Receivers Have Been Slow To Find Stardom

Ted Thompson has struck gold with second-round wide receivers Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. Will Davante Adams follow in their footsteps? Perhaps, but don't expect instant stardom for the Fresno State star.

When the Green Bay Packers selected receiver Davante Adams with a second-round draft pick, it immediately brought to mind Ted Thompson's grand slams used on past second-round receivers Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

Thompson clearly has shown a knack for taking receivers early in the draft — he also landed James Jones in the third round. The only "miss" was Texas A&M's Terrence Murphy in the second round in 2005, with Murphy's career cut short by a neck injury.

"It's worked out that way for us for the most part," Thompson said after the Packers selected Adams. "We've had some good fortune and it's a credit to those young men."

Asked if there were a common tie that binds Jennings, Nelson, Cobb and Jones, Thompson said: "If you get back to it, their ball skills are all remarkable. That's the first and foremost thing we look for. If I was going to get stuck on one thing it would be that. And they're good people. All those guys that you mentioned are good people and good teammates and that's what (Adams is) supposed to be, too."

Past performance, as the financial services industry is forced to explain, is not an indicator of future gains. And while Adams might very well be the latest pass-catching home run hit by Thompson, there's no guarantee he'll be an instant contributor.

After all, Jennings, Nelson and Cobb had relatively nondescript rookie seasons.

In 2006, Jennings finished third on the team with 45 receptions and second with 632 receiving yards and three touchdown catches. He caught just 42.9 percent of targeted passes. Of the top 100 players in the league in receptions (regardless of position), Jennings' catch percentage ranked just 99th, according to league data.

In 2008, Nelson finished fourth on the team with 33 receptions, third with 366 receiving yards and tied for fourth with two touchdown catches. He averaged just 11.1 yards per reception with a long of 29 yards.

In 2011, Cobb finished seventh on the team with 25 receptions, sixth with 375 receiving yards and tied for seventh with one touchdown reception. He led all receivers in catch percentage, according to ProFootballFocus.com, and some of his so-so production was a byproduct of the team's record-setting offense.

The slow starts by the Packers' receivers is fairly typical around the league. While there have been exceptions, most rookie receivers struggle in adjusting to the NFL game. The mental side, more than the physical, is the challenge.

"There are not a whole lot of teams that play a lot of press coverage (in college), so you get easy access off the line of scrimmage in college that you don't necessarily get at the next level," NFL Network's Mike Mayock said. "Then No. 2, with the proliferation of different defenses and having to read on the run in the NFL, if you're able to get off the line of scrimmage, all of a sudden there's a rotation, something else changes, the free safety is gone and now here comes a linebacker and you're like, ‘What's my adjustment?' on the fly. I think what happens is a lot of wide receivers slow down early in their careers because when you are confused, you play slow, and when you get off the line of scrimmage, you can't win. So, I think there's a certain amount of evaluation that goes on with college players that doesn't translate to the next level."

With off-the-charts production, Adams is probably as well prepared as any receiver in the draft. He led the nation with 131 receptions in 2013, and his 24 touchdowns were more than the total passing-touchdown count by 87 of the 123 schools that compete in FBS.

"When you're evaluating a receiver, you definitely want to do your due diligence and I think there certainly was a lot of tape to watch on him," receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. "You watch the complete games, you see him in run blocking situations, as well. Not just a receiver, I think he's a complete football player and I think that's what stood out, as well. He competes. He has good size, good strength, he can create separation. We talked about his hands. We felt like he was a complete player and it gives us another opportunity to bring a guy in here and compete and put us in a position to help us win football games."


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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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