With all three of their starting wide receivers set to become free agents later this month, the Green Bay Packers have begun meeting with several of the top receiving prospects in the 2022 NFL draft class.
Jameson Williams and Chris Olave — who are widely considered two of the best wide receivers in the upcoming draft class — each told reporters on March 2 that they had met and spoken with the Packers during the NFL Scouting Combine in Indianapolis.
Williams caught 79 passes for 1,572 yards and 15 touchdowns during his one and only season at Alabama in 2021, having transferred in after two seasons with Ohio State and earning first-team All-American status. He was also an explosive kick return weapon for the Crimson Tide who averaged 35.2 yards on 10 returns and took back two kickoffs for touchdowns, leading to him being named the SEC Co-Special Teams Player of the Year.
Olave, on the other hand, never reached 1,000 receiving yards in a single season but was a far more consistent pass-catcher over his four seasons with the Buckeyes. While he had a career-best year in 2021 that saw him rack up 65 receptions for 936 yards and 13 touchdowns, he maintained a season average of about 54 catches and 834 receiving yards during his final three years in Columbus. He also eclipsed 12 touchdowns twice in that three-season span with a career total of 35 trips to the end zone.
The Packers also met with formally and informally with former Georgia standout George Pickens, who spoke highly of Green Bay’s offensive scheme when discussing the pre-draft interest in him during Wednesday’s interview sessions at the Combine.
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Williams’ Injury Could Impact Draft Stock
Williams finished with the fifth-most receiving yards and tied for the second-most receiving touchdowns in the FBS during his monstrous season at Alabama, but he might have also been able to call himself a national champion had he not torn his ACL early in the second quarter of the National Championship Game against Georgia in January.
The injury couldn’t have come at a worse time for Williams or the Crimson Tide. Through the first 18 minutes of the title game, he had caught four passes for 61 yards and seemed poised to add another dominant performance to his resume as the clear favorite target for quarterback Bryce Young in the passing game. Instead, he was forced to watch the majority of the game from the sideline as the Bulldogs fended off the Tide and seized their first national title in decades.
Fortunately, Williams’ injury could end up working to the advantage of a team like the Packers with a late first-round pick and a dire need for more receiving talent.
As ESPN draft analyst Mel Kiper pointed out on SportsCenter in February, Williams would have likely been considered a top 10 pick had he stayed healthy and helped Alabama prevail over Georgia in the title game. Now, he is more likely to fall into the middle or later parts of the first round and could become a major steal for a team with an obvious need who doesn’t mind being patient with his recovery.
Here’s what Kiper said during Todd McShay’s Mock Draft 2.0 on February 16:
You’re betting on a kid, Todd, that had he stayed healthy, I think Alabama wins that game against Georgia. It was a shame he got hurt. Obviously from Alabama’s standpoint they move on to win a national title and for Jameson he would have been a guaranteed top 10 pick. He took the top off the defense every week. And now he falls into the late first round. You talk about being a bargain. Yeah, I would wait it out for Jameson Williams. That kind of speed. That electricity. The hands. The attitude. The warrior mentality he has.
Will Packers (Finally) Draft WR in 1st Round?
It has been two decades since the Packers last selected a wide receiver in the first round, but Williams could tempt them if he falls into their range at No. 28 overall. While Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst has said he values availability, he also hasn’t shied away from investing in players coming off significant injuries in the past — especially if they have a high upside like Williams.
There is also the fact that Williams says he is ahead of schedule on his ACL recovery. The original timeline projected it would take him between five and seven months to get back on the field, but an accelerated rehab process would give him a great chance at being ready in time for the start of NFL training camp.
“I hope it doesn’t affect me, but I’m not sure how it affects me (at this point),” Williams said of his injury at the Combine on March 2. “At the end of the day, I just hope to get drafted and hope a team takes a shot on me.”
The Packers will need to do something about their receiver position with all three of their starters set to become free agents later this month. If the Packers don’t reach a new agreement with Davante Adams (or franchise tag him), he will undoubtedly become the biggest unrestricted free agent on the market. Decisions are also required on Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard, Equanimeous St. Brown and Malik Taylor.
Right now, the Packers have just four wideouts signed for the 2022 season: Veteran Randall Cobb, who could become a cap casualty this offseason; Amari Rodgers, who caught just four passes as a rookie after the Packers traded up for him in the third round of the 2020 NFL draft; and futures signings Rico Gafford and Chris Blair.