Better, worse or the same? Answers on Packers' offense might surprise

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Graziano has a bold prediction for Jordan Love and the Packers (1:10)

Dan Graziano makes a bold prediction that Packers 1st-round draft pick Jordan Love will win more Super Bowls than Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. (1:10)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Better, worse or the same? That’s the question about the Green Bay Packers -- a team that was one game away from the Super Bowl last season -- now that the NFL draft is over and the bulk of free agents have been signed.

Rather than offering an overarching answer about the roster as it stands, it’s more telling to examine it piece by piece, position by position.

So here’s a look at each group on offense with an answer to that question, starting with the most talked-about position on the team this offseason after the Packers declined to draft a receiver:

Receivers

Additions: Devin Funchess (unrestricted free agent), Reggie Begelton (CFL), Darrell Stewart (rookie free agent)

Losses: Geronimo Allison (Lions), Ryan Grant (unsigned)

Returners: Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Jake Kumerow, Equanimeous St. Brown, Darrius Shepherd, Malik Taylor

Better, worse or the same? Better

How can they possibly be better if they didn’t take a single receiver when a record 36 of them were picked on draft weekend and Adams was the only one who caught more than 35 passes last season? Consider this: St. Brown did not play at all last season; he was on injured reserve because of a preseason ankle injury, so that’s like getting a sixth-round pick (his draft position in 2018) with a year’s experience. As a rookie, St. Brown posted an impressive 15.6-yard average on 21 catches without a drop. He had five of his 21 catches from the slot, where the Packers tried Allison last season without any luck.

Drops plagued Allison, with one every 3.8 games, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Funchess, a value signing at $2.5 million, has drop problems, too, but he’s better (one every 4.4 games in his career) than Allison. The wild card is Begelton, who put up monster numbers in Canada (102 catches for 1,444 yards and 10 touchdowns) last season for Calgary and was a coveted player in the futures market after the CFL season. Valdes-Scantling had a disappointing season in 2019, but Aaron Rodgers said recently he’s “a guy who I have a ton of confidence in." Rodgers’ connection with Lazard (35 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns) should only grow.

“For them to not pick a guy early on to me says they really like our guys and have faith in them,” Rodgers said. “It all starts with Davante and his abilities. He’s a dynamic player. When you have a dynamic guy like that, he opens up the field for the rest of the guys. That’s where you saw guys like Allen Lazard make big strides, you saw Jake make big plays, you saw MVS have games where he was a big factor for us. I’m excited about seeing EQ back in the mix and then adding Devin, a veteran guy who’s made plays in the league for a number of years and is hungry. I feel really good about that group and obviously the front office did as well.”

Running backs

Additions: AJ Dillon (second-round pick), Patrick Taylor (rookie free agent), FB Jordan Jones (rookie free agent)

Losses: FB Danny Vitale (Patriots)

Returners: Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, Tyler Ervin, Dexter Williams, Damarea Crockett

Better, worse or the same? Better

Dillon was a surprising pick but one that makes sense long term, especially if Jones and Williams -- both entering their final contract years -- aren’t back in 2021. Coach Matt LaFleur said after the season he felt they needed a third back, and it makes sense for multiple reasons: Jones finally played a full season but who knows if he can do it again and what are the chances he goes off again for 1,500-plus total yards and 19 touchdowns? The powerful, 247-pound Dillon gained 934 of his 1,685 yards after contact, according to ESPN Stats & Information. Just seven backs in all of college football had more yards after contact last season. Plus, the Packers plan to utilize Ervin even more than they did last season after he joined the team in the final month.

“That’s a really exciting room right now,” offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said. “You’ve got Aaron and Jamaal. You got Swerve [Ervin]. You got a lot of different people there. It’s going to be interesting to see how we utilize all those things. I’m excited to think about that a whole bunch and get to know them.”

Tight ends

Additions: Josiah Deguara (third-round pick)

Losses: Jimmy Graham (Bears)

Returners: Marcedes Lewis, Jace Sternberger, Robert Tonyan, Evan Baylis, James Looney

Better, worse or the same? The same

It’s addition by subtraction with Graham. Not only did the Packers dump an underachieving player, but they saved salary-cap space. Still, it’s hard to say the Packers are better because of all the unknowns. They’ve invested third-round picks in each of the past two years on Sternberger and Deguara, both of whom fit better with LaFleur’s Kyle Shanahan-influenced offense than Graham did. In Deguara, they see a role similar to how the 49ers use Kyle Juszczyk. Sternberger didn’t play until late in his rookie year because of injuries but caught a touchdown pass in the NFC title game.

“I love Josiah,” LaFleur said. “He is extremely versatile. The thing he brings to our offense is we can be in the same personnel grouping, and we can line him up on the line of scrimmage or in a wing alignment or we can line him up in the backfield. I just think that adds stress to a defense in terms of how are these guys going to line up and what exactly they’re going to do.”

Quarterbacks

Additions: Jordan Love (first-round pick), Jalen Morton (undrafted rookie)

Losses: None

Returners: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle

Better, worse or the same? Better

How can a team not be better off with a first-round pick at the position? Only if it causes a problem with the starter. But Rodgers’ public comments on the matter suggest that won’t be an issue. And if something were to happen to Rodgers, wouldn’t they be better off with a first-round pick filling in if he's the backup?

Offensive line

Additions: Rick Wagner (free agent), Jon Runyan (sixth round), Jake Hanson (sixth round), Simon Stepaniak (sixth round), Travis Bruffy (rookie free agent), Zack Johnson (rookie free agent)

Losses: Bryan Bulaga (Chargers), Jared Veldheer (unsigned)

Returners: David Bakhtiari, Elgton Jenkins, Corey Linsley, Billy Turner, Lucas Patrick, Lane Taylor, John Leglue, Alex Light, Cole Madison, Cody Conway, Yosh Nijman

Better, worse or the same? Worse

Bulaga never made a Pro Bowl, but that’s the curse of the right tackle. He ranked fifth among all NFL tackles in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate over the past three seasons. But his price tag (three years, $30 million) was too high for his age (31) and his injury history (two torn ACLs). Wagner (two years, $11 million) ranked 32nd among all tackles in the pass block metric over the past three years. The Packers haven’t proclaimed him their starting right tackle yet but what other options do they have? Moving Turner is a possibility, but he was a middling starter at right guard last year.

Thursday: Defense