The Packers Rookie Receivers Will Exceed Historic Trends

The Packers haven't traditionally got a lot of production out of rookie receivers, despite bringing talented guys into great passing offenses. This year will be different than the past.

The Packers traded away the best receiver in the game.

They have Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb as their leading vets and brought in perennial retreat Sammy Watkins, who is now on his 3rd team in 3 years. 

It doesn't look like there's a game-breaker in that bunch ready to take on Davante Adams's role.

So the Packers drafted Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs.

Can either of them fill Davante's role as a rookie?

Of course not. Should we even expect them to have average rookie production?

Let's take a look at the rookie year statistics of every receiver the Packers have drafted over the last decade:

  • 2021 - Amari Rodgers: 4 catches - 45 yards - 0 touchdowns
  • 2018 - J'Mon Moore: 2/15/0
  • 2018 - MVS: 38/581/2
  • 2018 - EQ: 21/328/0
  • 2017 - DeAngelo Yancey: 0/0/0
  • 2017 - Malachi Dupre: 0/0/0 
  • 2016 - Trevor Davis: 9/115/0 
  • 2015 - Ty Mongomery: 15/136/2
  • 2014 - Davante Adams: 38/446/3
  • 2014 - Jared Abbrederis: 9/111/0
  • 2014 - Jeff Janis:2/16/0
  • 2013 - Charles Johnson: 0/0/0 
  • 2013 - Kevin Dorsey: 0/0/0

Wow.

Could it be more underwhelming?

MVS actually had the most productive rookie season of any rookie Packers receiver for the last 10 years and he started his career as a one-trick pony with dropsies. Davante Adams had the next best rookie campaign with what amounts to WR3 numbers. EQ was next, and his year only garnered the kind of stats that Adams would rack up in back-to-back games (except with fewer touchdowns). Even the people's champion, Jeff Janis, only had a couple catches as a rookie!

The Packers haven't had a rookie receiver to get excited about in over a decade.

I know what you're thinking. 

A bunch of guys like DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre and Kevin Dorsey aren't gonna give very good comps.

It's too low of a bar, right?

Ok, let's look at some bona fide studs.

Let's break down that 2011 Sports Illustrated cover and see what those guys did their rookie years:

  • 2011 - Randall Cobb:25/375/1 
  • 2008 - Jordy Nelson: 33/366/2 
  • 2007 - James Jones: 47/676/1 
  • 2006 - Greg Jennings: 45/632/3 
  • 1999 - Donald Driver: 3/31/1

James Jones and Greg Jennings had solid rookie years, but neither would have ranked in the top 50 in NFL receiving yards last year.

Heck, if you count the playoffs, Cooper Kupp had more yards last year than all of these guys's rookie years combined!

So are the Packers just doomed if they have to rely on rookie receivers this year?

After all, rookie receivers usually don't produce big numbers and the Packers - even with a ton of studs - have not historically gotten big seasons out of their rookie receivers (despite incredible quarterback play throughout).

I am firmly of the mindset that rookie receivers are over-valued... but I am still quite confident that Packers rookie receivers are going to buck the historical trends.

Why?

One word.

Necessity.

Randall Cobb is a nice veteran role player.

Sammy Watkins is a fun prove-it signing.

I'm even an Allen Lazard believer.

But, the Packers - despite the best tandem of running backs in the league - are gonna pass the ball a lot.

And the most physically talented players in this group are the rookies.

Matt LaFleur is the coach.

Aaron Rodgers is the quarterback.

Christian Watson is one of the greatest athletes ever drafted at receiver and Romeo Doubs is a route technician with great hands and a natural catching motion.

These guys will fit in the system just fine.

They will exceed the average rookie production we've seen from the Packers over the last decade.

 

Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. Best-selling author of books such as A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Draft, A Fan's Guide To Understanding The NFL Salary Cap, and A Fan's Guide To NFL Free Agency Hits And Misses, Bruce contributes to CheeseHeadTV and PackersForTheWin.com.

Follow Bruce Irons on Twitter at @BruceIronsNFL.

 

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6 points

Comments (32)

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

June 05, 2022 at 07:21 am

It's funny that this is the topic, because I just got done watching the long highlight videos of Doubs and Watson again before coming here to CHTV. Watching them back-to-back made me see them as two really high-ceiling players. Watson the speedy thoroughbred and Doubs the aggressively-athletic quarterhorse. I think by next year they will be the two starters, and (barring injury) both will have great careers.

