15

March

According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Wide Recievers

Wide Receivers: Here’s the third of a series of articles looking specifically at the NFL combine and the Packers’ drafting tendencies. (read here for the rationale for this series and here for quarterbacks and here for running backs).  This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a guide for what wide receivers are likely to fit into the Packers’ scheme.

Again, this is merely an attempt to make a best guess based on statistics at which players the Packers might be interested in, game tape naturally trumps combine numbers, so take all of this with a grain of salt.  But I believe it will make for some interesting discussion. Listed below are two wide receivers in this year’s draft who I think fit the Packers scheme the best, based on their combine numbers.

Statistics of wide receivers drafted by the Packers:

Name Height Weight 40-Yard 3-Cone Shuttle Vertical Broad Bench
Terrence Murphy 6’1” 202.00 4.39
Craig Bragg 6’1” 196.00 4.45 36.00
Greg Jennings 5’11” 195.00 4.42 6.69 4.18 36.50 117.00
Cory Rodgers 6’0” 188.00 4.58 7.38 4.19 33.50 110.00
James Jones 6’1” 208.00 4.54 7.06 4.20 34.00 119.00 22.00
David Clowney 6’1” 190.00 4.36 7.00 4.15 32.50 123.00
Jordy Nelson 6’3” 215.00 4.51 7.03 4.35 31.00 123.00
Brett Swain 6’1” 200.00 4.40
Average 6’1″ 199.25 4.46 7.03 4.21 33.92 118.40 22.00
StDev 1.13 9.05 0.08 0.24 0.08 2.08 5.37 N/A

What the Packers are looking for: Ted Thompson is in love with wide receivers; the Packers had arguably the deepest wide receiver core in the league and it definitely helped them during their Super Bowl run.  Add to that Thompson always brings in a couple of wide receivers into camp and the fact that wide receivers are tied for the most drafted with 8 and it becomes apparent that wide receiver position is a big deal for Thompson (ironically, he’s somehow avoided the curse of Matt Millen by drafting 3 wide receivers high in the draft and hasn’t really had a bust)

Ironically, wide receivers drafted by the Packers seem to be all over the place in terms of workout drill results, with no drill being absolutely required for the Packers to pick a wide receiver, again it might go back to the fact that the combine really isn’t that important or more realistically it means that other aspects such as the health checkups, interviews and positional drills are more important.

The workout drills that had the lowest relative standard deviation (thus implying were most important) were the shuttle and the vertical.  The shuttle measures lateral quickness, change of direction and flexibility which are important for wide receivers playing in the slot; what is interesting is that the Packers are one of the most flexible teams in terms of wide receivers, with not main slot player, hence all wide receivers must have the ability to play the slot (which takes advantage of many of the skills that the shuttle tests), perhaps leading to its relative importance.  Vertical is a pretty obvious requirement for wide receivers; wide receivers that can jump higher have a larger radius that they can theoretically catch the ball.   Strangely, a 34 inch vertical is pretty terrible for a wide receiver

Perhaps more interesting is the stat that had a high relative standard deviations, the 40 yard dash.  Every year wide receivers vie to be the fastest man at the combine; and apparently that doesn’t mean much to the Packers.  A 4.46 second 40 yard dash is considered pretty respectable but definitely pales in comparison to the top speedster wide receivers who run sub 4.40 and sometimes even sub 4.30.

This pretty much confirms what fans knew all along, which is that the Packers prefer wide receivers who are smooth runners as opposed to pure vertical speedsters such as DeSean Jackson (see my intro article for a rationale for Jordy Nelson vs. DeSean Jackson)

As for specific skills, the Packers run a lot of west coast offense, where the quarterback will use the short pass as a surrogate for the run. As such, having sure hands and the ability to catch balls in traffic is a must.  Also good defensive reading and route concepts are important for the Packers as quarterback Aaron Rodgers often will change the play or the routes at the line of scrimmage, sometimes without any discernible communication.

While wide receivers don’t have to be fast, they have to be quick and more importantly have clean routes.  Finally, versatility is required as often a wide receiver will line up outside the numbers on one play, then in to slot then out as the flanker all in the same series.

