Jordy Nelson fought off Father Time’s best efforts of slowing him down last year, but the Green Bay Packers must have one eye on the future.
Consider it one-nothing to Jordy, but the 31-year-old receiver knows he’s in the final act of a great career.
“I’m going to take it year-by-year, because it’s 100 percent on how the body feels,” Nelson told ESPN’s Jason Wilde.
The fact Nelson, who turns 32 in May, was able to perform at such a high level after missing all of the 2015 season with a torn ACL defies belief. He piled up a team-high 1,257 receiving yards and an NFL-high 14 touchdowns. It made him the AP Comeback Player of the Year, but this encore won’t last forever.
The key to staying on top in the NFL is to remain a step ahead. Waiting for Nelson’s inevitable decline to hit before the Packers make a move at the receiver position would be foolish. Now is the time to groom the eventual heir to his throne.
Maybe it’s Davante Adams. In his third season, Adams silenced critics with 997 receiving yards and 12 touchdowns of his own. His most noticeable improvement came at the line of scrimmage. No longer shackled by aggressive press coverage, the Fresno State alumnus used his feet to shake off of press and gain quick separation.
It was a necessary step for Adams to take. After an awful 2015 campaign, he went from a cut candidate to potentially Green Bay’s best receiver. But despite his tremendous bounce-back season, Adams needs to back it up and take the next step in 2017.
It’s a risky business to put all of your eggs into one basket. A 2015-like regression for Adams would leave the Packers lacking a successor to Nelson as his career reaches its final stretch.
Randall Cobb isn’t an absolute guarantee to even make the 2017 roster due to his bloated salary. Even in the strong likelihood the Packers keep him in the building, his game is suited to the slot.
Maybe Geronimo Allison or Trevor Davis can make the jump, but so far there’s little evidence to suggest either can become a “number one receiver”.
The Packers’ future at the wide receiver position won’t come in free agency. Outside of Alshon Jeffery, who will likely go on to become the league’s highest paid wideout, the market is flooded with complementary pieces and no stars. Terrelle Pryor is the only name of intrigue, but Cleveland has the resources to keep him in house should they wish to. And, no, Jeffery won’t be signing with the Packers.
Thompson has a good strike rate drafting receivers, particularly in the second round. Nelson, Adams, and Cobb were all second-round selections, as was two-time Pro Bowler Greg Jennings. James Jones and Ty Montgomery were strong third-round additions, even if the latter earns his living at running back now.
Maybe we’ll see another day two pick at the wide receiver position. Ensuring Aaron Rodgers is always surrounded by talent has been a priority for Thompson over the past decade, and it’s a trend we could see continue in April.
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