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:
Watching some Randy Moss rookie highlights.
Brings this to mind… what are the best WR TRIOS of all time?
— Joe Dolan (@FG_Dolan) May 30, 2022
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.
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
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