Packers Draft: First Round Wide Receiver Not Required

February 22, 2022

With the Rams’ victory over the Bengals in Super Bowl 56, draft season is in full swing. One claim that seems to come around every year is that the Packers MUST draft a wide receiver in the first round. The 2022 NFL Draft marks twenty years since the last time Green Bay selected a WR in the first round. With that pick, they selected Florida State WR Javon Walker.

This frequent claim is so bizarre to me. Historically, the Packers haven’t just done well with second-round or later WR picks, they’ve excelled.

Past Draft Picks

Since the Javon Walker pick, the Packers have these notable WRs:

  • 2021
    • Amari Rodgers (3rd Round)
  • 2018
    • Marquez Valdes-Scantling (5th Round)
      • 123 career receptions
      • 2,153 career yards
      • 13 career touchdowns
  • 2015
    • Ty Montgomery (3rd Round)
      • 97 receptions (with Packers)
      • 857 yards (with Packers)
      • 3 touchdowns (with Packers)
  • 2014
    • Davante Adams (2nd Round)
      • Receptions, single season (117)
      • Receptions, single game record (14, tied with Don Hutson)
      • Yardage, single season record (1,553)
      • Touchdown, single season record (18, tied with Sterling Sharpe)
  • 2011
    • Randall Cobb (2nd Round)
      • 498 receptions (with Packers)
      • 5,899 yards (with Packers)
      • 46 touchdowns (with Packers)
  • 2008
    • Jordy Nelson (2nd Round)
      • 550 receptions (with Packers)
      • 7,848 yards (with Packers)
      • 69 touchdowns (with Packers)
  • 2007
    • James Jones (3rd Round)
      • 360 receptions (with Packers)
      • 5,195 yards (with Packers)
      • 45 touchdowns (with Packers)
  • 2006
    • Greg Jennings (2nd Round)
      • 425 receptions (with Packers)
      • 6,537 yards (with Packers)
      • 53 touchdowns (with Packers)

Just for fun, I’ll throw in a couple of pre-2002 picks

  • 1999
    • Donald Driver (7th Round)
      • Career Yardage, franchise record (10,137)
      • Career 1,000 Yard seasons, franchise record (7)
      • 61 career touchdowns
      • 743 career receptions
  • 1995
    • Antonio Freeman
      • 431 receptions (with Packers)
      • 6,651 yards (with Packers)
      • 51 touchdowns (with Packers)

That makes 10 picks, eight of which you can consider some of the best WR picks in franchise history, and maybe even league history. Most franchises can’t even come close to drafting that consistently in their entire history, let alone one 25 year period. It’s also important to note that the Packers have had four general managers since 1992. Picking that consistently across four general managers is more than just good luck.

Packers Receiving Records

As mentioned above, Donald Driver and Davante Adams hold the majority of the Packers franchise receiving records. Adams (2nd round) and Driver (7th round) are joined by Billy Howton (2nd Round, 1956), Sterling Sharpe, who is the only first-round pick in the receiving record book, and Don Hutson, who played before the draft even existed.

  • Yards in a game
    • Billy Howton (257)
  • Yards in a season
    • Davante Adams (1,153)
  • Yards in a career
    • Donald Driver (10,137)
  • Receptions in a game
    • Don Hutson & Davante Adams (14)
  • Receptions in a season
    • Davante Adams (117)
  • Receptions in a career
    • Donald Driver (729)
  • Touchdowns in a game
    • Don Hutson & Sterling Sharpe (4)
  • Touchdowns in a season
    • Sterling Sharpe & Davante Adams (18)
  • Touchdowns in a career
    • Don Hutson (99)
  • Most 1,000 yard seasons
    • Donald Driver (7)

Draft “What If’s”

The fact of the matter is that there will always be what if’s. What if the Packers somehow managed to convince the Vikings to give up the 22nd pick of the draft? Would they have picked Justin Jefferson? Would he have panned out the same way he has in Minnesota? I have long held Jefferson as the steal of the 2020 draft, and credit the Vikings for nailing that pick.

All picks carry risks, but none more so than those made in the first round. Yes, you could land Justin Jefferson. You could also end up with Jalen Reagor, who finished the 2021 season with 170 fewer yards than Henry Ruggs III, despite playing all 17 regular-season games.

The Packers have used their first-round picks intelligently over the last 20 years. Filling the roster’s biggest needs is the smartest use of the first round. They’ve done that well over the last two decades as well.

Wrap Up

Risk and reward. That’s the name of the game come draft time. Few front offices have drafted as well as the Packers in the last 30 years.

If there’s a point to be made here, it’s this;

Elite talent can be found anywhere, not just in the first round.