For the first time in 15 years, the Green Bay Packers will begin the season with someone other than Aaron Rodgers under center.
The veteran quarterback’s departure leaves backup Jordan Love as Green Bay’s signal-caller, and he will be throwing to a much different group of pass-catchers.
Gone are wide receivers Allen Lazard and Randall Cobb and tight end Robert Tonyan, who combined for 157 catches and 1,675 receiving yards with Aaron Rodgers under center in 2022.
Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst addressed the team’s offensive needs by adding three wide receivers and a pair of tight ends in the 2023 NFL Draft.
Jayden Reed, a second-round pick out of Michigan State, figures to settle in as Green Bay’s third receiver behind second-year players Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, but the battle for the remaining stops remains wide open.
Fifth-rounder Dontayvion Wicks from Virginia has great size but inconsistent hands, while Charlotte WR Grant Dubose — a seventh-round addition — offers above-average athleticism.
The team also returns Samori Toure, a seventh rounder in 2022 who appeared in 11 games during his rookie year and caught five passes.
This leaves the door open for free-agent additions and undrafted free agents.
Green Bay added two more rookie receivers after the draft: Ole Miss WR Malik Heath and Tulane wideout Duece Watts, both of whom should get extended looks, given the uncertainty in the franchise’s receiving options.
Last season, none of the Packers’ 14 undrafted free agents made the final roster, though offensive tackle Caleb Jones and running back Tyler Goodson earned practice squad invites and later received promotions to the active roster.
If any undrafted free agent makes the squad this year, it will be Malik Heath.
Like many of the wideouts the Packers picked up on draft day, Heath has the frame (6-2, 213 pounds) to be a great possession receiver.
MALIK HEATH OH MY GOODNESS #SCTop10 pic.twitter.com/VUB0bQfnTH
— Ole Miss Football (@OleMissFB) December 29, 2022
Playing under head coach Lane Kiffin, Heath had 60 catches for 971 yards and five touchdowns during his senior season, earning Second Team All-SEC honors while finishing top five in the conference in both catches and yards.
Athletically, his 4.64 40-yard dash time and 4.46 seconds mark in the 20-yard shuttle drill (1oth percentile and 7th percentile, respectively among wide receivers historically at the combine) are underwhelming, but Heath makes up for these shortcomings with his polished route running.
“Heath runs precise routes,” writes NFLDraftBuzz.com, “showing an innate feel for setting up defensive backs to create separation.”
Players like Cooper Kupp (4.62 40-yard dash time) have proven that straight-line speed and route-running speed are not always correlated, paving the way for receivers who might not have the most desirable test numbers.
Heath can still improve as a pass-catcher- scouts want to see Heath be more effective using his big frame to box out defenders and make more snags with his hands rather than his body.
Per Pro Football Network, Heath’s contested catch rate last year was 36.1%, well below the 50-60% level demonstrated by elite possessions receivers in the NFL, but not a tall ask given the Ole Miss product’s potential.
Most of the Packers’ receiving additions this off-season were big downfield targets- and Heath must prove that he is able to be a consistent big-play outlet for Jordan Love.
Malik Heath is a low-risk, high-reward undrafted free agent with considerable upside who could easily be the Packers’ fifth wide receiver when the NFL season begins, and has the potential to become a solid option for Jordan Love down the road.
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Courtesy : https://clutchpoints.com/packers-undrafted-free-agent-roster-rookie-minicamp