What is the Packers biggest need in the draft?
Some say cornerback, even with Kevin King re-signed.
Some say defensive line, even though the Packers don’t play a lot of base packages.
Some say offensive tackle, even with David Bakhtiari due back next season and Elgton Jenkins showing the ability to kick outside.
And others still say wide receiver.
The Packers don’t have a single wide receiver outside Davante Adams who has ever had a 1,000 yard season. Heck, they don’t have another receiver who has even had a 700 yard season. Outside of MVS, none of the other receivers even have 1,000 yards in their careers (and MVS took three years to do it).
But do they really need better receivers?
In the good ole days, the Packers had a stable group with Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver, and Randall Cobb.
The Packers don’t have that kind of big name depth anymore, but they have been productive.
The Packers brought in Matt LaFleur becuase he’s the kind of offensive mind that can scheme guys open. He doesn’t need four or five Pro Bowl level receivers to make his offense work. He can win without premium receivers.
And he’s proven it.
He came in and turned a 6 win team into a 13 win team that made the NFCCG in his first season at the helm. Then, when what might have been the deepest wide receiver class of all time came up in 2020, the Packers didn’t draft a single one.
With the same unheralded receiving corp, LaFleur led the Packers to another 13 win season and another NFCCG.
Sure they have Davante Adams, but the team has won without him (prompting some to wonder if the offense might even be better off without him), further reinforcing that LaFleur’s offense doesn’t need premium receivers to win.
Part of the reason is because the Packers throw to backs and ends a lot. Part of the reason is becuase they’ve increased the percentage of running plays they call.
But a big part of the reason is that they just plain don’t need great receivers for their offense to function. Sure, having Aaron Rodgers probably has something to do with that, but Aaron Rodgers has had worse seasons with better receivers.
Matt LaFleur’s offense removes a lot of burden for the receivers.
What good is drafting receviers early, do anyways? Is drafting a receiver in the 1st round some panacea for teams that can’t get over the hump?
Last year might have been the most talented wide receiver class ever and none of the six teams that drafted a receiver in the 1st round last year made the playoffs. Even the Vikings, who made the playoffs the previous year and nabbed the most productive rookie wide receiver in Justin Jefferson, didn’t make the playoffs.
Has a team ever won the Super Bowl because their 1st round rookie receiver carried them to a title?
Rookie receivers don’t put teams over the top.
But we don’t draft for one season, right? A draft pick is a multi-year investment. Teams should have a pipeline of talent for the future.
Let’s take a look at all the wide receivers currently listed on the Packers roster:
- Davante Adams – free agent after this season
- Marquez Valdes-Scantling – free agent after this season
- Devin Funchess – free agent after this season
- Equinimeous St. Brown – free agent after this season
- Reggie Begelton – exclusive rights free agent after this season
- Chris Blair – exclusive rights free agent after this season
- Juwann Winfree – exclusive rights free agent after this season
So that’s a grand total of zero wide receivers under contract for next season.
The draft is an investment in the future and the Packers are gonna need some receivers in the near future, so they should probably draft some this year.
But how early?
The great thing that the Packers don’t need an immediate contributor.
It’s great becuase the Packers can focus on other needs early in the draft, but even greater because of the nature of the 2021 draft. With the pandemic shutdown, there are a lot of developmental players available who either had their season cut short or didn’t get a full year’s worth of development because of a shortened offseason.
Not only is this wide receiver class deep, it’s also full of raw guys who will need a year of practice before they can contribute. Guys like Cade Johnson, Josh Imatorbhebhe, and TJ Vasher aren’t at the top of many draft boards, but they could all fall to Day 3 and, thought they may not be immediate contributors, could develop into solid starting options after a couple training camps.
So we know the Packers can win with the receivers they have, but we also know that all of those contracts expire at the end of the season.
Toss in the fact that it’s a super deep wide receiver class, and it brings up a great question: How early should the Packers draft a wide receiver?
What round should the Packers draft their first wide receiver in the 2021 draft?
Bruce Irons has played, coached, and studied football for decades. 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 @PackersForTheWn.