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Packers’ investment in young pass-catchers paying off

Packers’ investment in young pass-catchers paying off

“Pre-draft picture” is a position-by-position look at the Packers’ roster heading into the 2024 NFL Draft. The series continues with the receivers and tight ends.

GREEN BAY – The Packers took a risk when they went historically young at both receiver and tight end last year, but commitment to the future of their skill positions paid off in unprecedented fashion.

On the heels of a 2022 draft that landed Christian Watson and Romeo Doubs, Green Bay used four of its first seven picks last spring on receivers Jayden Reed (second round, 50th overall) and Dontayvion Wicks (fifth, No. 159) and tight ends Luke Musgrave (second, No. 42) and Tucker Kraft (third, No. 78).

The results were nearly overwhelming.

Reed broke the franchise’s single-season record with 64 catches. Musgrave and Kraft partnered with college free agent Ben Sims to become the first trio of Packers tight ends to catch touchdowns in the same rookie season. Wicks was Green Bay’s third-leading receiver and led the team with 18 “explosive” catches of at least 16 yards.

The four combined for 168 receptions, 2,081 yards and 15 touchdowns, setting the table for a potentially big season for an offense that returns almost everyone at wideout and tight end in 2024.

With 793 receiving yards, Reed became just the sixth rookie in team history to lead Green Bay in the category since 1932. He also was the first rookie in NFL history to finish with 60-plus catches, 750-plus receiving yards, eight-plus receiving TDs, 100-plus rushing yards and at least two rushing TDs.

Wicks wasn’t far off his 2023 draft classmate’s pace, tallying 39 receptions and 581 receiving yards. His ability to gain separation contributed to 29 of Wicks’ catches going for first down while his 46.2% explosive-catch percentage ranked fourth in the NFL among players with two-plus catches a game.

It complemented the contributions of Watson and Doubs, who have been offensive catalysts. Over the past two seasons, the two have combined for 220 receptions for 2,132 yards. Watson’s 12 receiving TDs and Doubs’ 11 rank first and second among the 2022 draft class.

Tasked with leading a young room, the 24-year-old Doubs played in all 17 regular-season games and bettered his stats across the board: 59 catches for 674 yards and eight TDs, which tied Reed for the team lead.

Doubs’ steadiness and the rookies’ unexpected production made up for…

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