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Grading the 2023 Packers: Jayden Reed, Romeo Doubs and Receivers

Part 4 of our season-ending report card focuses on the Green Bay Packers’ young, talented and inexperienced group of playmaking receivers.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Packer Central’s annual player grades are based on impact relative to the salary cap. Why? Because the cap is such a critical component to roster building. The best teams get big-time performances from their big-budget stars and significant contributions from their rookie-contract players.

In that light, what a year for the Green Bay Packers’ receivers. The young group in the NFL, not surprisingly, also ranked as its least expensive.

Seven players contributed. Their total salary-cap charge was about $7.1 million. Incredibly, 28 individuals were more expensive. Davante Adams alone cost the Raiders about $14.7 million against the cap.

Part 4 of our annual grades focus on the receivers, the best group money could buy. Note: Analytical stats are from Pro Football Focus.

Christian Watson

2023 cap: $2,100,233. Position rank: 79th, according to

What an enormous disappointment. Watson was supposed to be the next big thing after some high-impact plays as a rookie – and maybe he will be – a pair of hamstring injuries limited him to nine games. So, after catching 41 passes for 611 yards (14.9 average) and seven touchdowns in 14 games as a rookie second-round pick in 2022, Watson caught 28 passes for 412 yards (15.1 average) and five touchdowns in 2023. His catch rate went from 62.1 percent to 52.8 and his YAC per catch went from 6.4 to 4.1. At least he cut his drop rate from 10.9 percent (five drops) to 6.3 (two drops).

Right when he got going, with back-to-back big games against Detroit and Kansas City, Watson suffered another hamstring injury and missed the final six games of the regular season.

To state the obvious, the Packers and Watson must get a handle on his cantankerous hamstrings. It’s not as if Watson came into training camp out of shape. The Packers’ receiver corps is really good, but Watson is the one who strikes the fear of God into defensive coordinators.

Of note, No. 1: Including playoffs, Love threw 12 interceptions on passes to receivers. Six – including the final snap of the playoff loss at the 49ers – were directed to Watson. Of note, No. 2: In 23 career games, he’s gone over 50 yards only six times.

As for the grade, yes, it’s impacted by injuries. A player’s greatest ability is availability.

Grade: D-plus.

Jayden Reed

2023 cap: $1,305,596. Position rank: 107th, according to

A second-round pick in this year’s draft, Reed looks like a potential stud. On the clock at No. 45, the Packers traded the pick to the Detroit Lions, who landed defensive back Brian Branch. Branch also looks like a stud, but there should be no what-ifs.

The sixth receiver off the board, Reed in 16 games finished sixth in the draft class with 64 receptions, fifth with 793 yards, second with eight touchdowns and fourth with 2.05 yards per route. He became the first rookie in NFL history with at least 60 receptions, 750 receiving yards, eight receiving touchdowns, 100 rushing yards and two rushing touchdowns.

Even while missing time down the stretch with a variety of injuries, Reed broke Sterling Sharpe’s franchise rookie record for receptions and paced the team with 10 total touchdowns. He led the team’s receivers in catch rate (68.1 percent) and drop rate (4.5 percent; three drops), and was second in missed tackles (six) and YAC per catch (5.4). Tougher than a $2 steak, Reed might be better than in-his-prime Randall Cobb. The only thing that could prevent Reed from catching 100 passes for 1,000 yards next year might be the overall depth at the position.

Grade: A-minus.

Romeo Doubs

2023 cap: $1,040,979. Position rank: 128th, according to

What a strange year for Doubs. As the so-called veterans, Doubs and Christian Watson were supposed to carry the passing game. Instead, outside of scoring the game-winning touchdown in Week 3 against the Saints and catching a bunch of fluff in the Week 4 loss to the Lions (nine catches, 95 yards), Doubs really wasn’t much of a difference-maker for most of the season.

A fourth-round pick in 2022, Doubs finished his second season with 59 receptions for 674 yards (11.4 average) and eight touchdowns. He had less than 40 yards in 12 of 17 games and his catch rate was an uninspiring 61.5 percent. In Week 17 at Minnesota, he caught three passes for 28 yards. He didn’t catch any passes before suffering a chest injury in Week 18 against Chicago. In 30 career regular-season games, he has zero games of 100 yards and only one game of more than 80 yards. And then he destroyed the Cowboys for six catches for 151 yards in the wild-card round and added four receptions for 84 yards against the 49ers.

