Jayden Reed, the 50th pick of the 2023 NFL Draft, joins the Green Bay Packers with the opportunity to become the next great second-round wide receiver draft pick for the franchise.
Davante Adams, Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, and Randall Cobb were all second-round wide receiver picks for Green Bay, all with physical limitation concerns. But each fit perfectly for what the Packers needed then, and all became Packers' greats.
Reed, to begin his NFL career, is no different. At 5-feet-11 and under 190 pounds, he plays bigger and stronger than his size would indicate.
He also didn't post elite athletic scores at the NFL Combine, which was surprising if you watch his college tape. He'll add a smaller, twitchier element. Reed can line up at numerous positions but will likely operate out of the slot for the Packers.
Green Bay otherwise doesn't have a true slot technician, with taller players like Christian Watson or Romeo Doubs possessing top-end speed and size fit for the outside.
Reed primarily lined up as the outside receiver in college at Michigan State and would take on top cornerbacks from opposing defenses. However, he dominated when he lined up in the slot, catching 16-17 passes and contributing as a blocker.
In Reed's first preseason game, he only posted two catches for 20 yards, but on Green Bay's opening drive, he flashed a trait that Packers brass can't wait to see more of—gadget versatility.
He took a jet-sweep flip from Jordan Love and ran fluidly, seamlessly cutting upfield between a tight space. It's something we saw with Watson, Doubs, and other Packers receivers in 2022, but expect Reed to play a significant role in this facet of Matt LaFleur's offense.
His next grab, a great go-up and pluck it snag over the middle, displayed the trait that should excite Packers' fans most—contested catch prowess.
Per Lance Zierlein of NFL.com, Reed's talent in contested catch situations will be electric for Green Bay and nightmare fuel for opposing cornerbacks.
"His ball skills and feel for positioning on deep throws and jump balls are unquestioned," Zierlein writes.
Having another reliable pass catcher to support Jordan Love in year one will be paramount to sustaining drives. Especially in the red zone, Reed has frequently outmuscled defenders or twisted his body to make tough touchdown grabs.
Reed also has legit 4.4 40-yard speed and often tested opposing defenses vertically en route to 14.1 average yards per catch in four college seasons. On a play against the Bengals, he burnt the cornerback deep, forcing a pass interference to break up a likely touchdown.
What can we expect from Jayden Reed in rookie season with Packers?
With the Packers' offense flourishing with young talent and likely transitioning more to a run-heavy scheme, it's challenging to predict Reed's weekly impact.
Looking at rookie wide receivers in the past five seasons who achieved over 1,000 receiving yards, all listed as the top guy on their teams' depth chart, besides Jaylen Waddle. As Reed battles Samori Toure for the third spot in the pecking order, barring injury, don't expect that production.
Leading the Packers' receiver room in 2022, Watson and Doubs ranked seventh (611 yards) and 13th (425 yards), respectively, on Packers' ranks for rookie receiving yards. They also finished third (7) and 10th (3) in rookie receiving touchdowns. Doubs topped the duo with 42 catches (Watson, 41).
Both should see their stats improve in 2023, and rookies Luke Musgrave and Tucker Kraft will breathe new life into the tight-end group.
Watson strung together seven rushing attempts and two rushing touchdowns in 2022, but Reed could very well lead the wide receivers in carries. Reed posted 17 totes in three seasons for Michigan State and will run in motion often for the Packers.
Overall, Watson and Doubs will limit Reed's targets in a Packers' offense that likely won't be blowing teams out. Aaron Jones, AJ Dillon, Josiah Deguara, Dontayvion Wicks, Toure, Musgrave, and Kraft will all draw ample opportunities themselves.
However, Reed can flip the script on any play and turn limited opportunities into big production. Lining up in numerous spots, making tough catches, and turning jet sweeps or handoffs into big gains will favor Reed's case for continued looks.
Reed has all the tools to be a top rookie receiver in 2023 as he's already a crafty route runner. Other top rookies, like Jaxon Smith-Njigba, Quentin Johnston, and Zay Flowers also check in outside the top two on their teams' depth charts to open the season.
If Reed remains consistent, LaFleur will be hard-pressed to avoid getting the versatile rookie more involved as the season progresses.
Projection: 38 receptions, 550 yards, four touchdowns, eight carries, 105 yards, one touchdown (rushing)