a teammate with Bear Bryant at Alabama (both were ends, I think), who in effect created the position of wide receiver as a major weapon in pro football.
Some of this could be wrong, and there's so much I don't know, that I would be glad for other fans to share their knowledge.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2022 at 10:10 am

Dowler, McGee and Kramer(TE)...

Lofton, Jefferson and Coffman...

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Leatherhead's picture

May 31, 2022 at 11:19 am

Lofton, Jefferson, Coffman. A HOFer and the best Packer TE in the last 50 years, plus Jefferson.

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murf7777's picture

June 01, 2022 at 10:23 am

Loft to Lofton

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PeteK's picture

May 31, 2022 at 02:49 pm

Forgot Dale.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:32 pm

Yes!!!

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:32 pm

Yes!!!

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:32 pm

Yes!!!

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:32 pm

Yes!!!

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:32 pm

Yes!!!

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:33 pm

Yes!

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:33 pm

Yes!

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stockholder's picture

May 31, 2022 at 10:44 am

John Jefferson 1982 James Lofton !982 Phil Eps 1982 and Paul Coffman was the TE in 1982

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Tundraboy's picture

May 31, 2022 at 11:16 am

Agreed!

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Since'61's picture

May 31, 2022 at 01:41 pm

Agree completely. Thanks, Since ‘61

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Qoojo's picture

May 31, 2022 at 03:33 pm

Not sure how this trio could be left off the list, then adding Coffman. Probably #1. The yards per reception was impressive in an era where the rules were not so skewed for offense.

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BobbyMack's picture

May 31, 2022 at 05:26 pm

They were Fantastic and fun.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

May 31, 2022 at 11:00 am

So, the parameter was "WRs," though I think "receivers" including TEs and RBs is more interesting...
Anyway, 2020 had Davante Adams with 1374 yards and a league-leading 18 TDs, and Robert Tonyan with 586 and a league/Kelce-leading11 TDs, and MVS with 690 and 6 TDS plus a league-leading 20.9 avg.

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UGDR's picture

May 31, 2022 at 12:12 pm

Watson, Winfree, Lazard.

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Johnblood27's picture

May 31, 2022 at 01:49 pm

thats the definition of OPTIMISM!

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Swisch's picture

May 31, 2022 at 02:38 pm

Let's hope that along with Lazard, a couple of other top receivers emerge for this list in the future, out of our three rookies plus Taylor and Winfree.
If the older Sammy Watkins wants to get in on the action for a few seasons, all the better.
So, out of seven guys, we need at least three to emerge as reliable options and significant contributors, as soon as possible and then down the road.
I'm optimistic. My sense of things is that most, if not all, of this septet are highly talented -- and all can be excited for more opportunities with the departure of Davante, MVS, and ESB.
I wish I could try out for the Packers at wide receiver, if only I wasn't so old, and was a much better athlete when I was young.
I had good hands and loved diving for passes, though, even if it was at much lower levels of competition.
If our current crop of wide receivers is as enthusiastic as I would be, then it should be fun to watch them compete for the opportunity to run wild across Lambeau Field.

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lou's picture

May 31, 2022 at 12:41 pm

Dowler, Dale, McGee were good enough for 3 straight World Championships.

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mrtundra's picture

May 31, 2022 at 05:30 pm

Yessir! Boyd Dowler, Carroll Dale and Max McGee!!!

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Swisch's picture

May 31, 2022 at 12:49 pm

c. 1965-1966: Boyd Dowler, Carroll Dale, and Max McGee (not in any particular order).
Bart Starr won NFL MVP in 1966, strong evidence that he did much more than just hand the ball off to Taylor and Hornung (not to mention his leadership and play calling).
Perhaps other fans here can help with this evaluation, but I think all three of these guys were really good, perhaps even pro bowl level (or close to it) in their best seasons.
I was only three or four years old at the time, and my dad was being transferred from South Milwaukee to Houston to work as a contractor for NASA.
I'm sad to say I was oblivious then to the Lombardi Packers, but on the plus side was a big fan of Batman and Superman.

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Swisch's picture

May 31, 2022 at 01:11 pm

P.S. In the NFL Championship Game of 1966 -- the first of two epic battles against the Cowboys, this one in Dallas the year before the Ice Bowl -- Starr was 19-28 for 304 yards and four touchdown passes (including one to each of Dowler, Dale, and McGee).
The Packers held on in dramatic fashion to win 34-27 (with a huge play by Dave Robinson harassing Cowboys quarterback Don Meredith into an interception in the end zone.)

