Will Packers attempt to replace Jennings?

Today is the eighth day of two weeks of Green Bay Packers coverage leading up to the April 25 beginning of the NFL draft.

April 12: Five best draft moments in the past 25 years
April 13: Five worst draft moments in the past 25 years
April 14: Quarterbacks position preview
April 15: Running backs/fullbacks position preview

April 17: Guards/centers position preview
April 18: Tight ends position preview
Today: Wide receivers position preview
April 20: Defensive linemen position preview
April 21: Linebackers position preview
April 22: Cornerbacks position preview
April 23: Safeties position preview
April 24: Ted Thompson’s draft strategy
April 25: Forecasting the first-round pick
TODAY’S POSITION: WIDE RECEIVER
 
Importance (1-to-10 scale): 6
 
On the roster
 
Even with Greg Jennings now a member of the Minnesota Vikings and Donald Driver retired, the Packers still have one of the NFL’s better wide receiver groups.
 
Last season, Green Bay was led in receptions, targets and receiving yards by Randall Cobb. Still only 22 years old and two years into his NFL career, the speedy Cobb is a dynamic receiving threat who’s just starting to approach his potential. Cobb could soon be one of the league’s most valuable players, given his ability to also play out of the backfield and return the ball on special teams.
 
Jordy Nelson will be entering his sixth NFL season. Nelson was one of the league’s breakout performers in 2011 with 1,263 receiving yards, but he had a down year in 2012 mostly due to injuries. Nelson will be 28 when the regular season begins, and the Packers need him to stay healthy.
 
It’s the perfect NFL trivia question, simply because the answer is so unexpected. Who led the entire NFL in touchdown receptions in the 2012 season? James Jones. Yes, the same player who has never surpassed 800 receiving yards in any one of his six seasons was quarterback Aaron Rodgers’ go-to touchdown-scoring machine last season. Jones, 29, will enter the 2013 season in the last year of his contract.
 
Behind those three, though, Green Bay needs to add some quality depth. Jarrett Boykin, an undrafted pickup from last season, is the team’s current No. 4 receiver. Jeremy Ross, who figures to be the Packers’ return man with Cobb likely shifting out of that role, could possibly get some snaps at receiver, as well.
 
Last five wide receivers drafted
 
2011 — Randall Cobb, Kentucky: second round (64th overall)–still with the Packers
2008 — Jordy Nelson, Kansas State: second round (36th overall)–still with the Packers
2008 — Brett Swain, San Diego State: seventh round (217th overall)–waived in August 2011, now with the Seahawks
2007 — James Jones, San Jose State: third round (78th overall)–still with the Packers
2007 — David Clowney, Virginia Tech: fifth round (157th overall)–waived in 2007, spent 2012 season in UFL
 
Philosophy at the position
 
Ted Thompson doesn’t really miss on wide receivers, especially when the Packers’ general manager uses a second-round draft pick to acquire one. That tradition started with Jennings in 2006, continued with Nelson in 2008 and most recently with Cobb in 2011. Jones was a mid-third round pick.
 
It may seem as if Green Bay could put just about any receiver on the field with Rodgers and the results would be fairly good. Though Rodgers deserves a lot of credit for the progress of the Packers’ wideouts, Thompson has given the 2011 MVP a lot of great players to work with. 
 
A year ago, with Jennings and Driver still on the roster, wide receiver wasn’t a need position in Green Bay. Now, with Jones scheduled to be a 30-year-old free agent next offseason and Nelson in his late 20s, Thompson may be in a position to once again grab a wide receiver somewhat early in the draft.
 
Day 1 name to remember (Round 1)
 
Cordarrelle Patterson, senior, Tennessee (6-2, 216). Some NFL draft experts have Patterson as the best wide receiver in this class. Others have him sliding out of the first round. The mixed opinions are warranted. On the positive side, Patterson is a terrific athlete with great size and speed who makes big plays. On the negative side, Patterson wasn’t even playing football four years ago and later spent two seasons at a junior college before going to Tennessee.
 
There are plenty of good wide receivers in this class, and Thompson has proven that he can find them without spending his first-round pick to get one. And, though wide receiver isn’t an immediate need for the Packers, adding a player of Patterson’s talent could make the loss of Jennings hardly noticeable. Drafting Patterson would also help to ensure that Rodgers continues to have top-notch receivers around him as Nelson and Jones approach age 30. 
 
Patterson says: “I say I’m a top-15 pick, but I can’t control what coaches think and they’re the ones that make the decisions. If they see me in the top 15, top 10, then I respect that because I think I am.”
 
Day 2 name to remember (Rounds 2-3)
 
Robert Woods, junior, USC (6-0, 201). If Woods goes in the first round, it wouldn’t be a great value pick. The most likely scenario is he goes somewhere late in the second or early in the third round. That is right where the Packers could enter the picture at No. 55. Woods isn’t a top-tier athlete for the NFL wide receiver position like Patterson. Woods also doesn’t have big hands, and it showed with too many drops at USC. However, he had tremendous production over a three-year college career and is USC’s all-time leader in receptions.
 
Day 3 name to remember (Rounds 4-7)
 
Denard Robinson, senior, Michigan (5-10, 199). Can Robinson make the transition from college quarterback to NFL wide receiver? It’s probably worth a gamble in the seventh round to find out. Robinson has great speed and could offer a unique dynamic for Green Bay’s offense. He almost certainly won’t be as good as Cobb as a receiver, but Robinson’s ability to do multiple things adds to what opposing defenses would have to game plan for.
 
FOXSports.com’s draft expert Taylor Jones says: “I think the No. 1 wide receiver is Patterson because he’s a dynamic athlete. I’ve drawn comparisons to (Atlanta’s) Julio Jones from a playmaker perspective. He scares me, though, because he’s inconsistent, but his yards after catch is so impressive that I’d take a chance on him.
 
“Robinson could steal the show.”

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