Packers: Can Marquez Valdes-Scantling make the Jordy Nelson jump?

Green Bay Packers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images)
Green Bay Packers, Marquez Valdes-Scantling (Photo by Stacy Revere/Getty Images) /

Can Green Bay Packers wide receiver Marquez Valdes-Scantling make a jump similar to Jordy Nelson early in his career?

Through two weeks of the 2019 NFL season, the Packers’ passing game has flashed at times but been unreliable overall. Many point to the lack of a competent No. 2 receiver behind superstar Davante Adams as a major reason.

Does this warrant serious concern? Or should we remain confident that Marquez Valdes-Scantling will grow into the consistent No. 2 threat this team needs?

In order to inspire hope for the future, I suggest Green Bay fans take a look at the past.

Specifically, let’s examine the year where the team faced an eerily familiar receiver situation and emerged with the ultimate victory in Super Bowl XLV.

In 2010, the team’s passing game was ruled by a superstar and supported by a diverse set of pass-catchers. The parallels are far from perfect, but consider these similarities in that year’s receiving corps and this year’s:

  • A bona fide star receiver who thrived on route-running (2010 Greg Jennings : 2019 Davante Adams)
  • A former stud nearing the end of his career (2010 Donald Driver : 2019 Jimmy Graham)
  • A physical mid-career receiver who won primarily in contested catch situations (2010 James Jones : 2019 Geronimo Allison)
  • An ascending, unpolished vertical threat (2010 Jordy Nelson : 2019 Marquez Valdes-Scantling).

As stated, this isn’t exactly a 1:1 comparison. Most notably, Driver and Jones each were more explosive in 2010 than Graham and Allison are now, respectively.

I draw this analogy mostly to provide a reason to believe in Valdes-Scantling as a viable No. 2 receiver as the season progresses. The second-year receiver flashed a few times in his rookie season and has earned consistent praise from both coaches and Aaron Rodgers. His defining trait is obviously speed, and that’s been evident on several deep completions. He’s also made his fair share of receptions in the short and intermediate game.

Fans grow impatient, though, because MVS has not yet been consistently productive. It’s too easy to forget that essentially none of our favorite Packers receivers have experienced early excellence.

Specifically, look at Jordy Nelson’s 2010. The second-rounder was in his third year as a pro, but his overall production over the course of that regular season was still middling—582 yards and two touchdowns on 45 receptions. That’s the same amount of yards and touchdowns that Valdes-Scantling put up last year on seven fewer catches.

We all know what happened as the 2010 season progressed, though. Nelson continued improving and building trust with Aaron Rodgers until, in Super Bowl XLV, he shockingly became the team’s primary receiving target (nine catches for 140 yards and a touchdown on 15 targets).

It won’t be easy for Valdes-Scantling to trace that exact path this year. Nelson had an extra year of experience, and as a second-round pick, was more polished coming out of college.

But as fellow burners and deep threats, the similarities are impossible to ignore. Valdes-Scantling has already made strides and is absolutely capable of taking his production to another level this year. Even if he never reaches Nelson’s career heights, he’s earned the benefit of the doubt and should be afforded the opportunity to grow into his starting role this season.

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It’s still possible, likely even, that receiver is at or near the top of Brian Gutekunst’s needs list at the start of the 2020 NFL Draft. But there’s no reason to panic just yet. It will be exciting to see how each of the Packers’ receivers develop this season under Matt LaFleur, and Marquez Valdes-Scantling should be at the top of everyone’s list of players to watch.