Position analysis: While still in the discussion as the league’s best receiving corps, that call is no longer a slam dunk after the free-agent defection of two-time Pro Bowl receiver Greg Jennings, who signed a five-year, $47.5 million deal with the rival Minnesota Vikings, and the retirement of Donald Driver, who caught only eight passes in limited playing time last year but retired as the franchise’s all-time leader in receptions and receiving yardage. But neither of those players contributed last season as they had in the past – Jennings missed eight games with a lower abdominal muscle injury, and Driver was limited to only 153 snaps of playing time – and the cupboard ain’t exactly bare.
Given how productive they’ve each been at their best, Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb and James Jones still make for a pretty impressive 1-2-3 combination if all three can stay healthy. Cobb, in his second NFL season, led the Packers in receiving in 2012 with 80 catches for 954 yards and eight touchdowns in regular-season play; Jones set career highs in receptions (64), yards (784) and touchdowns (an NFL-best 14); and when Nelson was healthy for a full 2011, he caught 68 passes for 1,263 yards and 15 touchdowns. Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross are also intriguing prospects. That said, the offense isn’t as explosive when one or more of the key pieces is missing.
Draft strategy: One thing Ted Thompson has always done as the Packers’ general manager has been to stock the wide receiver position with talent for his quarterbacks. In his eight drafts in Green Bay, Thompson has taken eight wide receivers. During the time he had Brett Favre as his quarterback (2005 through 2007), Thompson drafted five of them: Texas A&M’s Terrence Murphy (second round, No. 58) in 2005; Western Michigan’s Jennings (second round, No. 52) and TCU’s Corey Rodgers (fourth round, No. 104) in 2006; and San Jose State’s Jones (third round, No. 78) and Virginia Tech’s David Clowney (fifth round, No. 157) in 2007. Since Aaron Rodgers ascended to the starting job in 2008, Thompson has taken three more: Kansas State’s Nelson (second round, No. 36) and San Diego State’s Brett Swain (seventh round, No. 217) in 2008; and Kentucky’s Cobb (second round, No. 64 overall) in 2011. With Jennings’ departure and Driver’s retirement, picking a pass-catcher relatively high – say, in the first two days – doesn’t seem far-fetched given Thompson’s track record.
NEXT: Tight ends.
Listen to Jason Wilde every weekday from 9 a.m. to 10 a.m. on “Green & Gold Today,” and follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/jasonjwilde.