It's really hard to predict what their rookie years will look like, especially with the mysteries of Amari, Sammie, and Allan, all of whom could have great-to-mediocre years.

But the future for Watson and Doubs sure looks bright.

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Waypack's picture

June 05, 2022 at 07:25 am

Can someone please include Toure in these stories? He has just as good or better film than Doubs (i like him but he doesn't block). My favorite receiver from the list above is Driver and we all know where he was drafted. Just a little love for the Montana/Nebraska kid, that's all I'm asking.

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Coldworld's picture

June 05, 2022 at 12:49 pm

I think Toure was tremendous value. I certainly rated him much higher. That said I had Doubs above some taken in the second round.

Doubs just looks like he was never encouraged to block and never acquired technique. If you look at him after the catch, he’s surprisingly physical. He should have the mentality required to block effectively for a WR.

I do think Toure could surprise a lot of people. Like Doubs, he never got much hype partly due to where he came from. In any other year I think he goes a lot earlier and that’s how we should see him in terms of potential. While often forgotten, I would not be surprised to see Winfree make a strong push either.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 05, 2022 at 02:49 pm

Doubs is solid with his routes. They ran the Air-Raid attack. He wasn't asked to block and LaFleur should design to his strengths. Watson was more WCO format with the run blocking/screens/end arounds....Open Competition for starting assignments for the entire group.

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NickPerry's picture

June 05, 2022 at 07:28 am

"But, the Packers - despite the best tandem of running backs in the league - are gonna pass the ball a lot."

My thoughts are when the Packers ALSO have the Defense they do, at least the Defense they appear to have, they could really dominate a lot of games. I honestly could see the Packers averaging 35 minutes a game on Offense. The last two seasons the Packers have averaged a little over 32 minutes a game on offense, #1 in the NFL in that stat in 2020 & 2021 after finishing 6th in MLF first year.

Who knows, maybe Rodgers buys into a few more runs a game, especially in the 4th quarter when the games are well in hand. Hell, if Bakhtiari is back week one, Jenkins by week 8 at the latest, Meyers making a year two jump and then some combination of Sean Rhyan, Zack Tom, Royce Newman, and Yosh Nijman on the right side, THIS is going to be a very good offensive line. Personally I'd be shocked if Rhyan isn't the starting RG week one.

IF, if they'd just run the ball 40% of the time, I think that equates into a very successful Packers team. Maybe even SB successful. Afterall, throwing it a TIN hasn't really worked that well has it? Maybe spreading it around makes it different, but I'm for a little change this year.

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Johnblood27's picture

June 05, 2022 at 12:12 pm

yo nick, the only time the Packers have run the ball less than 40% of the time is when mm was in his death throes in '16, '17 and '18.

under mlf thay are at 40, 44 and 43% for '19, '20 and '21.

for the past 12 years they vary between a low of 32% under mm in '18 to 44% with Lacy under mm and 44%in '20 under mlf.

they have ranged from dead last -32nd- in run % in '16 to 10th-11th in '20, '14 and '13(the lacy years).

seems like the number of actual running plays isn't the issue. The efficiency of those plays doesn't seem to move a lot either with the team averaging between 4.2 and 5.0 ypc from '13 on, although the eye test - short yardage and goal line - seems a little shaky.

there also does not seem to be much of a correlative impact on the passing game in terms of yds per attempt passing where the run % and ypc vary.

Hmmm, Im a run the rock guy, but it seems as if mlf is getting the balance just about right and the efficiencies are just about as good as they have ever been in recent history.

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NickPerry's picture

June 05, 2022 at 04:57 pm

"yo nick, the only time the Packers have run the ball less than 40% of the time is when mm was in his death throes in '16, '17 and '18."

Hey JB27, thanks for that...LOL...I usually look up stats for myself so I don't look too stupid...(Oops to late for that)... Maybe they can bump it to say 46, 47 percent but then that feels like it's too much doesn't it?

"The team averaging between 4.2 and 5.0 ypc from '13 on, although the eye test - short yardage and goal line - seems a little shaky."

