How Marquez Valdes-Scantling can help the Packers by helping himself

The Power Sweep
A big year from Marquez Valdes-Scantling in 2021 could push the Packers to new heights — and bring the receiver big money.AP Photo/Matt Ludtke

Of all the pass catchers on the Packers’ roster, Marquez Valdes-Scantling has the most on the line in 2021.

Among the Packers’ expected top receivers, Davante Adams is in a contract year, but he’s made his money already — and figures to make a lot more on his next deal. Amari Rodgers has all the security that comes with being a 2021 draft pick. Allen Lazard has a while to go before he gets a real crack at free agency.

Further down the roster, Equanimeous St. Brown, Valdes-Scantling’s 2018 draft running mate, will likely be fighting for his football life this summer. LIkewise for Malik Taylor, Reggie Begelton, and a slew of other players that fall somewhere between “camp body” and “former camp body still trying to hang on.” And Devin Funchess, in the midst of a comeback of sorts, needs a reintroduction to the football world after what amounts to two years out of it.

But MVS is different, in part because of his tantalizing and still largely untapped athletic gifts, in part because he’s already been a substantial part of the Packers’ offense for three years. And not only has already played a substantive role, but he also figures to play a much bigger one when the Packers hit the field in 2021.

Accordingly, expectations for Valdes-Scantling should be sky-high this year, for two big reasons: what he means to the team, and what this season could mean for him personally.

Unlocking a new dimension of the Packers’ offense

Valdes-Scantling remains a uniquely valuable commodity on the Packers’ roster: he’s the only player that’s shown he can regularly get behind opposing defenses outside of schemed opportunities.

It’s true that Allen Lazard was, at one point, the most efficient receiver in football last year. Prior to his core muscle injury, the Packers turned to Lazard regularly for big plays down the field. The big-bodied receiver had at least one catch of 25 or more yards in each of the Packers’ first three games in 2021. But they came almost exclusively within the confines of the scheme, often as a result of motion or play-action or both.

Valdes-Scantling, though, created opportunities for himself through his scintillating speed. Few defensive backs can go stride for stride with the Packers’ certified track star, and heaven help the linebacker who tries to do the same. Just ask Danny Trevathan how that works out.

But while Valdes-Scantling’s speed is tantalizing, his inconsistency has been equally frustrating. As often as he burns a linebacker or sprints past a defensive back, he drops passes, fails to square off routes, and generally plays without focus. In other words, Marquez giveth, but Marquez just as frequently taketh away.

With precious little in the way of deep threats on the roster, the Packers desperately need their speedster to add consistency to his already impressive list of attributes. If he can do that, Valdes-Scantling could unlock an even more explosive element of the Packers’ already dynamic offense.

A big payday could be on the way

He has every reason to make sure he does just that. Though Davante Adams figures to cash in the more impressive deal, Valdes-Scantling stands poised to collect a tidy sum of his own in the very near future, whether it’s from the Packers or somebody else.

Consider this: Robby Anderson, another willowy speedster, collected a two-year, $20 million deal from the Carolina Panthers in 2020 after four fairly successful seasons with the New York Jets. Anderson, whose 4.36-second speed in the 40-yard dash actually surpasses MVS’s 4.38, is considered a dangerous deep threat, and that reputation showed even on some bad Jets teams. He averaged 14.9, 15, and 15 yards per catch each of his final three seasons in New York.

But Valdes-Scantling, who has never received the statistical bump that comes with being the top option in an offense, has never averaged less than 15.3 yards per catch, and topped out at a truly astounding 20.8 yards per grab in 2020.

Those numbers are partly a function of his role in the offense and, to be fair, they could drop if he was targeted more often. But it’s easy to imagine a general manager from another NFL team looking at the box score and salivating over what a 6-4 receiver with blistering speed could do for his roster.

Valdes-Scantling surely knows this, and should therefore be doing everything he can to make a successful season in 2021 a reality. He stands to rake in a major windfall if he can make it happen, and the Packers can reap the rewards along the way.

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