Zay Jones (James Guillroy/USA Today)

Green Bay Packers Day 2 Lookahead: Wide Receivers

Jordy Nelson will turn 32 in a month, Randall Cobb hasn’t come close to matching his 2014 production and Davante Adams and Jeff Janis are entering their final season under contract.

After three players were selected in the first round, here are the Day 2 options at wide receiver. The Green Bay Packers own two picks in the second round (Nos. 33 and 61) and one pick in the third round (No. 93). Analytical stats are from Pro Football Focus, and our statistical rankings were based on our Top 31 prospects who met the Packers' historic athletic standards.

Zay Jones, East Carolina (6-2 1/8, 201; 4.45 40; 36.5 vertical; 6.79 3-cone): Jones caught 158 passes for 1,746 yards (11.1 average) and eight touchdowns. As a senior. Yes, those were his senior-year numbers. He was an All-American and one of three finalists for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top receiver. He’s got small hands (9 inches) but had the second-best drop rate. He caught 12-of-29 deep passes for 429 yards and three scores. He was murder in the slot, lining up there only 30 percent of the time but catching 64 passes. For his career, Jones caught 399 passes — why not 400? — for 4,279 yards (10.7) and 23 touchdowns. “That’s a good question,” Jones said when we brought up 399 at the Combine. “A lot of my friends tease me about not getting 400. Still got the record. I’m happy with it. … You go back to all the drops that you had and you kind of pinpoint and be like, man, if only I would have caught that one.” The career and 2016 reception totals are NCAA records. Jones comes from a football-playing family — though it made little difference to recruiters, with Jones’ only offer being East Carolina. His father, Robert, was an All-American linebacker at East Carolina and owns three Super Bowl rings from his career with the Cowboys. A brother, Cayleb, played receiver at Arizona and signed with the Vikings in January. Perhaps that’s why he seems to play with a sixth sense. His 20-yard shuttle time was the fastest among receivers at the Combine. Pro Football Focus’ comparison to Anquan Boldin seems apt.

Chris Godwin, Penn State (6-1, 209; 4.42 40; 36 vertical; 7.01 3-cone): Junior. Godwin needed three years to move up to seventh in career catches (153), fourth in receiving yards (2,404) and fourth in receiving touchdowns (18). He had a strong junior year, tallying 59 catches for 982 yards (16.6 average) and 11 touchdowns. As a sophomore, he caught 66 passes for 1,101 yards (16.0 average), making him one of only three players in school history with a 1,000-yard receiving season. Godwin had a sizzling Scouting Combine with receiver-best results on the bench press (19 reps at 225 pounds) and 20-yard shuttle (4.00 seconds). Penn State loved to air it out, with Godwin catching 14-of-32 long balls for 504 yards and seven touchdowns. His body control on 50-50 balls is sublime. Surprisingly considering his acrobatic catches, he ranked 22nd in drop rate. The aforementioned weight room strength shows up as a blocker.

Cooper Kupp, Eastern Washington (6-1 5/8, 204; 4.62 40; 31 vertical; 6.75 3-cone): It would be interesting to know if Kupp’s 3-cone time would save him on the Packers’ board considering his subpar 40 and vertical. A 4.08 in the shuttle saves him for this story. How does an FCS-level player get noticed? By dominating his competition. Kupp was a consensus FCS All-American not just as a senior but all four seasons. He was a two-time national Offensive Player of the Year, the 2015 Walter Payton Award winner (equivalent to the Heisman Trophy) and 2013 Jerry Rice Award winner (top FCS freshman). He was also a three-time Academic All-American. His 6,464 yards, 428 receptions, 73 touchdown catches, 124.3 average yards per game, 464 points and 1.40 average TDs per game were FCS records. The 6,464 yards is an all-divisions record; Rice held the FCS record. Kupp piled up 117 catches for 1,700 yards and 17 scores as a senior. He finished eighth in drop rate in our Top 31. Kupp was a big-play threat, catching 13-of-25 deep passes for 490 yards and eight touchdowns. He did most of his work from the slot, with 88 catches and 10 touchdowns when inside. While not a great athlete, he is surprisingly polished for a smaller-school performer. Kupp’s father, Craig, was a quarterback who was drafted by the Giants in 1991 who threw seven passes for the Arizona Cardinals. Grandfather Jake Kupp had a better pro career, with the guard part of the Saints’ Hall of Fame and all-25-year team.

JuJu Smith-Schuster, USC (6-1 3/8, 215; 4.54 40; 32.5 vertical; 6.88 3-cone): Junior. Smith-Schuster had three big seasons for the Trojans, with 54 receptions for 724 yards (13.4 average) and five touchdowns as freshman, 89 catches for 1,454 yards (16.3) and 10 touchdowns as a sophomore and 70 catches for 914 yards (13.1) and 10 touchdowns as a junior. That gave him 213 catches, 3,092 yards (14.5) and 25 touchdowns. Smith-Schuster’s 10 1/2-inch hands were the second-biggest among receivers at the Combine, which showed up by ranking 11th in drop rate. Smith-Schuster was not a long-ball threat, catching only 7-of-21 for 229 yards and one touchdown. Where he wins is with polish and physicality at the ball and after the catch. He wore an Elmo backpack at USC as a playful tie with his younger siblings but is all business on the field. “When teams ask me what I’m best at, obviously, I say football IQ. I played 39 games, started 38 games. I’m tough. I played through a broken hand and didn’t miss a game. Played through a torn thumb, didn’t miss a game. And just very competitive. Willing to work. Willing to put my body out there on a line.”

