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Vic Ketchman

Vic Ketchman is a veteran of 40 NFL seasons and has covered the Steelers and Jaguars prior to coming to Green Bay.

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Speed concerns at top of WR crop

Posted Mar 30, 2012

The following is the third installment in a position-by-position draft preview series. Wide receivers and tight ends are featured in this installment.


The Packers have a deep and talented receiving corps. That’s good because it’s thought this isn’t the best year to be looking for receivers in the draft.

A wide receiver crop si.com draft analyst Tony Pauline refers to as “good at the top and then really falls off,” lacks speed at the top and offers speed in risk/reward ways that’ll tempt teams desperate for a threat on the outside.

Oklahoma State’s Justin Blackmon and Notre Dame’s Michael Floyd are the consensus top prospects. Blackmon is a big, thick receiver who’s drawn comparison to Michael Irvin. Floyd combines speed and good hands.

Blackmon helped himself by running in the mid to high 4.4 range at his pro day recently. He declined to run at the combine and that immediately caused scouts to be suspicious of his speed.

Floyd ran in the 4.4’s at the combine and turned in an impressive pass-catching display. He had an up and down college career but there’s no doubting his physical tools.

Those two are followed by South Carolina’s Alshon Jeffrey, a 6-4, 230, prospect similar in size to Jonathan Baldwin, selected in the first round last year. Jeffrey presents speed concerns.

“I think it’s deep but primarily second and third receivers, not a whole lot of number ones,” Pauline said of this year’s wide receiver crop.

Baylor’s Kendall Wright brings loads of production, but he’s 5-10, 190, and ran a disappointing 4.61 at the combine.

Teams wanting speed will train their eyes on Stephen Hill, who ran a lights-out 4.31 at the combine.

Hill is to this year’s class as Demaryius Thomas was to the 2010 class. Both are out of Georgia Tech, which runs the wishbone and treats the pass as an afterthought. Thomas was selected 22nd overall by Denver and blossomed into a deep-receiving threat this year. Can the same be expected of Hill?

“Stephen Hill is a blazer. Can he play? Yes, but he’s undeveloped. In that system at Georgia Tech, he ran go routes. That offense doesn’t lend to development at the wide receiver position. He has an amazing amount of upside. He’s a good kid,” Pauline said of Hill.

Hey, it worked for Denver with Thomas, right?

Stanford’s Chris Owusu ran 4.35 at the combine, Illinois’ A.J. Jenkins ran a 4.37, Miami’s Travis Benjamin and North Carolina State’s T.J. Graham each ran 4.38, and Wake Forest’s Chris Givens ran a 4.39, but those are all down-the-road type prospects. Oh, for that kind of speed at the top of the class.

Arkansas’ Joe Adams had a sensational week of practice at the Senior Bowl and was poised to explode up the draft board as a DeSean Jackson type of player, but then Adams ran 4.55 at the combine and that likely dropped his stock.

LSU’s Rueben Randle was thought to be a first-round prospect, but then he ran 4.58 at the combine and that probably will have pushed him down.

Arizona’s Juron Criner came out of nowhere to turn heads in his direction at the Senior Bowl. The 4.6 he ran at the combine pushed him decidedly into a possession receiver role.

Pauline likes two down-the-road types: Ohio’s LaVon Brazill and Boise State’s Tyler Shoemaker.

“Reliable receiver, dangerous runner after the catch and also brings return ability,” Pauline said of Brazill, who starred in a couple of TV games late in the season. “Shoemaker ran in the 4.4’s and is very underrated. He could become a very productive fourth receiver.”

That might be what this class yields, a lot of depth-type receivers. It’s not thought to be an especially deep and talented class of tight ends, either.

Stanford’s Coby Fleener, 6-6, 250, is thought to be the best of the tight ends, followed closely by Clemson’s Dwayne Allen, 6-4, 245, and Georgia’s Orson Charles, 6-3, 241. Allen’s stock might’ve dropped a little after running 4.8 at the combine.

“A lot of downfield pass catchers, not too many complete tight ends,” Pauline said of a tight end crop that will offer a lot of H-backs and not many in-line blockers.

If there’s a star-to-be in the class, it might be Missouri’s Michael Egnew, 6-5, 251, who has the body to be an every-down tight end and the speed and athletic ability to be a downfield threat. Egnew broad-jumped 11-1 and ran 4.52 at the combine. He was not used as a blocker in college.

Oklahoma’s James Hanna, a 6-3, 244, H-back type, ran a blistering 4.48 at the combine and clearly helped himself.

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