/ Opinions / The Pack is back: Wide receivers will surprise
Another Packers training camp has presented itself. With lots of positions up for grabs and depth that needs to be filled out, here is how I see the wide receivers and special teams playing out.
With no preseason games, the roster spots will be evaluated by practice and practice alone. I’m going to talk about who might make up that roster.
Hunter Bradley will be in his third season out of Mississippi State. He is the line snapper and is turning out to be a smart seventh round draft pick from 2018. He’s been reliable and hasn’t had any bad snaps that I can think of.
Bradley has worked well with punter JK Scott. Scott was a fifth round pick out of Alabama, the same draft as Bradley. That might seem high for a punter, but he’s been worth it for the most part. Last season he had 29 punts inside the 20. I look forward to seeing him improve yet again this season.
As a holder, Scott has been good and hasn’t had any issues. Mason Crosby is a grizzled veteran now. He will be entering his 14th season with the Pack and has no signs of slowing down.
Last season, Crosby kicked 22/24 field goals for a 91.67%, highest of his career. Those are excellent numbers for a kicker and the Packers have been blessed with Crosby, who has been consistent and clutch at times. I see more good things from him this season.
Bradley, Scott and Crosby have good chemistry together. That is important, especially when it comes down to clutch extra points and field goals. Everyone has to be in sync with one another.
Now let’s get to the wide receivers, the most scrutinized and talked about position for the Packers. A lot of fans are concerned about our talent and depth. I’m here to reassure you that we’ll be OK.
Davante Adams. What can I say about him that you don’t already know? He’s been incredible over the course of the last four seasons. He can run routes at an elite level, make tough catches, comes up clutch, catches many touchdowns and has great chemistry with quarterback Aaron Rodgers. I love Adams.
Allen Lazard is a player I really, really like. Just in his third season from Iowa State, Lazard came up big for the Packers last season. With receivers under performing and/or injured, he caught big touchdowns and came up clutch on third down plays. He has good chemistry with Rodgers and I expect him to have a big season as our number two receiver.
Marquez Valdes-Scantling was underwhelming last season. The Packers need him to step up big time this season. He is supposed to be our deep threat and that was not the case. There were also some drops by him as well. He needs to play with confidence and have fun. If he can do that, then he should be alright. He can’t be worse than last season.
Equanimeous St. Brown was injured all of last season, which was a bummer. He flashed a lot of potential in his rookie campaign in 2018. If he uses his 6’5 frame and can get that bond with Rodgers, then he is more than capable of making an impact for this team. I’m excited for him.
Jake Kumerow is still around. The local kid from Wisconsin-Whitewater had some moments last season and he is one to keep an eye on. If any one of these other receivers falters, I have confidence in Kumerow to step up and make some plays. He runs good routes and is tough.
Darrius Shepherd was our undrafted free agent out of North Dakota State last season. He played so well he eventually was called up to the active roster. At 5’11, he can be our shifty slot receiver. That experience on the roster last season was good for him.
The X-factor is Reggie Begelton. He has spent the last three seasons with the Calgary Stampeders of the Canadian Football League (CFL). In fact, he had 102 receptions for 1,444 yards and 10 touchdowns in 2019. If he can translate some of that success to the Packers, then we might have a weapon on our hands. That type of success doesn’t happen overnight. He’s worked hard and I think he will translate that to Green Bay.
Malik Taylor is a one-year player from Ferris State who was on our practice squad last season. Darrell Stewart is our one undrafted wide receiver out of Michigan State. Maybe one of these guys can play a role. It’ll be tough to make the roster, but anything can happen. Everything besides our number one receiver is up for grabs.
That brings me to two new receivers the Packers just signed. As I write this, they aren’t official yet, but all reports say they have been signed. I’ll assume that the deals are official.
One of them is Travis Fulgham, who was claimed off waivers from the Lions. Fulgham is a wide receiver out of Old Dominion. He was a sixth round pick in the 2019 Draft. I like the numbers he put up at Old Dominion — 63 receptions for 1,083 yards, a 17.2 yards per catch average and nine touchdowns. I see no problem with giving him a shot.
The other one is Malik Turner, a receiver who was originally signed by the Seattle Seahawks in 2018 as an undrafted free agent. He is out of Illinois. Last season he caught 15 receptions for 245 yards and a score. Again, it’s a small pickup like Fulgham. But the Seahawks are a good team and if they didn’t want him, maybe he could be of some value to us.
The loss of Devin Funchess hurts, but it’s not a big blow. I predicted he would do good things and provide a weapon on the outside. I respect his decision and wish nothing but the best for him.
To sum it up for the wide receiver position, we’re going to be just fine. Yes we didn’t draft anyone in the NFL Draft in April. Yes we didn’t sign or trade for a big name. And yes, Funchess is out.
But there is no way it can be worse than last season … a season in which we won 13 games. Almost everyone is in year two of LaFleur’s system and should have more confidence. We got guys who can catch, guys who can go deep, young guys with potential, CFL players and intriguing waiver wire claims.
This wide receiver group will surprise people and will play to their potential or exceed it. It may not be everyone, but there are receivers on this team who will be big time.