I’m on record as believing the 2018 draft class of receivers is a weak one. I’m basing my opinion primarily on players’ sizes and athleticism, as revealed by NFL Combine test scores. This is unfortunate for the Green Bay Packers, as they have a glaring need for a top-notch receiver to replace Jordy Nelson, who Green Bay GM Brian Gutekunst decided was not worth keeping around.
Over the weekend, however, I spotted a blog headline claiming “Lots of wide receivers in play for Brian Gutekunst.” One of us must be badly mistaken.
The first sentence is a dandy: “With Ted Thompson as the team’s general manager, the Green Bay Packers have been notorious in their rigidity in regards to athletic testing thresholds, at least at certain specific positions.”
Is that so? The writer proceeds to focus on receivers, saying that Ted Thompson’s necessary receiver traits were: at least 5’ 11 7/8” in height, 188 pounds in weight, 4.56 second dash time, and 3-cone drill time of 7.08 seconds or faster. By following this thought process, it is concluded that 29 out of the top 50 receivers in the 2018 draft “fall in or very close to the Packers’ range.”
The 188-pound standard was apparently meant to include Trevor Davis, while the 4.56 second standard was the dash time of Davante Adams (29th percentile).
What the data actually proves is the great majority of receivers in the upcoming draft fall into the “average” category. Sorry, but this Packers fanatic has no interest in pursuing an average athlete to be Aaron Rodgers’ go-to guy for the rest of his career.
Ted Thompson was not notorious for his rigid athletic standards – he was quite the opposite. Here are a few of his prizes:
- Round 1 safety with these percentiles: hand size, 7th; arm length, 8th; weight, 11th; height, 19th; bench press, 23rd
- Round 2 cornerback with 4.57 dash time (24th percentile)
- Round 3 tight end with only one of six NFL combine tests above the 33 percentile
- Round 3 outside linebacker with a 5th percentile bench press
- Round 5 wide receiver with a 5th percentile broad jump and a zero percentile bench press
- Round 5 tight end with a height at the 4th percentile and a weight in the 15th percentile
- Undrafted receiver with 4.67 dash time
- Undrafted receiver with a 4.72 (2nd percentile) dash time
Those guys were: Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, Richard Rodgers, Kyler Fackrell, Jared Abbrederis, D.J. Williams, Geronimo Allison and Jarrett Boykin.
Scouting and Athleticism
I view athleticism as the starting point, the fundamental consideration, for a football scout. It’s not a guarantee, and it should of course be viewed in concert with several other factors. Also, some combine times are misleading – players can have a bad day. For example, after watching Davante Adams for four years, I think his actual speed is more in line with a 4.50 to 4.52 dash time.
Often, one athletic trait can compensate for others. For example, Sam Shields was very undersized but also bullet-fast. Mike Daniels is a midget for a defensive lineman at six feet tall, but he’s very aggressive and nasty. Davante Adams isn’t fast, but he has very agile moves and good hands.
As Thompson was being phased out in 2017, I felt the Packers were placing a higher value on athleticism than when Thompson was fully in charge. I’ll be closely watching to see if Brian Gutekunst continues this favorable trend.
Packers fans will be closely watching to see in what rounds (plural I suspect) the Packers select wide receivers. Let’s hope they don’t ascribe to this notion of necessary traits or the Packers could wind up with a short, scrawny, slow and non-agile receiver. Aaron Rodgers deserves better than that.
Speaking of Aaron, he’s got a scheduling problem later in the week. You’d expect him to be preoccupied with the first and second rounds of the NFL draft on Thursday evening. At the same time, however, he’s a brand new minority owner of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. Game six of a highly contested playoff series with the Celtics will be at the same time – in Milwaukee no less.
My guess is we’ll spot him in a courtside seat, but also sporting earbuds tuned in to the NFL event taking place in Arlington, Texas.