Gridiron Experts

Are the Green Bay Packers Targeting a WR in the First Round?

Drafting an offensive player in the first round of the NFL Draft is not something the Green Bay Packers have done often in their franchise history. In fact, the Packers have only drafted an offensive player seven times since 1990. This year could be different as new general manager Brian Gutekunst decided to cut ties with fan favorite and 5th leading WR in Packers history Jordy Nelson after nine years with the team.

A disappointing 2017 campaign that had hopes of bringing another Lombardi Trophy to Titletown, led to the Packers making wholesale changes to the coaching staff including bringing back Joe Philbin to become offensive coordinator and hiring Mike Pettine to replace Dom Capers as defensive coordinator. On top of the coaching changes, longtime general manager Ted Thompson moved to senior adviser of football operations after spending 13 seasons as GM.

Thompson only drafted one offensive player in the first round in his 13 years at the head of the table. This, a fact that many Packers fans loathe. However, that one player Thompson pulled the trigger on happens to be the greatest draft choice in Packers’ history, Aaron Rodgers.

To find the last WR drafted by the green and gold, you have to go back to 2002, when they drafted Javon Walker with the 20th overall pick. Walker was a freakish athlete and a world-class triple jumper, with a best jump of 15.40 meters, and a personal-best long jump mark of 6.91 meters. The Florida State product had a career year in 2004 as he made the Pro Bowl and led the Packers with 1,382 yards and 12 Touchdowns. Things got ugly between Walker and the club when he threatened to hold out for a new contract heading into the 2005 season behind brash young agent Drew Rosenhaus. Walker would report to camp after the threats but would go on to tear his ACL in the first game of the year and was traded to Denver before the 2006 season.

What are the Chances the Packers go WR in Round 1?

If there was ever a time for the Packers to draft a WR in the first round, the time is now. Rodgers isn’t getting any younger and with his top receiver gone, it should be a high priority that the Packers replace Nelson with a playmaker. After veterans Davante Adams and Randall Cobb, there is much to be desired when looking at the current state of the position on the teams NFL Depth Chart.

Current NFL Depth Chart

  • LWR – Davante Adams, DeAngelo Yancey, Robert Tonyan Jr., Colby Pearson
  • RWR – Randall Cobb, Geronimo Allison, Trevor Davis, Michael Clark,

Scenarios That Lead to the Packers Passing on a WR in the First Round

Trade for Odell Beckham, Jr.

Odell Beckham Jr.As far-fetched as this sounds, it is not out of the realm of possibility. With Gutekunst at the helm, the Packers have already made unpacker-like moves with the signings of TE Jimmy Graham and DE Muhammed Wilkerson.

A season ago it would have been inconceivable that the Giants would trade Beckham but according to Pat Leonard of the New York Daily News it is not a matter of if but when the Giants trade him.

ESPN has reported that the Giants are asking teams for at least two first-round picks in return for Beckham. At the NFL combine, Mike Garafalo of NFL Network reported that Odell Beckham Jr. wants at least $20 million in his next contract, which would make him the league’s highest-paid receiver. Steelers WR Antonio Brown currently has the highest average annual value on his contract as he draws  $17 million per year on his deal. Beckham getting an even $20 million would be a 17 percent bump which is uncharted territory in the NFL.

Beckham has not told anyone that he plans to hold out for contractual reasons, but he did say he does not plan to play a snap in the preseason. That decision may or may not be injury related. His current cap hit is $8.4 million. The Packers still have about $17 million in cap space left according to the NFLPA.

With that being said, if Beckham is willing to wait until 2019 to sign his next deal the Packers can easily make the trade happen. In order to maintain some flexibility, they may opt to cut Randall Cobb as he carries a $12.7 million cap hit which ranks ninth among NFL wide receivers. However, if Cobb is willing to take a pay cut to stick around it would create arguably the best receiving core in the NFL.

Potential Trade

  • Giants Get:
  • 2018 Round 1, Pick 14
  • 2019 Round 1
  • QB Brett Hundley

Packers Get:

  • WR Odell Beckham, Jr.

While this is fun to think about a possible Beckham, Adams, Cobb, Graham receiving core, this is probably not going to happen as Bookmaker has the current odds of the Packers acquiring Beckham by the start of next season at +2500.

Keep Randall Cobb

As we just discussed, Cobb is set for a nice payday in 2018. If Green Bay sits on their hands and leaves everything as is. They will most likely draft an edge rusher or a cornerback in the first round. This scenario is currently the most projected heading into the draft around the industry. In our Mock Draft 3.0 the Packers select Mike Hughes, CB from UCF.

