GREEN BAY, Wis. -- This is not the Green Bay Packers' receiver group of 2010 (when they last won the Super Bowl) or the next year (when they rewrote the team’s passing records on the way to a 15-1 regular season).
This group will not be featured on the cover of a national magazine like Greg Jennings, James Jones, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and tight end Jermichael Finley were surrounding Aaron Rodgers on the cover of Sports Illustrated and under the headline “Perfect Pack” midway through the 2011 season.
Such a cover now might look barren, with only Davante Adams worthy of a place next to Rodgers.
“It’s still a young group of guys, a young group of receivers,” Packers cornerback Tramon Williams said Wednesday. “The 2010, 2011 guys, we were winning, we were the team at that point. So there was so much hype around us and that receiving corps that we had, and for good reasons. Those guys were really good.”
Which begs the question: Other than Adams, are any of the Packers’ receivers any good?
“Now, we have a group of young guys who are as talented as ever, but you still have to put the time in,” Williams said, as his eyes tracked across the Packers locker room to where the receivers have their stalls. “It’s one of those things where only time will tell. They’ve got the ability and a lot of different skill sets. We’ve got undrafted guys who are coming in and showing up too."
It’s not exactly a group of household names, Williams admits.
And it’s why in at least one measure of NFL position groups, as compiled by ESPN’s Mike Clay, the Packers' receivers are ranked 18th in the NFL.
“It’s hard to say like, ‘What do we really need?” Williams said. “But I will say this: Whatever we need, I think we have it in this locker room.”
So what do the Packers have behind the Pro Bowler Adams?
There’s speed: Marquez Valdes-Scantling.
There’s size: Equanimeous St. Brown.
There’s a connection to Rodgers: Geronimo Allison.
There’s smarts: Jake Kumerow.
There’s even an undrafted rookie who could follow Allison’s path: Darrius Shepherd.
Green Bay general manager Brian Gutekunst did not feel the need to address the receiver position with a veteran free agent or in the draft -- despite the departure of Cobb to the Cowboys in free agency.
“A couple years ago as we kind of moved in, we felt we needed to address it and we drafted three guys last year and we’ve kind of turned the waiver wire a little bit with some guys at the wide receiver position,” Gutekunst said. “I think you’re looking for guys that can get open and catch the ball. It’s pretty simple, but it’s what we’re looking for. Guys that can create some separation, catch the ball and do something when they get it.
"I really like the group right now. They’re competing. It’s very competitive. I think Davante is doing a great job leading that group. It’ll be interesting kind of how it all shakes out, but they’re getting a lot of opportunity. There’s no clear -- there’s kind of a big group there that are going to be fighting for a lot of roster spots.”
If anyone has emerged from that group, it is Valdes-Scantling. His speed (4.37-second 40-yard dash) was evident from the beginning. It showed up with a couple of 100-yard games -- each one on just three catches -- but he lacked consistency. His progress in that area has been apparent this offseason and into training camp. It came to a highlight moment on Wednesday, when he made a leaping catch for a 33-yard touchdown over Jaire Alexander to win the two-minute drill, although some suggested he should have been flagged for offensive pass interference.
“I don’t think that one particular play says that,” Valdes-Scantling said of his development. “I think it’s an accumulation of things over time. With a quarterback like that, you want to just keep building his trust and keep making plays and doing what you have to do to get him to throw you the football. That’s just what it is. I don’t think one play is going to solidify his trust. Davante didn’t build his trust over one play; it took time, so I think that’s just what it is.”
In Allison, the Packers think they have a new slot receiver, although not in the traditional sense. Allison is much taller (6-foot-3) than Cobb (5-foot-10) and the prototypical slot guy. If Allison can withstand the hits that slot receivers are prone to, he could be a dynamic target over the middle. He was on a 1,000-yard pace early last season, before a painful groin injury ended his campaign.
In Kumerow, the star of last year’s preseason, they have a versatile player about whom Rodgers has raved for years. If not for a late-preseason shoulder injury last summer, who knows how productive Kumerow could have been.
However, Moore, the highest of the three drafted receivers (fourth round) in 2018, still has to show he isn't a stone hands, and St. Brown’s development doesn’t seem as accelerated as Valdes-Scantling’s.
Davis might be the wild-card among the group. Known more as a kick returner, he has used his speed (4.42 in the 40) to make some plays this offseason.
And then there’s Shepherd, a small (5-foot-11) but quick receiver who has seen an unusually high number of early snaps with the starters for an undrafted rookie.
The entire Packers receiver group has a combined 163 career NFL catches. Adams had 111 by himself last season.
“Just because the names aren’t recognizable -- like, you say Davante Adams and people say all they’ve got is Davante,” Williams said. “We’ve all done that before -- we’ve gone through the roster and see a name that we know and think that’s it.”