Draft Position Preview: Receivers

Wide receiver ranks 11th on our list of the Packers' draft needs, even without a sure replacement for 35-year-old starter Donald Driver. The depth of the receiver class starts right where the Packers are picking in the first round and runs through the second.

Packer Report continues its position-by-position looks at the NFL Draft with the wide receivers.

Packers position rank by need

11th of 13.

State of the Packers

The Packers are set with Donald Driver and Greg Jennings as the starters and James Jones and Jordy Nelson providing depth. But Driver turned 35 in February and can't possibly keep churning out 1,000-yard seasons forever. And once Driver begins to decline, will Jennings be able to survive while facing constant double coverage? Or will Jones and/or Nelson step up to fill Driver's shoes? So far, neither have proven to be a starting-caliber player, so it wouldn't be a shocker for the Packers to grab a receiver early. The fifth receiver is Patrick Williams, an undrafted rookie from last year who spent part of the season on the practice squad.

Forget about ...

Oklahoma State star Dez Bryant allegedly is falling down draft charts because of that catch-all phrase "character concerns." It's not like Bryant is a criminal, though. His immense talent and combination of size (6-foot-2, 225 pounds) and speed will trump any questions about his level of maturity as the clear top talent at the position.

Possible targets

The depth in this receiver class begins late in the first round and runs through the second and perhaps to the top of the third. Notre Dame's Golden Tate and Georgia Tech's Demaryius Thomas could go in the first round, and Illinois' Arrelious Benn, USC's Damian Williams and Mississippi's do-it-all Dexter McCluster are solid second-rounders. One or two from the group of LSU's Brandon LaFell, Minnesota's Eric Decker, Ohio's Taylor Price or South Florida's Carlton Mitchell could join them.

— Tate (5-10) had nine 100-yard games as a senior, finishing with 93 catches for 1,496 yards and 15 touchdowns. He also averaged 14.3 yards on punt returns, good for third in the nation. Not a big guy and not a world-class speedster but he's pound-for-pound the toughest receiver in this draft and he's excelled in an NFL-style offense. Like Driver, has a burning desire to get the ball.

No. 13: Quarterbacks
No. 12: Specialists

— Thomas (6-3) is a monster physically. He was a big-play machine in Georgia Tech's run-first wishbone attack, averaging 25 yards per reception with eight scores among his 46 catches. On the other hand, he's raw because of the limited menu of routes in the Yellow Jackets' offense.

— McCluster (5-9) rushed for 1,169 yards with 44 receptions for 625 more yards as a senior. He's too small to be a 20-touches-per-game player but his electric short-range quickness and long-range speed make him a potential big-play machine as a runner, receiver and returner. The obvious comparison is the Eagles' DeSean Jackson. A source told Packer Report that the Packers "love" McCluster.

— Williams (6-1) survived the Trojans' quarterback problems last season, posting 70 catches, 1,010 yards and six touchdowns. He might not have big-play speed but he's a good route-runner and blocker. Plus, he averaged 14.2 yards with two touchdowns on punt returns.

— The powerful Benn (6-1) has not been the sum of his parts, but some of that has to do with the Illini's problems at quarterback and an early-season ankle injury that slowed him last season. Went from a total of 121 catches as a freshman and sophomore to 38 in 2009.

— In the second through fourth rounds, the athletic Mitchell (6-3), powerful LaFell (6-3) and productive Decker (6-2) have great size and playmaking ability. Mitchell left a year early and never produced big numbers but he's laden with potential. In his last two seasons, LaFell caught 120 passes with 19 touchdowns. Decker caught 83 balls for 1,077 yards and seven touchdowns in 2008 but missed most of last year with a foot injury.

Price and The Citadel's Andre Roberts (5-11) are great tacticians and playmakers who suffered from less-than-stellar quarterback play. Clemson's Jacoby Ford (5-9), Cincinnati's Mardy Gilyard (6-0) and Texas' Jordan Shipley (5-11) are playmaking receivers with big-time production as returners.

— Later in the draft, Florida's Riley Cooper (6-4), Kansas' Dezmon Briscoe (6-2), Michigan State's Blair White (6-2), Connecticut's Marcus Easley (6-3) and Louisville's Scott Long (6-2) have great size, with White, Long and Easley shooting up boards with surprising 40-yard times.

Syracuse's Mike Williams (6-2) has been linked to the Packers. He's an immense talent with great size, hands and body control but was suspended for the 2008 season because of cheating on an exam and then quitting a few games into the 2009 season after anticipating another suspension. He's a second-round talent who figures to plunge.

On the other side of the size coin, SMU's Emmanuel Sanders (5-11), Central Michigan's Antonio Brown (5-10) and Bowling Green's Freddie Barnes (6-0) having remarkable production with 98, 110 and 155 receptions, respectively. Brown doubles as a dynamic returner. Electric Appalachian State quarterback Armanti Edwards (5-11) translates to a receiver/Wildcat quarterback and LSU's Trindon Holliday (5-5) could fill a gadget role while returning kicks.

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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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