Comparable wide receivers in the 2011 draft (analysis taken from NFL.com):

Cecil Shorts Mount Union/6’0”/205 lbs/4.50 40-yard dash/4.07 shuttle/34.5 vertical:

Pros:

  • Fluid route runner
  • Can catch away from frame
  • Good intangibles and leadership

Cons:

  • Does not possess explosive speed
  • Lacks the strength to play against press coverage
  • Not a great jump ball receiver

Jamel Hamler Fresno State/6’1”/193 lbs/4.59 40-yard dash/4.18 shuttle/32 vertical:

Pros:

  • Explosive off the line
  • Willing to go over the middle
  • Good jump ball receiver

Cons:

  • Does not possess top end speed
  • Does not recognize zone coverage well
  • Will drop the easy ball

Conclusion:  To me, Cecil Shorts reminds me of Greg Jennings, who is a fluid route runner and the leader of the wide receiver corp. Jennings would probably be the emotional leader of the receivers as well,  if the ageless Donald Driver were not present.  Just like Jennings, Shorts needs to become more physical against corner backs and isn’t going to scare anyone with his speed.

Both Jennings and Shorts also came from smaller schools where there will be some transition to NFL defenses.  Jamel Hamler on the other hand reminds me of James Jones, who is probably one of the most athletic and physical wide receivers in the group but has a penchant for dropping the easy pass while making the hard one.

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Thomas Hobbes is a staff writer for Jersey Al’s AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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35 Responses to “According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Wide Recievers”

  1. Pete Kliman says:

    We need to break away from that mold in order to get a returner and a change of pace.I think Cobb out of Kentucky is that athletic rec. that can do it all.Even his stats running the ball were good.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Actually I was thinking the exact same thing, the wide receivers that the team likes happen to to be pretty poor returners. But Thompson seems disinclined to give a roster spot to a dedicated returner (my feeling is that we could have done with one less TE or FB in exchange), and it that continues, do you want a great wide receiver whose no good at returning, or a great returner whose no good at playing wide receiver? Even the best returners rarely touch the ball more than a couple times a game.

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      • Lucas says:

        How were the standard deviations calculated? They aren’t correct using the G.B. WRs shown.

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        • Lucas says:

          Nevermind.

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          • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

            To be honest I probably don’t know as much about statistics as I should; I know coming up there are a couple of positions where the numbers aren’t going to be statistically significant (I gave up trying to write an article about fullbacks since the Packers have only drafted one true fullback) and I’m giving up on nose tackle for the same reasons. If anyone who knows something about statistical power I’m all ears.

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  2. Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

    Every time I read or hear someone say “we need a return specialist”I get another bruise on my chin from it dropping to the floor agasp”.
    The problem is not the returner but the inept way holes are opened as to how easily they are closed.
    The special teams needs to do better at that to ensure better overall field position than waiting for the once and all to rare”to the house”crap.That is great for the individual but way to small a team benefit based on frequency.Get the ball to the 35-40 75% of the time and this offense will put points up(3or7)80% of the time.
    The passing offense should be a huge clue as to what you need a WR to be able to do.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      I agree completely with you, but I think returner is a complete necessity this year, but more because its just plain stupid to have your starting cornerback who you just signed to a $40 million contract start as the punt returner too. I won’t complain about Jarrett Bush since I think he basically played the the game of his life at cornerback during the Super Bowl, but he’s not who you want out on the field when the defense is on.

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    • Oppy says:

      I disagree with you. The Returners are the problem.

      The only player who looked like a competent, NFL quality returner last season fumbled his way out of the job: Jordy Nelson.

      Sam Shields exhibits none of the qualities you look for in a KOR save speed. He is a fish out of water back there. That could change, but he is clearly not a natural return man.

      Tramon Williams had returned punts successfully in the past, but this last season he had a propensity to take huge risks with no reason, and very little pay off. He didn’t fumble, but it wasn’t for lack of trying.

      Starks was relatively ineffective.

      The only guy who actually looked like he had promise at KR outside of Nelson was Pat Lee. Pay Lee looked like he could become a decent option at KR, but he was plucked out of the role for seemingly no reason other than to try forcing someone else into the role.

      Consider was a legit threat at KR, and far more importantly, PR does for a team with a very good offense and a stellar defense that often forces teams to punt the ball away after short drives.. That could equal an already prolific offense becoming an absolute Juggernaut on the scoreboard.

      I’m all for the Packers giving “tie breaker” status to a potential draft pick for return ability as far as DB/WR/HB is concerned.

