So, which is a more accurate way of evaluating a guy's ability level? Obviously, you need to compare him to his peers. Does that mean the players around the league, or the players on his own team? A guy could be a #1 on his own team, but projected on stats, be no better than a #2 or #3 on another team. Even when it comes to drops, there's inconsistencies. Drops include those where the ball is in a guy's hands and it just slips through his fingers, and he's not even touched. Then there's the "coulda caught it" passes where the guy gets his bell rung, and drops the ball, because he was hit so hard when it went into his hands, he couldn't hold on to it. Whether or not it was a drop is subjective, and not all people evaluating the potential catch are equal in their judgement. Then you have the QB. Does he throw to guys, to help them get open, and not take huge hits? Or, like we often see, is he a QB who throws to guys not seeing what's about to happen to them, and they get clobbered?
As we put the pieces together on a player, all those things "should" enter the picture. But there's a lot more. What do the coaches see as the guy's primary routes? Where do they place them on the field? Slot? Wide out? A simple question as well.... are the getting clobbered because there are only two or three specific routes where they are the primary receiver? Defenses will define that, and put the hammer down, to insure they're shut down. We see it every week. A top receiver suddenly goes stone cold silent on the field, because the defense is laying on their primary routes where they are the #1 option. It's also where the majority of INTs come from when a defender cuts underneath the receiver to take the ball away. It doesn't just happen by accident. The defense has it on good authority, from diagnosis of the opponent's games in the past, where they can steal that pass.
Even the pass protection has an impact on the abilities of a receiver and his stats. Shorter routes, in tight quarters often leads to some really hard hits. That's why "possession receivers" often spend time on the sideline trying to shake the pain from that last hit. It's also the reason the NFL started penalizing hits of "defenseless receivers." They get punished for even attempting to make those catches. It's almost a suicide mission on each play, with some teams. Even coaches fail to react to it, as well as QBs.
So, how do you really judge Lazard? You can't judge him on stats alone. You need to judge him on how he handled his routes, and made catches "under pressure," where is when the true test of when the rubber hits the road. Lazard did a decent enough job in that category, despite having to do a lot of diving and distortions from keeping his head taken off by defenders. He took more than his share of hard licks out there.
So, what's he worth? He's an average WR. But, he's willing to handle those short routes, and the hard hits. That adds to his value. To some teams, even if they only see him as a 3rd down player, he could be worth $10 mill, maybe more. It depends on the make up of their team, and what they need.
The fact is, Lazard is going to be paid a decent amount of money, and the question is whether or not the Packers are willing to match it, or walk away, figuring they can build, in-house, to match what he can offer. My guess is they cut the bidding off at about $7-8 Mill. Above that, Lazard plays elsewhere. Meanwhile, his agent is already out there, listening to gossip about how much he's worth, and where he'd best fit on teams. He's going to get offers, and then the Packers will decide if they even want to show up with an offer.
My opinion? He's gone. They're going to build from within, and the draft. Don't look for anybody with experience coming down the road. They've been burned enough on that it recent years at WR. If there is any position they may even look at for a ball catcher in free agency, it might be at TE.