Content about the Green Bay Packers powered by Annex Wealth ManagementFull Bio


NFL Draft Preview: Deep pool of pass catchers benefits Packers

Our eighth and final look at the 2020 NFL Draft class as it relates to the Green Bay Packers focuses in on perhaps the greatest area of need for the Packers going into the 2020 season: Pass catcher. This will cover receivers and tight ends collectively.

Green Bay added to the pool of receiving targets with likely 2020 starter Jace Sternberger in the third round last year at tight end, the highest selection made at the position by the Packers since 2014 (Richard Rodgers). In 2018, Green Bay selected a trio of wide receivers in the second half of the Draft, two of whom still remain with the team: fifth-round pick Marques Valdez-Scantling and sixth-round pickup Equanimeous St. Brown. The Packers struck out on both of their 2017 picks at receiver, eventually traded 2016's pick Trevor Davis away (serving primarily as a kick returner during his time in Green Bay), and 2015's top selection in the position group, Ty Montgomery, ended up as a serviceable running back rather than a receiver.

That's all to say that the Packers will almost certainly be adding to the position group in this year's loaded Draft class, particularly at wide receiver. 2014's second-round selection, Davante Adams, is one of the NFL's best, but only St. Brown and Valdez-Scantling on the roster are players added via the Draft. Allen Lazard, Malik Taylor, Darrius Shepard, and Jake Kumerow were all undrafted, and Devin Funchess was added in free agency to address the depth issues at the position.

Tight end is probably more set than receiver, with projected starter Sternberger lining up alongside veteran Marcedes Lewis. Robert Tonyan and Evan Baylis round out the depth at the position. There's no top-end prospect in this year's tight end class, but that probably wouldn't stop the Packers from adding here, particularly late in the Draft where Green Bay has most of its picks.

Green Bay currently holds 10 selections in the 2020 NFL Draft.

Packers Hold 10 Picks In 2020 NFL Draft

While Green Bay doesn't get on the clock until near the end of the first round, there's plenty of reason to be excited: The Packers will almost certainly be adding a plug-and-play starter right away. Wide receiver is a clear need, and there are plenty to be had. Most mock drafts have the Packers grabbing any of a number of available receivers at #30, so let's start with players that should be available late in the first round.

Before that, let's cross off Jerry Jeudy, Henry Ruggs, and CeeDee Lamb from the wish list for the purposes of the Packers; obviously, if one slides to the end of the first round, the selection is in play, but the consensus is that these are the three receivers that will be gone by the middle of the first round, and probably no later than the teens.

A group of receivers make up the bottom of the Draft pool for Day 1. Justin Jefferson of LSU seems to be the highest pick of the group, a big receiver with good hands and solid athleticism. Other big-bodied receivers to play on the outside are Baylor's Denzel Mims and Clemson's Tee Higgins, two players who project well as sure-handed pass catchers that have enough athletic ability to make chunk plays.

On the other end are smaller, quicker, and more explosive players like Jalen Reagor of TCU, Penn State's K.J. Hamler, and Arizona State's Brandon Aiyuk. All three are noted for their excellent athleticism and ability to stretch the field, and will be in the mix as high as the 20's in the first round all the way down to perhaps the Packers' second-round pick at #62. Aiyuk is probably the most popular mock draft pick to the Packers across the board, with Reagor close behind.

Somewhere in the middle of those two groups are Colorado's Laviska Shenault, a 6'2" playmaker with enough speed to pick up big plays, and Michigan's Donovan Peoples-Jones, also 6'2" but a tenth of a second faster in the 40 than Shenault. Same ranges as the players mentioned - mid-20's through probably late second round.

In another year, these four receivers could be considered fringe Day 1 picks, but will likely end up solidly Day 2 selections based on the dozen or so players ranked ahead of them, depending on which draft board you look at. They all have clear strengths and weaknesses as well, and all are college seniors. So, consider these Round 2 targets for the Packers if they go elsewhere with their first selection, as well as any of the players mentioned above who might slide down to #62. Florida's Van Jefferson, a five-year college player, excels at route running, but doesn't stretch the field. Bryan Edwards of South Carolina is a physical target with punt returning experience, but isn't as athletic as some of the other players at the position. Michael Pittman of USC is a 6'4" red zone target, who also blocks well and catches everything. Like the others in this group, not a burner. Minnesota's Tyler Johnson is in the same mold as the rest of this group: good hands, competitiveness, and physicality, but not as much speed or athleticism as other prospects in the Draft.

