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Unpacking Future Packers: No. 46 Dez Fitzpatrick

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Next up in the Unpacking a Future Packers countdown is Dez Fitzpatrick. The Louisville wide receiver checks in at number 46 in the countdown.

The NFL Draft is all about long-term projection, not year one results. A player that the Green Bay Packers could invest in on day three of the draft this year is Louisville wide receiver, Dez Fitzpatrick

Fitzpatrick, a four-star recruit out of Michigan averaged 16.8 yards per reception during his time with the Cardinals. As a redshirt freshman in 2017, Fitzpatrick caught a career-high 45 receptions for 699 yards and a career-high nine touchdowns. 

The following season Fitzpatrick posted 422 receiving yards and three touchdowns. As a junior, he recorded 635 receiving yards for six touchdowns and averaged 18.1 yards per reception. 

In 11 games this past season, Fitzpatrick caught 43 receptions for 833 yards and three touchdowns, while averaging 19.4 yards per reception.

Fitzpatrick never quite put it all together during his time at Louisville. He struggled to consistently produce at a high-level. 

For example, this past season he caught 11 passes for 184 yards and one touchdown in the first two games. During the next four games he caught just six passes for 101 yards and no touchdowns. 

“Fitzpatrick never felt like a player that reached his potential as an overall player,” Max Owens, the site expert for bigredlouie.com said. “There was buzz about him coming in as a freshman, but I’m not sure he ever reached the peak that many thought he could. He grew as a person and never complained about the lack of targets. He’s a fan favorite for sure.”

The first thing that jumps out about Fitzpatricks’ game is his route running ability. He can route routes at every level of the field. Fitzpatrick shows an understanding of timing in his release and routes. 

“Route running is his greatest strength,” Owens said. “It doesn’t matter where it is on the field. He has great awareness of finding open pockets in zones and he’s very deceptive as a route runner for someone that has modest twitch in short areas. His gear-down on comeback routes or sit-downs is impressive and creates a lot of space. He’s really put in a lot of work here to remain as effective as possible.”

Fitzpatrick isn’t the most dynamic guy with the ball in his hands. However, he does have some juice after the catch. With his size (6’2) and physicality, he can drag defenders with him as he churns out extra yards after initial contact.

“I actually think he’s a bit underrated here,” Owens said. “He’s not going to make anyone miss in a phone booth, but he uses his physicality to his advantage with stiff arms and great open field vision to make the most of his receptions. He was effective at catching screens at the line of scrimmage and creating yards off of it.”

Fitzpatrick’s hands, like the rest of his game, can be inconsistent. He does a good job of tracking the ball in flight. He will make a spectacular catch on one play. Then a few plays later he’ll have a frustrating drop.

That maddening inconsistency was on display during the Senior Bowl game. Fitzpatrick put together a strong game, catching six passes, but he also had a drop. 

“His hands are inconsistent,” Owens said. “He had a decent drop rate at Louisville despite making some of the more remarkable catches in college the past four years. He does pluck the ball as a hands catcher. But he has some focus drop issues.”

Matt LaFleur demands that his wide receivers be willing blockers. This is an area where Fitzpatrick shines. He uses his strength and length to bully cornerbacks out on the boundary. 

“He brings his hard hat and really prides himself here,” Owens said. “There’s plenty of effort plays and times where he moves bodies as a blocker. He’s very solid in this area.”

Fit with the Packers

Fitzpatrick was a player at Louisville that could never quite put it all together and become the dominant force that many expected him to develop into. 

However, he closed out his collegiate career by posting 60 or more receiving yards in the final five games. During that five-game stretch, Fitzpatrick had two 100-yard games and caught 26 passes for 548 yards and two touchdowns. 

Fitzpatrick built off that momentum during Senior Bowl week in Mobile, Ala. Fitzpatrick reportedly had a strong week of practice and earned Offensive Player of the Game after finishing with six receptions for 90 yards.

Fitzpatrick is a player that could be a better professional than college player. He has the athleticism, size, and skill-set to develop into a bonafide playmaker playing alongside a wide receiver like Davante Adams and catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.

“Route running, ball skills, and good character,” Owens said. “He’s never going to be a headache in a locker room and, as one of Louisville’s locker room leaders, I expect nothing less than him trying to learn whatever he can in the playbook or as a player at the next level. Coaches will love how he’s already learned the intricate parts of the game as a route runner with great ball skills and never complained about targets at Louisville.”

Do the Packers need help at wide receiver? That’s up for debate. They’re fresh off a season in which they were the No. 1 scoring offense in the league. 

Davante Adams is the best wide receiver in the NFL. Marquez Valdes-Scantling continued to battle consistency issues. Allen Lazard, when healthy was serviceable.

If you pull the curtain back on the situation and you’ll find out that Adams and Valdes-Scantling are both free agents following the 2021-2022 season.

The Packers need to start restocking the talent inside the wide receiver cupboard at 1265 Lombardi Avenue. Fitzpatrick could be a day three target for the Packers as they look to strengthen the wide receiver depth chart. 

 

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