With their fifth-round compensatory selection awarded for losing outside linebacker Erik Walden, they stayed in-state by taking Wisconsin's Jared Abbrederis.
Abbrederis is the first player the Packers have selected from Wisconsin since Ted Thompson took over as the general manager in 2005. He is from Wautoma, Wis., and grew up as a Packers fan. Abbrederis was emotional when he got the call.
"It's crazy right now. I found out probably 15 minutes ago," Abbrederis said during a conference call. "There's a lot going through my head. Just being a walk-on at Wisconsin, and then realizing my dream to play in the NFL, and on the Packers, which is my team growing up. That's who I rooted for. I'm excited; I can't really explain it. Just a lot of emotions. I'm excited."
Abbrederis (6-1, 195) tied the school record with 202 career receptions, was second with 3,140 career receiving yards and tied for second with 23 career touchdown receptions. He's not fast (4.50 in the 40-yard dash), he's not explosive (30.5-inch vertical leap) and he's not strong (just four reps on the 225-pound bench press). Still, he developed into a go-to receiver.
"As far as breaking down the intangibles and so forth, the biggest thing that sticks out for me when we were talking about him is Ted had a real appreciation for him as far lining up against the top corner for the last two years and was always still productive," coach Mike McCarthy said. "Those are the type of things you look within the film, who's he competing against, and he's just been such a steady productive player for Wisconsin and we'd like to feel that's the way our perimeter plays. We don't line up and just try to throw the ball to one guy. We like to play with the whole field and we've got a great quarterback that takes advantage of it."
Packers receivers coach Edgar Bennett said Abbrederis needs to get stronger, but he liked his skill-set and how he fit in with the rest of the receivers.
"If you look at his tape, you can see he was extremely productive." Bennett said. "Sure, we want to get him stronger, but he is not a finished product. He is a good route-runner that is described as someone who sells his patterns, has good hands, has good field awareness and knowledge of the game."
Abbrederis took an unlikely route to the NFL. At Wautoma High School, he was a first-team all-conference quarterback and defensive back, a wrestler and the state's Gatorade Track and Field Athlete of the Year as a champion hurdler. He joined the Badgers as a walk-on and converted from quarterback to wide receiver during the 2009 season, a season in which he redshirted.
Abbrederis was awarded a scholarship in 2011 and made his impact in a big way while starting all 14 games. His 1,999 all-purpose yards was the sixth-best season total in school history.
Abbrederis' breakout game as a senior came in a primetime showdown against Ohio State. He was shadowed most of the night by Bradley Roby, who was selected by the Broncos with the 31st overall selection. Abbrederis dominated the matchup with 10 receptions for 207 yards, including a 36-yard touchdown.
"That was a big game for me. Confidence-wise, playing against a guy that went first round, that gave me a lot of confidence that I can play at this level." Abbrederis said.
The Packers bolstered their receiving corps in the second round when they took Fresno State product Davante Adams, and they added Saginaw Valley's Jeff Janis in the seventh round. Adding those three replenishes the group after losing Donald Driver (retirement) Greg Jennings (free agency) and James Jones (free agency) the past two offseasons.
Abbrederis' best bet to get on the field early may be as a returner, which the Packers were in desperate need of entering the draft.
A season ago, the Packers started the year with Jeremy Ross as their primary returner, but he was cut after fumbling a kickoff against the Bengals in Week 3. The Packers muddled along with a revolving door at returner before settling on Micah Hyde to return punts and kickoffs.
Abbrederis returned kickoffs and punts for the Badgers. He averaged 25.8 yards per kickoff return for his career; the Packers averaged 20.3 yards per kickoff return in 2013, which was 30th in the NFL. For his career, Abberderis averaged 10.7 yards per punt return; the Packers ranked seventh with an 11.3-yard average on punt returns.
"I haven't had whole lot of conversations yet, but I'll do whatever they ask me to do, whether that's running down on kickoffs, catching punt returns, returning, whatever it may be, I'll do whatever they ask but we really haven't had too many conversations yet." Abbrederis said.
Abbrederis snapped a long drought. The Packers hadn't selected a Badger since taking tackle Mark Tauscher in 2000 and guard Bill Ferrario in 2001.
"It's just the way it's worked out," said general manager Ted Thompson, who was not at Wisconsin's pro day this year but typically does attend. "There have been a number of times where we were anxious to take a Badger and they get taken in front of you or something like that."
Abbrederis said he had not been to Lambeau Field since his sophomore year in high school. Now he'll be there as a player.
"That's definitely going to be exciting, catching from one of the best quaterbacks in the league," he said of playing with Aaron Rodgers. "It's definitely great to be a part of this team and have a quarterback like him throwing you the ball."