GREEN BAY, Wis. – From 2005 through 2020, the 16 drafts conducted by Ted Thompson and his protégé, Brian Gutekunst, Randall Cobb was the shortest receiver selected by the Green Bay Packers.
At the 2011 Scouting Combine, Cobb measured 5-foot-10 1/4. He was almost a full inch shorter than any other receiver selected by the Packers over that span. In what was the clearest and most obvious draft trend imaginable, the Packers simply had no interest in short receivers, no matter how fast, productive or talented.
Gutekunst changed that trend in a not-small way in last week’s NFL Draft. Not only did he select Clemson’s Amari Rodgers, who measured 5-foot-9 1/2 at Clemson’s pro day, but he traded up to do so.
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Aaron Rodgers and Corey Linsley made a combined 289 regular-season starts for the Packers. To be sure, defenses will attack an offense piloted by Jordan Love and Josh Myers much differently.
“When you see him, when you get up on him, he’s not a small man. He’s just not tall,” Gutekunst said. “So, I do think he’s a little different maybe than some of the other slot guys you see across the league because he’s just built a little bit more like a running back.”
Rodgers was the 13th receiver selected. At 212 pounds, he was the heaviest of the bunch even while being tied for the fourth-shortest. Of the 19 receivers taken in the first 140 selections, only Michigan’s Nico Collins (6-foot-4, 215 pounds) was heavier.
“He’s got a good build to him,” coach Matt LaFleur said. “The expectation is on the run downs to be able to dig out whether it’s safeties, corners, to be able to be a premier blocker. And when he gets the ball in his hands, he’s pretty dynamic. I think you can use him a lot of different ways, whether it’s on jet motions or in the passing games, I think he’s a really good route-runner. He’s just a complete football player. He’s got great play strength and he’s proven it over the course of his career at Clemson.”
Rodgers dominated as a senior, posting career highs of 77 receptions for 1,020 yards and seven touchdowns. Given the ball frequently on screens and jet sweep-style passes, he ranked first in the nation in slot catches, second in screen catches and seventh in missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus. According to Sports Info Solutions, he was fifth in the draft class with 8.0 yards after the catch per reception. A whopping 32 of his receptions were beyond the line of scrimmage.
“He used a stiff-arm like he’s a running back,” Clemson receivers coach Tyler Grisham said. “He’s got a running back mentality. He’s very strong, very confident.”
For the Packers, he’ll fill an obvious need in LaFleur’s offense. Davante Adams led the team with 47 receptions from the slot last year. That’s more receptions than the rest of the receivers combined, with Allen Lazard a distant second with 17. Every Packers receiver combined to force seven missed tackles from the slot. It’s obviously an apples-to-lugnuts comparison, but Rodgers forced 17 by himself.
“I have that running back mentality, that background,” Rodgers said. “I played running back my whole life until my junior year of high school. I definitely have that mentality. When I get the ball, I’m trying to get north and south to the end zone. I’m not trying to get tackled by one person because I know every inch of the game, it pays a difference. The more yards you get every time you touch the ball, that’s better for you. That’s really my mentality when I get the rock.”