As much as I like Aaron Jones and what he's done on the goalline the last several years, I'd rather see Dillon on the field WITH Jones in goal to goal instances. Without Adams, Rodgers is going to need someone else to throw that short back shoulder throw to. Cobb of course, maybe Lazard. IF Watkins can come in and show something he's big enough and strong enough to help replace some of it.

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Cheezdickle's picture

June 05, 2022 at 04:54 pm

Something tells me Bakhtiari won't be back week 1. He has had a hell of a time coming back from his ACL injury. Played the last week of '21 and that's it. Smart that Gute drafted a couple O lineman. Also need the three receivers to play like the aren't rookies. Luckily, we have Rodgers throwing the rock still.

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Cheezdickle's picture

June 05, 2022 at 04:55 pm

Something tells me Bakhtiari won't be back week 1. He has had a hell of a time coming back from his ACL injury. Played the last week of '21 and that's it. Smart that Gute drafted a couple O lineman. Also need the three receivers to play like the aren't rookies. Luckily, we have Rodgers throwing the rock still.

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stockholder's picture

June 05, 2022 at 08:39 am

How can you not put Samori Toure On the list. After all; Toure and Doubs were on the 2021 Biletnikoff Award Watch list. ( Watson wasn’t? ) And wasn’t Donald Driver a 7th round pick too. He just maybe a treasure that shouldn't be overlook. There is a place for all three. And I guarantee these rookies might just make the STs better.

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LLCHESTY's picture

June 05, 2022 at 06:05 pm

Driver was a 7th round pick in 1999 and had 520 yards receiving in his 1st three years. Now look at all the 7th round picks drafted since then. Toure is a lottery ticket, the odds of him doing anything in his 1st year is miniscule. If he lands on the PS and competes for a roster spot in 2023 that's a win.

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PeteK's picture

June 05, 2022 at 07:33 am

I would be happy if Watson would end up with MVS or Adams #s. There are worse receiving corps than having 4 #3 WRs and a group of solid TEs. However, health could be an issue.

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jannes bjornson's picture

June 05, 2022 at 02:51 pm

Out with the old, in with the new. Forward Thinking....

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mrtundra's picture

June 05, 2022 at 08:01 am

I was hoping the Packers would have drafted Daijean Dixon, WR out of Nicholls, in the 7th. The kid is supposedly a stud at WR, per Emory Hunt, NFL small school talent scout. Since they did not draft Dixon and then drafted Samori Toure, instead, I think Toure will make a lot of fans wonder how this kid fell to the Packers, in the 7th Round. I see STs in his immediate future, but once he gets onto the Offensive unit, he will amaze everyone, if and when Rodgers throws the ball his way. I cannot wait to see and hear how things unfold for these players in training camp. GO PACK, GO!!!

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Coldworld's picture

June 05, 2022 at 11:18 am

I liked Nicholls Initially as a late rounder, but he tested poorly and his film doesn’t challenge the doubts over his speed and agility. His game is to overpower defenders, which may be more of a challenge in the NFL. His questionable speed suggests a possession receiver playing a Lazard type role, but Lazard is bigger and faster. I believe Toure is a better fit now (especially given Lazard) and has more upside.

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Cheezdickle's picture

June 05, 2022 at 04:57 pm

I was hoping they would trade up and draft Treylon Burks or Alex Pierce. The Colts were smart to draft Pierce with Ryan now behind center.

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HarryHodag's picture

June 05, 2022 at 08:01 am

The obsession the media has had on the Packers receiving corps leads one to chuckle a bit.

If you listen to the national media dopes unless the Packers draft a receiver in the first round they are doomed.
The NMD(national media dopes) are obsessed with qb's and receivers, as if those are the only two aspects of an offense. Watson was taken in the SECOND round, so to the NMD he certainly can't be as good as the first rounders. Here's the reality: while you need competent receivers, you certainly can win without them. When Adams was down due to injury the Packers still won. Doubs and Toure both are also likely to make the team.

When you question my theory remember this: who is Donald Driver? A SEVENTH round pick out of Alcorn State.
He has the all-time records for most career receptions and receiving yards for the Packers.

It's talent in the system where you play.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 05, 2022 at 08:21 am

If a playoff run is expected the Packers know they have to groom and use the rookie WR's during the regular season. It is as simple as that!

