Thompson Could Take WR Despite Breakout Years

No receiver corps got more out of its pass routes than Green Bay in 2011, with Jordy Nelson having a monster season and Randall Cobb outperforming the NFL's two touted rookies — and that's not even mentioning Greg Jennings and James Jones. We look at the numbers and look at history.

Entering the 2008 NFL Draft, the Green Bay Packers didn't need a wide receiver — not with Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones, Koren Robinson and Ruvell Martin.

Going for the "best available player" rather than zeroing in on a player to fill a position of need, general manager Ted Thompson traded out of the first round and grabbed Jordy Nelson, anyway.

Nelson provided plenty of return on Thompson's investment during a breakout fourth season in the league in which he posted 68 catches for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns.

Pro Football Focus put Nelson's season into further perspective last week. Nelson averaged 2.99 yards per route run, a figure that trailed only the Giants' Victor Cruz (3.08 yards per pass route run).

With Aaron Rodgers playing impeccably all season, the Packers were the only team in the NFL with at least three wide receivers averaging 2.0 yards per pass route. In fact, the Packers had four receivers averaging at least 2.0 yards per pass route. Rookie Randall Cobb averaged 2.16 yards per pass route run, Jennings averaged 2.08 and Jones 2.00.

Had Cobb run enough routes to qualify for Pro Football Focus' leaderboard, he would have finished 16th in the NFL — ahead of Pittsburgh's Mike Wallace (2.15), Atlanta's Roddy White (2.11) and high-profile rookies A.J. Green (2.11) and Julio Jones (2.10).

Entering this draft, the Packers clearly do not have a need to add another receiver with an early draft choice. Not with Jennings, Nelson and Jones in the prime of their careers, Cobb looking like he's ready for a greatly increased role, and impressive rookies Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel ready to battle for a roster spot.

However, don't rule out Thompson repeating his draft history.

Veteran Donald Driver averaged just 1.24 yards per pass route run, a woeful 70th in the league (among receivers on the field at least 25 percent of the time). It's his second dreadful season in a row — he averaged 1.17 yards per pass route in 2010 — after averaging 1.83 in 2009 and 1.78 in 2008.

"I'm a firm a believer, and I know it sounds trite and maybe I'm making it up and we don't do that, but I think you absolutely have to treat a draft choice — especially early in the draft — as a long-term investment," Thompson said at the Scouting Combine. "And the best policy, in my view, is to take the best player because it gives you the best chance at getting a return on your investment."


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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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