Packers draft 3 receivers, but shun inside linebacker

May 10, 2014
Packers draft recap: Take 3 WRs but shun ILB
Packers draft recap: Take 3 WRs but shun ILB: Wes and Pete recap the Packers' 2014 draft, in which they draft three wide receivers -- including UW's Jared Abbrederis -- but did not address a need at inside linebacker. (Saturday, May 10, 2014)
Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson talks on the phone Thursday during the NFL Draft at Lambeau Field. / Evan Siegle/Press-Gazette Media

Day 3 picks at a glance

Round: Fourth (121st pick overall).
Position: Outside linebacker.
School: Arizona State.
Height, weight: 6-03/4, 250.
Highlights: Projects as an outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme but likely will get a look at inside linebacker as well. … Started all 14 games last season as a redshirt junior, recording 61 tackles, 19 tackles for loss and 81/2 sacks. … Had 20 sacks in his final two seasons. … Ran a 4.76 40-yard dash. His arm length is 30-01/4 and his hands are 91/2 inches. … Was benched in the second half of a November game after getting into an argument with teammate Will Sutton that escalated into words with coach Todd Graham on the sideline.
Strengths: Plays with urgency and beelines to the ball. Explosive — can power-clean 400 pounds and hits on the rise with power. Is effective stunting and looping. Flashes playmaking ability. Explosive tackler. Can play on his feet off the ball and times up the blitz well. Good hands. Athletic enough to fold back into coverage. Solid instincts and diagnosis — sniffs out screens and has a feel for locating the ball quickly. Excellent leaping ability — posted a 371/2-inch vertical.
Weaknesses: Has a short, compact frame with very short arms and gets hung on blocks. Gets locked down by big-bodied blockers when they get their hands on him. Spins in place and lacks variety of pass-rush moves. Cannot convert speed to power. Needs to improve his hand use.
Noteworthy: Bradford played at Norco (Calif.) High School in Southern California where his coach was the father of new Packers teammate Garth Gerhart. … Was a national top-10 rated fullback coming out of high school.
Quote: “Carl’s a real good athlete, really smooth, fluid athlete, he’s got a lot of twitch. He’s obviously had a lot of success as a pass rusher. He’s got relentless play. Inside, outside, I think that will be determined. But we think he has the ability to do both.”
— Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst.
Round: Fifth (161 overall).
Position: Center.
School: Ohio State.
Height, weight: 6-3, 296.
Highlights: The four-year player started his final 26 games at Ohio State at center after spending time as a reserve guard and tackle. … First-team all-Big Ten as a senior. … Light in weight but strength is a positive. … Bench-pressed 225 pounds 36 times, ran the 40 in 5.24 seconds and had a 27-inch vertical leap. … Has 32-inch arm length and 97/8-inch hands.
Strengths: Stout base. Works to re-anchor. Jolting punch. Strong upper body to latch onto and control defenders in short area. Generates movement in the run game. Understands angles and positioning. Excellent weight-room strength — bench-presses 500 pounds and squats a small house. Smart and dependable. Communicated all the line calls and checks. Is tough and will play hurt. Hard-working team captain with leadership traits.
Weaknesses: Has short arms. More strong than explosive — doesn’t roll his hips and blow nose tackles off the ball. Falls off blocks when he bends at the waist. Pedestrian foot athlete — slow to cut off linebackers, labors to pull and lacks lateral quickness to recover when beaten. Stressed by quicker rushers. Tied for the lightest offensive lineman at the NFL combine.
Noteworthy: The Youngstown, Ohio, native was a high school state champion discus thrower and state champion and all-American shot putter. … He graduated in December with a degree in economics.
Quote: “I love his toughness. … He made all the (offensive line) calls for Ohio State. … He pulls very, very well. … He’s very fluid getting out of his stance.”
— Packers offensive line coach James Campen
Round: Fifth (supplemental, 176 overall).
Position: Wide receiver.
School: Wisconsin.
Height, weight: 6-1, 195.
Highlights: Caught 78 passes for 1,081 yards and 7 touchdowns as a redshirt senior last year. … In 53 career games, he caught 202 passes and 23 TDs. … Returned kicks and punts for the Badgers, mostly during his sophomore year. … As a senior, was team captain, all-Big Ten Conference and Burlsworth Trophy winner as most outstanding player who started as a walk-on. … Ran a 4.5 40-yard dash and has a 30½-inch vertical leap. … His arm length is 313/8 inches and his hands are 95/8 inches.
