Could Jayden Reed emerge as Packers' WR1 this season?

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Jaire Alexander can be prone to hyperbole. At this time last year, it was the Green Bay Packers' cornerback who interrupted one of Jordan Love's news conferences to tell those assembled that Love is "the best QB in the league."

By the end of last season, it would have been hard to argue with Alexander.

Now, he might be setting the stage for something big in receiver Jayden Reed's second season.

"He has full potential," Alexander said recently. "He reminds me of a young Randall Cobb."

And then Alexander leaned in closer and whispered, "But he's, I think, better."

"He's hungry," Alexander added. "When you've got a young guy coming in and hungry for the ball, I mean, they're going to make their plays, and you see it."

While so much of the offseason attention on the Packers' offense has been focused on the running back swap from Aaron Jones to Josh Jacobs and the quest to solve the recurring hamstring injuries that have slowed receiver Christian Watson, Reed might have the best chance to emerge as their biggest playmaker.

This after a record-setting rookie season in which Reed:

  • Set a franchise rookie record with 64 catches for a team-high 793 yards

  • Became the first rookie to lead the team in catches and receiving yards since Sterling Sharpe in 1988.

  • Tied for the team lead with eight touchdown catches

  • Had 10 total touchdowns, third highest by a rookie in team history

The comparison of Reed to Cobb is natural; both were second-round picks, primarily slot receivers who also carried the ball on a variety of jet sweeps and end arounds, and they have returned kicks.

Cobb wasn't asked to do nearly as much as Reed as a rookie. As a second-round pick in 2011, he joined a loaded skill group that featured Jordy Nelson, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley. He ranked seventh on the team in catches as a rookie with 25.

In Year 2, Cobb led the team with 80 catches and 984 yards with nine touchdowns (eight receiving and one on a punt return). In Year 4, he amassed career-bests in yards (1,287) and catches (91). Cobb is in the Packers' record book with the fifth-most career receptions (532) and the 10th-most touchdown catches (47).

While the Packers haven't had a true No. 1 receiver since they traded Davante Adams to the Raiders in 2022, they found a cadre of capable pass-catchers last season, when their top-four receivers (Reed, Romeo Doubs, Watson and Dontayvion Wicks) were all either in their first or second pro seasons.

"Man, we've got so many guys in our room, you never know what could happen," Reed said. "Somebody could go for a 100 [yards] every week."

Doubs was the most-targeted receiver last season (96), while Watson (15.1 yards per catch) and Wicks (14.9) had the highest yards-per-catch averages. But it was Reed who had the most touches among the pass-catchers -- a total of 75, including 11 rushes (with a 10.8-yard average and two touchdowns).

"Yeah, he does a lot," Love said. "Just the explosive playmaker he is, he's the guy that can win inside in the slot position for us and does a lot of really good things.

"Obviously you see what happens when he gets the ball in his hands. And then just the progression he's made throughout the season last year, since when he got here, and then obviously now he's making even more strides. So he's a phenomenal player, and obviously I think he's going to have a bigger role this year."

To prepare for that, Reed spent part of the offseason with Wicks in Ft. Lauderdale, Florida. It was something they decided to do even before their rookie season ended. They were there from early February until the offseason program started in Green Bay on April 15.

"We were going to the same spot," Wicks said. "So working out in the same spot would've been the best thing to do."

Packers passing game coordinator Jason Vrable, who last year coached the receivers, let slip that Reed and Wicks not only trained together this offseason but also lived together in a rental -- something Vrable thought was a tremendous idea.

"I think the first offseason, sometimes when you see growth is because they really get to hone-in on their football skills," said Vrable, who served as receivers coach last season. "There's no [college] class. There's not [pre-draft] visits. It is football 24/7, and he's in great shape right now, and I'm just excited to see where this offseason and season goes for him."

Whether that means Reed emerges as a legitimate No. 1 receiver or the Packers continue to spread the ball around remains to be seen. But there are those around the league who believe Reed could be the NFL's next 100-catch receiver if the Packers so choose to feature him.

"I mean, I've never had a 100 catches in my whole career of football," Reed said. "But definitely there's a lot of ways to get me the ball. Running bubbles out of the backfield, in the slot, outside if you want it.

"But no doubt about it, I think if any coordinator wanted to, they could get a player the ball however many times they want. I think any receiver could have 100. That's just my perspective."