Wide receiver was at the top of the wishlist for many Green Bay Packers fans heading into the 2020 NFL draft, which was said to be stuffed with talented pass-catchers. Even quarterback Aaron Rodgers was hoping to see more weapons added to his arsenal after coming one game away from the Super Bowl back in January.
But after three days and nine selections, the Packers were left without any of the 35 wideouts that were drafted out of the 2020 class. They were the only team in the NFC North to not draft a wide receiver with the Minnesota Vikings taking one in each the first and fifth rounds.
As it turns out, Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst didn’t think as highly of the class from top to bottom as some others around the league.
“I think it was a little bit the way everything fell early in the draft,” Gutekunst said Saturday in a teleconference after the draft concluded. “Just didn’t work out that we weren’t able to select from the guys we had rated really highly. And once we got to the middle (and) towards the end of the draft, I just didn’t think there was a great opportunity to add a player who could make an impact on our roster this year.”
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One of the reasons the Packers abstained from the receiver-drafting frenzy was Gutekunst’s confidence in the group already in place for the next season.
The Packers bring back every wide receiver from last year’s roster except for Geronimo Allison, who signed with the Detroit Lions after being allowed to walk in free agency. That makes 2019 standout Allen Lazard one of the leading candidates to take on a bigger role next season with free-agent signing Devin Funchess and third-year Marquez Valdes-Scantling expected to be his biggest competition for the No. 2 receiving role behind star Davante Adams.
“You guys know how hard it is for young players at that position to make impacts early on, certainly with some of the guys that we’ve had in the past — that became really good players but it took them two or three years to get there,” Gutekunst said. We kind of have a few of those guys that are entering the second, third year of their careers here and are expecting a lot out of them. With Allen Lazard kind of emerging, signing Devin Funchess, EQ (Equanimeous St. Brown) coming back, MVS (Marquez Valdes-Scantling), (Jake) Kumerow. We really like Malik Taylor. We really think we have a lot of guys that are going to be pushing for playing time and production.”
The Packers had the chance to test both Valdes-Scantling and Kumerow in 2020, but they were never given a real look at how St. Brown could contribute as a pass-catcher. St. Brown, a sixth-round draft pick in 2018, impressed during last year’s training camp, but a preseason ankle injury landed him on injured reserve for the entire 2019 season.
Gutekunst also mentioned Taylor, who spent the 2019 season on the practice squad after missing out on a roster spot at the end of the training camp. While he has yet to make his NFL debut, a shout-out from the GM might help boost the 6-foot-3, 220-pound receiver’s confidence.
The Packers also signed CFL All-Star Reggie Begelton to the 2020 roster back in the winter, who Gutekunst said “fits a lot of the things we’re looking for” when asked about him Saturday.
“We feel good about the group,” Gutekunst said. “We really think there are some guys who have a chance to emerge.”