Packers Deep at Receiver, But Deep Enough?

Packer Report has learned that the Packers have spoken to at least three top-flight receivers at the Scouting Combine. Each brings something different to the table but they have one thing in common: They make a lot of big plays.

Maybe it's just Ted Thompson doing his homework, but it's not out of the realm of possibility that he's going to try to upgrade the Packers' deepest position with an early-round draft pick.

The Packers have held formal interviews with at least three premier wide receivers: Kansas' Dez Briscoe, Notre Dame's Golden Tate and Mississippi's Dexter McCluster, Packer Report has learned. All three are solid second-round prospects.

With Donald Driver, Greg Jennings, James Jones and Jordy Nelson forming a fantastic foursome, receiver clearly isn't a need position. But Driver turned 35 on Feb. 2 and it's not a given that either Jones or Nelson will be able to fill Driver's shoes and prevent Jennings from facing double coverage on every snap.


Notre Dame WR Golden Tate
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images
Tate, who measured 5-foot-10 and 199 pounds at the Combine, had a monster season, hauling in 93 passes for 1,496 yards and 15 touchdowns. He added an 87-yard touchdown on a punt return and two rushing touchdowns.

The consensus All-American and winner of the Biletnikoff Award as the nation's top receiver set school records for catches and receiving yards in a season and equaled the mark for touchdown receptions in a season. He ranked in the top eight nationally in nine statistical categories and scored at least one touchdown in the Fighting Irish's final 11 games. That production made it a no-brainer to leave Notre Dame following his junior season.

"Funny story," Tate told reporters on Friday. "I spoke with Coach (Charlie) Weis before the season, before we played a down before camp. He said ‘Unless you have around 1,500 yards and around 16 or 17 touchdowns I would not leave early.' I had 1,500 yards and 15 touchdowns. Another thing before I made any decisions, we sat down and spoke. The pros were better than the cons, we thought. So we made the decision to enter the draft early."


RB/WR Dexter McCluster
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images
McCluster (5-8, 172) is the undersized dynamo who wowed scouts at the Senior Bowl with his ability as a runner, receiver and returner. McCluster is listed as a running back at the Combine, even though he started eight games at receiver and four games at running back during his All-American senior season for Ole Miss. The all-purpose star became the first player in SEC history with 1,000 rushing yards (1,169; 6.5 per carry) and 500 receiving yards (520; 11.8 per reception).

His size is an obvious concern, but he was dominant down the stretch. In his final six games, he accumulated 1,005 rushing yards and averaged 167.5 rushing yards on 23.8 carries. Plus in that span, he caught 28 passes for 322 yards and topped 200 yards from scrimmage in four of those games.

His explosive ability would be a real draw for the Packers, who could use a stretch-the-field receiver, change-of-pace runner, third-down playmaker out of the backfield and dynamic return threat. Some scouts have said McCluster will merit first-round consideration, in part because of the success of smaller players like Percy Harvin and DeSean Jackson, though second round is more likely.

"It was more so early on," McCluster said Saturday of teams' concerns. "Now, a lot of teams aren't really talking about the weight or height situation. A lot of them are saying, ‘We really don't care. You're a playmaker. You play football, so that's what you do. Your game speaks for itself.' They see I'm not scared to take on a block, a man-to-man block, and they see that I can make one man miss. Right now, I don't think it's such a big issue. It never was an issue for me because it's been that way all my life, always a smaller guy. I had to work that much harder to get better and to prove that there is something different about me."


Kansas WR Dez Briscoe
Jamie Squire/Getty Images
On the other side of the size coin is Kansas' Dez Briscoe, who checked in at 6-foot-2 and 207 pounds. Like Tate, Briscoe put up prodigious numbers with 92 catches, 1,407 yards and 15 touchdowns as a sophomore and 84 catches, 1,337 yards and nine touchdowns last season as a junior. He also has been productive in limited opportunities returning kickoffs.

Briscoe acknowledges he won't blow anyone away when he runs his 40 at the Combine — adding that the scouts didn't consider his lack of blazing speed "a big deal." Nonetheless, he produced no shortage of big plays.

"I feel like it's more of a mind-set, wanting to get the extra yards," he said on Saturday. "There are certain situations where body size or whatever really doesn't make a difference. If you go to Dexter McClusters and the Jacoby Fords, the smaller guys or whatever, they're not as physically built but they've got the mind-set and the heart as big as the stadium to go out and make someone miss."


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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 packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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