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      • Oppy says:

        EDIT:

        “Consider was a legit threat”

        should read:

        “Consider WHAT a legit threat”

        :)

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      • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

        I highly doubt that Pat Lee was picked “at random”; keep in mind that he was a second round pick and chances are the Packers had analyzed him as a returner and he happened to be the next man up after Nelson and Shields. Being the 3rd option obviously doesn’t give you much practice time, but my bet is that that could change this year; he obviously hasn’t shown the improvement warranting a 2nd round draft pick and was soundly beaten by a undrafted rookie who basically played wide receiver. At this point, I think the Packers are trying to find the most value out of him, which may mean that he gets a lot more reps at returner.

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        • Oppy says:

          Thomas,

          you mis-read my statement regarding Pat Lee. I did not state he was picked at random to fill the role, and I certainly didn’t question why he was returning kicks.

          I actually commended his kick-returning skills, and said it seemed as though the Packers pulled him OUT of KR duties for seemingly no reason at all, despite his looking quite competent.

          To be completely honest, I think Pat Lee lost his KR role simply so the Packers could insert Starks and justify his existence on the roster at the time.

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          • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

            My mistake, but I don’t know if the Packers really needed a justification for Starks, after all, its not as if the running game was lighting it up when he was on PUP. The other thing was that the Packers were quite high on Starks as a return man during the pre-season, and I can’t recall hearing anything about Pat Lee returning until Jordy Nelson got booted from the position.

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            • OPPY says:

              I agree and understand that the Packers were looking for Starks to contribute as a KR, but at the same time, Pat Lee was called upon at one point and looked like the best option next to Fumbles McNelson, and yet he was relatively quickly benched and never heard from again. Very odd and disappointing, from my perspective.

              Overall, I am admittedly not thrilled with the late season game of musical chairs they played with the KR’s. I think it illustrated the need to find a “real” KR man for this team.. Oh, yeah, and more importantly, a real threat at PR

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              • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

                Well my feeling is that they don’t need a pure retuner, just someone who can consistently gain some yards and not screw it up. Its not like the Packers offense lacks fire power and needs a good return game, they only need special teams to not screw it up.

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              • Oppy says:

                Thomas,

                Had to reply to myself (no more reply option after your last comment).

                For the most part, you’re right- the Packers offense is pretty good and that could lessen the “need” for a pure KR/PR, but I wouldn’t settle for “just don’t screw it up”.

                The Packers lost how many games last season by 4 or less?

                One way to get an extra 3 points on the scoreboard and one less punt is by gaining another 10-15 yards on a punt return or kick return.. Those 10-15 yards can be all the difference between punting away the ball and kicking one through the uprights. On the other side of the same coin, when you have a stellar defense, every yard gained by your special teams helps win the field position battle and puts your offense in better and better position as well- nice when you have a team that has looked sluggish on offense early in the season.

                When you have a season of close losses, the merits of an improved return unit can become magnified, IMO.

                Also, for the record, if you go back to my original reply to Taryn, You’ll see that I’m not suggesting the Packers go after a pure return return specialist (Although I wouldn’t object if they did). Merely that I would like return ability- especially PR ability, to be a tie-breaker if they are looking at multiple players on their board with similar value when they are on the clock with their picks.

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    • Pete Kliman says:

      You’re somewhat correct ,but remember Blackmon did a good job returning with essentially the same team.

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  3. Tarynfor12 Taryn says:

    Well I’m not happy with Tra returning also but, call me crazy if you must or just want too,if Starks comes in camp and shows he does have want they expected of him,I’m putting Grant on KRs and Shields another shot at PRs.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Well, maybe Starks will get a better shot now that he has the offseason to work on returning (assuming there is an offseason). But then again, you run into the same problem as with Tramon, you’re putting your potential future starting running back in a lot of harms way. Losing Starks also hurts Grant, not only cause Grant gets a bigger beating but because having Grant as a sole running back probably means that the Packers cut him in 2012 since his contract would be too high. Using Grant or Shields as returners runs into the same problem, its probably not worth the risk of exposing the player for the potential gains. My vote is for Pat Lee, he’s not really living up to his 2nd round pick, and losing him probably wouldn’t kill the team. He also didn’t seem that terrible at it when he got the shot and maybe if he gets more practice time on it he will get better. Another option is to find another speedster like Shields and try him at returner or resign Blackmon presuming that he’s healthy again

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  4. BubbaOne says:

    MM has always wanted tall WR’s who played all positions. In this article MM admits he was responsible for not drafting a shorter player and now seems open to the idea.

