NFL Draft Countdown: Packers by position

During Brett Favre's reign as Green Bay's starting QB, his stable of receivers has ranged from big name veterans to small-school sleepers. With an inexperienced group currently on board, will the Packers use the draft to add to Favre's targets?<p> In 2002, the Packers selected Javon Walker with the 20th pick, the first time they used the top pick on a WR since Sterling Sharpe in 1988 (7th overall). GB probably won't shop early for a WR, but could be heard from later.<P>

The position of wide receiver requires the most "shopping" of any on the team, with somewhere in the neighborhood of six active WRs on the roster. Of those, 3 or 4 can be on the field at once, and the combinations are practically endless, making the designation of "starter" less important than with other positions. In the Packers' case, it would be nice if one of those could double as a dependable returnman.

Last year about three dozen receivers were selected in the draft, and this year will probably turn out about the same. Last year, three wide receivers were drafted in the first round: Donté Stallworth (New Orleans), Ashley Lelie (Denver) and Walker.

This year's class boasts even more talent. Three or four prospects are iron-clad first-rounders and all have a shot at stepping right into a starting role. Those include. Charles Rogers of Michigan State and Andre Johnson of Miami. Both will go in the top 10. The other first-round prospects include Kelley Washington of Tennessee and Taylor Jacobs of Florida.

The teams in the hunt for these elite receivers are Arizona, Houston, Detroit, Jacksonville, N.Y. Jets, San Francisco, Philadelphia and the Raiders.

The good news for the Packers is two-fold. First, they have a small stable of receivers that Favre likes a lot. Second, Green Bay has a good shot at getting a decent receiver in the later rounds if they choose to go that route. Afterall, Donald Driver was the Packers' second pick of the 7th round (213) in 1999.

Let's look at what they already have. Javon Walker wasn't as consistent as the Packers would have liked him to be, but he did step up big time on occasion and definitely has the makings of a starter for years to come. Donald Driver is the heart and soul of the operation, and whatever limitation he has sizewise, he overcomes in other ways and is Favre's sentimental favorite. Then there's Robert Ferguson, who last year emerged from his spot alongside Jamal Reynolds in the major bust-bound category. Fergie didn't catch a pass during his rookie campaign after being selected second in the 2001 draft, but last year he produced.

With the host of free-agent signees from last year and this offseason – Karsten Bailey being the only one with any Packer experience (the others are Travis Williams, Brian Haugabrook and kick return hopeful Gari Scott) the Packers still come up short. They'll either have to draft someone who can play right away or pick up a veteran to fill the spot vacated by Terry Glenn. Naysayers have nothing good to say about the Packers' shot with Glenn, but it was a good one-year experiment, much like the one that picked up Andre Rison to Green Bay en route to the Super Bowl.

Last year, the second round produced some very strong receivers – Antonio Bryant, Jabar Gaffney, Andre Davis, Josh Reed, Deoin Branch and even Antwaan Randle El. The bad news is that the Packers don't have a second round pick. The good news is that this year it doesn't look like that kind of talent will go in round two.

Who will be available later when the Pack returns to the mic in round 3? Bryant Johnson (Penn State) and Tyrone Calico (Middle Tennessee State), who both ran under 4.4 in the 40, will probably go in the second round, as could Kareem Kelly of USC and Kevin Curtis of Utah State. But then there's receivers like Sam Aiken (North Carolina), Teyo Johnson (Stanford), Anquan Boldin (Florida State), Brandon Lloyd (Illinois), and Billy McMullen (Virginia). All have 40 times in the 4.6 range and that may drive a few of them into the third round. Talman Gardner (Florida State) was rising fast until he ran into some off the field problems. We'll see where that lands him.

Late round selections might land gems – ala Driver from Alcorn State – in unsung receivers from smaller schools such as Ryan Hoag of Gustavus Adolphus, Rob Milanese of Penn, who has been compared to Wayne Chrebet, and Ben Nelson of St. Cloud State.

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