It’s taken as almost a given that the Packers will manufacture successful wide receivers. Ted Thompson has been more or less wildly successful picking pass catchers near the top of the draft. But oddly enough, it may be an undrafted player who may have the most pressure to perform this year.
I’m speaking, of course, about Jarrett Boykin, who blossomed down the stretch last year in Randall Cobb‘s absence. Boykin displayed the kind of body control, great hands, and tenacity you’d expect from Jordy Nelson, much less a barely-tested second year man. With that kind of experience, you’d be well within reason to expect big things from Mr. Boykin this year.
Wide receivers typically see a big bump in their performance in their third year, and all the pieces seem to be in place for Boykin to see a spike as well, but there are a number of factors that could be working against him.
First of all, the sheer depth of the receiver position could make it difficult for Boykin to make a significant jump. Last year, his stats got a boost from the absences of receivers ahead of him on the depth chart. This season, if all goes according to plan, Boykin will face competition for catches not only from Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, but second round pick Davante Adams as well. It will be a battle just to get noticed, much less improve his stats.
Secondly, Boykin is going to face plenty of pressure from behind. Adams is one opponent, but Jared Abbrederis will push for playing time too. Fifth round picks do not disappear easily. On top of that, the Packers brought Myles White and Chris Harper, who both saw playing time last year and certainly wont’ be any less motivated than last season. White may be less of a threat because of his diminutive stature, but Harper has all the physical gifts to succeed, and is setting his sights high.
That said, Boykin also has a few things working in his favor. While guys like Adams, Abbrederis, Harper, and White all will be gunning for his spot, Boykin has the advantage of already having produced at the NFL level. He’s already shown that he can put up numbers. He has shown that he can be a legitimate NFL wide receiver, and, most importantly, he already has chemistry with the Packers’ quarterbacks. Aaron Rodgers went his way often after James Jones went down early last season, and Boykin responded, posting an eight catch, 103 yard game against Cleveland and five catches for 89 yards the next week in Minnesota.
Boykin also has a tremendous advantage simply in terms of learning the playbook, too. Simply catching up to the complexity of an NFL offense is typically a big challenge for rookies, which gives Boykin a huge inside track against his less experienced competition. He may not have the understanding that Nelson and Cobb do, but he’s certainly light years ahead of the rest of the receiving corps.