Being Ted Thompson: Wide Receiver Tendencies

Wide Receivers: The second installment of the Packers NFL Draft tendencies from within Ted Thompson's brain.

The Green Bay Packers have a type at receiver. Since 2008, in the draft after Mike McCarthy's second season as an NFL head coach, Ted Thompson's Packers have drafted 10 pass-catchers.

Here is the cast of characters:

•                     2008 second-round pick Jordy Nelson

•                     2009 second-round pick Randall Cobb

•                     2013 second-round pick Davante Adams

•                     2015 third-round pick Ty Montgomery

•                     2013 fifth-round pick Jared Abbrederis

•                     2013 fifth-round pick Trevor Davis

•                     2008 seventh-round pick Brett Swain

•                     2012 seventh-round pick Charles Johnson

•                     2012 seventh-round pick Kevin Dorsey

•                     2013 seventh-round pick Jeff Janis

 

Generally, the mold that the Packers follow is as such: Receivers must be within an eighth-inch of 6'0”, at least 188 pounds, run at least a 4.56-second 40-yard dash and record at least a 7.08-second three-cone time. According to Mock Draftable, a 4.56-second 40-yard dash knocks out the bottom 28 percent of receivers in terms of speed, while the three-cone threshold kicks out the bottom 22 percent of testers alone.

Those bars, in theory, aren't set very high, but when you find the overlap of athletes who test that well, at the size requirements that Green Bay asks of pass-catchers, the number of receivers available to them on draft day drops significantly. For example, since 2008, there have been 18 receivers who were drafted in the first 20 picks of the draft. Of those 18 receivers, only 9 of them, 50 percent, passed the “Thompson Receiver” thresholds. Between picks 21-40 since 2008, there have been 26 receivers drafted. Of those 26 receivers, only 6, roughly 23 percent, passed the “Thompson Receiver” thresholds.

For the most part, the Packers are targeting bodies that are often found in the first-half of the first round. They target players who on paper wouldn't be questioned as potential first-round picks.

Of the 10 receivers they drafted since 2008, the only player who has broken these rules has been Randall Cobb, who somehow measured in as the shortest receiver in the group, with the worst three-cone time of the group and was 0.01 seconds from also being the slowest receiver in the group. By all accounts, he is the massive outlier in Thompson's draft resume. As mentioned in the Thompson running back tendency piece in this series, with the examples being Eddie Lacy and DeShawn Wynn, this outlier was also projected to come off the board much higher than when the Packers selected him with the 64th overall pick, which could have been a major factor in why Green Bay bucked their trends.

In the top-100 picks of the 2008-2016 drafts, there have been 35 “Thompson Receiver” types. The Packers drafted three of them in Nelson, Adams and Montgomery, while the rest of the NFL split 32 receivers among 31 franchises via the draft, meaning Green Bay takes these types of pass-catchers at about three times the clip of the average NFL team.

Another sign that the Packers may earmark these type of receivers beyond the draft is the signing of Chris Harper. The Seattle Seahawks drafted Harper in the fourth round of the 2013 draft, but released him which then led to a cup of coffee in San Francisco before his 11 months in Green Bay. After being cut by the Packers, he signed with the New York Giants, whose new offensive coordinator was Ben McAdoo, the former quarterbacks coach in Green Bay. That may shed light on why this style of receiver only became a virtual hard-threshold in 2008: It's possible it was a decision that the offensive staff requested, not Thompson in isolation.

If a shorter receiver who hits the Packers' athletic measurements has a massive fall on draft day, just assume that Green Bay is willing to buy anyone on a discount. As far as players who fit all of their thresholds, as in players they are likely to actually draft when they're on the clock, here's how I would construct a draft board, using NFL Draft Scout's grades, heading into the 2017 draft.

 

 

Pro day numbers are needed for the likes of Western Michigan's Corey Davis and Clemson's Mike Williams, but Green Bay fans shouldn't waste their breath on assuming a trade up for either of those two, which by all projections is the only rational way they would land one of those two receivers.