Strengths: Uses his hands well to swat away press. Stems his routes. Sells his patterns. Nice hands. Good field and boundary awareness. Gives effort to engage and shield cornerbacks as a blocker. Outstanding football intelligence — like a quarterback on the outside. Productive three-year starter. Mature and humble. Hard-working and coachable. Carved up Ohio State CB Bradley Roby to the tune of 10-207-1.
Weaknesses: Has a slender build and needs to bulk up. Ordinary pop off the line. Builds to average speed. Could struggle to separate vs. quick-twitch covermen. Lets throws into his body and breaks stride to catch. Not a jumpball player (30½-inch vertical jump). Straight-lineish after the catch — pedestrian agility and elusiveness. Has a history of concussions. Bench-pressed 225 pounds only four times, lowest of all NFL combine participants.
Noteworthy: The Wautoma native is married. … Also starred in wrestling and track in high school, where he was a state-champion hurdler. … He walked on and redshirted as a quarterback at UW in 2009 before earning a scholarship the next season.
Quote: “When you turn the tape on, you see a kid making plays. … He’s a savvy route-runner. He understands coverage and how to beat a defender’s leverage.”
— Packers receivers coach Edgar Bennett
Round: Sixth (197th overall).
Position: Cornerback.
School: Baylor.
Height, weight: 5-11, 194.
Highlights: The redshirt senior got a hardship waiver to play last year after season-ending injuries in 2011 and 2012. In ’11, he tore ligaments in his right ankle; in ’12, he fractured his right forearm; in ’13, he missed two games with a bone bruise in his right arm. … Was honorable-mention all-Big 12 after grabbing three interceptions last season. … Ran 4.52 40-yard dash and bench-pressed 225 pounds 11 times. … His arms are 31¾ inches and his hands are 9¼ inches.
Strengths: Excellent size. Good athletic ability, hand-eye coordination and ball production. Can turn and run vertical. Nice plant-and-drive — breaks on throws. Has a 37-inch vertical. Has some upside. Comes from an athletic family and has NFL bloodlines.
Weaknesses: Has been unable to stay in one piece and durability is a major concern. Has short arms and small hands. Needs to get stronger. Relatively inexperienced with green instincts. Press technique needs to be coached up. Loses separation at the break point. Limited tackle production — gets stuck on blocks and doesn’t set a hard edge. Will be a 25-year-old rookie.
Noteworthy: His brother, Mike, is a running back for the Jets. … Started his college career as a basketball player at Gonzaga and played three seasons (as a starter in his final two seasons) before transferring to Baylor to play football. … Graduated in December with a degree in general studies. … Nickname is “Meech.”
Quote: “He’s very competitive. He fights at the end of every play. … He’s a guy who can play outside and control verticals. … He’s a willing tackler. He needs to get better in the area.”
— Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt
Round: Seventh (236th overall).
Position: Wide receiver.
School: Saginaw Valley State.
Height, weight: 6-27/8, 219.
Highlights: As a redshirt senior, he caught 83 passes for 1,572 yards and 14 touchdowns against mostly Division II opponents. As a junior, his numbers were 106-1,635-17. ... Quality athlete who ran a 4.42 in the 40-yard dash, has a 37½-inch vertical jump, posted a 3.98-second 20-yard shuttle (fourth best among receivers) and a 6.64-second 3-cone time. His 20 lifts of 225 pounds was among the best for receivers. ... Has 32½-inch arm length and 9-inch hands.
Strengths: Exceptional measurable and leaping ability — will test through the roof. Accelerates into routes quickly and can separate vertically and uncover underneath working short-to-intermediate zones. Terrific production — carves up lesser competition and creates chunk plays. Good red-zone target. Exceptional work ethic. Outstanding football character. Very passionate about the game.
Weaknesses: Has very small, inconsistent hands — will cradle the ball and use his body. Is not a nuanced route runner. Does not attack the ball in the air and will give up some break points. Not strong after the catch and will look for a soft landing spot. Can be fazed by traffic. Regularly faced Division II competition. Not a consistent blocker — does not play to his size.
Noteworthy: The Tawas City, Mich., native also played basketball in high school. ... As a senior in high school, he broke a finger on his left hand, causing him to switch from receiver to running back wearing a cast up to his elbow.
Quote: “I see a remarkably gifted athlete, who completely dominated his level of play.”
— Packers general manager Ted Thompson


