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Seventh-round receivers show potential beyond collegiate hiccups

Apr. 29, 2013
 

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Maryland wide receiver Kevin Dorsey makes a catch over Virginia cornerback Drequan Hoskey on Oct. 13, 2012 in Charlottesville, Virginia. / File/Getty Images

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There were plenty of good reasons Charles Johnson and Kevin Dorsey were available to the Green Bay Packers in the final hour of the NFL draft this past weekend.

There are also enough good reasons to think the pair of receivers the Packers took in the seventh round just might be able to make an impact.

Johnson’s path to the NFL was anything but ordinary. His college career began six years ago at Eastern Kentucky and included stops at a junior college, a year out of football and finally two seasons at Grand Valley State.

Dorsey spent his entire college career at Maryland, but his senior season was marred by a rash of injuries at quarterback. The Terrapins lost four starting quarterbacks during the season and at one point late in the year were down to a converted linebacker and a converted tight end as their options at quarterback. As a result, Dorsey caught just 18 passes a year after he had 45.

Now that everyone knows the reason Johnson was there for Packers general manager Ted Thompson to take in the seventh round at No. 216 overall and why Dorsey was available for him to draft eight picks later at 224, here are the factors that make it reasonable to expect that one or both could stick with the team:

Johnson has good size (6-foot-2 and 215 pounds) and unusual speed. The outspoken receiver promised would he run a sub-4.4 40-yard dash during his pro day, and he backed it up when he was timed at 4.35 seconds and had at least one other time under 4.4 seconds. On the same day, he showed off a 391/2 inch vertical jump and an 11-foot-1 broad jump. His two years at Grand Valley State, where he combined for 128 catches for 2,229 yards (a 17.4-yard average) and 31 touchdowns, weren’t enough to get him an invitation to the combine or any postseason all-star games. But his workout immediately put him on several teams’ radars, if he wasn’t there already.

“(The Packers) expressed their interest,” Johnson said. “(They said), ‘yeah, we liked you before we knew you ran a 4.3, so we liked you before all of that; we liked you based just off of your film.’ So they expressed that interest before knowing I ran a 4.3 or jumped whatever I jumped.”

The Packers also weren’t bothered by the fact that Johnson played at three different schools and in the middle of it sat out an entire year while caring for his father, who was ill.

“We were able to attend his pro day, and we brought him in for a visit (to) get checked out and visit with him and that sort of thing,” Thompson said. “Very nice young man.”

Johnson said he took classes at a local community college near his home in Kentucky in 2009, the year he spent out of football.

“It was a learning experience,” Johnson said. “It was something that really grew me up. There were things that happened in my life that a lot of people didn’t have to go through. Some of the things I had to go through got me to where I am today, so it was basically building blocks, and it was concrete steps you had to take to get to success. But also there’s going to be obstacles that would get in the way. At times, it was hard. But I continued to fight, and I wasn’t ever going to give up, so that’s why I got to where I am today.”

Dorsey’s draft prospects surely were hurt by his team’s offensive struggles last season.

“It may have a little bit but at the end of the day if you can play football, I’m pretty sure people will find out,” Dorsey said. “I had to do what I had to do at my pro day and leave it in God’s hands and let the chips fall where they fall from there.”

Dorsey, who also made a pre-draft visit to the Packers, flashed enough speed (4.47 40-yard dash at his pro day and a 17.3-yard average per catch) to go along with his size (6-13/8 and 207 pounds).

“They had a number of injuries at the quarterback position at Maryland this year, and it was a quite a chore being a receiver,” Thompson said. “So the numbers weren’t that impressive. But again, when you watch him work and meet him and see his build and strength and that sort of thing, he’s impressive.

“Both of them are impressive young men, and they look like what you’re supposed to look like.”

What’s more, there are opportunities for the two rookies because behind the trio of Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson, the Packers lack experience at receiver. They return Jarrett Boykin, who played sparingly last season as undrafted rookie although at times he played ahead of Driver, and kick return specialist Jeremy Ross. They signed just one receiver this offseason, a street free agent named Sederrik Cunningham.

Another signing: Add fullback Ryan Roberson of Texas to the list of undrafted rookies the Packers have signed.

Roberson brings the number to at least 11 known college free agents the Packers signed after the draft.

rdemovsk@pressgazettemedia.com and follow him on Twitter @RobDemovsky.

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