    http://www.jsonline.com/sports/packers/117119398.html?utm_source=twitterfeed&utm_medium=twitter

    Cobb seems to be the higher rated slot receiver over Jernigan. They could be dynamic in this offense besides being great at KR.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      I think that’s one of the reasons why the Packers are so dangerous is that their wide receivers can line up all over the place. Greg Jennings seemed particularly effective when he was in the slot, but i doubt that would have been the case had a prototypical “slot” player swapped with him to the outside. My personal opinion is that a pass catching running back would probably be the best option. For one, while you might lose out on more “big plays” I think a running back has a better chance of gaining good yardage as opposed to trying to dancing around and what not only to be dragged down for a loss. Also pass catching running backs would also help with the offense since the Packers throw so many short to intermediate passes.

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  5. [...] receivers in this year's draft class are compared to those drafted by the Packers in previous years by Thomas Hobbes of [...]

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  6. Lucas says:

    Cobbs measureables are similar to Jennings combine numbers. Very similar. Not saying he’s the next Jennings, but in the theme of the article, he fits what G.B. wants in a WR. He would also “return” G.B. to the backup WR spending a year as the returner (think Brooks, Freeman) before becoming a major contributer to the offense.

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    • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

      Just to confirm we are talking about Randall Cobb from the University of Kentucky right? I just took a looked him up and the stuff on the internet is all over the place; some list him as a running back and some list him as a wide receiver. Some say he has good hands, some say he has terrible hands, one site even listed him at 5’1″. His combine results are a little bit less impressive than Jennings (he’s a little shorter and a little slower in all drills). I’m not sure that the Packers regime are too keen about letting a player sit on the bench to develop unless the player has a huge upside (for whatever reason Giacomini fits that mold). Swain was put on the practice squad before he finally made it onto the 53, and if Cobb is as raw as the internet claims he is, I dunno if the Packers are willing to risk drafting him if they have to put him on the practice squad to let him develop, especially considering that the Packers love the multiple wide out plays

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      • Lucas says:

        The only drill listed that is slower from combine was the 40, and it wasn’t significantly slower. I cannot find many other results, but a little bit less impressive than Jennings is still saying a lot. Cobb should not be taken in the first day.

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  7. Jersey Al Jersey Al says:

    I have to do some more homework on Cobb to give an opinion, but I really like Jernigan.

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    • Lucas says:

      Jernigan is only 5’9″…more than 3 deviations from the mean.

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      • Thomas Hobbes Thomas Hobbes says:

        Based on the roster from last year, the shortest player on the team was safety Derrick Martin at 5’10″ (who was released by the team in the beginning of this month), after that everyone on the team is 5’11″ or taller. So on a height basis alone, it looks like Jerrigan has a poor shot at getting picked by the Packers

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  8. Mark says:

    I’m not absolutely convinced that you need to be short to be a good returner…which seems to be the Bob McGinn thesis. Both Brooks and Freeman were decent kick returners. Brooks was 6’0″ and Free was the prototypical Thompson receiver at 6’1″ and 198 lbs who came out of VaTech with average speed, but was a great route runner. For comparison, Desmond Howard was 5’10″ – but sucked as a wide receiver. I gotta believe there’s someone out there in the 5′-11″ to 6’0 range that can return kicks as a wide receiver or is a DB.

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  9. [...] (read here for the rationale for this series and here for quarterbacks, here for running backs and here for wide receivers).  This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted by GM Ted Thompson as a [...]

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  10. [...] (read here for the rationale for this series, here for quarterbacks, here for running backs, here for wide receivers, here for tight ends and here for offensive tackles).  This article will use the combine numbers [...]

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  11. [...] (read here for the rationale for this series, here for quarterbacks, here for running backs, here for wide receivers and here for tight ends).  This article will use the combine numbers from previous players drafted [...]

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  12. [...] (Read here for the rationale for this series, here for quarterbacks, here for running backs, here for wide receivers, here for tight ends,  here for offensive tackles and here for offensive interior linemen).  [...]

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  13. [...] a wide receiver, Ross fits the wide receiver mold that the Packers like in terms of measurables (which reminds me a lot of James Jones) so he can [...]

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  14. [...] (Read here for the rationale for this series, here for quarterbacks, here for running backs, here for wide receivers, here for tight ends, here for offensive tackles, here for offensive interior linemen, here for [...]

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