We continue our positional breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers. So far, the breakdowns have consisted of the tight ends, offensive tackles, and offensive guards and centers. In today’s installment, it will be a continuation on the offensive side of the ball. A breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers wide receivers.
Breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers Wide Receivers
When discussing the Green Bay Packers wide receivers, of course, the conversation starts with Davante Adams. Adams, who completed his eighth season with the Packers, cemented his place as the NFL’s best wide receiver.
Behind Adams, was a group of mostly experienced pass catchers. A group that consisted of Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown, and Randall Cobb. Joining that group was some inexperienced wide receivers, Amari Rodgers, Malik Taylor, and Juwann Winfree.
After Adams, the production from the rest of the group dropped dramatically. Some of that was due to so many targets going to Adams. Also playing a part was lack of execution. The coach in charge of the group was Jason Vrable. In this off-season, Vrable added the title of passing game coordinator. While Vrable added the title, for 2022, Vrable’s main focus will be to get more production out of his young wide receivers.
Here is the breakdown of the 2021 Green Bay Packers wide receivers.
Davante Adams, Grade: A+
There is a reason that Adams is quarterback Aaron Rodgers favorite target. Not only has Adams earned the respect of the now four-time NFL MVP, but Adams is the Packers biggest playmaker.
This season, Adams hauled in 123 receptions for 1,553 yards (a franchise record) with 11 touchdown receptions. The numbers alone are impressive. But if you throw in how many times Adams was doubled and even triple-teamed, it makes it even more impressive. If there was a big play to be made in the air, Rodgers was going to go to Adams. In most cases, opposing defenses couldn’t stop it.
Most of the headlines this off-season is about if Rodgers is going to return. But Packers fans are just, if not more, worried about Adams. Unlike Rodgers who is under contract, Adams will be a free agent this off-season. General manager Brian Gutekunst will need to make Adams a top priority. If they can’t reach an agreement with Adams, the Packers might be forced to use the franchise tag on him. Something the Packers haven’t utilized since 2010.
Allen Lazard, Grade: B-
Lazard is another Green Bay Packers wide receiver that has earned the trust of Rodgers. Lazard isn’t nearly as polished as Adams as a route runner or makes as many big plays. But Lazard does all the dirty work of the wide receiver group. Something that Rodgers has taken notice of.
This season, Lazard hauled in 40 catches for 513 yards with eight touchdown receptions. His 40 receptions were second on the team for Green Bay Packers wide receivers. Lazard not only earned his money as a pass-catcher though. Lazard provided upper-level blocking as well, which earned him the right to be called the Packers best blocking wide receiver.
When the Packers lost starting tight end Robert Tonyan to an injury, it was Lazard who stepped up. In many passing formations for the Packers, Lazard was asked to do a lot of duties a tight end would do. He never made an issue about being asked to step up. He put the team first and did what he was told. Lazard will be a restricted free agent this off-season.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Grade: C-
It turned out to be a pretty disappointing season for the four-year veteran. The uber-talented Valdes-Scantling played in just 11 games because of injuries. With only playing in 11 games, his production fell well below what was expected this season.
In his 11 games, he hauled in 26 catches for 430 yards with just three touchdown receptions. His touchdown grabs were a drop-off from 2020 when he caught six touchdowns. His presence was sorely missed for the Packers offense this season. Valdes-Scantling is the Packers fastest wide receiver and arguably is the fastest player on either side of the ball. Without him, the Packers were missing a wide receiver who is capable of stretching the field.
Similar to Adams, Valdes-Scantling will head into this 0ff-season as an unrestricted free agent. Gutekunst and the Packers will be tempted to re-sign him just because of the speed he brings. Still, it isn’t a guarantee that he will be brought back. His production hasn’t come close to matching his ability. The Packers might offer him a one-year “prove it” deal, to see if he can finally realize his potential.
Randall Cobb, Grade: C+
On the request of Aaron Rodgers, the Packers traded for the veteran Cobb early in training camp. The trade brought back one of the Packers most popular players. Cobb had previously played for the Packers from 2011-2018 before departing as a free agent to the Dallas Cowboys.
While Cobb wasn’t the player he once was for the Packers, it appeared that he would be a nice piece to the Packers offense. He had solid numbers for a third or fourth receiver, catching 28 passes for 375 yards with five touchdown catches. Unfortunately for the Packers, he suffered a core injury and played in just 12 games. He did return in their playoff loss to the San Francisco 49ers but wasn’t targeted in the game.
Cobb still has two years left on his contract. However, his return, under that deal, looks to be improbable. The Packers salary cap is a mess and bringing back the aging veteran doesn’t look possible. With a young option on the roster, Amari Rodgers, it seems doubtful that Cobb will be brought back.
Equanimeous St. Brown, Grade: C-
It didn’t appear that Equanimeous St. Brown wasn’t going to be a part of the 2021 Green Bay Packers wide receivers group. He was cut on the final cutdowns in training camp and it appeared that his time as a Packer was all over.
But credit to St. Brown, he didn’t let his ego get in the way. He accepted a contract to return to the Packers practice squad. St. Brown stayed there until injuries hit the position and then was promoted to the active roster.
St. Brown didn’t earn a C- grade from what he did on the Packers offense. He only caught nine passes for 98 yards. But he did earn that grade by what he contributed to special teams. The Packers special teams were a complete disaster. However, St. Brown was one of the not many bright spots. He displayed good speed and was a match-up problem for opposing special teams because of his size. He will also be an unrestricted free agent this off-season, but his ability to play special teams might have earned another contract.
Amari Rodgers, Grade: D-
In last year’s NFL Draft, Gutekunst traded up in the third round to select Amari Rodgers. The Packers envisioned Rodgers not only as their primary punt and kickoff returner but also as their slot receiver.
However, things changed in regards to the Packers plans when it came to Rodgers as their slot receiver. With the return of Cobb, the plan to use Rodgers as their slot receiver took a back burner. Rodgers was used sparingly as a receiver, catching only four passes for 45 yards.
The only place that Rodgers saw extensive playing time was on special teams. Former coordinator Maurice Drayton continued to use Rodgers on punt and kickoff returns, even though the results weren’t good. The results were so bad, the Packers might need to look for a returner in this year’s NFL Draft.
With Cobb expected to depart, Rodgers will get his shot as the Packers primary slot receiver. With the capital that Gutekunst spent on getting him, he better be up for the challenge.
Malik Taylor, Grade: F
It was a surprise to many that the Packers chose to keep Taylor over St. Brown when the final cuts went down. St. Brown is a superior athlete and has the better ability as a pass-catcher. But the Packers chose Taylor most likely because of his so-called ability on special teams.
Unfortunately, Taylor never displayed anything on offense, or on special teams. He only caught two passes for 14 yards. Along with that, Taylor, who was kept because of his special teams prowess, was just as ineffective on special teams. In Taylor’s two seasons, he has been a part of some of the worst special teams units in NFL history. Also, he only played in 10 games before he was injured.
Juwann Winfree, Grade: D+
Winfree, similar to St. Brown, spent time on the Packers practice squad this season. He was also pulled up to the Packers active roster, for seven games. During that time, he hauled in eight passes for 58 yards.
Even with just a small amount of playing time, it appears Winfree has some ability to get open. He isn’t a big receiver, so it appears he will need to battle Amari Rodgers in the slot for playing time in 2022. If he is going to make next season’s roster, he will need to show that he is capable of playing special teams. If he can’t, he will struggle to make the roster.
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