The Green Bay Packers don’t need seven receivers.
Training camp has begun, which means that most every Packers writer on the internet has published their tentative 53-man roster prediction. It’s early for this and things will of course change, but wide receiver is the one position that I find myself disagreeing most with in these projections.
Some projections foresee the Packers keeping seven receivers on the opening roster.
The Packers have a bevy of candidates for wide receiver playing time after the starting trio. In addition to returning players Trevor Davis, Jeff Janis and Geronimo Allison, the team drafted DeAngelo Yancey and Malachi Dupre. Plus, there’s three undrafted free agents and second-year pickup Max McCaffrey.
Despite this abundance of options, the Packers should resist the urge to overstock the wide receiver cupboard.
They should carry no more than six receivers into Week 1. And when Allison rejoins the team after his Week 1 suspension, the Packers should cut a receiver to keep that number at or below six.
There are only 53 spots available on the roster. Keeping more than six receivers will leave the Packers vulnerable at other positions.
The Packers are a decade past the days of employing a “Big 5″ receiver set circa 2007. They play primarily three receiver sets, occasionally four. Nelson, Cobb and Adams don’t need to sit out plays for rest as is the case along the defensive front seven.
If they want to play five pass catching options, Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks will be better options than rookies such as Dupre or Yancey.
Bennett will likely be employed most often as an in-line tight end due to his blocking prowess. But Kendricks and his 4.57 40-yard dash (faster than Allison and Dupre, albeit six years ago) make him well-suited to split out as a receiver.
And if injuries should completely devastate the unit, Ty Montgomery is available to play a few snaps at receiver in a pinch.
The rationale for keeping additional receivers is twofold. The foremost reason is that these backup receivers may develop into playmakers sometime down the line. The second motivation is special teams.
Neither of these is sufficient basis for keeping seven receivers.
Three backup receivers will be more than enough to achieve both of those goals.
If the Packers keep, say, Malachi Dupre as their seventh receiver, that will come at the cost of another roster spot. That spot would be better used on an additional outside linebacker such as Johnathan Calvin, or a secondary player such as Marwin Evans, Josh Hawkins or Herb Waters.
Jeff Janis is a weapon on special teams. Trevor Davis flashed as a receiver last year against Atlanta and will be the front-runner for the punt return job. Allison is a promising pass catcher with Aaron Rodgers’ trust.
If any of the rookies (or McCaffrey) can wrestle a spot away from these veterans, then all the more power to them.
But the seventh-best receiver on the Packers shouldn’t take up a roster spot.
The Packers don’t regret letting Jared Abbrederis or Jeremy Ross go. They won’t regret letting this year’s seventh-best wideout hit the streets.
And there’s a fair chance the Packers can stash their final cut at receiver on the practice squad and elevate him the active roster if necessary, as they did with Allison last season.
They might, however, regret leaving a position so short-handed that they need to sign free agents off the streets midseason, as happened with running back in 2016.
Only six receivers should make this roster.
Let the wideout games begin.