Should the Packers Draft a Receiver in the First Round?

Wide receivers in the NFL Draft can make an immediate impact on your team. For years, Green Bay saw first-hand how Calvin Johnson increased the offensive firepower of division rival Detroit, and Julio Jones torched the Packers secondary in their playoff loss this past weekend.

Aaron Rodgers said in his postgame comments that the Packers need to “retool” next year in order to compete. Does that include going after a wide receiver high in the draft? Both Jon and Gary weigh in.

Jon says: No, because there really aren’t any that are worth it

There’s a reason that analysts call players with extraordinarily rare physical gifts “generational talents”; they almost literally come along once in a generation.

As Gary points out below, every team in the NFL would be more than happy to acquire one of these players, but don’t be confused: it’s not a lack of resources or guts that prevents them from doing it. It’s that they just don’t exist.

This is not some perceived scarcity, either. Here is a list of players since 2000 with combine measurables to Calvin Johnson.

If you think that’s a short list, you won’t be too surprised when you check out the same list for receivers that compare to Julio Jones.

If you’re looking for players like Johnson and Jones in this year’s draft, good luck. Though I don’t always trust Walter Football, their preliminary list of 2017 wide receiver prospects doesn’t reveal anyone in the same athletic universe as either of those two.

That’s not to say that I don’t think the Packers can’t improve at receiver. Though Jordy Nelson was great this year and Davante Adams was much improved, those two and Geronimo Allison are all basically slightly varied versions of the same player. It would dramatically improve the Packers’ offensive attack to add another pass catcher who could bring a different physical profile to the roster.

Gary says: No, it’s too risky

If the Packers are serious about retooling, as Aaron Rodgers calls it, selecting a boom-or-bust wide receiver at the end of the first round isn’t the answer. 

One of Ted Thompson’s strengths as a general manager over the years is his ability to draft receivers in later rounds that produce at a first round level. Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Greg Jennings, and Davante Adams were all second round picks while James Jones and Ty Montgomery were third round selections.

But, you’ll tell me, those receivers aren’t the kind of athletes that scare opposing defenses. You say, we need a big, fast receiver like Calvin Johnson or Julio Jones. Well, so do all of the other teams in the league. 

In 2015, ESPN’s FiveThirtyEight analyzed the probability of a player producing more value in his first five NFL seasons than the median for his draft slot by position between 1980 and 2014. 

The results showed wide receiver as the riskiest position overall, but especially in the first round:

In the past three years, the Packers have been 60 minutes from the Super Bowl twice with this group of receivers. Last year, Green Bay averaged 27 points a game – good enough for fourth best in the league. The current stable is more than capable to win the big game.