3 Quick Things: Jayden Reed

General manager Brian Gutekunst had drafted seven wide receivers before he selected Jayden Reed late last month, and none of them weighed less than 195 pounds. That’s why it was kinda surprising to hear the former Michigan State star’s name come out of LeRoy Butler’s mouth when the Hall of Famer announced the pick from the podium in Kansas City.

Reed weighs 187 pounds, and to be honest, he looks even smaller. But he possesses above-average quickness into and out of cuts and is elusive in the open field, which makes him different from most of the other seven receivers drafted by Gutekunst.

Because I focused on the bigger wide receivers leading up to the draft, I didn’t know much about Reed. I spent the past few days analyzing his tape from last season, and here are my three biggest takeaways about the Packers’ smallest pass catcher:

1) Head coach and play caller Matt LaFleur is going to have to be very creative. He can’t just station Reed in the slot or outside and expect him to consistently beat NFL corners, especially bigger ones who like to get physical at the line of scrimmage. While Reed should improve his release under the tutelage of respected wide receivers coach Jason Vrable, he’s always going to be susceptible to being knocked off his route by players who outweigh him by at least 15 pounds. Michigan State offensive coordinator Jay Johnson did a very good job the last few seasons of moving Reed around. He often lined him up in the backfield, sent him in motion just before the ball was snapped, or employed him in bunch formations.

2) Reed has the potential to be one of the premier punt returners in the league. He makes intelligent decisions, catches the ball effortlessly, and possesses tremendous vision and elusiveness in the open field. He averaged over 15 yards on 38 returns in college and scored three touchdowns. There were many times on tape when Reed reminded me of Desmond Howard, whose dominance on special teams helped the Packers bring home the Lombardi Trophy in 1996. Paired with All-Pro Keisean Nixon, who is better at returning kicks than punts, Green Bay should have the most effective 1-2 punch in the league when it comes to shortening the field, which would be very helpful for an offense with an inexperienced quarterback.

This punt return against Wisconsin was nullified due to a penalty, but Reed’s rare ability to see the field and elude defenders is on full display.

3) The Packers have enjoyed great success with wide receivers drafted in the second round. Greg Jennings (2006), Jordy Nelson (2008), Randall Cobb (2011), and Davante Adams (2014) caught 2,176 passes for 28,822 yards and 242 touchdowns and went to 10 Pro Bowls while playing in Green Bay. Rookie Christian Watson (2022) flashed that kind of potential late last season. I fully expected Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, and Adams to be stars after watching their college tape but didn’t feel the same way about Reed. While there are several receivers his size doing big things in the league – Philadelphia’s DeVonta Smith and Miami’s Tyreek Hill come to mind immediately – most are faster and more explosive into and out of cuts.

VERDICT: Selecting Reed in the middle of the second round was a reach, even in a weak draft. He should be useful on offense if used correctly and impactful on special teams, but the odds of him becoming even a high-end No. 2 receiver aren’t very good. While it’s probably a bit harsh to call Reed a poor man’s Randall Cobb, that’s the best way to describe him.

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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

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May 10, 2023 2:18 pm

Thanks, Michael. This is why your site is so valuable. No one else is doing this kind of in-depth analysis. While it’s a bit disappointing your take on Reed, your honesty is appreciated. I know that your take on Watson last year was a bit off, so I’m hoping for the same thing this year!

Reply to  Michael Rodney
May 11, 2023 8:33 am

Well, you nailed it on your analysis of Kevin King. And so far it looks like you had decent takes on Savage and Stokes. So it does seem like you’ve got a pretty good sense for the backend. As a Packers fan, I’m just hoping you’re wrong, at least partially (great to know of his return ability), on Reed being a reach.

Bryan Johnson
Bryan Johnson
May 10, 2023 7:59 pm

Michael – it was reported that Reed dominated one of the draft prep games (senior bowl, maybe?). Do you put any stock into senior bowl performance giving more reason for optimism vs his college tape? Or do you generally think college tape is generally more telling about a players transition to the pro level?

May 11, 2023 3:24 pm

Big Sparty fan here. Reed was one of my favorite players the past few seasons, but I didn’t think he’d be drafted so early. I thought he’d be a good pick for some team in the third or fourth round, but I’m not complaining. He’ll be fun to watch and root for.

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