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Green Bay Packers History Guides Look at 2021 NFL Draft Receivers

Some clear preferences help thin the herd of Green Bay Packers prospects in a crowded and deep group of NFL Draft receiver prospects.
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GREEN BAY, Wis. – Here’s a look at the Green Bay Packers’ Receivers situation ahead of the NFL Draft, including pertinent history that suggests which draft-worthy prospects might not be a target.

State of the Packers

Headed into last year’s draft, receiver was deemed the Packers’ No. 1 need. Headed into this year’s draft, following a season in which Green Bay was No. 1 in the NFL in scoring, the need doesn’t seem quite as pressing. However, really, what changed? Where is the consistent contributor opposite Davante Adams? Allen Lazard and Marquez Valdes-Scantling had their moments, to be sure, but they aren’t consistently good enough to make defenses pay for ganging up on Adams. And if the offense was really good in 2020, what’s wrong with trying to be even better in 2021?

Over the last five drafts, the Packers are the only team to not select a receiver in the first three rounds. Over the last nine drafts, exactly 150 receivers have been selected in the first 130 picks. That's an average of almost five per team. The Packers have drafted only two, Adams and Ty Montgomery, the fewest in the league.

Receiver is a major need again. Adams, Valdes-Scantling, Equanimeous St. Brown and Devin Funchess will be free agents at the end of the season. It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Gutekunst take two or even three receivers.

Draft Position Ranking

6 out of 11. Many media draft experts believe this receiver class is on par with last year’s superb group. That might be true but it falls a bit short for the Packers. Pun intended. A big chunk of the slot group falls below the Packers’ historic size requirements. For teams that don’t mind their slot receiver standing 5-foot-9, this is a brilliant group of battle-tested playmakers. But scouting isn’t a one-size-fits-all deal. Pun intended, again.

History Says You Can (Maybe) Forget These Guys

This is the most cut-and-dried criteria imaginable. In the 16 drafts conducted by Ted Thompson and then Brian Gutekunst, the shortest receiver selected was Randall Cobb. A second-round pick in 2011, he measured 5-foot-10 1/4. The lack of receivers (or cornerbacks for that matter) under that 5-foot-10 threshold can’t possibly be a coincidence or, as Thompson liked to say, “just the way it worked out.”

That means Alabama’s Jaylen Waddle (5-9 1/2), Mississippi’s Elijah Moore (5-9 1/2), Clemson’s Amari Rodgers (5-9 1/2), South Carolina’s Shi Smith (5-9 1/2), Louisville’s Tutu Atwell (5-8 7/8), Western Michigan’s D’Wayne Eskridge (5-8 3/4), UCLA’s Demetric Felton (5-8 5/8), North Texas’ Jaelon Darden (5-7 5/8) and Purdue’s Rondale Moore (5-7) probably are off the board. Waddle, Rodgers, Eskridge and the Moores are expected to go in the first three rounds.

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J’Mon Moore, a fourth-round pick who bombed in 2018, was the slowest at 4.60. The Packers had him in the high 4.4s at his pro day. Using 4.6 as a cutoff would knock out only Wake Forest’s Sage Surratt among the contingent of likely draft picks.

Adams was tied for the smallest hands at 9 inches. Receivers with smaller hands include Rondale Moore, Eskridge, Atwell and Houston’s prolific receiver/returner Marquez Stevenson.

Craig Bragg (2005) ran the slowest 20-yard shuttle at 4.40. The shuttle long has been a critically important number for the Packers. With so many receivers skipping that test, only Auburn’s Seth Williams (4.43), Florida State’s Tamorrion Terry (4.47) and Felton (4.50) got dinged.

Vertical jump has been of no consequence. Valdes-Scantling’s vertical was merely 30.5 inches. Nelson’s was 31.

One more worth noting. Ten-yard splits – the first 10 yards of the 40 – have been available for Combine participants since 2008. The receiver average is 1.567, according to Green Bay’s times for receivers at the Combine, in chronological order: Jordy Nelson, 1.50; Cobb, 1.56; Charles Johnson, 1.53; Adams, 1.53; Jared Abbrederis, 1.53; Jeff Janis, 1.47; Trevor Davis, 1.51; Moore, 1.64; Valdes-Scantling, 1.55; and St. Brown, 1.54. Throwing out Moore’s time because his pro-day workout was so radically different, the slowest was Cobb – and he still matched the Combine average. Only Gutekunst knows whether there’s some sort of magical cutoff.

Who was slower than 1.57? According to Dane Brugler’s draft guide, which is full of testing data: LSU’s Ja’Marr Chase (1.59), expected to the fist receiver off the board, and LSU’s Terrace Marshall Jr. (1.60), a potential first-round pick. Some others: Alabama-Birmingham’s Austin Watkins (1.71), Rodgers (1.65), North Carolina’s Dazz Newsome (1.65), Amon-Ra St. Brown (1.63), Auburn’s Williams (1.63), Felton (1.62), South Carolina’s Shi Smith (1.60), Clemson’s Cornell Powell (1.60), Stanford’s Simi Fehoko (1.59), South Dakota State’s Cade Johnson (1.59) and Tennessee’s Josh Palmer (1.59).

So, who’s out? The guess is the nine receivers who are shorter than 5-foot-10, Surratt (40), Williams (shuttle), Terry (shuttle), Stevenson (hand size), and Newsome (bad 10-yard time paired with mediocre results in other tests). For perspective, that’s 14 of Brugler’s top 29.