In 2017, the Packers drafted 3 running backs in Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Devante Mays. That running back group (now with Mays out of the picture) along with converted wide receiver Ty Montgomery, is off to a good start in 2018. The fantasy league owners and all the national pundits want Aaron Jones to be a featured back but Packers coach Mike McCarthy has more in mind than a fantasy league win…he wants a Super Bowl. The rotation of Jones, Williams, and Monty keeps the group fresher down the line, especially for games in December at Lambeau. This will be a huge advantage for the team toward the end of the season and into the playoffs. But can the team mirror that situation with the three new wide receivers drafted in 2018?
The Packers’ drafting of J’mon Moore, Marquez Valdez-Scantling, and Equanimeous St. Brown could prove to be more important than just keeping fresh bodies in the hopper or finding a replacement for Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb is in a contract year and is already missing playing time due to injury. The Packers, for a couple years, had been putting Jordy Nelson in the slot, a trend the NFL has caught on to. The pressure that a big and fast wide receiver like Jordy put on typically smaller, quicker slot corners caught the eye of coaches around the league, so much so that the slot corner prototypical body-type is likely to change.
The Packers were ahead of this trend with Jordy but the addition of the three tall, fast rookies could help create matchup nightmares for opposing defenses. With Cobb out for today’s game, we may see more of Valdez Scantling, who after a hiccup early made a nice down the field play using his length and elite speed. While he is a rookie, today’s reps could give him the experience to start rotating in more regularly. The fact that the Packers could field an eleven personnel group with Davante Adams, Geronimo Allison (if he passes protocol), and Valdez-Scantling along with Jimmy Graham at tight end and Aaron Jones at running back should be a scary proposition and stretch the Lions’ defensive backfield to the breaking point. The Packers cross-train their receivers to all positions as well so any of the three WR’s could be in the slot.
But what if two of our rookie receivers work out? If the Packers can get either EQ up to speed or J’mon more shows that he can be a reliable pass-catcher, the Packers would have a similar rotation available to that of the running backs. Now, there is no way I would advocate taking Devante Adams off the field when healthy but…he already is dinged up and will be another player the Packers lean on down the stretch. The game is about winning, but winning is about matchups and with Cobb out and Adams already banged up, the team needs to get these rookie matchup nightmares on the field. I don’t know what the future of Randall Cobb is, but we may catch a glimpse of the future of our wide receiver group today and who knows, if Slay follows Adams the Packers may be tempted to deploy Scantling (depending on how much they trust him) in the slot versus Jamaal Agnew who also has 4.3 speed but is only 5’10”.
However the team sees it…whether as simple depth or a possible strategic rotation at wide receiver, today will be an important day for a wide receiver corps that is banged up. Meaningful reps become critical for young players trying to gain notoriety and catch the eye of coaches and Aaron Rodgers. Should be an exciting matchup and it will be interesting to watch these young wide receivers grown into hopefully some important roles on this team.