Where Does Devin Funchess Fit in the Packers' Wide Receiver Picture?

The Power Sweep

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Packers wide receiver Devin Funchess is back with the team after opting out of the 2020 season due to concerns over COVID-19.Keith Allison/Flickr

The Packers have an unusual problem: they have a bit of a log jam at wide receiver.

This sort of numbers problem hasn’t been an issue in Green Bay in years, but it’s the reality. The Packers currently have seven receivers on the roster who appeared in at least one game last season, in addition to adding third-round pick Amari Rodgers to the mix. They’ve also signed undrafted free agent rookie Bailey Gaither and brought Chris Blair to the roster via a reserve/futures contract in January. Regardless of how you feel about the talent level, that’s a pretty stocked cupboard.

Enter Devin Funchess, who returns to the Packers after opting out of the 2020 season due to the COVID-19 pandemic. What can the 26-year-old offer after a year away?

What is Devin Funchess as a player?

The answer is complicated, and it’s partly due to the recent turns in his still fairly young career.

A 2015 second-round pick, Funchess played four solid but unspectacular seasons for the Carolina Panthers, peaking statistically in 2017. That year, he recorded 63 catches for 840 yards and eight touchdowns, career highs in each category.

2017 was also one of only two seasons to date in which Funchess played every regular-season game. He missed two games in 2018, his final year with the Panthers, before signing a one-year deal with the Colts. His Colts stint ended virtually as soon as it started, though. Funchess broke his collarbone in his first game with Indianapolis, and although he returned to practice late in the season, he never played for the Colts again.

The Panthers frequently deployed Funchess as an enormous slot receiver, putting him there on about 20% of his snaps in both 2017 and 2018. There, the former college tight end used his 6-4, 225-pound frame to outmuscle smaller defenders. He was particularly potent in the red zone throughout the duration of his Panthers’ career: 16 of his 21 career touchdowns came in that area of the field.

It’s easy to see Funchess’ appeal to the Packers. His usage is fairly similar to how the Packers have utilized Allen Lazard, another big-bodied receiver with tight end-like tendencies. Had he played last season (and made the team), the Packers likely would have put Funchess on the field to fill a similar role, offering a big counterpart to either Davante Adams or Marquez Valdes-Scantling.

Where does Devin Funchess fit on the 2021 Packers?

That would have been the case in 2020. A year later, is it still true?

Maybe, but as we pointed out at the beginning of this piece, Funchess is in a bit of a numbers crunch. The Packers are bringing back a bunch of players who already had roles (however small) on last year’s team. Adding a third-round pick complicates the picture even further. Just for Funchess to get on the field, he’ll have to displace someone who spent time on it last year.

That’s not a big hurdle in some respects. Funchess will enter the season ahead of Juwann Winfree, Bailey Gaither, Chris Blair, Reggie Begelton, and perhaps even Equanimeous St. Brown on the depth chart. But beyond that, who would the Packers take off the field to make room for Funchess?

Davante Adams isn’t coming off the field for Funchess. Neither is Marquez Valdes-Scantling, whose game-breaking speed is unique on the roster. Presumably, Funchess could flip-flop with Allen Lazard on occasion, but that’s a trickier wicket than most might realize. Lazard’s role on the team is quite specific, not dissimilar to Funchess’ on the Panthers. The Packers will be weighing whether that role is more valuable than that of, say, Amari Rodgers, who will be stretching defenses horizontally in a Tyler Ervin-style role.

Where does that leave Funchess, then? His path forward looks limited, and if he can’t contribute on special teams, he may end up on the outside looking in.

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