Thus, it's practically a certainty that they'll draft one in three weeks. If they focus on other needs in the early rounds, a fourth- or fifth-round option would be Aaron Mellette. The ultraproductive Elon star had a formal interview with the Packers at the Scouting Combine and has had a strong offseason.
For a small-school player to get a shot in the NFL, he must have either elite production or elite physical tools.
Mellette has both.
To be sure, most of that production came against lower-level competition — though he destroyed Vanderbilt for 11 catches for 180 yards and one touchdown in 2011. A relative neophyte to the sport, Mellette ended his college career ranked second in Southern Conference history with 304 receptions, 4,264 yards and 44 receiving touchdowns.
Those are bigger numbers than any of the top receivers in the draft. Only West Virginia's Tavon Austin, with 288 receptions, is within 48 grabs of Mellette's production. Only Duke's Conner Vernon is within 515 yards. Mellette also leads in touchdowns; West Virginia's Stedman Bailey had 41 and nobody else had more than the 32 scored by USC's Robert Woods.
At 6-foot-3 and 217 pounds, Mellette has the size to be a productive possession receiver. He ran a 4.54 40-yard dash at the Combine but showed he plays faster than his timed speed after a strong week at the Senior Bowl.
He's also got practically untapped potential. Mellette's dream was to play in the NBA. His future, however, changed after one conversation with his church's minister, Byron Buckles.
"We were going around the backyard throwing the football around and he told me, ‘Man, you just need to go play football,'" Mellette told Packer Report at the Combine. "So, 10th-grade year, I started at safety first and then moved to receiver for my junior and senior year."
That lack of experience, more than anything, is why Mellette wound up at Elon rather than a bigger school.
After redshirting in 2008, Mellette caught just eight passes as a redshirt freshman. That's when his career took off.
With Terrell Hudgins — who smashed FCS records held by Jerry Rice, among others — getting a chance with the Packers in 2010, Mellette took over as Elon's No. 1 receiver. He caught 86 passes for 1,100 yards and 12 touchdowns as a sophomore, 113 passes for 1,639 yards and 12 touchdowns as a junior and 97 catches for 1,408 yards and 18 touchdowns as a senior.
Mellette answered some concerns about his level of competition by consistently getting open and making plays during Senior Bowl week. He's not going to go as early as fellow Southern Conference star Brian Quick did last year — Quick went 33rd to St. Louis — and he's probably not going to become the seventh small-school receiver in the past nine drafts to go in the top 100. However, he's got the size and enough speed to become a solid contributor.
"Me coming from the FCS, people were like, ‘How's he going to hang when he's around FBS talent for the whole week?' I felt like I had a good week, got better each day and that's what the goal was," he said.
He knows he's not going to win a race against Austin, but there's more to playing receiver than running fast.
"One coach told me that he'd take technique over speed any day," Mellette said. "You can be the fastest guy out there but if you can't get open, what are you doing? Nothing."
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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 email@example.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.