Duke basketball player Greg Paulus worked out for the Green Bay Packers last week, but it was the guy who was catching Paulus' passes that is the bigger NFL prospect.
Big-play receiver Eron Riley and Paulus put their skills on display for Packers scout Brian Gutekunst at a private on-campus workout on Thursday.
Riley slipped off scouts' radars a bit during his senior season after being one of college football's most-explosive receivers the previous two years. As a sophomore, Riley averaged 20.1 yards on 32 catches with three touchdowns. As a junior, he averaged 20.8 yards on 40 catches with nine touchdowns, with gains for 50-plus yards in four of 12 games as a junior
As a senior, though, he averaged just 11.4 yards on 61 catches with eight touchdowns. It didn't help that Riley's pro prospects that Duke won six games in Riley's four seasons — including 4-8 in 2008, when the Blue Devils won their only ACC game in that span. But Riley made a statement at Duke's pro day in March by running one 40-yard dash in 4.27 seconds and a second in 4.36. With that sort of speed, a 40-inch vertical jump and a 6-foot-3 frame, scouts are double-checking the game tape, and that led to Thursday's private workout.
"That was one thing that a lot of teams were questioning. They didn't know if I had speed," Riley told Packer Report on Tuesday. "I'm more of a long-strider type of runner, so maybe it doesn't look like I'm moving as fast. So, I wanted to show that I could run and had some speed to go along with my size."
Riley was pleased with his workout and said he received plenty of positive feedback from Gutekunst. Not surprisingly, he says making plays down the field is his forte.
"I know as of now I'm not the best receiver," Riley said. "I need to work on a lot of things, from being a more consistent player to having a better understanding of defenses. I know I'm not at the top of my game yet. I have some room to grow."
Riley pointed to his work as a gunner on the punt team as a way he could help an NFL roster immediately. He averaged 23.7 yards on kickoff returns as a freshman, and that's an area where the Packers need a major upgrade.
Riley says he's hearing he'll be a late-round draft pick or an undrafted free agent. All he wants is a chance.
"This is a lifelong dream I've had, so hopefully by next weekend, I'll be with a team playing with someone. That would make the whole thing great," Riley said when asked about the draft process. "All I really want is to be on a team at the end of the day. Hopefully, I'm drafted, but if not, hopefully, I'll be in someone's camp and work my way toward making the team's roster."
As for the guy throwing the ball to Riley on Thursday, Paulus was a three-year starter at point guard for the powerful Blue Devils before seeing his role slashed as a senior.
Paulus was a Parade All-American quarterback and the Gatorade National Player of the Year at Christian Brothers Academy in Syracuse, N.Y. He threw 152 touchdown passes as a four-time all-state selection. He was pursued as a football player by Notre Dame and Miami (Fla.), among other schools.
Still, at 6-foot-1 and out of football for so long, Paulus would appear to have a mountain to climb just to make a roster.
"He did pretty good, to me," Riley said. "We got out there and threw a couple days beforehand, and he was throwing pretty good balls to me."
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and 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. Bill also is giving Facebook and Twitter a try. Find him on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport