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Packers tend to offensive needs with Adams, Rodgers

Third-rounder Thornton adds to defensive line mix

May 9, 2014
 
Packers fill holes on Day 2 of NFL Draft
Packers fill holes on Day 2 of NFL Draft: On Day 2 of the NFL Draft, the Packers filled some holes with wide receiver Davante Adams, defensive tackle Khyri Thornton and tight end Richard Rodgers. (Friday, May 9, 2014)
Fresno State wide receiver Davante Adams turns a pass into a touchdown as San Jose State cornerback Bene Benwikere pursues in a Nov. 29, 2013 game in San Jose, California. / Getty Images
Southern Miss defender Khyri Thornton wraps up Memphis running back Joe Price for a loss during a Nov. 26, 2011 game in Hattiesburg Miss. / Ryan Moore/Hattiesburg American

About Davante Adams

Position: Wide receiver.
School: Fresno State.
Height, weight: 6-0 7/8, 212.
Round: 2nd.
Highlights: The redshirt sophomore led the FBS in receptions with 131 and touchdown catches with 24 last season. As a freshman, he had 102 catches and 14 touchdowns for an explosive Fresno State offense featuring quarterback Derek Carr. … Caught a touchdown pass in 22 of 26 career games. … Adams lacks high-end speed (he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.59 seconds), but he showed his athleticism by tying for the third-best vertical jump (39½ inches) among receivers at the NFL combine. He also bench-pressed 225 pounds 14 times, has a 77¾-inch wingspan, 3258-inch arm length and 9-inch hands.
Strengths: Has a rangy build with good body length and secure hands to palm the ball and make difficult one-handed grabs. Tracks and adjusts to the ball very well downfield. Extends outside his frame and plucks that ball out of the air. Natural hands-catcher. Terrific athlete with good leaping ability and anticipation to properly time jumps and high-point the ball. Wins jumpballs in the red zone and shows very good hand-eye coordination to take the ball away from defenders. Exceptional production.
Weaknesses: Lacks ideal functional playing strength to consistently beat the jam and can get hung up at the line. Long strider and is not sudden out of his breaks. Production was inflated from a quick-hitting, lateral passing game.
Noteworthy: Palo Alto (Calif.) native was a two-sport star at Palo Alto High School, also starring in basketball. He wanted to play both sports at Fresno State. … As a high school senior, he led Palo Alto to the CIF state football championship. … Was the only wide receiver in Fresno State’s 2011 recruiting class. … His teammates call him “Tae.” ... Will wear No. 17 with the Packers.
Quote: “I have my own style. Big receivers that know what to do once they catch the ball and go up and high-point the ball and know how to stretch the field. I feel like those are the type of guys that I play like.”
Position: Defensive tackle.
School: Southern Mississippi.
Height, weight: 6-258, 304.
Round: 3rd.
Highlights: The redshirt senior started 11 games last year — he missed the season finale with a deep bone bruise on his right leg — and finished with 39 tackles (16 solo) and 23 assists, with 6½ tackles for loss and half of a sack. … Was a second-team all-Conference USA choice and played in the NFLPA Collegiate Bowl. … Was team captain for the Golden Eagles. … Has 32½-inch arm length and 9½-inch hands.
Strengths: Flashes shock in his hands. Solid anchor strength. Versatile and lines up all along the front. Flashes speed and short-area burst to flatten down the line and close to the ball. Three-year starter.
Weaknesses: Has short arms and small hands. Could do a better job working off blocks, creating separation and protecting his legs. Tends to wear down and tire late in games and effort wanes. Needs to develop more pass-rush moves — stays blocked too long. Relies too much on his upper-body strength. Can be late to locate the ball and needs to do a better job of feeling blocking pressure and anticipating. Misses a lot of tackles. Minimal sack production.
Noteworthy: A native of Panama City, Fla., and played defensive tackle and fullback at Bay High School. He also attended Hargrave Military Academy in Virginia for one year. ... Thornton committed to play at South Florida, but was denied entry to the school despite meeting NCAA qualifying standards.
Position: Tight end.
School: California.
Height, weight: 6-4, 257.
Highlights: Played three seasons at Cal, catching 39 passes for 608 yards and 1 touchdown in his final year. … Played tight end in 2012, then dropped 33 pounds in the offseason and played primarily in the slot in the Bears’ four-receiver offense. ... Has had some injuries, including to his ankle, foot, labrum and thumb. ... Ran a 4.87 in the 40, has a 31½-inch vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 16 times. His arm length is 3258 inches, he has an 80-inch wingspan and has 1018-inch hands.
Strengths: Good balance and body control. Dependable short-to-intermediate receiver. Can snatch throws off his body and make contested grabs. Has potential as a move blocker. Showed dedication and discipline re-shaping his body as a junior. Coach’s son.
Weaknesses: Tight hips. Average speed and suddenness — dull in/out of breaks and struggles to separate vs. more explosive safeties. Unrefined route runner. Straight-lineish after the catch. Started just 11 games in three seasons.
Noteworthy: A native of Worcester, Mass. … His father, Richard Sr., was involved in “The Play” in the 1982 Cal-Stanford game, and now is the Carolina Panthers special teams coordinator. Richard Sr. made the final of five laterals on the unlikely touchdown for Cal.
Quote: “A very, very good pass catcher. A really good athlete. Good genetics.” — GM Ted Thompson

California tight end Richard Rodgers / Getty Images

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The Green Bay Packers' most obvious needs going into this weekend's NFL draft were on defense, where last season they ranked No. 25 in the NFL in yards allowed and tied for No. 24 in points allowed.