Doubs isn’t a field-stretching playmaker. He also isn’t much of a threat after the catch with two missed tackles. His 2.3 YAC per reception ranked 94th out of 100 receivers who were targeted at least 36 times. He was guilty of a few too many focus drops (five drops; 7.8 percent). However, Doubs runs some wicked, ankle-breaking routes. And with a 13-of-25 success rate on contested-catch opportunities, few are better at going up and getting it.

Grade: B.

Samori Toure

2023 cap: $867,309. Position rank: 157th, according to

A seventh-round pick in 2022, Toure beat out Bo Melton for the final spot at receiver but made almost no impact. Toure caught 8-of-18 passes (team-worst 44.4 percent) for 78 yards in 11 games in 2023 after catching 5-of-10 passes for 82 yards in 11 games as a rookie. He was a healthy scratch for a big chunk of the second half of the season. At this point, it would be an upset to see him make the roster in 2024.

Grade: D.

Dontayvion Wicks

2023 cap: $825,636. Position rank: 160th, according to

Wicks had a monster junior season at Virginia but a dismal senior year. So, who did the Packers select with their fifth-round pick?

The 19th receiver off the board looks like a real find. Sure, he wasn’t Puka Nakua. The 20th receiver selected, Nakua caught 105 passes for 1,486 yards and six touchdowns. However, in 15 games, Wicks caught 39 passes for 580 yards (14.9 average) and four touchdowns. For comparison, third-round picks Cedric Tillman (Browns) and Jalin Hyatt (Giants) combined for 44 receptions for 597 yards and zero touchdowns.

During his final three regular-season games and the playoff win at Dallas, he caught 16-of-18 passes (88.9 percent) and scored four touchdowns. His season-long catch rate was 67.2 percent.

The comparisons to Davante Adams were rather silly but Wicks does know how to get open. He caught the ball well (two drops; 4.9 percent) and led the team’s receivers with nine missed tackles and 5.6 YAC per catch. Of the rookie class, Wicks was just behind Reed with a fifth-ranked 2.04 yards per route.

An asset as a blocker, he did have three of the Packers’ four fumbles by receivers.

Grade: B.

Malik Heath

2023 cap: $753,000. Position rank: 184th, according to

Heath made the roster as an undrafted free agent because he spent the preseason beating one cornerback after another. It wasn’t quite so easy in the regular season, though he caught 15 passes for 125 yards (8.3) and one big-time touchdown against the Giants.

Heath dropped two passes (team-worst 11.8 percent), averaged 2.4 YAC (just better than Doubs) and caught 62.5 percent of targeted passes, but his four contested catches trailed only Doubs’ 13.

A bundle of energy, Heath will never back down from a physical challenge. Coach Matt LaFleur expects his receivers to block, which is why Heath kept getting on the field.

Grade: C.

Bo Melton

2023 cap: $245,667. Position rank: 238th, according to

Every year, there’s a player in the running for a spot on the 53-man roster who falls just short. Then, he finally gets an opportunity and it becomes abundantly clear that the team botched the decision.

That was Melton, a seventh-round pick by Seattle in 2022 who the Packers swiped off the Seahawks’ practice squad late last year. He made his NFL debut at Detroit on Thanksgiving, made his first catch a week later against Tampa Bay and then strung together four catches for 44 yards against Carolina, six catches for 105 yards and a touchdown against Minnesota and, in his debut as a member of the 53, five catches for 62 yards against Chicago to close the regular season. That gave him a five-game total of 16 catches for 218 yards and one touchdown. He added a 19-yard touchdown in the playoff loss to San Francisco.

One of the faster players in the NFL, Melton led the team with 2.83 yards per route and was 3-of-5 in contested-catch situations. He had one drop (5.9 percent).

Clearly, if you were to separate the December/January grade from the season grade, you’d get a different result.

Grade: C-plus.