It’s a weird time to be a fan of the New York Jets. On one hand, it looks like Green Bay Packers Quarterback Aaron Rodgers will be joining the team soon. On the other, it’s looked like that for weeks and he’s still not officially on the team. As a fan of the New York Jets who also likes the NFL draft, this makes things really weird because we have to assume the Jets are making decisions as if Rodgers will be here even though he may or may not (but probably will be?) here at some point this offseason.
Within this article, we’re going to assume that he is coming and from there we’re going to evaluate the possibility that the Jets may take a wide receiver at pick 13 as many fans have called for.
Imporat, if Rodgers is coming, we may have to temper expectations for any rookie wideout. As detailed by Kalyn Kahler of The Athletic, rookie receivers have typically had a rather slow learning curve with Rodgers behind center. As succinctly summarized by Kahler in December:
From 2008-21, Rodgers’ era as the starter in Green Bay, the Packers drafted six receivers in the first four rounds: Jordy Nelson (second round, 2008), Randall Cobb (second round, 2011), Davante Adams (second round, 2014), Ty Montgomery (third round, 2015), J’Mon Moore (fourth round, 2018) and Amari Rodgers (third round, 2021). Those receivers finished their rookie years averaging 26.7 targets, 19.5 receptions, 230.5 receiving yards and 1.3 touchdown receptions.
To put it lightly, those numbers are “not good,” even though many of those players went on to exceptional NFL careers. As Kahler later explained, those numbers can also be described as “well below average” among rookie wideouts in the NFL.
In the same time span, the 31 other teams in the NFL drafted 219 wide receivers in the first four rounds who averaged nearly double the targets as Green Bay’s rookies in their first seasons (50.7), as well as 30.1 receptions, 400 receiving yards and 2.5 touchdowns.
Some may argue that this is merely an coincidence with little bearing beyond randomness. However, several of those who played receiver for Aaron Rodgers seem to disagree. Specifically, they cite the high expectations of Rodgers and the high sophistication of the offense that he runs (notably a very high level), which leads to a large leaning curve. And, notably, this isn’t learning curve isn’t limited to only rookies, but veterans such as Sammy Watkins; specifically, as recorded by Kahler:
According to veteran receiver Sammy Watkins, there are “two offenses in one” at play in Green Bay: Matt LaFleur’s scheme and all the tiny details Rodgers wants executed to perfection, “whether it is angle, yardage, eye, head or tempo.” Watkins, who signed with the Packers in April, said he finds himself confused sometimes despite eight-plus years of NFL experience.
“If you’re not up to date 100 percent of the time, you pretty much can’t go out there and make plays,” Watkins said. “You can’t really play fast, and I think that’s what the young guys kind of are — not afraid of — but if you’re just trying to do the right thing, you are not focusing on getting open, you are not focusing on releases. ”
For those considering this a “win now” season under Rodgers, this may be useful information regarding what to hope for on draft day. While those who play many positions may be able to make an immediate large impact, it does not appear to be in the cards for rookie wideouts who play for Rodgers. Additionally, based on Watkins’ quote, we may expect veteran receivers who are new to Aaron Rodgers (such as Garrett Wilson and Mecole Hardman) to have similar struggles early on.