As far as the players who in fact did pass the Thompson Receiver thresholds, there are five names at the top of NFL Draft Scout's board that are interesting to me: Penn State's Chris Godwin, East Carolina's Zay Jones, California's Chad Hansen, Northern Illinois' Kenny Golladay and Texas A&M's Josh Reynolds.

•                     Godwin: If you go back and watch Godwin against Ohio State, you see him winning contested catches against two of the better cornerbacks in college football last season. That was always a plus for Godwin coming into the draft cycle, but his athleticism surprised many at the combine, which is leading to his rise on media boards.

•                     Jones: If you liked Braxton Miller last year, you're going to be a fan of Jones. Like Miller, Jones was a Senior Bowl standout who then proved his athleticism at the combine. Jones was fed the ball as a screen receiver at East Carolina, in a Jarvis Landry type of role for the team. As we saw with the drafting of Adams in the second round, this team isn't scared of spending top-100 picks on spread receivers.

•                     Hansen: Speaking of spread receivers, Hansen, an Idaho State transfer, was one of the better spread receivers in the sport last season. Hansen may not be a true outside receiver, because he has more “made you miss in the open field and here's the breakaway” speed than “separation down the sideline” speed, but he's not too different from Tyler Boyd in last year's draft class, who was viewed as a top-end slot receiver.

•                     Golladay: Another transfer, Golladay started at North Dakota before moving back home to Northern Illinois. His film isn't that great, but his numbers are off the charts. Tony Pauline of Draft Analyst already confirmed that the Packers were at the Huskies' pro day (http://draftanalyst.com/pro-day-march-10-update-tulsa-alabama-state) to have dinner with a running back, but NIU's top prospect is one of the few receivers who fit Green Bay's draft history. One would assume that they didn't make that mid-major trip just to get a glimpse of a potentially undrafted free agent back.

•                     Reynolds: He's raw as can come, and he played in a wide-open spread, but Reynolds very well could be a better pro than college player. In the online draft community, he's viewed as one of the most popular sleepers in the class, as he checks every box on a baseline level.

Other than those five receivers, in this weak draft class in terms of wideout depth, I would also note Robert Davis of Georgia State. If you ever held the release of Johnson against Thompson, Davis has very similar tape to Johnson's in college. In the last two rounds of the draft, Davis makes more sense to Green Bay than any other receiver just based off of that connection alone.

Previous installments of this series:

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Comments (20)

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

March 27, 2017 at 10:33 am

Why is Cooper Kupp not on this list?

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dobber's picture

March 27, 2017 at 10:40 am

I'm guessing because he ran a 4.60-40 at the combine, he's outside the group based on the parameters used. Keep in mind that the idea was to find the common thread amongst those WR chosen by TT and then finding those in the draft that best match that. I don't think the author would say that this is really a suggestion or wish-list, but just a matching process.

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dobber's picture

March 27, 2017 at 10:37 am

Really enjoy these articles that give us some insight into the GMs tendencies over the years...trends that require you put a lot of disparate data together. Nice job!

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 27, 2017 at 10:39 am

To add to your list, from 2005-2007 (under Thompson) they also drafted the following WR's.

2005 -
2nd round - Terrence Murphy
6th round - Craig Bragg

2006 -

2nd round - Greg Jennins
4th round - Cory Rodgers

2007 -

3rd round - James Jones
5th round - David Clowney

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hodge555's picture

March 28, 2017 at 06:35 am

And FYI Trevor Davis was drafted in 2016, not 2013

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MarkinMadison's picture

March 27, 2017 at 10:43 am

Godwin would be a nice addition. Not the tallest, but probably the quickest and the fastest of those likely to fall to Green Bay. If the Packers are going to draft a WR they might as well draft one who can stretch the field.

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ebongreen's picture

March 27, 2017 at 10:46 am

Jones has good tape, and the kind of speed the Packers could use. They probably also have some level of inside dope on him courtesy of Josh Hawkins being on the roster. Similarly, Chad Hansen of Cal – less speed but really good hands – from the same school that the Packers got Rodgers, Rodgers and Trevor Davis.