But based on his selections Friday, general manager Ted Thompson also has placed a priority on ensuring quarterback Aaron Rodgers has plenty of talent around him in the passing game as well after losing several players in that area the last two years.

In Friday's second and third rounds, Thompson spent two of his three picks on a receiver, second-rounder Davante Adams of Fresno State, and a tight end, Richard Rodgers of California. They will help replace departed free-agent receivers Greg Jennings (last year) and James Jones (this year), and possibly free agent Jermichael Finley, the playmaking threat at tight end whose neck surgery last year leaves his future with the Packers very much in doubt.

Along with those Adams and Richard Rodgers, Thompson also used a third-round pick on Southern Mississippi defensive lineman Khyri Thornton, who joins Thursday's first-round pick, safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, as the Packers' defensive picks through four selections in this draft.

But the big pick Friday night was Adams in the second round, where Thompson has had great success at receiver in previous drafts with Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

"Tremendous as far as his catching ability," receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. "Has good hands. Makes the tough catch. Goes up and attacks the football. Extremely productive. So from that standpoint, it was a lot of positives. Lot of positives. You look at YAC — yards after the catch — he's a strong runner, gets the ball north and south quickly, breaks tackles but also shows the ability to make people miss."

Thompson's selection of the tight end Rodgers with pick No. 98 in the third round was a little surprising after the Adams selection in the second round. But neither the Packers nor any other NFL team has passed Finley on his physical, and the Packers don't seem nearly as optimistic now as they did early in the offseason.

"We all hope that (Finley is cleared), that everybody will be fine," Thompson said. "We don't know. We'll see."

The Packers likely were hoping they could get and inside linebacker and one of the top four tight ends with two of their three picks Friday (one in the second round and two in the third).

However, this draft was uncommonly deep at receiver. So when Notre Dame’s Troy Niklas became the fourth tight end off the board to Arizona one pick before the Packers, and no inside linebackers on the board to the Packers' liking, the quality at receiver steered Thompson to that position.

Along with Adams, there were anywhere from five to seven other receivers that could have warranted consideration at No. 53, and they came in all shapes and sizes. There were three size-speed prospects in Indiana's Cody Latimer (No. 56 overall to Denver), Mississippi's Donte Moncrief (No. 90 to Indianapolis) and Clemson's Martavis Bryant (still on board after three rounds); a big, physical player in Penn State's Allen Robinson (No. 61 to Jacksonville); a small slot receiver and return man, South Carolina's Bruce Ellington (still on board after three rounds); and a smallish, polished receiver in LSU's Jarvis Landry (No. 63 to Miami).

The Packers went with Adams even though his measurables didn't stack up with Latimer, who was the next receiver off the board, three picks later. Adams is shorter (6-0 7/8, 212 to Latimer's 6-2 ½, 215) and didn't run as fast (4.59-second 40 to Latimer's 4.45 seconds), though their vertical jumps were similar (Adams' 39 ½ inches to Latimer's 39 inches).

The Packers nevertheless liked Adams’ incredible production in Fresno State's spread passing game and ability to attack contested passes. When they drafted Jordy Nelson in the second round in 2008, the quality they most liked was his ability to win 50-50 throws downfield. Latimer last season caught 72 passes for a 15.2-yard average last season for Indiana.

"I like (Adams) a lot," Thompson said. "You watch the tape and (Fresno State) had a pretty dynamic offense this year. I can't quote the number of catches he had, but it's remarkable, not so sure he didn't lead the nation or come in second or third. I think his ability to catch the ball first and foremost (stood out). I think he's remarkable at that."

Adams, who is entering the draft after his redshirt sophomore season, doesn't have the long speed of the other receivers still on the board when the Packers picked. But the Packers saw playmaking, which included 24 touchdown catches last season, that convinced he'll be more than just a possession receiver in the NFL.

"When you turn the tape on, you see a guy that can create separation," Bennett said. "You see a guy getting open. You see a guy at the top of the route creating separation, creating windows for the quarterback to throw the ball in. And when there is a tight situation where it's tighter, more of a competitive-type throw, you see a guy with strong hands and physicality that can go up and make a play,

Rodgers was asked to drop weight last season and move to receiver, but he knew his NFL future was at tight end, so in the offseason he was back up to 257 pounds at the NFL scouting combine to go with his 6-4 frame. He didn't have a fast 40-yard dash, 4.87 seconds, but last season he averaged 15.6 yards on his 39 catches, and like with Adams, the Packers prized his hands above all other qualities.

"Richard's a very, very good pass catcher," Thompson said.

The pick of Thornton gives the Packers another rotational defensive lineman for their 3-4 scheme who can play defensive end and nose tackle. With B.J. Raji expected to play more at nose tackle this season and both Ryan Pickett and Johnny Jolly apparently unlikely to return, the Packers are looking to get younger and quicker on the defensive front.

Thornton ran the 40 in 5.04 seconds and had a 29-inch vertical jump, performances that suggest good explosive ability for a 305-pound player. The Packers project him as a potentially disruptive player who is at his best shooting gaps.

"Khyri kept catching our eye," Thompson said. "He played on a team that didn't win many games, but he's extraordinarily quick off the ball and has the ability to penetrate and get in the backfield, and pursuit laterally. We think he gives us a chance to have a little juice."?

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