GREEN BAY—Having lost Donald Driver to retirement and Greg Jennings and Tom Crabtree to free agency so far in this offseason, it’s likely the Packers will be in the market for receiving help in this year’s draft. What kind of market is it?
The draftniks are describing this year’s class of wide receivers as a grab bag. There’s speed and there’s size and some of the prospects have soft hands, but there doesn’t appear to be a Larry Fitzgerald type that blends all of those skills into one package.
If you’re looking for size and speed, Tennessee’s Cordarrelle Patterson is your guy. At 6-3, 205, Patterson has the leaping ability to play bigger than his size, and he ran a 4.42 at the combine that moved his stock even higher in the first round than it was before the combine. The only knock on Patterson is that he only has one season of major college football behind him, so he needs work and shouldn’t be counted on to be an immediate contributor.
Pure speed? Marquise Goodwin is the guy, a world class sprinter at Texas, but Goodwin is more of a track man than a football player, and his 5-9, 179, frame makes him exclusively a boundary field-stretcher. He’s thought to be a mid-rounds prospect.
You want a playmaker a la Randall Cobb? West Virginia’s Tavon Austin is a threat to go the distance from anywhere on the field, and that includes in the kick-return game. He’s got scintillating speed and quickness and good hands, but at 5-8, 173, his durability is at question and his touches might need to be limited. His home-run speed, however, could move him into the bottom of the first round.
Draft guru Tony Pauline likes Clemson’s DeAndre Hopkins, a sturdily built 6-1, 200, who Pauline says outperformed the accuracy of his quarterback’s passes. Hopkins is an accomplished route runner with soft hands but a lack of burner speed could drop him into the second round.
California’s Keenan Allen missed time with injuries but is on the move upward now. At 6-2, 210, he might be the closest thing to a complete package. All that’s missing are big numbers from last season, which was also handicapped by struggles at the quarterback position. Allen could sneak into the bottom of round one.
Louisiana Tech’s Quinton Patton had a good Senior Bowl. At 6-0, 204, Patton has strong run-after-the-catch ability and has drawn comparisons to Antonio Brown. His receiving skills, including his route running, require polishing. He’s a round-two prospect.
Pauline considers Baylor’s Terrance Williams something close to the whole package. At 6-2, 208, Williams has quick feet and sustained speed. He makes the tough catches look easy, as he did at the Senior Bowl, but also drops what should be easy catches, as he did at the Senior Bowl. He’s a round-two prospect.
Tennessee’s Justin Hunter has the length (6-4, 195) and speed (4.4) scouts love, but Hunter dropped passes at critical points in games last season and he didn’t answer the call in big games against stiff competition. His raw ability will make him a high pick, but that’ll be based on what he might do, not on what he’s done.
Texas A&M’s Ryan Swope lit up the combine, and that will dramatically aid his cause because Swope, 6-0, 204, was nothing if he wasn’t productive in college. He’s a Wes Welker type who will fit into somebody’s slot, but not until the later rounds.
Pauline loves Washington State’s Marquess Wilson as a sleeper. Wilson, 6-4, 185, was a top prospect heading into last season, but he fell into Mike Leach’s doghouse and eventually quit the team with three games remaining. He’s got speed and upside, but his past will likely cause him to be a late-round pick.
Tight end is a position with more polish at the top. Notre Dame’s Tyler Eifert and Stanford’s Zach Ertz are first-round prospects, and Rice’s Vance McDonald will attract a coach who likes to use tight ends creatively.
Eifert, 6-6, 250, and Ertz, 6-5, 249, have all-around skills. They can get down the seam or play tight to the formation and block the edge. Both are late bloomers and first-round prospects.
McDonald, 6-4, 262, has long arms and helped himself at the Senior Bowl. He headed into the postseason with a late-round grade, but most draftniks have since moved him into the early rounds.
San Diego State’s Gavin Escobar, 6-6, 250, has the frame to be an in-line blocker and the body control to be a threat on all three levels of the passing game.
Pauline’s sleeper at tight end is New Mexico’s Lucas Reed, 6-6, 249, who turned in an eye-popping pro-day workout.