Golladay strikes me as somewhat similar to a lurking offseason re-up from last year's practice squad, namely Devon Cajuste of Stanford. He seems to be still in Green Bay, and I would be surprised if the Packers didn't bring him back to camp this year for a full look.

Josh Reynolds would fill a niche that Trevor Davis occupies right now, namely "tall skinny fast kid". I don't know if the Packers have room for drafting two of those in two years, though Reynolds is taller and slimmer.

I'm a little surprised that you don't comp Robert Davis to the Packers current late-round height-weight-speed prospect, Jeff Janis.

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dobber's picture

March 27, 2017 at 12:49 pm

Cajuste popped his knee late in the season last year, I think. I thought I'd read that it was an ACL, but I'm not sure. Cajuste was transitioning to TE, I believe.

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ebongreen's picture

March 27, 2017 at 03:00 pm

He was placed on IR, but without a specific designation (via Packers/NFL). I have hopes he'll be ready for camp.

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stockholder's picture

March 27, 2017 at 03:25 pm

Pick #29 will say it all. If it's CB, TT will take a WR rd. 2. If it's Watt like most want. TT will take a WR rd.3. So I'm going with rd. 3 for 2 guys. WR/RB Curtiss Samuel could still be there. But one guy that hasn't been mention, is WestBrook. This guy would be huge. He had a scrape, but just ran a 4.3. (and wanted a 4.2. ) I'd roll the dice and get this guy.

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vj_ostrowski's picture

March 27, 2017 at 01:06 pm

Good post - I would say this is pretty accurate, unless our board gets decimated unexpectedly in one of these rounds.

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croatpackfan's picture

March 27, 2017 at 02:28 pm

I'm not trying to take away something from your research. I think it is very valuable. But, I remember, couple seasons ago, when asked, Ted Thompson said he always picks football player, not position. When you look at most of the choices Ted Thompson picked in drafts you'll find versatile players, capable of playing multiple position at high level. What I see when I looking at players drafted or signed by TT that all of them (OK, most of them) are "football" players - versatile, multi-position players. And that is the players packers are looking in every draft. And I agree, that with specific position groups, "football" players very often have similar mold.

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slit's picture

March 27, 2017 at 06:50 pm

Zay Jones, please.

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RCPackerFan's picture

March 28, 2017 at 06:42 am

YES!

The one player that stood out above everyone else at the Senior Bowl.

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NickPerry's picture

March 28, 2017 at 06:51 am

Not to mention the production was there in College, 499 receptions for over 4000 yards is a lot of production. Plus he's a sliver under 6'2" and ran a 4.45 40.

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Handsback's picture

March 28, 2017 at 06:18 am

I like the research. There is one WR I have mentioned before...Speedy Noil. As either a 7th Rd. or FA, this kid has some raw skills that can be put to use as a returner first and then a receiver when he earns it.

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rajahking's picture

March 28, 2017 at 04:18 pm

This is really fantastic work.

I had not realized that Thompson was so dead on in the first 3 rounds. His early picks were, with the exception of Terrance Murphy, all serious contributors to Pro Bowlers.

After that though, not so much... is Jeff Janis his best pick after 3rd round? Yikes. Makes me a little worried about how Trevor Davis will work out.

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PackEyedOptimist's picture

March 29, 2017 at 09:02 am

I wanted to add that TT doesn't just DRAFT WRs, he also signs UDFAs. We should remember Max McCaffrey.

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bustagb's picture

March 29, 2017 at 01:39 pm

Why do you say Cobb is 0.01 seconds away from being the slowest WR on the list. Cobb ran a faster 40 than Jordy, Montgomery, Swain, Abby, and Davante.

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Bear's picture

February 22, 2018 at 03:01 pm

Justis
,
Cobb’s 4.46 40 yard time at the combine wasn’t .01 from being the slowest time in the group.

Maybe, I misunderstood your comparison or you weren’t using the correct combine time for Cobb.

Thanks

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