For the sake of brevity, once the Draft turns to the third round and beyond, there are over two dozen legitimate pro prospects, and it's the stage of the Draft where teams can draft for fit depending on their needs at receiver. Wisconsin's Quintez Cephus is at the high end of this group; while he doesn't have the top-end speed of some of the receivers in this class, he has the hands and route-running to put him in the mix for a Day 2 pick-up. Regardless of where the Packers go at this stage, if they haven't addressed receiver by their third pick, they will still have over two dozen options, and probably half of them wouldn't be a stretch near the end of the third round with the #94 overall selection (including Cephus).

Players grading out as Day 3 picks with top-end speed include Southern Miss receiver Quez Watkins, who had the second-fastest NFL Combine 40 time at 4.35 (late rounds-undrafted); Texas's Devin Duvernay, who has good hands to go with top-end speed (third or fourth round); and Tulane's Darnell Mooney, who is small but fast, and played a ton of college football (early Day 3).

Versatile players who can do it all and work out of the slot include Antonio Gibson of Memphis, who had nearly three dozen rushing attempts in college and has special teams experience (solid Day 3); K.J. Hill of Ohio State, who dazzles with one-handed catches and has the skills to play inside the numbers (early Day 3); Kentucky's Lynn Bowden, who boasts quickness and also spent some time filling in at quarterback in college (solidly Day 3); and sure-handed James Proche of SMU, who has the frame and look of a slot receiver (4th to 6th round).

Big receivers that can be red-zone targets include Isaiah Hodgins of Oregon State, Antonio Gandy-Golden of Liberty, Gabriel Davis of UCF, and Collin Johnson of Texas, all of whom possess above-average hand, size, and ability on contested passes, and all who slot in as early-ish Day 3 picks.

Tight end is a position with the opposite depth of wide receiver: after a few Day 2 considerations, it's mostly confined to the later rounds in terms of depth, although based on need, some names will be called on Friday.

There are four top picks at the position, all of whom should go on Day 2. True receiving threats out of the position include the dynamic Hunter Bryant of Washington, probably the best pass-catcher of the tight end class this year. Cole Kmet of Notre Dame, a two-sport athlete, also boasts good receiving ability. Dayton's Adam Trautman set receiving records in college, if that's any indication of where his skillset translates to the NFL after playing quarterback in high school.

If the Packers seek more blocking help, even beyond what Marcedes Lewis brings to the table, Purdue's Brycen Johnson is also graded out in the Day 2 range. Johnson is the son of a 13-year NFL veteran offensive lineman.

Day 3 has probably the most depth at the position, and some intriguing names. Perhaps none more so than LSU's Thaddeus Moss, the son of Randy Moss, who doesn't have the top-end speed or athleticism for receiver, but also isn't a bulky blocking tight end either. Albert Okwuegbunam of Missouri ran a 4.49 40 at the combine, is 6'5" and has positional versatility, and projects as an early Day 3 selection. Another athletic prospect who had a great combine is Portland State's Charlie Taumoepeau, who rated among the leaders in most tested categories. If the need is more for grit, Cincinnati's Josiah Deguara led the NFL Combine at the position in bench reps and comes well-regarded as a blocking tight end. Another player in the same mold is Vanderbilt's Jared Pinkney, who is more in the range of where the Packers have the bulk of their picks in this year's Draft (6th-7th round).

All told, the Draft class on paper sets up well for Green Bay. Even with all of the roster needs, receiver in general is probably the most glaring, and the Packers will have every opportunity to add talent to the position group. Whether it's their first-round selection to find a dynamic playmaker opposite Davante Adams, a Day 2 pickup to develop into a bigger role in the next couple of seasons, or even Day 3 prospects that will fall through the cracks in an absolutely loaded Draft class, it would be shocking if the Packers don't find a way to add some help to the pass-catching stable based on how much is available to them, even later on in the Draft.

The NFL Draft is April 23-25. Teams will make their selections remotely.

Photo: Getty Images (Devin Duvernay pictured)

NFL Combine - Day 3

Sponsored Content

Sponsored Content