GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers, according to the conventional wisdom of 12 months ago, needed a receiver. Badly. And with what was billed as a historically deep draft class of pass catchers, supply and demand were aligned.
The class was loaded, all right. A record 36 were selected. None of them were picked by Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst. The team led the NFL in scoring, anyway.
As noted by ESPN.com’s Mike Triplett, the Packers, New Orleans Saints and Miami Dolphins are the only teams to not select a receiver over the last two drafts.
It’s more than that. Over the last five drafts, the Packers are the only team to not select a receiver in the first three rounds.
Looking back even further, over the last nine drafts, the Packers have selected 12 receivers, with zero in the first round, two in Day 2 and 10 in Day 3.
Davante Adams, a second-round pick in 2014, is one of the best receivers in the NFL as a four-time Pro Bowler. He is coming off a season in which he scored 20 touchdowns in 16 games (including postseason).
Ty Montgomery, a third-round pick in 2015, wound up moving to running back and playing his way out of Green Bay.
J’Mon Moore (2018), a fourth-round compensatory selection and the lone fourth-rounder of the group, has two career catches and is out of the league.
Four receivers were selected in the fifth round. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, the final selection of the fifth round in 2018, is one of the better deep threats in the NFL, his inconsistent hands notwithstanding. Trevor Davis (2016) has 16 career catches, Jared Abbrederis (2014) has 13 and DeAngelo Yancey has zero. Those three are out of the league.
Equanimeous St. Brown (2018), the lone sixth-rounder, has 28 career catches but only seven over the past two years.
Four receivers were picked in the seventh round and all are out of the league. Fan favorite Jeff Janis (2014) has 17 receptions, Kevin Dorsey has one and Malachi Dupre has zero. Charles Johnson (2013) has 60 career catches, all with Minnesota.
Over the last nine drafts, exactly 150 receivers have been selected in the first 130 picks. That's an average of almost five per team; the Packers have drafted only Adams and Montgomery.
For the Packers, perhaps the thinking has been that quarterback Aaron Rodgers is so good that he can make any receiver look good. That sounds good in theory. The reality, however, shows that not even Rodgers could make chicken out of the feathers he’s been given. Those 10 Day 3 receivers caught 13 touchdown passes in a Packers uniform. Ten of those belong to Valdes-Scantling.
The issue leading into the 2021 draft is the Packers might have more pressing needs than receiver. The cornerback corps is mediocre other than Jaire Alexander, the defensive line is thin beyond Kenny Clark, the inside linebacker corps is unproven and there are potential issues on the offensive line with Corey Linsley’s departure in free agency and David Bakhtiari’s torn ACL.
However, history definitively shows that good receivers come early in the draft. Common sense would suggest that’s the most obvious assessment in the world but the numbers support the premise. From Pro Football Reference, here are the number of receivers and Pro Bowlers taken by round over the last 10 drafts. First round – 38 drafted, eight Pro Bowl. Second round – 47 drafted, 12 Pro Bowl. Third round – 41 drafted, five Pro Bowl. Fourth round – 48 drafted, one Pro Bowl. Fifth round – 43 drafted, two Pro Bowl. Sixth round – 50 drafted, one Pro Bowl (Dwayne Harris as a returner). Seventh round – 49 drafted, zero Pro Bowl.
Another excellent group of receivers will be available in the draft later this month. The Packers almost certainly will draft at least one this year. But will Gutekunst invest the type of capital necessary to get a quality prospect? Or will he throw some Day 3 Hail Marys and hope for the best?
Receivers Taken in First Three Rounds of Last Five Drafts
Arizona Cardinals: 3
Atlanta Falcons: 1
Baltimore Ravens: 3
Buffalo Bills: 1
Carolina Panthers: 2
Chicago Bears: 1
Cincinnati Bengals: 3
Cleveland Browns: 1
Dallas Cowboys: 2
Denver Broncos: 4
Detroit Lions: 1
Green Bay Packers: 0
Houston Texans: 2
Indianapolis Colts: 2
Jacksonville Jaguars: 2
Kansas City Chiefs: 1
Las Vegas Raiders: 3
Los Angeles Chargers: 1
Los Angeles Rams: 2
Miami Dolphins: 1
Minnesota Vikings: 2
New England Patriots: 1
New Orleans Saints: 2
New York Giants: 1
New York Jets: 2
Philadelphia Eagles: 2
Pittsburgh Steelers: 4
San Francisco 49ers: 4
Seattle Seahawks: 2
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: 1
Tennessee Titans: 3
Washington Redskins: 2