Position analysis: Two years ago, the Packers had Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Jarrett Boykin as their top five wide receivers by the end of the season, and their all-time leading receiver, Donald Driver, was their sixth wideout. Even though Driver wasn’t the dynamic player he’d been in his heyday, that spoke to just how ridiculously deep the Packers were – and how remarkably blessed quarterback Aaron Rodgers was – at receiver. Whatever headaches there were about trying to keep that many pass-catchers happy were outweighed by the sheer talent at the position.
Two years later, Driver's happy in retirement, Jennings understandably took more money and joined the rival Minnesota Vikings in free agency, and the Packers didn’t bother to try to re-sign Jones when free agency opened in March – choosing instead to wait to show interest in bringing him back until it was too late and he’d agreed to terms with Oakland. As a result, they're down to Nelson, Cobb, Boykin, Myles White, Kevin Dorsey and the mysterious Chris Harper, whom even die-hards might not know exists on the roster.
There was talk early in the season that Nelson, Cobb James Jones could each break the 1,000-yard threshold, and had Cobb, who missed 10 games with a broken leg, and Jones, who missed two games with a knee injury and played the final few weeks of the season with broken ribs, stayed healthy, they might’ve done it. Boykin, who had such a good offseason and training camp as a rookie free agent in 2012 that he essentially forced the Packers into the unprecedented step of keeping six receivers coming out of camp, came on in Cobb’s absence and caught 49 passes for 681 yards and three touchdowns. With Cobb and Nelson the clear cut top 2 – and both in need of contract extensions as they enter the final year of their respective deals, by the way – the Packers are counting on Boykin to continue to grow. It’s also a safe bet that the team will add at least one receiver
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 nine drafts in Green Bay, Thompson has taken 10 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 Rodgers ascended to the starting job in 2008, Thompson has taken five 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.
Last year, he took Maryland’s Dorsey (seventh round) and Grand Valley State’s Charles Johnson (seventh round). Both were injured throughout the offseason and camp, but the team kept Johnson on the practice squad (he eventually signed with Cleveland’s 53-man roster, only to have a knee injury discovered upon his physical) and carried Dorsey on the injured reserve list all year. This year, Thompson figures to move on a receiver much earlier than the final round. Given the hits he’s had in the second round – Jennings, Nelson and Cobb were all terrific picks, and Murphy might have been, too, if not for a career-ending neck injury – it wouldn’t be a surprise to see him go that route again.
NEXT: Tight ends.
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