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Receiver Talent, Depth may Again Become Coveted Team Strength

November 7, 2011. Not a date of any particular significance in Packer lore, just the 37th time Green Bay hogged the cover of Sports Illustrated. 
 
Pictured was quarterback/eventual league MVP Aaron Rodgers along with his unrivaled cast of standout receivers: Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, Jermichael Finley, James Jones, Donald Driver and rookie Randall Cobb. 
 
Such an amassing of skill position talent seems unfair. But the Packers cultivated the group through the draft over many years. The group featured a trio of second-round picks in Nelson, Jennings and Cobb; James Jones and Jermichael Finley in round three; and Donald Driver in the seventh round all the way back in 1999. 
 
Only one of the bunch in 2011 would go above 1,000 yards—Nelson in a breakout season that showcased his deep threat ability with 1,263 yards, 15 touchdowns and a ridiculous 18.6 yards per reception—but no one complained. Green Bay’s supreme depth helped lead to 51 passing touchdowns, 45 of which belonged to Rodgers, while the remaining six came in a single game where backup Matt Flynn shattered some of the team’s single-game passing records. 
 
This was arguably the height of Green Bay’s offensive powers during the Rodgers/McCarthy era. Rodgers is given a hefty amount of credit for this success, but there’s no doubting the benefit of a receiving corps as rich and deep. 
 
Through the 2015 season and half of 2016, though, wide receiver and tight end were often positions assigned blame for the team’s offensive stagnation. The receivers couldn’t get open. The route tree was simplistic and predictable. Rodgers wasn’t the same player. These were the criticisms. 
 
And yet, Rodgers and Co. turned things around, with an MVP-caliber performance from the quarterback over the season’s second half that eventuated in an improbable run to the NFC Championship. Green Bay’s leaky secondary steadied, Ty Montgomery settled into a new position, Jordy Nelson disrupted the matter of age-and-ACL injury common knowledge, Jared Cook proved his career-long potential and Davante Adams blossomed into a playmaker. 
 
Most of the corps returns, plus the likes of Cobb—a textbook lifeline target for Rodgers—and upstart Geronimo Allison and speedsters Jeff Janis and Trevor Davis. There’s lots to like about Green Bay’s depth at receiver. Not willing to stand pat, though, and potentially in an effort to recapture the magical matchup depth of 2011, the Packers added two more potential Rodgers targets in the draft. DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupree, respective fifth- and seventh-round picks, have their chances to prove worth and make the 53-man roster or the practice squad. 
 
If the Packers valued Dupree’s skills over Yancey, logic dictates that they’d have taken him in the fifth and not as a luxury in the seventh. That won’t matter when the live action and evaluation process heats up this summer. 
 
Yancey adds James Jones-esque appeal with incredible strength for the position to go with adequate deep speed (Jones was much faster in his early days, a.k.a. the pre-hoodie days), yards-after-catch and run-blocking ability and skills you want in 50/50 situations. Yancey’s Purdue teams were abysmal; he was one of the few bright spots after averaging a silly 19.4 yards per reception as a senior. 
 
Dupre is a different animal. He’s taller, 25 pounds less massive and can jump out of the stadium. This combination of measurements and talents screams of a red zone threat. Between the 20s he has potential both as a boundary and slot receiver. He’s a bit of an unknown quantity, but not for the same reason as Yancey, who  played on a terrible team. Dupre was a lost man in LSU’s run-heavy offense. 
 
The selection of Yancey and Dupre doesn’t necessarily signal that the team is unhappy with Allison, Janis or Davis. Each offers something a little different, though. Athletically, Allison is the least impressive of the bunch, but his feel for the game makes up for 40 times and 3-cone shuttles. Janis is a special teams stalwart and brings added value on gadget plays. Davis might end up the team’s punt returner and is a true burner. Yancey is in some ways an athletic clone of a career No. 3 guy like Jones who raised his game to the occasion when injury dictated. Dupre is a lanky deep threat with significant red zone traits. 
 
It’s anyone’s guess who makes the 53, but the thinking here is that both rookies land in some capacity, be it the 53-man roster or the practice squad. Will this year’s unit grace the cover of SI? It’s possible. And they might even have to make room for a second tight end, if the grouping of Martellus Bennett, Lance Kendricks and Richard Rodgers produces a pair of gems. 
 