I see Tonyan and RB's having a lot of opportunities and big years if healthy, particularly the 1st half of the season.

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BAMABADGER's picture

June 05, 2022 at 10:30 am

1978 rookie season:

James Lofton 46/818/6

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

June 05, 2022 at 10:53 am

Thanks for finding that; I see a lot of Lofton in the way Watson moves/runs. He has that kind of ceiling, despite it "asking a lot."

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PhantomII's picture

June 05, 2022 at 10:53 am

That's more in line what I expect from Watson....Wouldn't that be something. His YAC is what I'm looking forward to. He's slippery and has good vision setting DB's up to make a move at high speed. I expect a lot more than MVS rookie year as he was the true one trick player. I'll say he doubles what MVS did.

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Johnblood27's picture

June 05, 2022 at 02:54 pm

the rules have changed since 1978, I wouldn't rule out a better season than Lofton even if Watson isn't the same caliber player.

Watson has truly exceptional athleticism, as did lofton, however it remains to be seen if Watson can out-compete similar athletes on an NFL field as Lofton did each and every year he played.

Setting the bar at James Lofton is similar to bringing up Randy Moss, Jamarr Chase and Justin Jefferson. Possible? sure, ... probable? predictable? not quite.

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KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

June 05, 2022 at 03:26 pm

I too see some resemblance of Lofton by speed and the long strides of CW. It has been a long time but I do not recall Lofton having dropsies. I do not know how to compare route running, but I do know Lofton faced better competition coming into the league.

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marpag1's picture

June 05, 2022 at 11:16 am

I don't know why this is so hard for people to figure out. Watson will come in like Ja'Marr Chase, Doubs will be similar to Justin Jefferson, and Toure something like Randy Moss.

I know, that's setting the expectations awfully low, but that's my story.

6 points
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GoPackGoBigRed's picture

June 05, 2022 at 01:49 pm

Don't sleep on Samori Toure either he may have been 6 or 7th round pick but dude can ball

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GoPackGoBigRed's picture

June 05, 2022 at 01:49 pm

Don't sleep on Samori Toure either he may have been 6 or 7th round pick but dude can ball

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NJMagic's picture

June 05, 2022 at 03:53 pm

It's interesting that the offensive line is never mentioned in these pieces. To get down field they're going to have to block... And with a mystery of Bhak, Jenkins for sure out, there's a lot of questions on the line that have you more worried about time to throw than who is catching...

Unless you can teleport, you can be 4.2 4.3 4.4 and it won't matter if our new-look line cant hold up

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NJMagic's picture

June 05, 2022 at 03:55 pm

A quick follow up thought... If the line dictates a short to medium passing game, closer to traditional WCO, that's going to be a lot tougher on the rookies.

A lot more to sort out in coverage & a lot quicker on those routes. I'd expect a lot of designed passing windows on drags, bubble screens, etc.

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Cheezdickle's picture

June 05, 2022 at 04:58 pm

More screen passes to Dillion. Dude is a bulldozer.

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LeotisHarris's picture

June 05, 2022 at 04:29 pm

I never thought I would see an historic trend exceeded, but my best friend convinced me to try. Now I will see the Packers rookie receivers exceed historic trends just by working part-time with two kids at home. What a time to be alive!

2 points
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Cheezdickle's picture

June 05, 2022 at 04:59 pm

I think Doubs out of Nevada will be the best of all three.

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Reghamster's picture

June 05, 2022 at 07:02 pm

The college football game has changed and there are m.k pre NFL ready to play rookies comi g into the league. The college game is more centered around pro type throwing offenses than in the past. Having said that , the learning g curve is great and very few rookie receivers ever have as much success as is being predicted for the Packers WR corps this year. I think towards the end of the pre season the Packers will want to pick up a free agent we and hope to stash a few on the PS . They may even take 7 wars out of their 53 . But rookies are rookies . Watson has the dropsies and Toure and Doubs will be taught a few lessons from the more physical s
Nature of the pro game and that AR wont tolerate mistakes running routes . I am not worried because we have a good over all team . We can run more and we can limit the type of passing game if need be . Our defense is better and Special teams promises to be so we will likely have another 14 and 3 type season. The playoffs are another thing but I like our chances more this year than last. The passing game is not ce trial in my opinion.

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