The second-year pro out of Fresno State has been dominant this preseason. He's been spectacular in practice, has earned high praise from Aaron Rodgers, and just put together an impressive 5 catch, 134 yard performance in last night's game against the Cardinals, which included this 97 yard catch and run to pay dirt.
So what's the problem?
Well, West is a wide-receiver. He's attempting to make the team at a position at which the Packers already have an embarrassment of riches. Jennings, Driver, Nelson, Jones, Cobb-- West would be behind all of them on the depth chart. And although the Packers are pretty solid in most areas, carrying a sixth WR may be a luxury they can't afford.
The reality is that if West is not given a spot on the 53 man roster, he'll find a home elsewhere. Given his standout preseason and all the press he's generated, the Packers have absolutely no chance of sneaking him on to the practice squad. West himself is aware of this, as he's acknowledged that he's essentially trying out for the entire NFL, not just the Packers.
So what will Ted Thompson do? Does he allow the talented West to walk, or does he hold on to him at the risk of leaving another position thin? Truth is, it's difficult to tell, because he's taken different approaches at different times.
In 2009, the Packers were faced with a similar conundrum. Rookie HB Tyrell Sutton had put together an impressive preseason and was the talk of the town. Although the Packers already had veterans Ryan Grant, Brandon Jackson, and DeShawn Wynn, surely they could find room on their team for the talented back from Northwestern.
As it turns out, they didn't. Sutton was not offered a spot on the Packers 53 man roster and was promptly picked up by the Panthers before the Packers could get him on the practice squad. The Packers lost out on a talented young ball carrier, and some may argue that it came back to bite them in the butt when the Packers had trouble finding a replacement for the injured Grant in the 2010 season.
The name Quinn Johnson carries polar opposite connotations. Johnson, also a rookie in 2009, was viewed as a raw prospect at fullback with tons of upside. He made the team that year on his potential alone, but when 2010 rolled around , his production was still marred by the same inconsistencies. With veteran FBs Korey Hall and John Kuhn also in the mix, it seemed unlikely that the Packers would hang on to all three of them, especially at such a limited position. Of course, as we all know, TT and Co. did the unthinkable, and carried three FBs on the 53 man roster for the second season in a row.
These different approaches to similar problems tell us something we already know; Ted Thompson is unpredictable. Just when you think you have him figured out, he pulls a 180. His behavior concerning draft day trades is evidence of this. A couple years ago, we were all convinced he would rather eat arsenic than trade up. The wheeling and dealing that landed Clay Matthews and Morgan Burnett has forced us to reconsider.
And so it is with Chastin West. Thompson has shown before that he's willing to keep a position overstocked if the talent is there to justify it. But this certainly isn't a steadfast rule of his. Saying that he could go either way is like saying the wind changes directions.
In closing, I'll throw in my two cents. There is no doubt that teams in the NFL nowadays live and die by their ability to throw the ball. For the Packers over Mike McCarthy's tenure, this has been doubly true. The Packers two greatest offensive priorities are protecting Aaron Rodgers and making sure he has some talented players to throw to. It seems we've at least accomplished the latter.
But with Driver's career winding down, and Jordy Nelson's future in Green Bay beyond this season unclear, keeping a player like West around may not be the luxury it initially seems to be. When my predictions for the 53 man roster come out next week, Chastin West will be on my squad.