Packers Linked to Dynamic, Big-Play WR for Next Season

Aaron Rodgers, Packers

Getty Aaron Rodgers #12 of the Green Bay Packers celebrates after a successful two-point conversion against the Chicago Bears during the fourth quarter of the game at Soldier Field on December 04, 2022 in Chicago, Illinois. (Photo by Michael Reaves/Getty Images)

This Green Bay Packers regime has always followed a specific philosophy when it comes to acquiring its players, but that mold may finally be cracking.

The front office looked as though it had made an all-time gaffe by shipping wide receiver Davante Adams to the Las Vegas Raiders during the heart of his prime, and just when quarterback Aaron Rodgers needed him the most. Green Bay’s passing game went from feared to stagnant in just one offseason, while the team embarked on a five-game losing streak and tumbled to a record of 3-6 halfway through the year.

That move still hasn’t aged well, as Adams has hauled in 82 catches for 1,247 yards and a league-leading 12 touchdowns through 13 games, per Pro Football Reference. However, life has returned to the Packers’ air attack, due much to the emergence of rookie receiver Christian Watson. After a slow start hampered by injuries, Watson has exploded for eight touchdowns over the last four games.

Watson’s success will ultimately be the barometer for how well Green Bay did in the Adams’ trade. The franchise acquired the Raiders’ first- and second-round picks in return for the receiver, eventually pairing that second-rounder with their own to trade up and draft Watson 34th overall.

Over the last 11 years, the Packers have drafted an offensive player just once in the first round — backup quarterback Jordan Love in 2020. But Watson’s ascendence could lead to a more offensively-focused draft room next season, particularly as Rodgers enters the winter of his career and the team’s Super Bowl window with him under center continues to tighten.

One exceptional option for Green Bay in 2023 is wideout Quentin Johnston of TCU, who will play his final collegiate snaps in the coming College Football Playoff with his third-seeded Horned Frogs.

Johnston has caught 53 passes for 903 yards and five touchdowns through 12 games this season. He has also scored two rushing touchdowns over the course of his three-year college career.

Johnston Offers Packers Trio of Talented Young Receivers Alongside Watson, Doubs

Quentin Johnston

GettyWide receiver Quentin Johnston (right) of the TCU Horned Frogs stiff arms Julius Brents (left) of the Kansas State Wildcats on December 3, 2022.

Alex Ballentine of Bleacher Report made a case for Johnston to the Packers on Wednesday, December 7.

TCU’s Quentin Johnston fits that same mold. At 6’4″, 215 pounds, he has the size to bully smaller cornerbacks. He has proved to be a big-play threat for the Horned Frogs, averaging 18.7 yards per catch over three seasons.

Now he’ll get to the chance to prove himself to NFL talent evaluators on the grand stage of the College Football Playoff. He’ll take on a Michigan defense that is ranked fifth in yards allowed per pass attempt.

If Johnston shows out in that spot, forming a trio of Romeo Doubs, Watson and Johnston would be even more appealing.

Doubs pulled down 31 catches for 314 yards across nine appearances before he hit IR with a serious ankle injury. Watson has 25 grabs on the year for 401 yards and seven receiving touchdowns. He’s also rushed the ball five times for 68 yards and two scores, per Pro Football Reference.

Packers Can Look to Free Agency or Trade, But Must Bring in Help at Wide Receiver

Lazard Out Watson Back

GettyPackers wide receiver Christian Watson runs with the ball on September 18, 2022.

Johnston is a first-rounder in essentially ever mock draft in existence on the internet, and sits at the top of the board at the receiver position — typically ranked first or second among wideouts in the 2023 class.

Were the NFL to hold the draft today, the Packers would pick 12th. That is in the range for a player like Johnston, who could go a little earlier or a little later depending on the final draft order and individual team needs.

If Green Bay doesn’t pursue Johnston, or if he’s off the board before they can call his name, then the Packers must pursue another talent at the position. A player like Odell Beckham Jr. will likely be available on the free agent market, while there is a good chance a pass catcher like Brandin Cooks of the Houston Texans can be had via trade.

An upgrade is necessary, regardless of which way the Packers go under center. Rodgers will need more help as he continues to age, while Love will need more talented running mates if he is ever to truly come of age.

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