GREEN BAY – After not drafting an offensive player until the end of the fourth round, the Packers hit that side of the ball hard in the fifth.
Within a span of eight picks, Green Bay chose Purdue receiver DeAngelo Yancey and UTEP running back Aaron Jones, both big-play producers in college.
Yancey was chosen with pick No. 175 after the Packers traded back three spots and acquired an extra seventh-round pick from the Broncos in the process.
Jones was added with pick No. 182, the second running back chosen after the Packers grabbed BYU’s Jamaal Williams late in the fourth round.
With Yancey (6-2, 201), the statistic that jumps out is his 19.4 yards per catch in 2016. He scored seven of his 10 touchdowns on receptions of 30-plus yards.
“It was just putting the time in, getting that connection with my quarterback,” Yancey said. “Once we got that down, we started clicking.”
Packers director-football operations Eliot Wolf said the big plays came from a combination of Yancey’s ability to get deep as well as gain yards after the catch.
“He’s got excellent hands,” Wolf said. “Good speed, got behind defenders. He ran about a 4.5 but plays much faster than that. Really the size and strength were something that stood out to us.”
Last season was the best of Yancey’s four at Purdue, as he caught 49 passes for 951 yards, leading his team and ranking second in the Big Ten in yards and receiving TDs.
He wasn’t invited to the NFL Scouting Combine, which Yancey said didn’t bother him, but the snub still had an impact.
“It kind of motivated me to do well at my pro day,” he said. “The further I got through the process, the more I wasn’t worried about it.”
He visited several teams in the pre-draft period, and he made a good impression on his trip through Green Bay.
“Really confident kid,” Wolf said. “He thought he was a player from Day 1. With guys who don’t get invited to the combine you don’t always see that. It’s something that really stood out, and obviously the (game) video was good.”
So is the thought of catching passes from Aaron Rodgers.
“That’s a great idea,” Yancey said, unable to hold back joyful laughter.
Jones was smiling, too, at the thought of joining Williams in Green Bay’s backfield. The two met at the Senior Bowl, becoming friends, and they share an agent. When Williams was drafted by the Packers, he texted Jones to tell him he “was next.”
Jones will be leaving his best friend and twin brother behind in El Paso, though. Alvin is a starting linebacker for UTEP, and the twins have been playing football together since age 5 in Clarksville, Tenn.
Their first youth football team? The Packers.
“That’s pretty cool,” Jones said.
So was Jones’ final season at UTEP. He broke a 28-year-old single-season school record with 1,773 rushing yards, making him the program’s all-time leading rusher with 4,114 career yards.
Just 5-9 but over 200 pounds, Jones topped 100 rushing yards 17 times in his college career, and he reached 200 a total of five times, both school marks.
“He consistently can beat the angle of the safety,” Wolf said, regarding Jones’ speed. “He had a lot of long runs for UTEP.
“He was a guy that didn’t run small. He’s 210 pounds, so the height is easier to overlook.”
After a 1,300-yard, 11-TD season in 2014, an ankle injury cost him most of 2015 before he came back for a big finish in 2016, earning first-team All-Conference USA and third-team All-America honors. He scored 17 touchdowns, more than in his first three years combined.
“I got in the weight room, got bigger and stronger,” Jones said of his time away from the game. “I gave it my all, gave everything, and it definitely paid off.”
Jones, who began as a two-sport athlete at UTEP in football and basketball, added more than 600 yards receiving over the last three seasons. The pass-catching ability that will only help him as he begins his pro career in what’s shaping up to be a competitive backfield now in Green Bay.
“I think I have great balance, a mix of power and speed, catch the ball well,” he said. “I did it all – checkdowns, screens, down-the-field routes, corners, vertical routes, a little bit of everything.”
2017 DRAFT TRACKER