Following the offseason departures of Green Bay's top wide receivers, questions of if the Packers' rookie pass catchers will be able to help fill that void have persisted well before training camp has even begun. To that, quarterback Aaron Rodgers has two words of reassurance: "Deep breaths."
Rodgers joined the Pat McAfee Show on Wednesday to discuss the development of the Packers' wide receiver draft class, which is expected to help rebuild the receiver room after Green Bay traded Davante Adams to Las Vegas and lost Marquez Valdes-Scantling to Kansas City. The veteran QB and four-time MVP said he has full trust in the rookies' abilities to adjust to in the NFL, and believes that both time on the practice field and the help from veterans will develop them into quality receiving targets in no time.
"Every year there's opinions that start coming out about players in helmets and shorts, and I would say let's everybody just take a nice deep long breath and trust the training camp time that we have, trust the coaching staff, trust the relationships that will continue to be formed, trust the guys in the room like Allen Lazard, and Randall Cobb, and Sammy Watkins to help these young guys out," Rodgers said.
Adams was Rodgers' No. 1 target for the last five seasons, collecting at least 1,300 receiving yards in three of those years. Valdes-Scantling was also known for generating dynamic plays, averaging at least 15 yards per catch in each of his four seasons. With them gone, players like Cobb, Lazard and Watkins are tasked with the tall order of making up for those numbers. To help in this endeavor, the Packers looked to the 2022 draft class, which had a deep group of pass catchers to draw from.
But while six other teams came away with a receiver in Round 1, Green Bay chose not to use their first-round picks on that position, as by the time the Packers were on the clock, the value just wasn't there for the selection. They selected two Georgia defenders instead and waited until Days 2 and 3 to draft wideouts. First it was Christian Watson from North Dakota State in the second round, Nevada's Romeo Doubs in the fourth, and Samori Toure of Nebraska in the seventh round.
Rodgers said at the time that he understood the team's reasoning in waiting to draft receivers once the value went down, and reminded doubters that the Packers have traditionally had success developing lower-round draft picks into top talent. Adams, Cobb and former Packers receiver Jordy Nelson were all drafted in the second round, among others, and all more than proved their worth over their years with the Pack.
Rodgers said Wednesday that from what he's seen so far of the new receivers during offseason workouts, he believes there's the potential for them to have similar success and contribute to the offense quickly.
"Physically, they definitely look the part, all three of them," Rodgers said. "All three of the guys we drafted, they all have physical gifts. Obviously the top two picks are bigger, Doubs and Watson, but the seventh-round pick's got a lot of stuff to him. So I think it's going to be great."
While there's still work to be done to get rookies ready for the start of the season, Rodgers believes being able to get their early reps in practice against the top-notch Packers defense will be an advantage for the newbies, giving them an idea of what they'll face during games.
"There's no better teacher for them on what NFL ball's going to be like than going against our top three corners, Jaire [Alexander], Eric Stokes and obviously Rasul [Douglas]," said Rodgers. "So those guys will get a real quick initiation into the NFL."
With the need for depth in the receiving room one of the biggest question marks heading into the 2022 season, Rodgers' words should serve as an indication that the Packers feel confident in their current group of pass catchers and their ability to help replace its lost production at the position come Week 1.