When the Green Bay Packers drafted three wide receivers in the 2018 NFL Draft, it signaled a sort of transition within the team at that position. For years, Aaron Rodgers' favorite targets were Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, until Davante Adams recently emerged as the leading man.
With Nelson aging and coming off of injury, the Packers decided not to re-sign him. This meant that the team would assuredly look for younger players to fill the depth chart and potentially progress to the level once attained by Nelson.
Instead of banking on a singular high draft pick, the Packers found value selections in J’Mon Moore (4th round), Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5th round) and Equanimeous St. Brown (6th Round).
The Packers clearly had a “type” of wide receiver they were targeting, and that was someone who could replace the size and athleticism that Nelson had. Moore was the shortest of the three at 6’2 ⅝, and Valdes-Scantling the lightest at 206 pounds. All three wide receivers tested as excellent athletes for the position, with J’Mon Moore being the “worst” of the three with a Relative Athletic Score profile in the 84th percentile.
In a slight surprise, all three wide receivers made the Packers roster, fitting into the depth chart behind Adams, Cobb and veteran Geronimo Allison. With half of the wide receiver depth chart as rookies, the Packers needed them to mature and develop quickly. The early returns in that regard are positive.
This past weekend, Randall Cobb was unable to play due to an injury. However, Valdes-Scantling put together a nice day with 7 receptions for 68 yards and a touchdown. Not to be out done, St. Brown pitched in 89 yards on 3 receptions. The Packers needed them to step up in Cobb’s absence, and the young receivers were up to the task.
Valdes-Scantling showed excellent versatility, with the ability to play on the outside, thrive in the intermediate areas of the field and make plays along the sideline. Additionally, he showed that he can play in the slot as well, snapping off his routes quickly and finding open space. As a runner after the catch, he is shifty and athletic enough to pick up yards in a hurry. His size gives him a presence in the red zone, and he proved that while in college at South Florida.
Equanimeous St. Brown has continued to polish his unique skill set. He has an incredible combination of size and athleticism, but doesn’t necessarily use that to dominate on the outside. Rather, St. Brown operates better when he can get free releases and run after the catch. In college, he would do an excellent job of manipulating space against safeties and working into openings in zone coverage. He continued this on Sunday, hitting the “stick and nod” route and picking up a ton of yards after the catch.
These type of flash plays happened when his quarterback play was up to par while at Notre Dame, and should come with more consistency now that he’s playing with a quarterback on the level of Rodgers.
While J’Mon Moore has been held without a catch to this point, the Packers invested a higher pick in him than the other two rookie wide receivers. His game was on the raw side while at Missouri, so he will take time to develop. However, his athleticism nearly assures that he will eventually carve out a role in Green Bay.
As the organization and quarterback grow more fond of the young wide receivers, it could signal the transition of their depth chart to continue. With Aaron Rodgers at age 34, it’s possible that the Packers believe he can develop a rapport with younger receivers and extend their Super Bowl window.
Adams is only 25 years old and under contract through 2021, so it is unlikely he will be changing teams anytime soon. However, Randall Cobb and Geronimo Allison are both free agents at the end of the season. If the trio of rookie wide receivers continue on their current trajectory, don’t be surprised to see the Packers move on from the veterans and unleash the tallest wide receiver group in recent memory next season.