Do the Green Bay Packers need a wide receiver?
That’s one of the more intriguing questions entering this year’s draft. Without Jordy Nelson, it was arguably the worst position on the roster last season. Without Nelson, defenses no longer feared the deep game and were free to take away Randall Cobb. In part due to an early-season ankle injury, Davante Adams was the biggest disappointment on the roster. James Jones had some big games but his athletic limitations showed up when he disappeared in several others. Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis had their moments but who knows if they’ll ever become reliable players.
You can’t argue with the quantity. But how about the quality? While it might not make much sense for the Packers to burn a midround pick on a receiver who lacks any special traits, an argument could be made for trying to make a big splash in the first round.
One late-in-the-first possibility is TCU’s Josh Doctson, who had a strong Scouting Combine. His 4.50-second clocking in the 40-yard dash tied for 11th among the wide receivers. Better than that, he led the way with a 41-inch vertical jump, finished second with a 10-foot, 11-inch broad jump, was third with a 4.08-second 20-yard shuttle and third with an 11.06-second 60-yard shuttle.
Doctson combines Underwear Olympics athleticism with on-the-field production. After spending his first season at Wyoming, Doctson caught 180 passes for 2,785 yards (15.5 average) and 29 touchdowns during three seasons at TCU. That includes 79 receptions for 1,327 yards (16.8 average) and 14 touchdowns as a senior, when he was a Biletnikoff Award finalist and a consensus first-team All-American. Despite missing the final three games with an injured wrist, he finished fourth in the nation in receiving yards and third in receiving touchdowns. According to Pro Football Focus, his 4.07 yards per pass route is No. 1 in this year’s draft class. He joined Michael Crabtree as the only players in FBS history with six consecutive games of 100-plus receiving yards and two-plus touchdowns.
“My biggest strength as a football player is catching the ball,” he said. “That’s what I am supposed to do. Doesn’t matter the situation. If the pass is behind me -- doesn’t matter where it’s at -- I am going to catch it. I am guy that is a consistent deep threat that will make the big catch and the big play when we need it.”
From Green Bay’s perspective, he fits as a big, physical receiver who can use his size to get open in the intermediate passing game. However, as he showed at the Combine, he’s got enough deep speed to stretch the field. Two weeks before the injury, he had caught 17 passes for 553 yards and nine touchdowns on passes of at least 20 yards, according to PFF.
“What helped me the most I think was playing basketball out of high school,” he said. “Alley-oops helped me with timing of jumping and catching the ball, and then finding the rim definitely took a lot of hand-eye coordination. That helped correlate over very well for me.”
Doctson had surgery in late November and was in a cast for about six weeks, which explains why he put up a modest 14 reps on the 225-pound bench press. As he’s further removed from the surgery and rehab, his strength should improve.
Playing in TCU’s “Air Raid” offense, Doctson knows he must work on his route-running because of the limited route tree. He also didn’t play in the slot, a necessity considering the Packers expect their receivers to line up at every spot in the no-huddle offense.
That shouldn’t be much of a hurdle, though. Even though his mom worked at TCU, Doctson wasn’t recruited by the Horned Frogs because of a perceived lack of speed. When his grandfather became terminally ill, Doctson wanted to be closer to home so he left Wyoming. This time, TCU gave him a chance.
“I kind of reminisce every day,” Doctson said. “When I think about the Combine, I’m not supposed to be standing here on this stage. I’m blessed with the opportunity. I have got to take full advantage of the opportunity. Like you said not being recruited out of high school, I don’t have any grudges, but anybody would love to be in my shoes right now. I am just fortunate I am standing right here so I am taking all of it as blessings.”
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.