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Since'61's picture

May 31, 2022 at 08:35 pm

Swisch FYI, Starr handed off to Taylor and Elijah Pitts for most of 1966. Hornung only had 76 carries that season. He suffered a pinch nerve in his neck in a game agains the Bears and he never really played again. Pitts took over the load and proved to be an excellent player. Sadly Hornung retired at the end of the '66 season rather than play for the Saints who took Hornung in the expansion draft. Hornung was my first favorite Packer.
Thanks, Since '61

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Swisch's picture

May 31, 2022 at 09:13 pm

I'm not sure if Hornung was ever quite the same after his suspension for all of 1963, but you would have a much better perspective, Since'61.
He did have that game in 1965 scoring five touchdowns against the Colts during the regular season (the same day Gale Sayers scored six against the 49ers), and in the championship win against the Browns rushed for 105 yards with a critical touchdown in the second half.
I guess his skill as a kicker diminished dramatically. In perhaps 1964, when I was about three, my dad was involved with a civic group (perhaps the Jaycees) in South Milwaukee and tried to get Bart Starr as a speaker for one of its events. Starr politely said he was unable to do it, but my dad was able to get a new coach for Marquette basketball named Al McGuire.
Anyway, I think my dad told a joke at that event about Hornung using an expression that was in use at that time, something like: "Someone asked Paul Hornung how he was doing the other day, and he answered, 'I can't kick.'"
By the way, I think my dad also was especially a fan of Hornung as at least one of his favorite Packers. He would say that he had a great knack for getting into the end zone.
I found out later that both my dad and Hornung were born in December of 1935. My dad died in 2012, Hornung in 2020.
It's so sad to see so many of these heroes of the Packers from the 1960s passing away in recent years. I hope the Packers invite the living ones back to Green Bay to be honored at a game once per season going forward.
Always glad to get your take, Since'61.

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Irish_Cheesehead's picture

May 31, 2022 at 01:14 pm

Pretty evident this was written by someone quite a bit younger than me. I immediately thought of Dowler, Dale, McGee, Lofton, Jefferson and Coffman...

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:39 pm

Me too. Old enough to be lucky to see them all.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 02, 2022 at 11:39 pm

Me too. Old enough to be lucky to see them all.

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13TimeChamps's picture

May 31, 2022 at 02:10 pm

No way you leave Dowler, Dale, McGee off this list.
Maybe not the most physically talented trio, but by far the most successful from a team standpoint.

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Dragon5's picture

May 31, 2022 at 02:54 pm

I've always been fond of the short game emphasized throughout Brady's career and on full display during Holmgren's dominant era '94-'98 with lots of check downs & RB / WR screens to the likes of Bennett, Levens, etc...let the playmakers make plays. Will be refreshing to (hopefully) see this return given dominant RBs, rookie WRs, and an injured TE.

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Swisch's picture

May 31, 2022 at 04:18 pm

Good stuff, D5.
As I recall, the screen to Edgar Bennett was a signature play of the Packers return to glory in the 1990s.
We know Adam Jones can break off a long play at any time like a bolt of lightning, while the thunder of A.J. Dillon in the open field would be like a tank run rampant.

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MarkinMadison's picture

May 31, 2022 at 03:52 pm

Watson, Watkins & Lazzard, LLP

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mrtundra's picture

May 31, 2022 at 05:32 pm

Would also add Don Beebe, Antonio Freeman and Andre Rison

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BirdDogUni's picture

May 31, 2022 at 05:40 pm

Watson, Doubs, and Lazard...

(After this year...) ; )

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LLCHESTY's picture

May 31, 2022 at 06:12 pm

Doubs had a great sideline catch today I guess. I'm excited to see him play this year, I think he's going to have a good handle on the offense judging by this tweet. He could end up the PR too.

https://twitter.com/mattschneidman/status/1527333909419024395?t=9Gz5WPox...

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SpikeHyzer's picture

June 01, 2022 at 02:41 pm

The honorable mention and any year Hutson played are probably better than all the other ones combined, no matter the production of the 2nd or 3rd guys (and they had some decent ones even then).

Because you have to look at it in context of the era, and Hutson was so far ahead of his time, that his TD record wasn't broken for over 4 decades (and still quite remarkably ranks 11th all time). And the 1000 yard season before anyone had reached the mark (he was also the first to get 500, and 800). His final year was the first time someone else got 1000 other than him, and that sort of production at his age would have continued to be top 5 in the league until Elroy Hirsh blew up the receiving record book in 1951 with a smidge under 1500.

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SpikeHyzer's picture

June 01, 2022 at 02:45 pm

Oh, and let's not forget he played his career when seasons were only 11 games long.

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