In recent years, the Green Bay Packers had a good idea who their top receiver would be and that was Davante Adams. He was the clear cut number one wideout and if he stayed healthy, he was going to be Aaron Rodgers’ favorite target and was going to likely lead the Packers in receptions. In fact, he did that in each of the last five seasons.
But this year, Adams will play for the Las Vegas Raiders. Marquez Valdes-Scantling has also departed and will play for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2022.
Whoever catches the most passes for the Pack in 2022, it’s unlikely we’ll see the large gap we saw last season with Adams catching 123 passes while Aaron Jones was next on the team with 52, less than half of Adams’ total.
So, who will lead the Packers in catches this coming season? Here we look at the five favorites and discuss why they may lead the team in catches and what may prevent them from reaching that milestone.
- WR Christian Watson
Watson has all the tools NFL scouts look for, size, speed and the ability to track the ball well in the air. More rookie wide receivers are making an impact in their first NFL seasons with recent examples being Justin Jefferson and Ja’Marr Chase.
The fact that there are jobs for the taking in the receiving corps will also give Watson a chance to become a bigger part of the offense this season.
There are many things working against Watson, however. Most rookie receivers don’t make a big impact offensively and Aaron Rodgers is notoriously slow to trust young receivers which may further hinder Watson’s chances. He also has to work on reducing the number of dropped passes he had in college which may further hurt his chances of winning his quarterback’s trust.
Watson is a long shot to lead the Packers in catches, but it’s not beyond the realm of possibility.
- WR Sammy Watkins
Watkins is a deep-ball threat with eight years NFL experience which gives him an advantage over Watkins, Romeo Doubs and the other less experienced receivers on the roster.
The things working against Watkins are his lack of experience working with Rodgers and his injury history. The former Clemson star hasn’t played a full season’s worth of games since his rookie season in 2014 although he played at least 10 games in every season of his career except one.
If Watkins stays healthy, he has a chance to lead the team in catches but that may a very big if.
- RB Aaron Jones
The last time a running back led the Packers in catches was in 2001 when Ahman Green had 62. Green led the team the previous season as well when he made 73 receptions. Before that, you must go back to 1977 when Barty Smith led the Packers in catches with 37 and 1972-1974 when MacArthur Lane (twice) and John Brockington led the team. (The last time a tight end led the team in catches was 1979 when Paul Coffman did it).
In the past few seasons, when Adams was unavailable, Jones had some of his biggest games and picked up the slack as a target. In 2019 against the Cowboys, Jones caught seven passes for 75 yards while running for four touchdowns in the Packers 34-24 win in Dallas.
Against Kansas City later that season, Jones again came up big without Adams in the lineup, catching seven passes for 159 yards and two touchdowns.
Last season against Arizona with Adams, Valdes-Scantling and Lazard out of the lineup, Jones again led the team with seven catches while no other player had more than four.
Jones has never had more than 52 catches in a season in his career and the fact that he splits snaps on offense with A.J. Dillon may also hurt his chances but look for the Packers top running back to get more opportunities to catch the football this season and possibly lead the team in that category.
- WR Randall Cobb
Randall Cobb has some advantages here. He has played with Rodgers longer than any potential receiver on the Packers roster and he clearly has the trust of his quarterback.
He also excels in the slot and is clearly the best option on the Green Bay roster at that position. He can also still play on the perimeter when called upon and even line up in the backfield to catch passes there.
But Cobb will be 32 before next season starts and he hasn’t played a full schedule since 2015. He missed five games last season and six in 2020. Unless he plays at least 15 or 16 games this season (dare we hope for a full 17?) he is unlikely to lead the team in catches. If he comes close to a full season, though, Cobb has a chance.
- WR Alan Lazard
Of the Packers top three wide receivers from last season, Lazard is the only one who is returning to the lineup. He finished the 2021 season with a career-high 40 catches for 513 yards and eight touchdowns.
This season will be the Iowa State alumni’s best chance to become the team’s number one receiver. He has won the trust of Rodgers and has experience in Matt LaFleur’s offense. Rodgers also likes to look for Lazard when he needs to keep drives alive. Last season, 28 of his 40 catches picked up first downs.
Lazard is also a big target and his ability to block well will help keep him on the field for more plays and in more situations. He’s also still young and has seen his role increase each season since he joined the Packers late in the 2018 season.
He played a full 16 games in 2019, 10 games in 2020 and 15 games last season. He will need to stay healthy to have a chance to be the team’s top receiver but as of right now, he is the favorite to capture that honor.
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