Sign Jordan Matthews, Cut Cobb

Jordan Matthews has visited Green Bay during the free agency period. If the Packers sign Matthews, they will cut Cobb because they will not pay two slot receivers upwards of $16 million in one season. This will also signify that they may not be too impressed with the high-rated WR’s in this year’s draft class.

Matthews is only 25 and he produced the most slot receiving yards in the NFL from 2014-16. With Aaron Rodgers throwing him the ball it would not be far-fetched to expect his production to mirror or best his career highs when he was with Philadelphia.

 

Scenarios That Lead to the Packers Drafting a WR in the First Round

Cut Cobb, Pass on Matthews and Others

If the Packers decide to cut their oldest receiver and pass on Matthews along with other receivers they have been linked to like Cameron Meredith, it may signify that they will draft a receiver for the first time since 2002.

In our Mock Draft 3.0, only Calvin Ridley went in the first round, but in Pro Football Focus’s latest mock, four wide receivers were selected. Green Bay will have a feel for team’s opinions around the league on this crop of receivers closer to the draft.

Green Bay Selects: Calvin Ridley, Alabama 

In this scenario, the Packers should simply select the consensus top WR in the class and that is Calvin Ridley. NFL.com gave Ridley a 6.6 combine grade, which is best among all WR in the class.

Gridiron Experts Head Writer Mitchell Renz compares Ridley to Vikings WR Stefon Diggs and mentions that if he is paired with a good quarterback he could have a Michael Thomas caliber rookie season. We can check that box here as he would be paired with the greatest pure passer in the game today.

Career at Alabama

Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2015 89 1045 11.7 7 1 2 2 0 90 1047 11.6 7
2016 72 769 10.7 7 5 21 4.2 1 77 790 10.3 8
2017 63 967 15.3 5 2 17 8.5 0 65 984 15.1 5

His production at Bama was limited due to their run-heavy scheme, but he posted gains of at least 20 yards in 10-of-12 regular season games in 2017, and his 45.1 yards per catch average on deep passes was sixth-best in the draft class. This is just what the doctor ordered for a team that lost their deep threat this offseason.

Trade Down from Pick 14

As long as the Packers do not trade for Beckham, trading down from pick 14 may signify their desire to select a WR. For example’s sake, if Green Bay swapped with Buffalo at 22 or Carolina at 24, they would be in a position to possibly select Michael Gallup from Colorado State

Green Bay Selects Michael Gallup, Colorado State

Gallup was Pro Football Focus’s top-graded WR in the nation in 2017 at 92.0. The fact that the talented Gallup ended up at Colorado State was due to low SAT scores and an injury in high school. However, going to Colorado State may have been the best case scenario for Gallup as he earned first-team All-Mountain West Conference accolades by catching 76 passes for a conference-high 1,272 yards and 14 touchdowns his junior year and then caught a whopping 100 balls for 1,418 yards his senior season.

Stats at Colorado State

Receiving Rushing Scrimmage
Year Rec Yds Avg TD Att Yds Avg TD Plays Yds Avg TD
2016 76 1272 16.7 14 4 15 3.8 0 80 1287 16.1 14
2017 100 1418 14.2 7 0 0 0 100 1418 14.2 7

Green Bay has selected similar receivers like this in the past as Greg Jennings is a Packer-like comparison. Like Jennings, Gallup runs crisp routes and is best when he is in rhythm.

Whether it’s Ridley or Gallup both receivers would give the Packers the boost they need for 2018.

Packers Most Likely Scenario

While the thought of the Packers making that sexy splash draft pick with Ridley or making a blockbuster trade to acquire Beckham, odds are that Green Bay will look to bolster their young defense under first-year defensive coordinator Mike Pettine in the first round. As we have seen thus far this offseason times are changing in Titletown and we can’t rule out any of these scenarios. Expect the Packers to look for a receiver in rounds two through four. But in all seriousness how dynamic would the Rodgers-Beckham connection be? It doesn’t hurt to dream.

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Thanks for Reading

Nick Olson

Nick Olson

Nick is a 15-year fantasy football veteran with countless season-long fantasy titles and championship trophies. He is a high school football coach in the state of Wisconsin and has also coached Championship semi-pro football teams. He is an offensive playcaller that lives for film study. Not only does he study his opponents in Wisconsin, he studies NFL film and accompanies that with data, analytics, and his scouting knowledge to make his fantasy decisions. He co-hosts the acclaimed fantasy football podcast "The Coach and Cole Show" on Blog Talk Radio with his lifelong friend and sports fanatic Cole Fouts. Beyond football, he writes on the St. Louis Blues for St.Louis Gametime and is an NHL DFS analyst.

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