How the 102nd best rookie WR and a guy with 1 catch could make Packers

Darrius Shepherd, right, and Allen Lazard "have put themselves in position to get out on the field and show what they can do," says Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett. Will Newton/Getty Images

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Allen Lazard and Darrius Shepherd aren't just nice little feel-good training camp stories anymore.

Not as the preseason enters its final week and the two receivers look like legitimate candidates to survive the Green Bay Packers' final cuts.

And it might not be a one-or-the-other scenario; the Packers could keep them both.

What are the odds that Shepherd, who not only wasn't drafted but also wasn't signed in the initial wave of college free agency, and Lazard, who has one NFL catch on his resume, would make an NFL team's opening-day roster -- let alone the same NFL team's roster?

"Those guys have put themselves in position to get out on the field and show what they can do and they're both making some plays here and there," Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett said after the second preseason game. "We've just got to keep them developing."

The third preseason game against the Raiders in Winnipeg, where none of the starters played, showed more of the same.

Shepherd's over-the-shoulder 22-yard grab led to a three-catch, 40-yard game, while Lazard snagged consecutive passes for 11 and 13 yards on the 2-minute drive to end the first half before he had to be helped off the field after landing awkwardly in the second half. Lazard ended up in the concussion protocol, the Packers said on Sunday.

When it comes to roster locks at receiver, there's Davante Adams, Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Geronimo Allison and almost certainly Jake Kumerow.

Then there's Trevor Davis, who showed his value against the Raiders with more than 100 all-purpose yards.

That's five receivers. Last year, eight survived the cut to 53, although by the end of Week 1 Kumerow and Davis were placed on injured reserve (and returned later in the season).

Equanimeous St. Brown, who looked like a good bet to make it, suffered a left high ankle sprain against the Raiders and could miss up to six weeks.

That leaves anywhere from one to three more receiver spots on the initial 53 and with last year's fourth-round pick J'Mon Moore still battling the drops, he looks like a long shot at best.

Here's a look at Lazard and Shepherd:

Lazard: One play, one catch

Lazard's NFL career consists of exactly one snap. He ran an in-breaking route in the fourth quarter of last year's regular-season finale at Lambeau Field against the Lions and caught a 7-yard pass from DeShone Kizer and then came off the field.

It validated Lazard's journey -- from Iowa State's all-time receiving leader to the humbling process of undrafted free agency.

"I'm in the stat book so no matter what from here on out, I played in an NFL game and I'll always be remembered," Lazard said.

It's not exactly how he envisioned getting there.

Despite a career filled with highlight catches and a body type (6-foot-5) that NFL teams love, he went undrafted and signed a free-agent contract with the Jaguars that included merely $40,000 in guaranteed money. They cut him at the end of camp and re-signed him to their practice squad, where he languished until the Packers signed him on Dec. 18. He was inactive in Week 16 but got the call to suit up in Week 17 -- for one play.

"One play, one catch," he said. "That was pretty cool."

It gave Lazard a boost heading into the offseason. He moved to Denver, where his girlfriend lives, and trained at a gym founded by current Broncos strength coach Loren Landow. There, he worked on his footwork and his body.

"He definitely has come a long way," said Hackett, who was with the Jaguars last season. "I think one of the biggest things was, when I even got here early, I mean, I was shocked at how much weight he had lost. He had really slimmed down and I think that improved his speed quite a bit."

Through three preseason games, Lazard leads the Packers in receiving yards (119) on just six catches, including a leaping 27-yard touchdown catch from Tim Boyle in the opener against the Texans. His 19-yard average per catch ranks second among all NFL receivers with at least six catches this summer.

More telling, however, was that Lazard earned unprompted praise from Aaron Rodgers, who was asked last week about the depth at receiver. Rodgers called it "definitely one of the deeper groups that we've had" and then went on to single out Lazard.

"There are a lot of guys with legitimate shots to make the team -- some guys who you didn't maybe think of before camp who have had incredible camps," Rodgers said. "And I'm talking about specifically, Allan Lazard. He's had a really nice camp, he's made a bunch of plays. He's always showing up on special teams, he does things the right way in practice. I think he's put himself in position to legitimately be playing for all 32 teams."

Shepherd: Mr. 102

There were 28 receivers drafted this year. By unofficial count, 73 more signed as undrafted free agents in the hours and days immediately after he draft.

Shepherd wasn't one of those 101.

Perhaps it was because he's only 5-foot-11 and played at North Dakota State.

Shepherd didn't wait long to show the NFL world what they missed. He leads the Packers in preseason touchdown catches (with two) and is tied with Kumerow for the team lead in receptions (seven). He's the closest thing to a prototypical slot receiver the Packers have in the post-Randall Cobb era. His over-the-shoulder sideline catch on Thursday against the Raiders looked effortless.

"His catch radius is unreal, as you guys see," Boyle said. "Smart player, knows where to be. He's really putting himself in a good spot to make the 53."

And he returns kicks. He has the team's longest kickoff return (36 yards) of the summer and the second-longest punt return (15 yards) behind Davis.

Yet, Shepherd had to come up the hard way. He reported to the Packers' rookie camp on May 3 as one of 20 tryout players that general manager Brian Gutekunst wanted to look at. Shepherd was the only one invited back. He signed -- for zero guaranteed money -- on May 6.

"That's the best part about it," Boyle said.

"For Shep, I don't know if he's said it, but that would be a huge chip on my shoulder. But he's put himself in a fantastic position to make the team. He's a wonderful player. He's everywhere he needs to be, he's a smart player."

It didn't bother him -- or so Shepherd says.

"Not really," Shepherd said. "I've always been an underdog, so I stay in my lane and do my thing. Everything will work out if you put your head down and work."

If anyone knows Shepherd's path, it's Lucas Patrick. The third-year offensive lineman, who has played in 26 games (with six starts), came up the same way. He attended the 2016 May rookie camp on a tryout and was signed to the 90-man offseason roster three weeks later. He spent his first season on the practice squad before he made the team in 2017 and 2018.

"I think sometimes there's too much put into metrics and combine stuff," Patrick said. "At the end of the day, you look at this kid at North Dakota State, he's a ballplayer. He was the most valuable player of their [FCS] championship game. North Dakota State has a history of being one of the top programs at that level, and he was the best player at the best program. For him to not be signed anywhere is a little bit mind-blowing.

"I can't say enough good things about him -- humble, comes in and works, definitely has the right mindset because he's been making plays not just with the 3s but he's been up there with the starters, too."