Draft Exclusive: Breaking a Trend?

This small receiver from a big-time school has proven to be an all-around star, both as a receiver and his conference's two-time special teams player of the year. His skill-set compares favorably to Danny Amendola, who led the NFL in total yardage.

Year after year after year, a receiver like Jeremy Kerley wouldn't even be on the Green Bay Packers' draft board.

At 5-foot-9 1/2 inches, Kerley simply doesn't measure up to the physical specifications of general manager Ted Thompson, who was groomed by Ron Wolf. Greg Jennings is 5-foot-11 but the Packers' other receivers range from 6-foot to 6-foot-3. In fact, of the seven receivers drafted by Thompson, only Jennings stands less than 6-foot.

Perhaps it was a bit of subterfuge, but coach Mike McCarthy signaled the team's willingness to budge from that standard during an interview at the Scouting Combine, especially if it would help the team's horrendous return game.

To that end, a source told Packer Report that Green Bay is high on Kerley, who caught 56 passes for 575 yards and 10 touchdowns for the powerhouse TCU Horned Frogs. Not only could Kerley be a threat in the slot, the position that Donald Driver has manned with aplomb for so many years, but he'd add some instant juice to the Packers' return units. Kerley was the Mountain West's two-time special teams player of the year. As a senior, he averaged 12.9 yards on punt returns and 28.0 yards on kickoff returns.

"Punt. I love the thrill," Kerley, who could be a target at the end of the fourth round, said at the Combine when asked about which return role is his favorite. "I love everything special teams brings, not only just punt return or kick returner, but running down as a gunner, running down as a kickoff man. That's something that I always prided myself on and something I always will try to take part in."

And just what is that "thrill"?

"Getting hit, making guys miss, scoring a touchdown. All of that," said Kerley, who was on TCU's coverage units as a freshman. "As far as running down on kickoffs, not a lot of people expect big-name guys to do that. Not saying that I'm a big-name guy, but just names people don't expect. I love doing it."

While small receivers haven't been welcome in Green Bay since Antonio Chatman returned kicks and eventually earned his way into the receiver rotation, guys like New England's Wes Welker and St. Louis' Danny Amendola have shown that dynamite can come in small packages.

Amendola, in particular, is a good comparison, even though he's an inch taller than Kerley. Playing in the Rams' West Coast scheme, Amendola, a former undrafted free agent from Texas Tech, caught 128 passes for 1,015 yards and four touchdowns in his first two NFL seasons — including a ninth-ranked 85 catches n 2010 (Welker tied for sixth with 86 receptions). Moreover, he led the NFL with 2,364 all-purpose yards, with a 22.8-yard average on kickoff returns and 11.3-yard average on punt returns.

Kerley is more quick than fast, with a 40-yard time at the Combine of 4.59 seconds. But he's got exceptional short-range quickness and even can run the Wildcat as an all-district quarterback at Hutto (Texas) High School.

"I hope they (guys like Amendola and Welker) have opened up the gates for me a little bit," Kerley said. "I don't think teams are too focused on my height."


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.


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