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Packers GM Ted Thompson’s Wide Receiver Draft History

We use Ted Thompson's draft history to get a gauge on the receivers the Packers might be coveting in this year's draft.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 13th draft running the Green Bay Packers. Dusting off a series we wrote in 2015, we look back on his previous 12 drafts and try to find trends that might be worth remembering as we look ahead to this year’s draft. We continue this series with the running backs.

WIDE RECEIVERS (16)

2005, 2nd round — Terrence Murphy, Texas A&M (6-0 7/8, 202; 4.45 40; 41 vertical; 7.02 3-cone; NA hands): 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 (6-0 5/8, 196; 4.48 40; 36 vertical; 7.50 3-cone; NA hands): Bragg, with his 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 (5-11 1/8, 4.46 40; 36.5 vertical; 6.68 3 cone; NA hands): 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 had 64 career touchdowns. Jennings was the fourth receiver selected and one of 10 to go in the first 100 picks.  The other nine combined for 55 touchdowns. Grade: A.

2006, 4th round — Cory Rodgers, TCU (5-11 7/8, 188; 4.65 50; 33.5 vertical; 7.37 3-cone; NA hands): 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) had 346 catches. Brandon Marshall (No. 119) has 941 (and counting) with a draft-high 82 touchdowns. Grade: F.

2007, 3rd round — James Jones, San Jose State (6-0 3/4, 207; 4.60 40; 33.5 vertical; 7.06 3-cone; NA hands): In his first seven seasons with the Packers, Jones caught 310 passes for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns. Then, he bailed out the team in 2015 with 50 catches for 890 yards and eight touchdowns. Jones 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 (83 touchdowns) had more touchdowns than Jones (51), and only Johnson (731) and fellow first-rounder Dwayne Bowe (537) had more catches than Jones’ 433. The 20 receivers selected after Jones combined for 39 touchdowns. Grade: A-minus.

2007, 5th round — David Clowney, Virginia Tech (6-0 1/4, 188; 4.40 40; 32.5 vertical; 7.00 3-cone; NA hands): 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 (6-2 5/8, 217; 4.51 40; 31 vertical; 7.03 3-cone; NA hands): Is the entire Combine process overrated? Perhaps, based on Nelson’s pedestrian results in the tests listed above. Even while missing the entire 2015 season with a torn ACL, Nelson ranks second in the draft class with 497 receptions (DeSean Jackson, 498) and 7,366 receiving yards (Jackson, 8,819) and first with 63 receiving touchdowns (Jackson, 48). Nelson was the third receiver drafted, with his touchdown total dwarfing the combined total of 17 by Donnie Avery and Devin Thomas, the receivers drafted ahead of him. Nelson’s 98 catches for 1,519 yards and 13 scores in 2014 was one of the finest seasons in NFL history. He was the Comeback Player of the Year with 97 catches for 1,257 yards and a league-high 14 touchdowns in 2016. Grade: A.

2008, 7th round — Brett Swain, San Diego State (6-0 1/8, 200; no data available): 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 381 receptions for 4,764 yards and 34 touchdowns. Oops. Grade: D-plus.

2011, 2nd round — Randall Cobb, Kentucky (5-10 1/4, 191; 4.55 40; 33.5 vertical; 7.08 3-cone; 9 3/8 hands): Thompson struck gold in the second round again, this time with the final pick of the round (No. 64 overall). 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 slumped a bit the past two seasons, with 60 catches for 610 yards and four touchdowns in 2016. Cobb was the seventh of 28 receivers drafted. He trails only top-six picks Julio Jones (497) and A.J. Green (481) in receptions and only Jones (7,610), Green (7,135) and No. 58 pick Torrey Smith (4,521) in yards. Grade: A-minus.

2013, 7th round — Charles Johnson, Grand Valley State (6-2, 215; 4.39 40; 39.5 vertical; 7.04 3-cone; NA hands): 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, he caught 60 passes the past three seasons. Of the final 11 receivers selected, Johnson leads the way in receptions. Grade: F.

2013, 7th round — Kevin Dorsey, Maryland (6-1 3/8, 207; 4.47 40; 39 vertical; 7.08 3-cone; NA hands): 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 is out of the league with just that one catch. Grade: D-minus.

2014, 2nd round — Davante Adams, Fresno State (6-0 7/8, 212; 4.56 40; 39.5 vertical; 6.82 3-cone; 9 hands): Will this be another second-round grand slam at receiver? After a promising rookie season and a dismal second season, Adams caught 79 passes for 997 yards and 12 touchdowns in 2016. In three seasons, he’s caught 163 passes for 1,926 yards and 16 touchdowns. Adams was the ninth of 34 receivers selected. He ranks seventh in the draft class in catches, 10th in yards and seventh in touchdowns. Adams has more catches than four of the eight receivers drafted ahead of him. Grade: B.

