An underdog wide receiver hoping to earn a place with the Green Bay Packers over the next several months just got a big-time shoutout from one of the franchise’s finest.
Packers Hall of Famer and record-setting receiver Donald Driver sent a belated congratulations message to one of the team’s newest pass-catchers on Thursday on Twitter, welcoming fellow Alcorn State alum Chris Blair to Green Bay and giving him a small stamp of approval for 2021.
— Donald Driver (@Donald_Driver80) May 20, 2021
Blair, a second-year wide receiver and big-play threat, signed his reserve/futures contract with the Packers on Jan. 8 and is one of 10 wideouts on Green Bay’s 90-man offseason roster who will be competing for a roster spot during this summer’s training camp. The 23-year-old offers a unique combination of speed (4.47 seconds in the 40-yard dash) and size (6-foot-2, 198 pounds) that allowed him to average more than 21 yards per reception in his final college season.
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Blair Continues Small-School Come Up
Blair crossed a greater divide than most college kids do in order to play in the NFL. The Louisville, Miss., native started out locally at Hinds Community College, coming off a high school career in both football and basketball. After two years, he received in-state offers from both Mississippi State and Alcorn State and ultimately chose the Braves after a coaching change.
“Chris had an offer from Mississippi State, but after the coaching change there he decided to go a different way,” Fred McNair said after Blair transferred, via the Alcorn State University Athletics website. “I’d been trying to get Chris to come to Alcorn for a while, and I just kept in contact with him and we’re very happy to have him.”
Hard to imagine McNair’s happiness with Blair waned during their time together. Blair led the Braves in receiving in each of his two seasons with the team, recording a career-best 931 yards and seven touchdowns in 2019. He also ranked sixth in the FBS with 21.1 yards per reception as a senior and capped his career with a dominant 150-yard performance in the Celebration Bowl.
Is Blair a Long Shot or a Sleeper?
The Packers are preparing to begin their voluntary, in-person offseason workouts on May 24 with a stacked room of wide receivers. No turnover from last year’s roster means starters Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Allen Lazard are all once again favorites to land atop the depth chart in 2021, while the additions of veteran Devin Funchess (opted out in 2020) and 2021 third-round pick Amari Rodgers are expected to upgrade the position further.
For a team that carried multiple wideouts on their practice squad for much of the 2020 season, though, it will be important to see how the bottom half of the receiving group performs in OTAs and training camp. Blair has some qualities that could make him a sleeper for the Packers, but the same could be said about most of the other deep-depth receivers on their roster.
Malik Taylor, for instance, impressed the Packers during last year’s camp and was one of four wide receivers picked for their initial 53-man roster. He played in 15 games and caught five of his six targets for 66 yards and a touchdown, adding a rush of nine yards of a jet-sweep play. Production like that might not announce itself from the rooftops, but it is more than Blair, Juwann Winfree or Reggie Begelton have recorded in their short NFL careers.
The Packers also have former sixth-round pick Equanimeous St. Brown. He was a bright spot as rookie during the 2018 season with 21 receptions for 328 yards, but a season-ending injury cost him all of the 2019 season while more health issues restricted him in 2020. After making just seven total catches last year, it could be do-or-die time for St. Brown.