ArDarius Stewart, Alabama (5-11 1/8, 204; 4.49 40; 34 vertical; DNP 3-cone): Junior. In three seasons, Stewart caught 129 passes. Most of that production came in his final two seasons: 63 catches for 700 yards (11.1 average) and four touchdowns as a sophomore and 54 catches for 864 yards (16.0) and eight touchdowns as a junior. His bread and butter came in turning short passes into bigger gains. According to PFF, he gained 10.7 YAC per catch. His success came with his ability to get to full speed quickly and then powering through tacklers for extra yards. Stewart was used about one-fourth of the time in the slot but was productive in those chances, with his 3.56 yards per slot route ranking fourth among receivers with at least 20 slot catches. For added perspective, Jones averaged 3.41 and Kupp averaged 3.07. He caught 7-of-14 deep balls for 283 yards and one score. However, he ranked 18th in drop rate.

Curtis Samuel, Ohio State (5-10 5/8, 196; 4.31 40; 37 vertical; 7.09 3-cone): Junior. Samuel ran the ball more than he caught the ball during three seasons at Ohio State. Regardless, he was a playmaker, which is why he’s garnered comparisons Percy Harvin. His blazing speed offers another comparison — to Kansas City’s Tyreek Hill. In 2016, he caught 74 passes for 865 yards (11.7) average and seven touchdowns and carried the ball 97 times for 771 yards (7.9) and eight touchdowns to earn first-team All-American honors. His career totals were 107 receptions for 1,249 yards (11.7) and nine scores and 172 rushes for 1,286 yards (7.5) and 15 scores. His drop rate ranked 20th.

Chad Hansen, Cal (6-1 7/8, 202; 4.53 40; 35 vertical; 6.74 3-cone): Junior. Hansen caught 45 passes at Idaho State in 2013 before transferring to Cal. After sitting out the 2014 season, Hansen made a modest impact in 2015 with just 19 catches. It was a different story in 2016, with Hansen catching 92 passes for 1,249 yards (13.6 average) and 11 touchdowns. How’s this for motivation: After his strong debut at Idaho State — the only school to offer a scholarship — Hansen began contemplating a transfer to a Power Five school. A coach at Arizona State had this to say: “You're not cut out to play at the Pac-12 level. You should just stay at Idaho State and continue your career there. That's probably the best and easiest way to go about things.” Hansen ranked third in our list of prospects in drop rate. Not coincidentally, he was one of seven receivers with 10-inch-plus hands. He was a premier deep threat, catching 16-of-35 for 480 yards and six scores. Like Davante Adams, Hansen overcomes average speed by doing everything else right.

Amara Darboh, Michigan (6-1 5/8, 214; 4.45 40; 36 vertical; 6.81 3-cone): After not catching a pass as a freshman and missing the 2013 season with a foot injury, Darboh’s career flourished. He caught 151 passes for 2,062 yards (13.7 average) and 14 touchdowns the next three seasons. That includes back-to-back all-conference seasons of 58 catches, 727 yards and five touchdowns as a junior and 57 catches for 862 yards and seven touchdowns as a senior. His weight-room strength at the Combine showed up when he had to block. For having almost 10-inch hands, he dropped far too many passes (26th in drop rate). He also was a nonfactor on deep passes, with a 7-of-28 success rate. Darboh was born in Sierra Leone. His parents, Solimon and Kadita, died in a civil war when he was 2. He lived with relatives in the capital city of Freetown amid the violence, eventually seeking refuge in Gambia and then Senegal before coming to the United States when he was 7. “I remember quite a bit. I think what I did go through has helped me out throughout my life, and I know a lot of people have gone through tough times, as well. I won’t say it’s prepared me more than others but it’s helped me out a lot in my life.”

Taywan Taylor, Western Kentucky (5-11, 203; 4.50 40; 33.5 vertical; 6.57 3-cone): Taylor turned 253 receptions into 4,234 yards (16.7 average) and 41 touchdowns. That includes 17-touchdown seasons as a junior (86 catches, 1467 yards, 17.1 average) and senior (98 catches, 1,730 yards, 17.7 average), when he was a finalist for the Biletnikoff Award, which goes to the nation’s top receiver. The 2015 numbers were the best in school history; the 2016 numbers smashed the 2015 tallies. The number would have been even better had he not finished 21st in drop rate. His 948 yards and 11 touchdowns on deep passes — coming on 20-of-43 passes — are bigger numbers than most receivers had in general. He didn’t line up often in the slot but was second in the draft class with 4.85 yards per pass route. None other than Nick Saban said Taylor would be perhaps the best receiver his team would face all season — quite a comment considering Alabama faced Smith-Schuster and the SEC gauntlet.


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