It’s easy to oversimplify and say Ted Thompson is a take-the-best-player-on-the-board drafter, but the fact is need plays a huge role in every team’s approach to the NFL draft.

And the Green Bay Packers’ general manager filled needs with his share of picks the past three days.

But who could have predicted that the Packers, whose defense finished No. 25 in yards allowed and tied for No. 24 in points allowed last season, would come away from this year’s draft with four pass catchers — three receivers and a tight end — among their nine selections?

Yet, that’s what Thompson did this weekend while ignoring one of his positions of greatest need, inside linebacker.

It was reminiscent of last year, when Thompson didn’t draft a safety. But even after that position proved to be one the Packers’ weak spots in 2013, Thompson for a second straight year refused to draft a position that was begging for augmenting when it didn’t match with his board when he picked.

Perhaps part of the explanation is Thompson taking to heart one of former Ron Wolf’s greatest regrets from his time running the Packers — the former GM has lamented publicly that he didn’t provide Brett Favre with enough weapons. To that end, in helping quarterback Aaron Rodgers, Thompson drafted two more receivers among his five selections Saturday, Wisconsin’s Jared Abbrederis in the fifth round and Saginaw Valley State’s Jeff Janis in the seventh.

They join second-round receiver Davante Adams of Fresno State and third-round tight end Richard Rodgers of California as the four new members of the Packers’ pass-catching corps. They’ll help offset the departures the last two years of Greg Jennings and James Jones to free agency, and the impending loss of tight end Jermichael Finley, a free agent who hasn’t passed a physical with an NFL team after neck surgery last year.

“If you look at our roster and how it’s been built over the last number of years, we don’t keep the exact number of (players at) positions,” coach Mike McCarthy said of the Packers’ receiver-heavy draft. “Sometimes — last year we were heavier on defense than we were on offense. I think that’s how the draft fell, the receiver position obviously has a lot more competition (now).”

Saturday’s picks left Thompson and McCarthy with a three-day haul of five players drafted on offense and four on defense.

So this was not the defense-heavy draft the Packers appeared headed for, though two of those defensive players were among Thompson’s first three picks: first-round safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama, and third-round defensive lineman Khyri Thornton of Southern Mississippi.

Saturday added two other players to coordinator Dom Capers’ defense: rush outside linebacker Carl Bradford of Arizona State in the fourth round and Baylor cornerback Demetri Goodson in the sixth round. With no inside linebacker drafted, only one of the two primary needs, safety, was addressed on that side of the ball.

“We definitely have always wanted to add speed to our defense,” Thompson said. “Yeah, I think we added some guys that can run and play the game.”

The flip side is the abundance of pass catchers. It started with Adams (6-078, 212), picked in the second round Friday night and expected to push Jarrett Boykin for the No. 3 receiving job behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb.

“(Adams is) very strong at the ball, at the point of the ball,” said Brian Gutekunst, the Packers’ director of college scouting. “Very strong after the catch. He’s the body type we kind of like around here, he’s a big, physical guy.”

Then there was Richard Rodgers, who was drafted high enough (No. 98 overall) to think he could push for significant playing time at tight end as a rookie. Andrew Quarless is the presumptive starter.

“One of the best ball skills guys in the draft,” Gutekunst said of Rodgers. “The guy catches it really, really well.”

Abbrederis, drafted at No. 176 overall, is the former UW walk-on from Wautoma who over the past two seasons caught 127 passes for a 15.1-yard average. He has OK size (6-1, 195) and speed (4.53-second 40), a good 10-yard split (1.60 seconds, compared to Adams’ 1.64 seconds), and some athletic limitations (30½-inch vertical). He also has a history of returning punts (10.7-yard career average) and kickoffs (25.8-yard average) that could get him on the field early.

As much as anything, the Packers liked that when Abbrederis became a starter, he produced against the best cornerbacks in the Big Ten Conference, most notably 2014 first-round draft picks Darqueze Dennard of Michigan State and Bradley Roby of Ohio State.

“He walked on, and that’s been his mindset, having to earn it each and every day,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said. “And that’s something that we love here. We want all our guys to have that same mindset and that competitive spirit, where you want to prove it over and over and over again. So you love those qualities about him.”

Janis, selected at No. 236, is a pure size-speed prospect at 6-278, 219 pounds and with a 4.41-second 40 and a 37½-inch vertical jump. He put up big numbers at the Division II level (246 catches, 17.5-yard average and 46 touchdowns in his career), and Thompson said that in the Packers’ system for converting all physical tests into an overall grade of athleticism, Janis ranked second among all receivers in this year’s draft.

“He’s a remarkably gifted athlete,” Thompson said. “He completely dominated his level of play.”

In foregoing drafting an inside linebacker, Thompson used third- and fourth-round picks on the defensive lineman Thornton (6-258, 304 at the scouting combine) and Bradford (6-0¾, 250), respectively.

Thornton’s selection is another sign that neither Ryan Pickett nor Johnny Jolly will be back, and that Thompson wants to get more dynamic along the front line.

“Khyri was kind of an interesting one that came up later in the process,” Gutekunst said. “He has so much twitch and so much upside, something we just couldn’t pass on. He can run, he’s a 4.9(-second 40) guy for a 312-pound man, so the kid can run. He’s got a lot of upside, so we felt fortunate to get him.”

Outside linebacker wasn’t a primary need, but the pick of Bradford shows the premium the NFL places on pass rushers. At 6-0¾ he’s short for an outside rusher, which is a main reason he still was available in the fourth round. But over the past two seasons, he had 20 sacks and 39½ tackles for a loss, and Thompson saw a player he thinks will make the defense’s pass rush more dynamic.

“He has the explosive power we talked about before,” Gutekunst said, “and I think those are the things — pass rushers are very, very hard to find in this league.”

What's your take on the Packers Family Night change?

Retrieving results.
Watching practice is fine.(Your vote)
579 votes
I'd rather watch a scrimmage.(Your vote)
862 votes
I don't want to pay to watch practice.(Your vote)
1025 votes
It doesn't matter to me.(Your vote)
1278 votes

Catch up on the latest in our pregame show every game day.

Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports


Football fans

If you've ever answered "Who has the ball?" with "It's halftime," you might recognize The Airhead. Check out the characters in our cartoon gallery of oddball fans.

Special Reports