No matter what, though, depth and quality at receiver helped produce one of the best seasons ever played by a quarterback. On the heels of last season’s second-half outburst, the new additions feel like a luxury—a good problem to have in today’s game. 
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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (11) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

stockholder's picture

TEs!

croatpackfan's picture

Finley is not even near Marty Bennett. Finly was unpredictable... He was very good, but not excellent TE!

Tundraboy's picture

We shall see. Two different teams and two different years.

Nick Perry's picture

That cover was one of my favorite SI Covers as far as the Packers have been concerned. The groups in 2011 is completely different than the 2017 group, but this group could put up some equally impressive numbers when you factor in the TE's.

In 2011 the Packers just had too many WR's for ANY secondary to cover. When you added Finley to the mix it was one of the best "Groups" GB has ever had. But the 2011 Packers didn't have a running back, not really. Running the ball was more of a afterthought. Grant carried it 134 times, Starks 133. After them it was Rodgers and Kuhn with 60 & 30 carries.

The reason I'm so excited about 2017 is the possibilities of the 2017 offense. Overall when you factor in RB's like Montgomery and all the rookies, you factor in the TE depth with Bennett, Kendricks, and Rodgers II, and add in Nelson, Cobb, and Adams, this offense has the diversity and depth to line up and play any kind of football they'll need to to score IMO.

In 2017 I think it will be much like it was in 2011. The Packers will be able put more players on the field than defenses can effectively cover. With a QB like Rodgers, "It's like stealing candy from a baby", at least most of the time. This is a very talented offensive football team. Funny how more writers aren't talking about the Packers offense like they are the Patriots. At the end of the day, this should be the better of the two offenses.

Tundraboy's picture

I agree. For now I don't mind flying under the radar. Can't wait for real action.

RCPackerFan's picture

I like this group of WR's.

The group of proven WR's is strong.
Nelson sets the tone for the group. His ability to do everything and play everywhere really opens the offense up.
Adams really emerged last year and has become one of the better WR's off the LOS in the league.
Cobb while has been trying to play through injuries the last 2 years is still a really good WR.

The group of unproven players is really talented and intriguing.
Allison really emerged as a real threat late last year. He got on the same page as Rodgers and showed he can do about anything. He is a big target and has a huge radius.
Janis may never become the receiving threat many hoped for. But he has the ability to at the very least be used situation-ally. Like I said in the other WR discussion. Lets not forget that it took Driver until his 4th year to break out. There is still hope for Janis.

I am looking forward to seeing what Davis does this year. He has speed and does have good hands. Does he take a step in year 2?

Yancey and Dupre are intriguing. Packers seemed to be very high on Yancey for a while now. Dupre is definitely a player worthy of a 7th round pick. It will be fun to see what each WR can do with legit WR's throwing to them.

There are some intriguing UDFA WR's also.

This will be a fun position to watch during training camp and preseason.

Nick Perry's picture

I REALLY like Dupree. I'm hoping his play or lack of at LSU was strictly because of the offense they ran and the QB's who threw him the ball. Draft sites are a little all over the place on this kid but they all conclude the Packers got a "Steal" in the 7th round with Dupree.

IIRC he was one of the top or the top WR recruit coming out of HS. Be something if Dupree developed into something. He's pretty athletic so hopefully all he needs is some time and a great QB.

RCPackerFan's picture

Yeah, I am really looking forward to seeing him.
I saw the same things with you. That most people couldn't believe they got him in the 7th, but also saw some that said, he was lucky to be drafted in the 7th.

In some of his tape you can see where he was a highly recruited player. I do think that the offense he played in and the bad QB play they had there really affected him.

I look forward to seeing what he does bring this summer.

Tundraboy's picture

Going to be exciting this year. Another year removed from 2014 and a lot of talent. I think as with Davis, Dupree needs to bulk up for the NFL, and will have a learning curve ahead of him, but at the same time I get a feeling one of these guys is going to bust out early, one year. Why not now.

RCPackerFan's picture

I have a similar feeling as you do.

They have 4 young guys that could do it too. Davis, Allison, Yancey, Durpree.
I am really looking forward to seeing what kind of improvement Davis and Allison make in year 2. They have a couple of Rookies that are going to be right on their tails so they better step up.

PatrickGB's picture

Competition will be fierce. And add to that the fact that with the new TE's we may have less room on roster for WR. Good players will be released. I expect Davis and one of the drafted players to be let go. Janis will stay because of ST's and that will factor in at other positions as well.

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