Grading Thompson on the Wide Receivers

With Jennings, Jones, Nelson and Cobb, you know that Ted Thompson has found outstanding talent at wide receiver. But until you read this, you'll have no idea just how good he has been during his tenure. (Jeff Hanisch/USA TODAY)

This will be Ted Thompson’s 11th draft atop the Green Bay Packers, meaning there’s a decade’s worth of history to examine as this year’s draft approaches. We are taking a position-by-position lookback to see where he and his scouting department have turned up gems and where they have turned up fool’s gold.

Wide receivers

2005, 2nd round — Terrence Murphy, Texas A&M (6-1, 202): Murphy’s career was derailed after a helmet-to-helmet hit sustained on a kickoff return early in his rookie season. Tests showed he had a condition called spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spine. Murphy, the 58th overall pick and the 10th receiver selected, played in three games and caught five passes for 36 yards. Grade: Incomplete.

2005, 6th round — Craig Bragg, UCLA (6-1, 196): Bragg, with his blazing speed and record-setting production at UCLA, spent time on the practice squad but never played in an NFL game. He was the 26th of 31 receivers selected. If you’re in the glass-is-half-full contingent, no receiver drafted in the final three rounds lasted more than three years or caught more than 18 passes. Grade: F.

2006, 2nd round — Greg Jennings, Western Michigan (6-1, 197): In seven seasons with the Packers, Jennings caught 425 passes for 6,537 yards and 53 touchdowns. He was a Pro Bowler following the 2010 and 2011 seasons, had three consecutive 1,000-yard campaigns and tallied at least nine touchdowns four times. Jennings has 63 career touchdowns, which is more than the combined total of the other 10 receivers who went in the top 100 picks. Grade: A.

2006, 4th round — Cory Rodgers, TCU (6-0, 188): Rodgers had three brilliant seasons as a receiver and returner in college but bombed in the NFL, having never played in a game. Rodgers was the 11th receiver selected and the 104th overall pick. Jason Avant (No. 109) has 331 catches. Brandon Marshall (No. 119) has 773 with a draft-high 65 touchdowns. Grade: F.

2007, 3rd round — James Jones, San Jose State (6-1, 207): In seven seasons with the Packers, Jones caught 310 passes for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns. He led the league with 14 touchdown grabs in 2012 and a four-year stretch of 31 touchdowns. Jones was the 14th of 34 receivers drafted. Only Calvin Johnson (74 touchdowns) and Dwayne Bowe (44) have more touchdowns than Jones (43). The 20 receivers selected after Jones have a combined 39 touchdowns. Grade: B-plus.

2007, 5th round — David Clowney, Virginia Tech (6-0, 188): Clowney was a half-inch shorter and two-tenths of a second faster than Jones but it was no contest on the field. Clowney failed to make the team and finished with 22 catches in his three seasons. If there’s any consolation, none of the 12 receivers selected after Clowney did anything to distinguish themselves. Grade: F.

2008, 2nd round — Jordy Nelson, Kansas State (6-3, 217): Is the 40-yard dash an overrated tool? Well, Nelson ran in 4.51 at the Combine. In his seven seasons, Nelson has become one of the NFL’s premier big-play performers. He heads into the 2015 season with 400 receptions for 6,109 yards and 49 touchdowns. Of that, 43 touchdowns came in his last four seasons. His 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 scores in 2014 was one of the finest seasons in NFL history. Nelson was the third of 33 receivers drafted in 2008. Only DeSean Jackson has more receptions and yards than Nelson, with Nelson plus-11 on Jackson in touchdowns. Nelson’s touchdown total is more than the first, second, fourth and fifth receivers selected combined (Donnie Avery, Devin Thomas, James Hardy and Eddie Royal). Grade: A.

2008, 7th round — Brett Swain, San Diego State (6-0, 200): Swain lasted three years, with a career-high six receptions in 2010 while providing some decent play on special teams. He added two catches for the Niners in five games in 2011. Buffalo took Stevie Johnson seven picks later, with Johnson boasting 336 receptions for 4,267 yards and 31 touchdowns. Oops. Grade: D-plus.

2011, 2nd round — Randall Cobb, Kentucky (5-10, 191): Thompson struck gold in the second round again. After a relatively quiet rookie season in the Packers’ loaded receiving corps, Cobb caught 80 passes for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in 2012 and 91 passes for 1,287 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2014. He’s a matchup nightmare in the slot and out of the backfield. Cobb was the seventh of 28 receivers drafted (and pick No. 64 overall). He trails only A.J. Green (No. 4) and Julio Jones (No. 6) in receptions and only Green, Jones and Torrey Smith (No. 58) in yards and touchdowns. Grade: A.

2013, 7th round — Charles Johnson, Grand Valley State (6-2, 215): It’s not often that Thompson makes the wrong move with a player on his roster. Johnson was hurt for most of his rookie training camp, put on the practice squad and signed away by Cleveland. With the Vikings last year, he caught 31 passes for 475 yards. One of his two touchdowns came against Green Bay. His 31 receptions are more than any receiver taken in the last two-and-a-half rounds. Grade: F.

2013, 7th round — Kevin Dorsey, Maryland (6-1, 207): After spending all of his rookie season on injured reserve, Dorsey caught one pass for 4 yards in 2014 before landing on IR again. He was released in February and signed by New England. Grade: D-minus.

2014, 2nd round — Davante Adams, Fresno State (6-1, 212): Will this be another second-round grand slam at receiver? He had a solid rookie season of 38 receptions for 446 yards and three touchdowns. That’s about on par with the first-year average of 37.5 by Jennings, Jones, Nelson and Cobb. Adams was the ninth receiver drafted and finished 10th among rookie receivers in receptions and 11th in yards. Grade: C.

2014, 5th round — Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (6-1, 195): Abbrederis tore an ACL during training camp and spent the season on IR. Grade: Incomplete.

2014, 7th round — Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State (6-3, 219): Janis, a Combine star with a 4.42 in the 40, had two catches for 16 yards while being inactive for 13 of 16 games. Of the 33 receivers selected, Janis was one of 25 to at least catch one pass. Grade: Incomplete.

Overall grade: If you want to nitpick, you could say that Thompson has missed on every receiver drafted in the final four rounds and hasn’t hit on a college free agent, either. But let’s be real: Without burning a single first-round pick at the position, Thompson landed Jennings, Jones, Nelson and Cobb. Their production is as good, if not better than, most of the receivers taken in front of them. Adams had a few big games to show his potential and hopes are high for Janis and Abbrederis. Grade: A-minus.

What it means (if anything) for 2015: What’s interesting is that Thompson has found star power without selecting any Scouting Combine Olympians. Of Jennings, Jones, Nelson, Cobb and Adams, only Jennings was in the 4.4s at the Combine — a 4.46 in 2006. What Thompson seems to value is college production. Don’t be surprised if Stanford’s Ty Montgomery or Florida State’s Rashad Greene are midround values because of their elite careers and proven kick-return abilities.

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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