Off the charts

Wide receiver Greg Jennings on pace to break team rookie records

Since 1980, the Green Bay Packers have drafted 14 wide receivers in the first four rounds of the NFL draft, including two this season, and none of them have ever amassed 1,000 yards during their rookie seasons. Furthermore, only Sterling Sharpe has ever eclipsed 50 catches his rookie season.

That's about to change this year as second-round pick Greg Jennings is well on his way to having the best rookie season by a Packers receiver since 1952, when Billy Howton (second-round pick) caught 52 passes for 1,231 yards and 13 TDs.

Through five games, Jennings has 20 catches for 364 yards and three touchdowns. He's on pace to have season totals of 64 catches, 1,164 yards and 10 TDs, and this includes a one-catch for 5-yard performance in the season-opener.

By comparison, Sharpe, the team's all-time receptions leader with 595, had 55 catches for 791 yards and one TD as a rookie.

Jennings is one of two rookie receivers setting the NFL on fire, as New Orleans' Marques Colston has 23 catches for 374 yards and three TDs. The ironic thing is neither was a first-round pick as Colston was a seventh-round pick, the fourth-last pick of the draft, from Hofstra. Furthermore, Jennings' eight catches of 20 yards or more is tied for first in the NFL with Indianapolis' Reggie Wayne. Despite Jennings' impact through five games, he's not grabbing the attention Reggie Bush or Vince Young have – fellow rookies who were in the spotlight during their college careers.

Jennings (52nd overall) was the fourth wide receiver picked in the draft – Santonio Holmes (No. 25, from Ohio State to Pittsburgh), Chad Jackson (No. 36, from Florida to New England) and Sinorice Moss (No. 44, from Miami, Fla. to the Giants), who all came from high-profile colleges, were picked ahead of Jennings. Among the top three receivers picked in the draft, Holmes has the most catches with a modest 7 receptions for 73 yards.

Jennings' numbers are shocking, knowing he came from a Mid-American school, in addition to rookie receivers traditionally struggling to grasp an NFL offense.

Here's a look at the other 13 receivers picked by the Packers in the first four rounds since 1980 and their numbers:

2006: Cory Rodgers, fourth round, waived during preseason.

2005: Terrence Murphy, second round: 5 catches, 36 yards (suffered career-ending injury).

2002: Javon Walker, first round: 23 catches, 319 yards, 1 TD.

2001: Robert Ferguson, second round: no catches.

2000: Anthony Lucas, fourth round: no catches.

1996: Derrick Mayes, second round: 6 catches, 46 yards, 2 TDs.

1995: Antonio Freeman, third round: 8 catches, 106 yards, 1 TD.

1992: Robert Brooks, third round: 12 catches, 126 yards, 1 TD.

1988: Sterling Sharpe, first round: 55 catches, 791 yards, 1 TD.

1987: Frankie Neal, third round: 36 catches, 420 yards, 3 TDs.

1985: Walter Stanley, fourth round: no catches.

1983: Mike Miller, fourth round: no catches.

1980: Fred Nixon, fourth round: 4 catches, 78 yards.

These numbers suggest Jennings can have a special career. Nevertheless, some articles written by other media outlets have questioned his size (5-foot-11, 197 pounds) and speed (4.42 seconds in the 40-yard dash), saying he'll never be a superstar receiver. Too much emphasis is put on size and speed and not what the person can do.

What Jennings has done so far should not be overlooked.

Jennings doesn't have enough speed? His 18.2 yards-per-catch average is the highest for a regular Packers receiver since Stanley averaged 20.7 yards on 35 catches in 1986. Slow receivers don't have big averages. Not big enough? Donald Driver is listed at 6-0, 190 pounds.

Although Jennings has been impressive thus far, he has a long way to go. He needs to get stronger and continue to develop. Also, if he continues this pace, at some point defenses may switch their top cornerback from Driver to Jennings, as Jennings always faces the opponent's No.2 corner, while never facing a double team.

But as the Packers enter the bye week this weekend, they can feel good about what they have in Jennings. He is on pace to become one of the team's most prolific rookie wide receivers in history.

Still, this is just the first chapter in Jennings' career, and it will be up to him to continue to wow everybody who watches him.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at

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