2015 NFL Draft: Packers Position Preview: WR

When I decided to put together the Packer Position Preview series I actually had tight ends penciled in to this slot.  For whatever reason, my mind normally goes QB, RB, WR, TE, OL.  When I looked the schedule again I realized I couldn’t do that.  I realized that I had to wait until the Randall Cobb situation was resolved.  Resolved it was.  Cobb returned on a 4 year $40 million deal on Saturday night.

I wrote a little bit about Cobb’s value and really what his return says about the culture in Green Bay.  I’m going to expand on the wide receiver position in Green Bay during this week’s Football Friday, but it’s remarkable how much signing one player changed the outlook on the wide receiver position for the Packers in this year’s draft.  All of a sudden the top 5 receivers on the team are signed through 2017 and the top 2 options are Pro Bowl players under contract through the 2018 season.

Ron Wolf has said that one of his greatest regrets was not supplying Brett Favre with enough weapons.  Ted Thompson has always kept this in mind.  You would think that there would be some concern with the recent losses of Greg Jennings, James Jones, Donald Driver and Jermichael Finley, but Thompson’s pass catchers keep on rolling.  Aaron Rodgers has two of the top 12 receivers in the league on his team, and an ascending 2nd round pick (like all the other studs were).  Behind them are a young tight end with fantastic hands, a local legend who wowed in last year’s training camp and an athletic freak who has captivated the fan base to a level that’s borderline comical.

Without Cobb, the Packers would have had to find a starter in their 3 WR sets.  Jared Abbrederis would have had to step in to the slot, Jeff Janis would have had to start outside with Nelson in the slot, or the Packers would have had to draft someone early to contribute right away.  With Cobb everyone slides into their perfect spots.  Nelson the go-to guy, Cobb the devastating slot machine, Adams the up and coming star that you shouldn’t be single covering and Janis and Abbrederis the young, cheap, developing pieces of the future.

Class Strength: 8/10

It’s almost too bad that the Packers don’t appear to be in the receiver market in this April’s draft.  I really like this class quite a bit.  It starts at the top with two elite talents.  I’ve already provided my player comps for them.  I think that Alabama’s Amari Cooper is my favorite WR prospect since AJ Green and reminds me of Green himself.  Athletic freak Kevin White of West Virgina reminds me of Cooper’s Bama predecessor Julio Jones.  I’m not just saying that their games remind me of one another, I’m saying that I think Cooper and White have the same level of size and talent that make Green and Jones elite.

There are some evaluators who have Lousiville’s DeVante Parker as part of that tier as well, I’m not one of them.  Parker instead headlines a very strong second tier of guys that could (or couldn’t) find their way into the first round as an immediate starter for an NFL team.  Parker is tall at 6’3″ but kind of lean and that gives him durability questions that were confirmed with missed games due to injury both his senior (foot) and junior (shoulder) season.  Dorial Green-Beckham (Oklahoma [kinda]), Jaelen Strong (ASU), Sammie Coates (Auburn) and Nelson Agholor (USC) are all in that group.  Each of those players are talented, but each possesses a wart that may (or may not) keep them out of round 1.

The rest of the class seems to have something for everyone.  If you like the super productive guy with questionable athleticism Flordia State’s Rashad Greene might be for you.  If you are looking for a big TE/WR hybrid can I interest you in Michigan’s Devin Funchess (6’4″ 232) or Central Arkansas’ Dezmin Lewis (6’4″ 214)?  If you need a slot receiver with some ability to help in the return game (and the Packers almost did) Tyler Lockett, Phillip Dorsett, Jamison Crowder and Ty Montgomery  fit the bill.  I haven’t seen a true one-dimensional deep threat in a draft like Devin Smith since Mike Wallace.

I even like late round guys Kenny Bell, Vince Mayle and Devante Davis for their size and upside.  I think it might be hard for Thompson to abstain because with a class as good and deep as this there are going to be a few times that a WR is #1 on his board.

