Could 2021 finally be the year the Green Bay Packers draft a first-round wide receiver into Aaron Rodgers’ arsenal? At the very least, they’ve done their homework.
According to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler and Dan Graziano, the Packers are one of several NFL teams that have done “a lot of research” on potential first-round wideout Rashod Batemen in the months leading up to the 2021 NFL draft. General manager Brian Gutekunst also met with him at Minnesota’s pro day in Minneapolis at the beginning of the month.
At 6-foot-1 and 190 pounds, Bateman is rated No. 17 overall on The Draft Network’s prospect rankings after catching 147 passes for 2,395 yards and 19 touchdowns over three seasons (31 games) with the Gophers. While he opted out of the final three games of the 2020 season, he reinforced his status as a first-round talent at his pro day, running a 4.40 in the 40-yard dash.
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Packers Adding WR Talent Makes Sense
Stop me if you’ve heard this one before: The Packers need to draft a new wide receiver this year.
Last year, it was just about all NFL talking heads could say in the weeks leading up to the 2020 NFL draft. And after Green Bay selected no wideouts for a second straight year, the conversation shifted to how the Packers were “failing” Rodgers rather than trying to understand why they might feel confident in Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Allen Lazard and Devin Funchess (pre-opt-out) getting the job done.
All of those names — including Funchess! — will be returning again in 2021, but the circumstances are not quite the same. Instead of having a few easy decisions to make on some exclusive rights free agents, the Packers will have to decide on the futures of every one of their current wide receivers in 2022.
Adams, Valdes-Scantling, Funchess and Equanimeous St. Brown are all due to hit unrestricted free agency next offseason with the first two on the list each positioned to earn significant pay raises on their next contracts. Meanwhile, Lazard is set to become a restricted free agent in 2022 while Malik Taylor, Juwann Winfree, Reggie Begelton and Chris Blair would each become exclusive rights free agents (if they are even on the team).
The Packers could address the issue with a premium pick in the first two days of the 2021 NFL draft, perhaps even getting Bateman in the first round. They could also take the 2018 route again and take multiple wideouts in the middle rounds; though, it is debatable whether that strategy was successful. They got Valdes-Scantling but also wasted a fourth-round pick on J’Mon Moore and, so far, a sixth-round pick on St. Brown.