Expect to See the Packers Select a Wide Receiver Early in the 2014 NFL Draft

Bob FoxContributor IMarch 18, 2014

Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson listens to a question during a news conference during the NFL football scouting combine in Indianapolis, Friday, Feb. 25, 2011. (AP Photo/Darron Cummings)
Darron Cummings/Associated Press

Ted Thompson has run the front office of the Green Bay Packers for nine years now. If you look at his history since then, it is obvious that his modus operandi in putting together the roster of the team is to draft and develop the various players he selects.

Head coach Mike McCarthy and his staff have to accomplish that agenda, and so far the results have been favorable. McCarthy was hired by Thompson in just his second year in Green Bay, and so far the Thompson/McCarthy duo have a 82-45-1 record in eight years together.

That includes four NFC North titles, six playoff appearances and one Vince Lombardi Trophy.

Yes, Thompson will occasionally dip his toes into true free agency, like he recently did when he signed defensive end Julius Peppers, but mostly his use of free agency usually comes via signing street free agents or undrafted rookies.

But when it comes to Thompson's use of the draft, one can see a pattern, especially when drafting wide receivers.

Thompson has drafted four wide receivers in the second round of his nine drafts in Green Bay, as well as one in the third round.

That third-round selection was James Jones in 2007. Jones recently left the Packers via free agency to join the Oakland Raiders, which puts Jones back close to home. Jones went to San Jose State, before he spent seven productive years with the Packers.

In his career as a Packer, Jones had 310 receptions for 4,305 yards and 37 touchdowns. No. 89 was clutch in the postseason as well, as he had 28 catches for 410 yards and four touchdowns.

The four wide receivers Thompson selected in the second round were Terrence Murphy in 2005, Greg Jennings in 2006, Jordy Nelson in 2008 and Randall Cobb in 2011.

Except for Murphy, who suffered a neck injury in his rookie year that ended his NFL career, all of the other second-round selections at wide receiver have had very nice careers in Green Bay.

Jennings had a very good career in seven seasons with the Packers, as he had 425 receptions for 6,537 and 53 touchdowns. Like Jones, he also shone in the postseason with the Packers, as he had 50 catches for 673 yards and six touchdowns.

Jan 5, 2014; Green Bay, WI, USA; Green Bay Packers wide receiver Jordy Nelson (87) catches a touchdown pass as San Francisco 49ers cornerback Tramaine Brock (26) defends during the second quarter of the 2013 NFC wild card playoff football game at Lambeau
Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports

Nelson has had a very productive career in his six seasons as a Packer, as he has 302 receptions for 4,590 yards and 36 touchdowns. Like Jones and Jennings, No. 87 has been a difference-maker in the playoffs as well, as he has 40 catches for 495 yards and four touchdowns.

Cobb has been both a threat as a wide receiver and also as a return man. In his three-year career in Green Bay, he has 136 receptions for 1,762 yards and 13 touchdowns. No. 18 also has over 2,500 return yards on kickoffs and punts with three touchdowns.

I talk to scout Chris Landry quite often, and he says the 2014 NFL draft is one of the best drafts in several years. The wide receiver class is especially deep. Landry tells me that a number of prospects he will grade as a first-round talent will get drafted in the second round this year.

The same holds true for second- and third-round prospects, as a number of those players will be selected a round later than they were graded.

That means the Packers should be able to select a very talented wide receiver early in the draft.

I expect the Packers to concentrate on defense early in the draft, especially at safety and inside linebacker.

That being said, if a very good receiver is on the board and is available, history tells us that Thompson might select a player like that.

As I mentioned earlier, Jones has now left the team via free agency. Both Nelson and Cobb are slated to be unrestricted free agents in 2015. Although I expect the Packers to re-sign both Nelson and Cobb, nothing is a given in the NFL.

Now, the Packers also have a number of young, developmental wide receivers in the organization as well, but if they can select a game-breaking type of talent for quarterback Aaron Rodgers to utilize at wide receiver, then I believe Thompson will probably make that selection, like he has in the past.

So which wide receivers fall into this second- or third-round category?

There are quite a few. The list includes Odell Beckham Jr. and Jarvis Landry from LSU, Davante Adams from Fresno State, Brandin Cooks from Oregon State, Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt, Allen Robinson from Penn State, Paul Richardson from Colorado, Donte Moncrief from Ole Miss and perhaps even Jared Abbrederis from Wisconsin.

Time will tell what will happen in the upcoming draft, but the history of Thompson's selections at wideout, as well as the wide receiver talent in this class, tell us the Packers will be selecting a wide receiver fairly early in the 2014 NFL draft.