Packers Positional Situation: A

In my opinion this position is the strongest on the roster (with the obvious exception of QB1).  Number 1 wide receiver who is one of the best 5 in the league? Check.  Number 2 wide receiver who is a versatile weapon and one of the best 15 receivers in football? Check.  Number 3 wide receiver who is young, has an excellent pedigree and room to grow with limited attention from defenses? Check.  Number 4 wide receiver who has some return ability, projects to be effective out of the slot and just happens to be a saint in the state of Wisconsin? Check.  Number 5 wide receiver who is a project but possesses elite speed and absolutely freakish athleticism? Check. Number 6 wide receiver with system familiarity who runs a 4.4 40? Check and mate.

The Packers have their receiving corps (pending a decision on Jarrett Boykin) all locked up through 2017 and all are playing for contracts that are under market value.

Packers Level of Need at WR: 2/10

Green bay just doesn’t have a need at WR.  I see absolutely no reason to bring in a wide receiver in the early rounds to compete with Abbrederis and Janis.  This isn’t because I’m guaranteeing their success (though I like both prospects quite a bit) it’s because that capital can be used to improve the team elsewhere.  As I’ve said I view the Packers situation at receiver as the best position group on the team, and with good reason.  There isn’t any reason for Green Bay to use a pick at receiver unless that pick presents TREMENDOUS value.

The only way I would be OK with the Packers using a pick on a receiver before round 5 is if that player projects as an above average kick returner.  I’m not even that concerned with the player’s ability to return punts.  Micah Hyde is actually a fantastic punt returner.  He has 3 TDs in two seasons of part time punt return duty and with the new emphasis on special teams I would guess that’s a role the team wouldn’t be afraid to use him in.  An effective kick returner, Hyde is not.  I don’t have a problem with the Packers using a mid to late round pick on a kick returner and I don’t really care where he projects in the offense as the Packers are set at bout outside receiver (Nelson, Adams, Janis) and in the slot (Cobb, Abby, White).

Round to Start Targeting WR: Round 4

The depth of this class likely means that one dimensional guys and return specialists should fall out of day 2 and deeper into day 3 than in most classes.  This bodes well for the Packers.  A one dimensional kick return player like a Cordarelle Patterson or a Josh Cribbs would actually do wonders for Green Bay as a football team.  The right kind of receiver/kick returner (not one who’s 5’8″ 180) could also help on coverage teams.

I know it’s going to be hard for Thompson to completely keep himself from drafting a wide receiver.  He’s taken at least one receiver in 7 of the 10 drafts that he has overseen since becoming the Packers GM before the 2005 season.

My Favorite Fit for the Packers: Ty Montgomery, Stanford

Montgomery is a player that has become underrated.  He didn’t test that well athletically and playing in Stanford’s run-oriented attack has depressed his numbers.  These “issues” have pushed him outside the top 20 in some 2015 NFL draft receiver rankings.  If that makes him a 5th round pick, great.

Despite being much taller (6’1″) than most return guys, Montgomery was outstanding at Stanford.  He scored 5 return TDs in his career and averaged a very impressive 27.4 yards per kickoff return in the Pac 12. He’s the type of player that could develop in the Packers system, but stay active on game day as a 5th or 6th receiver because with his size he could play on all 4 return/coverage teams.

Ted Thompson has made several selections over the years from the Pac 12.  Aaron Rodgers, Clay Matthews, Datone Jones, David Bakhtiari, Richard Rodgers and Nick Perry all hail from the Power 5 conference on the west coast.  If Montgomery and a scheme change can take the Packers from a bottom-dwelling kick return unit to above league average it would be a huge boost to the best offense in the league.

Other options: Tyler Lockett, Phillip Dorsett, Jamison Crowder (though he is very small), Ranell Hall

 

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Ross Uglem is a writer at PackersTalk.com. You can follow Ross on twitter at RossUglem

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