With the 2022 NFL Draft in the books and Free Agency mostly wrapped up, it’s time to turn our attention to the upcoming season. Throughout the off-season, I’ll be looking at some position groups that featured new additions and could have a new look come September. Today, I’m turning my attention to Green Bay. The Packers have won 13 games each of the last three seasons and return star quarterback Aaron Rodgers. But with Davante Adams in Las Vegas, who will catch the ball in Green Bay, and will it be enough?
The 2021 Green Bay Packers
Rodgers won his second consecutive NFL MVP Award in 2021, as the Packers went 13-4. The team lost in the Divisional Round of the playoffs, ending another stellar season short of the Super Bowl. On offense, it was once again Adams that led the way. He saw 169 targets among the Packers’ 593 pass attempts, catching 123 passes for 1,553 yards and 11 touchdowns. That left him as WR2. The next best receiver saw 65 targets, less than half of Adams’ volume. And 2021 wasn’t an outlier. Adams has seen 100-plus targets since 2016, serving as the Packers’ top target during that time. Now he’s gone, leaving big shoes to fill.
The Packers have spent years eschewing spending top picks on receivers, but after seeing Adams leave, they committed to the position in the draft. The Packers used the second pick in the Second Round to snag North Dakota State prospect Christian Watson, who averaged more than 20 yards per reception during his college career. In 2021, he caught 43 passes for 800 yards and seven touchdowns.
Not done, the Packers spent a Fourth-Round pick on Nevada’s Romeo Doubs. Doubs had more than 1,000 yards receiving each of his last two seasons in Nevada. In 2021, he caught 80 passes for 1,106 yards and 11 touchdowns. The Packers also drafted a third pass-catcher in Nebraska’s Samori Toure in the Seventh Round.
But the Packers didn’t leave it up to the draft, and the team snagged veteran Sammy Watkins. Watkins was once a First-Round pick by the Buffalo Bills and has played with the Bills, Rams, Chiefs, and most recently, the Ravens. The four additions help to give the Packers some options heading into a new season.
The 2022 Green Bay Packers
Adams wasn’t the only target to leave town, as fellow receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling signed with the Chiefs and Equanimeous St. Brown signed with the division rival Bears. All that leaves 241 vacated targets. But the Packers didn’t lose all their receiving weapons.
Prior to last season, the Packers brought back veteran Randall Cobb, who has thrived with Rodgers in the past. The team also returns second-year receiver Amari Rodgers, who was selected out of Clemson in the 2021 draft. But the biggest returning options are tight end Robert Tonyan, coming off a torn ACL, and Allen Lazard, whose 60 targets were the second best among receivers and tight ends for the Packers in 2021. Joining with the new additions, the Packers have many options, if nothing else, coming into 2022.
Who is going to lead the way for the Packers? The popular choice has been Lazard, who has been a favorite of Aaron Rodgers over the past few seasons. Lazard saw 60 targets for 40 receptions, 513 yards, and eight touchdowns in 2021, which were all career highs. While he might take another step up, it’s hard to see him taking over Adams’ volume. Lazard finished as WR47 in 2021 and is currently going as WR47. That feels low. I’d wager he sees 90-100 targets and improves his production yet again.
Watson is going as WR55. I get the appeal of being a top-drafted rookie for Rodgers, but it feels ambitious. MVS, to whom he’s drawn comparisons, finished as WR82. While Watson will likely grow into the position, he might not be a great return on investment in 2022. It’s actually another rookie—Doubs—who I like based on value. He’s going as WR136, but there’s been tremendous buzz from the Packers camp on him.
In general, I think the Packers’ pass offense takes a bit of a step back in 2022. I lowered expectations for Rodgers, too, who has been a Top 10 option the past few years. Matt LaFleur has shown a desire to run the ball, and the Packers’ best playmakers at the skill positions are RBs – Aaron Jones and A.J. Dillon. Jones, in particular, would be a big part of the equation in the passing game. He was second on the team with 65 targets in 2021, and I suspect he could bump up to near 100 targets in 2022. I also suspect Tonyan will be more heavily involved. He’s just a year removed from catching 52 passes for 11 touchdowns.
Matthew Fox is a member of the FSWA. He’s a die-hard NFL Fan and Broncos’ Homer. You can find more from him on Twitter @knighthawk7734 or as co-host of the Fantasy Football Roundtable Podcast, a part of the Campus2Canton Network.