Green Bay Packers 2011 NFL Draft: Why Wide Receiver Is Suddenly a Need
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I'll bet a lot of Green Bay Packers fans were a little surprised, if not upset, when Ted Thompson and Co. selected Kansas State receiver Jordy Nelson in the second round of the 2008 NFL draft.
Personally, I loved the pick. Green Bay knew the end could be near for Donald Driver, and there was no guarantee James Jones would pan out.
Three years later, Jones is solid, but not elite, Driver is one step closer to fading away, and Nelson is fresh off an MVP-like performance in Green Bay's Super Bowl win over the Pittsburgh Steelers.
While Nelson's rise within the Packers offense has a lot to do with his play near the end of the 2010 season and Green Bay's dramatic playoff run, it also has to do with realism and free agency.
Putting Nelson's talent aside, Driver is aging and slowly regressing, and James Jones could be leaving via free agency. This could potentially put Green Bay in a spot they haven't been in for a while: Lacking great receiver depth.
The time has arguably come for Nelson to start opposite star Greg Jennings, and for Driver and Jones to have reduced (or no) roles. That may not necessarily equate to drafting a wide receiver to take over immediately as the team's third option, but now is the time to at least think about the future.
Should Green Bay draft a receiver this year?
With that said, there are 10 receivers the Packers could really use to spice up their offense, and all should be available at the end of the first round or later.
1. Torrey Smith (Maryland)
Smith is a burner and arguably the most talented receiver in this draft class after A.J. Green, Julio Jones and Jonathan Baldwin. He's probably the least likely to still be around for Green Bay in either the first or second round, but he's probably the fastest guy in this draft.
Hankerson isn't the best route-runner and struggles to always catch the ball with his hands, but in terms of physical ability, he can get the job done. He has perfect size and is very strong over the middle. Hankerson isn't as consistent as you'd like, but he's got the size and tools to develop into a star at the next level.
3. Titus Young (Boise State)
Young isn't the most fundamentally sound receivers in this class, but he's an elite burner with exceptional quickness and agility. He's really one of the most athletic and explosive receivers in the entire draft. He has some work to do with concentration and consistency in route-running, but the talent is there for him to quickly develop into a stud.
4. Austin Pettis (Boise State)
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Pettis isn't an elite burner or playmaker. He simply runs great routes and catches nearly everything thrown his way. If he were a better athlete, he'd be a guaranteed first-round pick.
Little is what some would call a "safe" pick. He's a great possession receiver with very good athleticism and ability after the catch. Little has great, reliable hands. He's still pretty raw as a route-runner and he does not possess elite speed, but he makes up for it with terrific ball skills and playmaking ability after the catch. He's not the flashy pick, but he could be one of the more productive ones. Taller receivers aren't normally built for the West Coast offense, but Little's game is more like James Jones or Hakeem Nicks, and he simply offers a size advantage.
6. Randall Cobb (Kentucky)
Cobb isn't a natural receiver, but his elite speed and athleticism make up for it. While not the most polished receiver, he has an excellent combination of skills and versatility, allowing him to be deployed all over the field. The fact that he doesn't have one position to truly call home yet keeps him low on this list, but his potential has his stock on the rise.
7. Vincent Brown (San Diego State)
Brown lacks ideal size or strength, but he is an exceptional playmaker after the catch. Brown runs faster than he times, and has a good burst. He would fit a role in the slot quite well, as he's adept at getting open and then going to work with the ball in his hands.
Which round should Green Bay draft a receiver?
8. Jeff Maehl (Oregon State)
Maehl isn't a major burner, doesn't have elite size, and isn't overly strong. However, he has deceptive speed and quickness, always finds a way to get open, and is an extremely reliable receiver. Maehl isn't an elite athlete, but he's adequate, as he can make plays in the open field.
9. Ricardo Lockette (Fort Valley State)
Lockette could be a real treat if his speed and athleticism ever get caught by his work ethic and discipline on the field. He has exceptional potential, but is still quite raw and hasn't faced elite competition.
10. Dane Sanzenbacher (Ohio State)
Sanzanbacher isn't anything overly special, but he's fundamentally sound and has solid athleticism. He's not going to be a star at the next level, but he's more polished than a lot of the other raw receivers behind him.
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