Simply stated, the Green Bay Packers receiving corps isn’t in a great place at the moment. A position that was already under scrutiny following an offseason in which Devin Funchess—who later opted out of the season—was the most notable receiving acquisition and after a draft where no wideout was select by Green Bay is now facing lots of injury-related concerns. Superstar Davante Adams has missed last week’s game due to injury (and seems unlikely to play tonight at the time this article is being written). Undrafted receiver Allen Lazard, who is coming off a huge game in Adams’ absence last week, was also placed on the IR over the weekend, meaning he’ll miss at least three weeks…likely more.
That leaves Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Darrius Shepherd as Aaron Rodgers’ go-to receivers for the time being. MVS is a 5th round selection who’s in his third season. Shepherd was undrafted out of North Dakota State and managed one career reception for one yard in his rookie season in 2019. Malik Taylor (a rookie receiver who also went undrafted) will likely see some snaps tonight as well. It’s not an ideal situation, but the Packers having to make do with unheralded wide receivers is not unprecedented.
Through the years, Green Bay has relied on a number of receivers who, while drafted in later rounds (if at all), have put up impressive numbers, enhanced the offense, and turned into major Packers contributors. Here are eight of the best.
James Jones — 3rd round (78th overall pick) in 2007 draft
Though the third round isn’t exactly no man’s land in terms of talent, your rarely hear of a “third round bust” in the NFL. Expectations are lowered a bit more than the draft’s first two rounds, but there’s still lots of potential to find a more-than-capable player. The Packers did just that in 2007, when they took James Jones with 78th overall selection. Jones was the 15th wide receiver taken in that draft, but went on to have one of the best careers of that crop of pass-catchers. During his eight seasons with Green Bay, Jones had 49 receiving touchdowns (good for 8th most in team history), 360 receptions (11th most), 5,195 yards (14th most), and was a great complement to a pair of second round selections—Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson—in the 2010 Super Bowl season.
Donald Driver — 7th round (213th overall) in 1999 draft
Statistically and in terms of longevity, Donald Driver is the best Packers receiver of all-time. Almost as miraculous as what he accomplished in his 14 seasons in green and gold is the fact he came to Title Town as a seventh round pick out of tiny Alcorn State in 1999. After incalculable hours of hard work, three Pro Bowls, and an abundance of unforgettable moments he helped orchestrate, Driver retired in 2012 as the franchise’s all-time leader in yards (10,137), receptions (743), and targets (1,234). Not bad for a seventh rounder!
Antonio Freeman — 3rd round (90th overall) in 1995 draft
Like Jones, Antonio Freeman was taken by Green Bay in the third round. Unlike Jones, Freeman eventually became the team’s inarguable number one receiver. The man who made the most incredible catch in Packers history (see below) was selected out of Virginia Tech in 1995. Following Robert Brooks’ season-ending injury in the 1996 season, Freeman stepped up to emerge as a go-to target for Brett Favre during the team’s Super Bowl run. He also caught a touchdown pass in Super Bowl XXXI to help lead Green Bay to victory. In his eight years in Green Bay, Free notched 431 receptions (9th most in team history) for 6,651 yards (7th most) and 57 touchdowns (5th most).
Bill Schroeder — 6th round (181st overall) in 1994 draft
The pride of Sheboygan, Bill Schroeder went from being a track standout at UW-LaCrosse to earning a spot on the Green Bay Packers. The speedster was taken in round six of the 1994 draft, but didn’t see the field (outside of practice squad reps) until 1997. Once on the 53-man roster, though, Schroeder made his mark with a total of 225 catches (23rd most in Packers history) for 3,435 yards (17th most) and 20 touchdowns in five seasons. They aren’t exactly gaudy numbers, but most sixth rounders would kill for that stat line with their hometown team.
Robert Brooks — 3rd round (62nd overall) in 1992 draft
The aforementioned Robert Brooks spent all but one season of his eight-year career in Green Bay. During that span, the wideout made good on Green Bay’s decision to take him 62nd overall in 1992 with a Packers career consisting of 306 receptions (16th most in team history) for 4,225 yards (15th most) and 32 touchdowns (16th most). His 99-yard touchdown catch in 1995 still stands as the longest reception in Packers history. Plus “Jump In The Stands” still slaps.
Phil Epps — 12th round (321st overall) in 1982 draft
TCU receiver Phil Epps was taken so late in the 1982 draft that the round he was taken in doesn’t even exist anymore. The Packers nabbed the wideout in round 12 (321st overall). Within a few seasons, he became what passed as a bright spot for some particularly terrible Packers teams. Before he left Green Bay to finish his career with the Jets in 1989, he tallied a total of 192 catches for 2,884 yards, and 14 touchdown receptions in a Packers uniform.
Carroll Dale — 8th round (86th overall) in 1960 draft … by Los Angeles Rams
In 1960, the Los Angeles Rams took wide receiver Carroll Dale in the eighth round. The 86th overall pick of that draft eventually made his way to Green Bay in 1965, where he proceeded to become the Packers’ all-time leader in yards per reception. During his eight years in Green Bay, Dale has 275 catches (18th most in Packers history) for 5,422 yards (12th most) and 35 touchdowns (15th most).
Max McGee — 5th round (51st overall) in 1954 draft
Eventual fan favorite and longtime Packers radio personality Max McGee started his eight-year career in Green Bay as, well, some dude from Tulane who was taken in the 5th round back in 1954. Expectations were low-to-nonexistent, but McGee proved to be a deep threat to pair with the vaunted Green Bay Sweep. His 345 catches are 13th most in team history, with his 6,346 receiving yards and 50 touchdowns good for 9th and 7th most among Packers receivers. Oh yeah, and he caught two touchdowns while hungover in Super Bowl I.
Now that you’ve heard of other receivers coming out relative obscurity to manage solid-to-amazing Packers careers, hopefully the idea of cheering on MVS, Shepherd, and Taylor this season seems a little more appealing. Fingers crossed!