2014, 5th round — Jared Abbrederis, Wisconsin (6-1, 195; 4.50 40; 30.5 vertical; 6.80 3-cone; 9 5/8 hands): Abbrederis just couldn’t stay healthy, so he was released last season and has since signed with Detroit. The 24th of 34 receivers drafted, his career totals are a meager 10 catches for 119 yards and no touchdowns. Of the final 12 receivers selected, only one has more than 18 catches. Grade: D.

2014, 7th round — Jeff Janis, Saginaw Valley State (6-2 7/8, 219; 4.42 40; 37.5 vertical; 6.64 3-cone; 9 hands): Janis, the fourth-to-last receiver drafted, has 15 catches for 188 yards and one touchdown. While he has failed to play to his prodigious physical tools and was unable to capitalize on his huge playoff game at Arizona in 2015, at least he’s been an impact player on special teams. With the 236th overall selection, that’s not a bad return on investment. Grade: C.

2015, 3rd round — Ty Montgomery, Stanford (5-11 7/8, 221; 4.55 40; 40.5 vertical; 6.97 3-cone; 10 1/8 hands): See running backs story.

2016, 5th round — Trevor Davis, Cal (6-1 1/8, 188; 4.42 40; 38.5 vertical; 6.60 3-cone; 10 hands): Davis caught three passes for 24 yards and one touchdown as a rookie. Davis was the 17th of 31 receivers selected. Taken two picks after Davis, the Chiefs took a shot on Tyreek Hill, a major character risk with all-world speed. He caught 61 passes for 593 yards and scored 12 total touchdowns. Grade: Incomplete.

Overall grade: If you want to nitpick, you could say Thompson has missed on every receiver drafted in the final four rounds. But without burning a single first-round pick at the position, Thompson landed Jennings, Jones, Nelson, Cobb and Adams. Their production is as good, if not better, than most of the receivers taken in front of them. Grade: A-minus.

What it means (if anything) for 2017: 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 in the 40-yard dash at the Combine — a 4.46 in 2006. What Thompson values is production. That’s why we projected Montgomery when we ran the original version of this story in 2015.

As is the case at just about every position, Thompson won’t draft a short receiver. The only receiver shorter than 5-foot-11 was Cobb, at 5-foot-10 1/4. That might have been a value purchase for a player we projected as a first-round possibility for the team at the time. Thompson hasn’t drafted many tall receivers, either, with only Nelson (6-2 5/8) and seventh-rounders Johnson (6-2) and Janis (6-2 7/8) being taller than 6-foot-1 1/2. Only one of Thompson’s receiver picks ran slower than 4.60 in the 40 (Rodgers).

It’s hard to say if this is a trend, but the five receivers drafted the past three years all had three-cone times of less than 7 seconds. Of Thompson’s first 11 receivers, three-cone times are available for 10 of them. Only Jennings beat 7 seconds. For reference, the three-cone average was 6.95 seconds at this year’s Combine.

Who has the combination of production, at least decent speed, “Goldilocks” height and 7-second three-cone times? Here’s our list, in alphabetical order, with top prospects Mike Williams of Clemson, Corey Davis of Western Michigan and John Ross of Washington not included because they are expected to be off the board by No. 29. Players with hands smaller than 9 inches, such as Ross and Baylor’s K.D. Cannon, were eliminated, too.

South Florida’s Rodney Adams (6-1 1/4; 4.44 40; 6.98 3-cone)
Michigan’s Amara Darboh (6-1 5/8; 4.45 40; 6.81 3-cone)
Syracuse’s Amba Etta-Tawo (6-1 1/4; 4.40 40; 6.95 3-cone)
Penn State’s Chris Godwin (6-1, 209; 4.42 40; 7.00 3-cone)
Cal’s Chad Hansen (6-1 7/8; 4.53 40; 6.74 3-cone)
East Carolina’s Zay Jones (6-2 1/8; 4.45 40; 6.79 3-cone)
Eastern Washington’s Cooper Kupp (6-1 5/8; 4.62 40; 6.75 3-cone)
Akron’s Jerome Lane (6-2 1/2; 4.60 40; 6.87 3-cone)
Texas A&M’s Josh Reynolds (6-2 7/8; 4.52 40; 6.83 3-cone)
USC’s JuJu Smith-Schuster (6-1 3/8; 4.54 40; 6.88 3-cone)
Alabama’s Ardarius Stewart (5-11 1/8; 4.49; no 3-cone)
Western Kentucky’s Taywan Taylor (5-11; 4.50 40; 6.57 3-cone)

Finally, perhaps it’s coincidence that two of the three tallest receivers drafted by Thompson came in the seventh round, but here are four late-round options who bring height to the party: Georgia State’s Robert Davis (6-2 5/8; 4.44 40; 6.82 3-cone), Northern Illinois’ Kenny Golladay (6-4; 4.50 40; 7.00 3-cone), Marian’s Krishawn Hogan (6-3; 4.56 40; 6.74 3-cone), Air Force’s Jalen Robinette (6-2 7/8; 4.62 40; 6.77 3-cone) and Louisville’s Jamari Staples (6-2 7/8; 4.51 40; NA 3-cone).

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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