Packers film room: Offense getting an exciting piece in WR Jayden Reed

The Green Bay Packers entered the 2023 draft needing to add a dynamic receiver to their offense, and they may have accomplished the task with their second-round selection of Jayden Reed.

Reed’s college career began at Western Michigan, where he hauled in 56 receptions for 797 yards and 8 touchdowns as a true freshman. He then transferred a little over an hour away to Michigan State. Unfortunately, the NCAA’s transfer rules forced Reed to sit out a year, but he eventually picked up where he left off against tougher competition in the Big Ten. In three seasons with the Spartans, Reed finished with 147 catches for 2,069 receiving yards and 18 touchdowns.

Despite being undersized and falling below some of their athletic thresholds, Reed’s skill set and production were too impressive for the Packers to pass up.

After trading back twice in the second round, Green Bay took Reed with the 50th overall pick. Standing at 5-11 and 187 pounds, you would think he is an ideal fit for the Packers’ slot vacancy. However, the team’s Director of Player Personnel, Jon-Eric Sullivan, described a player who is much more versatile.

“He’s strong, and he’s fast,” Sullivan said following the selection. “To simplify it, he’s got exceptional strength for a smaller framed player, and he can run. He’s got good tempo, and the clock showed it. I believe we had him at 4.37. But more importantly, he plays fast. He’s got good tempo, and he’s quick. He can get in and out of breaks. Obviously, outside the numbers, the speed comes into play, but on the inside, he’s strong and can get in and out of breaks to create separation.”

Green Bay was much higher on Reed than the NFL Consensus Board, which ranked him 89th out of 587 players. Why? Sullivan’s explanation does offer some insight, but it would be much more telling to see it visually. So, we are doing a deep dive into Reed’s game by examining the tape. For this breakdown, we will be looking at film from four performances over the last two seasons:

2021 vs Michigan: 6 receptions, 80 receiving yards, 0 touchdowns

2022 @ Illinois: 5 receptions, 68 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

2022 vs Wisconsin: 9 receptions, 117 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

2022 vs Maryland: 7 receptions, 61 receiving yards, 1 touchdown

By the end, we should know more about what the Packers see in Reed.

What he can do

Rarely is size an issue for Reed when he can overcome it with his hand strength and leaping ability. In college, he caught 50 percent of his contested catches, which is why the quarterback has enough faith to throw him a goal-line fade in a big moment. This completion came on a two-point conversion to tie the game in the fourth quarter.

Here is another example showing Reed using his elusiveness and play strength to force a missed tackle. It also shows how he can be effective when working underneath against zone coverage.

As previously mentioned, Reed’s speed is one of his best weapons, but he marries it well with his shiftiness as a route runner. He can set defenders up with jukes and stutter steps before using his acceleration to create separation.

Here is another slot fade but against Dax Hill, now a safety for the Cincinnati Bengals. Notice how uses his left hand to fight over the top and gain leverage. There are a lot of nuances to Reed’s game when you look closely.

Look no further than Reed’s run-blocking to see his tenacity. He’s not only willing but attacks defenders with great enthusiasm. That’s the kind of attitude Green Bay wants.

That said, he can be much more than just a decoy. Reed is a great candidate for screens, as he can use his speed and vision to follow blocks and turn the corner.

Let’s finish off with a few more plays highlighting Reed’s elite ball skills. In this play, we see the quarterback being flushed out of the pocket and running toward the sideline. Reed sees this and changes direction to flow with the QB while still trying to get open. The pass is awkward and too far inside, but it doesn’t matter. Reed shows incredible concentration and competitive toughness to fight for the ball while also getting two feet inbounds. This play speaks to three key areas for receivers: mental processing, body control, and ball skills. Reed has them all.

Speaking of impressive grabs, it doesn’t get any better than this game-winner against Wisconsin. In overtime, the quarterback throws a jump ball to Reed, who goes up to high-point the ball over the corner. In Reed’s eyes, every ball is his ball, which is a must-have mindset for a receiver.

We’ve looked at some things Reed does well, but he isn’t a perfect prospect. Now let’s discuss some things he needs to improve upon.

What needs work

This should have been an easy catch.

Reed has proven that he can beat press coverage (77.8% success rate), but there are times when he struggles against physical corners who can run with him. The corner does a nice job of staying in-phase on this go route and forcing an incompletion. However, Reed could have helped himself at the line of scrimmage. He sometimes takes the easy release and only plays in one gear. In this instance, he should have changed the cadence of his release with a number of options. Reed could have slow-played it or worked the stem inside to open up the sideline. He also could have used a hard inside plant or juke move to open up the outside release.

This is what I mean. Notice how he doesn’t rush into the route and takes his time to use a stutter step to freeze the defender. It ends up paying off as he can now use his acceleration to separate for an easy catch. When receivers vary their release patterns, it makes a noticeable difference. Reed should get better at this over time.

Bonus clip

A touchdown pass? Really? Reed’s playmaking ability knows no bounds.


Michigan State’s Jayden Reed celebrates after his touchdown catch

By now, hopefully, it is clear why the Packers were so high on Reed. He is an explosive receiver with some nuance that you don’t see from many rookies. His play speed, ball skills, route running, and separation quickness are just some of the things that could help him be a productive player in Green Bay.

He can play inside and outside, which makes him a great fit for LaFleur’s offense. Not only will he get schemed open, but he can get himself open with pure athleticism. Oh, and he is a tenacious blocker.

Is Reed a tad undersized? Yes, but the film shows a player who isn’t afraid to be physical and doesn’t let his size define him. If he’s not beating guys downfield or winning contested catches, he is making people miss with the ball in his hands.

It’s been a while since the Packers have had a receiver this versatile and with this much polish entering the league. Outside of size limitations, all of his flaws are fixable. In my opinion, Reed has a legit chance to continue Green Bay’s long-standing tradition of drafting second-round receivers and developing them into great players.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire