PACKERDRAFT 2011 WIDE RECEIVERJerry Gilbert
Wide receiver is not exactly a weak position for the Green Bay Packers. The foursome of Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson is as talented and productive as any in the league. Some argue that the team lacks intimidating speed, but Greg Jennings seems to get behind defenders. There is no tall physical receiver for the Red Zone, but tight end Jermichael Finley has better skills than most big wide receivers.
Counting Finley with the group, these receivers have no equals.
On the other hand, Driver is not getting any younger, Jones is a free agent, and Nelson, as shown in the Super Bowl, is capable of big games and many dropped passes. The Packers could use another talented receiver to compete for playing time. If he is convinced Jones is gone, General Manager Ted Thompson could select two wide receivers. Thompson is also likely to be searching for a kick returner, and that player could be a wide receiver.
It makes sense for the Green Bay return man to be a wide receiver. The current number five wide out is Brett Swain, whose only notable contribution to the team last season was on special teams. Moreover, a fast shift wide receiver could be brought into the offense even if he is not a polished receiver.
The two consensus first round picks will be long gone before Green Bay even considers whom to pick. Julio Jones 6-3 220 Alabama and A. J. Green 6-4 211 Georgia are highly rated prospects. Some others are mentioned in the first round discussion and could be available at 32 if the Packers are interested. Jon Baldwin 6-4 226 Pittsburgh is big strong and fast and may be a star in the league. His inconsistent hands scare me. Titus Young 5-11 174 Boise State is a very fast pass catcher who can also return kicks. He was a star at the Senior Bowl. I am also concerned about his hands.
A player to watch at the end of Round 1 is Torrey Smith 6-1 204 Maryland. Smith was an all league return man in his first two seasons, and showed his ability to play wide receiver last season. He is a big play waiting to happen. Smith also has a good story to tell. The oldest of seven children of a single mother he was the only father his younger siblings knew. In high school he was a highly rated running and passing quarterback who managed to catch some passes as well. Moving on to Maryland, Torrey Smith made an impression in the weight room as he ranked second on the team in the 550 pound squat and set a school record for receivers with a 355 pound clean. This was augmented by 4.4 forties. Smith is not perfect as a hands catcher, but he seldom drops the ball. He could fill the role of a return man immediately while he learns the fine points from Jennings and Driver.
Randall Cobb 5-10 191 Kentucky has been described as a slightly slower Percy Harvin. Cobb was a quarterback when entered college, but he developed into a multi dimensional runner and receiver as the years passed. He ran back punts and kicks, ran from scrimmage and served as the holder for field goals. Cobb has also been quoted as saying that he will happily be a gunner on special teams if he is needed. His maturity and versatility make Randal Cobb a very interesting prospect in the second round.
Another second round prospect who made an impression at the Senior Bowl is Leonard Hankerson 6-2 209 Miami. Packer fans owe a debt to Hankerson who was such a productive receiver that he was part of the reason that Sam Shields switched from slit end to cornerback. He had two monster seasons at Miami, and with 4.4 speed to go with his size, Hankerson could fit well in the Green Bay rotation.
There are also a number of receivers in the middle rounds. The Packers should be able to find a player they like in this part of the draft. .Two receivers with excellent hands but questionable speed are of interest because they can catch the ball. One is Tandon Doss 6-2 201 Indiana who is a James Jones type of receiver with more consistent hands. An All Big ten performer he returned punts and kicks along with being the primary receiver He scored 7 touchdowns as a receiver in 2010. . One issue with Doss is that he is recovering from injuries that slowed him at the Combine. It is hard to judge him as an athlete right now. The other "great hands" receiver is the "other guy" at Boise State, Austin Pettis 6-3 209. Pettis showed the best hands at the Senior Bowl.. He would be another James Jones replacement.
Edmund Gates 6-0 192 Abilene Christian, is a different type of talent. Gates began his career as basketball player but developed into a return man and receiver whose numbers of receptions and yardage increased every year. In 2010, he made 66 receptions for 1,182 yards with 13 touchdowns. Add his 4.37 forty at the Combine, and the school that produced Johnny Knox may land anther receiver in the NFL.
Ronald Johnson 5-11 199 USC was a two- time all conference returner who was also a big time receiver. Johnson amassed 1750 yards and 21 touchdowns in his pass catching career. He could be the return man the Packers need as he learns the ropes to become a pro receiver.
Up the California road aways is Jeremy Ross 6-2 212 California. Although not used often in the Cal offense, Ross ran the ball 10 times and scored 2 touchdowns last season.
He is second all time as a punt returner. While he is respected as a returner, Ross only scored one touchdown in his career. Scouts like his size and the 4.39 forty at his pro day. They are concerned that he could not earn a starting role as a receiver in college. Ross has visited Green Bay, and he comes from the same school that produced Aaron Rodgers.
Anther return candidate who has already visited Green Bay has the name of Antoine but this All American punt returner from Utah is generally know as Shaky Smithson 5-11 202. Smithson is another great story. He started high school late because he was needed to help with his six brothers and sisters. Once safely away from the streets of Baltimore, Smithson, a college student, became the legal guardian of his younger brother, Anthony, who is a successful high school quarterback in Los Angeles. Shaky has minimal resume as a wide receiver. However, he is a responsible young man who could probably learn the position. He is about as good as there is in this draft as a kick returner.
Finally there is a late round prospect to be a big receiver. DeAndre Brown 6-6 239 So Miss. Brown has talent. He was conference Freshman of the Year. Since then injuries and indifferent play have combined to make him unlikely to be drafted. On the other hand, from where he now sits, there is a great deal of upside.
I believe it is quite likely that the Packers will draft a wide receiver who can also help with the kick return units. A big receiver is less likely because of the presence of Jermichael Finely and Andrew Quarles, who can both split wide and cause problems for corners and safeties. I will be surprised if a receiver is chosen in round one, but anything is possible after that.