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Ranking the Roster: Nos. 41-43 – Big Battle at Receiver (Pun Intended)

Josiah Deguara is back at tight end, while Equanimeous St. Brown might be battling Devin Funchess for a spot at receiver.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster ahead of July 28, the first practice of training camp. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.

No. 41: TE Josiah Deguara (6-2, 238; 24; second year; Cincinnati)

A third-round pick last year, Deguara played 24 snaps in his NFL debut in the opener at Minnesota. Based on his production – one catch for 12 yards, which included 11 yards after the catch, and excellent blocking – it seemed like a nice jumping-off point to an impactful first season. However, he missed the next two games with an ankle injury, then returned for Week 4 against Atlanta, only to tear his ACL on a fourth-quarter punt.

On Day 1 of camp, Deguara will about 9.5 months past the injury. If he’s not ready for the first practice of camp, he potentially will be ready for the first game.

His return, whenever it comes, will be important. While Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis lead the depth chart, Deguara’s versatility and ability to play fullback – the Packers don’t have one – should put him in a line for a lot of those 20-something-snap games.

“Getting Josiah on board with us, it just adds another dimension and brings the offense alive,” tight ends coach Justin Outten said. “Going back to the Atlanta days with Matt (LaFleur) and being able to use the fullback role and put him in different spots, you see the success Juice (Kyle Juszczyk) has in San Francisco.

“As he progresses, I just feel like he’s going to open up some more things for us, just being as universal as he is. Excellent pro as far as being in the meeting room and having the right questions. Really good attitude throughout this whole process. He’s a joy to be around. ”

No. 42: WR Devin Funchess (6-4, 225; 27; sixth year; Michigan)

Funchess signed a one-year contract last offseason but opted out after a family member died of COVID.

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“Just dealing with the unknown, it was different,” Funchess said during minicamp. “I respected other people’s decisions but I took my decision in my own hands. The mental strain that I had to deal with is something I can’t even explain to y’all. Y’all probably wouldn’t even be ready for that. … But I’m here now. I play football. My grandfather (James Hester) gave me the blessing to play this year. So, my grandfather is going to see a show. That’s all it is.”

A second-round pick by Carolina in 2015, Funchess spent his first four seasons with the Panthers. He signed a one-year deal with Indianapolis in 2019 but suffered a broken collarbone in the opener and missed the rest of the season. Then, he sat out last season.

So, there’s a lot at stake for Funchess, who had a quality season in 2017 with 63 receptions for 840 yards and eight touchdowns but has a career catch rate of just 51.9 percent and a career drop rate of a woeful 12.3 percent. This could be a make-or-break season considering the up-and-down production and two years of inactivity.

“When you guys come up here to ask the questions, it’s effortless, right? So, when I get out there to get on the field, it’s effortless,” Funchess said. “As long as I’m smiling and I’m dancing, it’s going to be fun. I’ll never doubt myself. The moment you start doubting yourself, you lose. I like to win. I don’t like to lose. So, I guarantee I’ll keep a smile on my face and we’re going to be dancing a lot.”

No. 43: WR Equanimeous St. Brown (6-5, 214; 24; fourth year; Notre Dame)

St. Brown and Funchess could be battling for the big-guy-backup role on the roster. With Funchess having the larger cap number ($1.52 million vs. about $880,000), St. Brown is a step behind Funchess in the rankings.

In the 2018 draft, media scouts loved St. Brown’s combination of height and speed (4.48 in the 40). Real scouts weren’t as thrilled about the player, which is why St. Brown fell into the sixth round. The real scouts were right. After catching 21 passes for 328 yards (zero drops) in a solid rookie season, St. Brown spent all of 2019 on injured reserve and caught seven passes for 117 yards and his first career touchdown (but two drops) in 2020.

So, while Funchess has barely played the last two seasons, St. Brown hasn’t been much of a factor, either. Health will be important after missing 2019 and then three early-season games in 2020 with a knee injury.

“He’s seen ‘17’ and ‘13’ and ‘83’ really set the standard of our room and turn it up a notch,” receivers coach Jason Vrable said late last season of Davante Adams, Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling and their influence on St. Brown. “Sitting out, he realized, ‘If I’m going to be out here with these guys, I’ve got to be playing at this level.’ Just his attention to detail, his competitiveness and his confidence is at an all-time high since I’ve been around him and known him. I told him, ‘I’m proud of you, man, for fighting back through the injury and where you’re at right now. Let’s keep trending upward and get 1 percent better every day.’ He gave me the thumbs up back in the text.”