Packers are pairing Love with young pass-catchers to 'grow together'

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- If Green Bay is going to have a remake of the 2010 classic “Packers Win the Super Bowl” starring Jordan Love as Aaron Rodgers, the Packers will need to fill several important roles.

Still left uncast is the final ensemble around Love.

When the Packers won Super Bowl XLV, Rodgers was in his third season as the starting quarterback and had a group of pass-catchers that included receivers Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson, along with tight ends Jermichael Finley, Donald Lee and Andrew Quarless.

General manager Brian Gutekunst hopes he has made the job easier on the director, coach Matt LaFleur, with the bevy of receivers and tight ends he’s collected from the past two drafts.

And it will be a grassroots build for Love, who is essentially starting with a fresh cast of Packers pass-catchers.

“That’s a little bit of the idea, right?” said Gutekunst after drafting three receivers (for the second straight year) and a pair of tight ends. “I mean I think that’s important for those guys to grow together.”

Rodgers started with a far more accomplished group when he replaced Brett Favre in 2008. Driver was entering his 10th season, Jennings his third and Jones his second. Driver already had five 1,000-yard seasons, Jennings was coming off a 12-touchdown campaign in 2007 and Jones had 676 receiving yards as a rookie in 2007. Lee was entering his fourth season with the Packers.

However, Nelson and Finley were members of the 2008 draft class that joined the team just as Rodgers took over.

Of the returning pass-catchers for this season, Christian Watson, Romeo Doubs and Samori Toure have the most experience -- all of one season apiece. They were drafted in the second, fourth and seventh rounds, respectively, in 2022. Of those receivers, Watson had the most productive season with 41 catches for 611 yards and seven touchdowns.

Last weekend, Gutekunst added three more receivers: Michigan State’s Jayden Reed in the second round, Virginia’s Dontayvion Wicks in the fifth and Charlotte’s Grant DuBose in the seventh.

These six receivers could be Love’s core group over at least the next two seasons, when his contract extension expires. If things go well, it could be even longer, since none of those receivers hit free agency until after the 2025 season. By then, perhaps Love will have the kind of connections with a couple of these receivers that Rodgers had with the likes of Nelson and Jones, who played 16 seasons combined with Rodgers.

“We took some guys last year that I think have really did a nice job in their first year; we’re excited for their growth,” Gutekunst said. “So now I think we have a good nucleus of guys, pass-catchers to be able to grow with the quarterback. I think that’s important, and we’ll see how it goes.”

Same goes for the tight ends. For the first time in the common draft era (since 1967), the Packers took multiple tight ends within the first three rounds this year: Oregon State’s Luke Musgrave in the second and South Dakota State’s Tucker Kraft in the third.

“I don’t know if I’ve been part of a draft where we drafted two tight ends, so that’s exciting,” LaFleur said. “Both those guys are big, physical, fast. I thought we did pretty well right there.”

After losing Robert Tonyan to the Bears in free agency and not re-signing Marcedes Lewis, the only experienced tight ends on the roster were Josiah Deguara (2020 third-round pick) and Tyler Davis (signed in 2021).

The five receiver/tight end draft class for the Packers tied for their most in the common draft era.

“Anytime you’re going to have a quarterback that’s under center for the first time, you want to surround him with playmakers,” Packers vice president of player personnel Jon-Eric Sullivan said. “So that was definitely part of the conversation [during the draft].”

A veteran addition at receiver or tight end before the season isn’t out of the question, but at this point, it appears the Packers would prefer to let Love grow with a group that could be around for several seasons.

“There is a ton of youth, you look at just the skill position rooms in particular,” LaFleur said. “Obviously, up front, we’ve got some experience. With our running backs, we’ve got some experience. But it’s going to be interesting to see how much we can really put on these guys’ plates because typically I would say the more veteran you are, the more volume you can carry in your offense.

“So that’s going to be one of those things that we’re going to have to probably figure out throughout the course of OTAs and in training camp to kind of see how this offense goes.”