Terrence Murphy. Greg Jennings. James Jones. Jordy Nelson. Randall Cobb. These are the names of all the wide receivers whom Ted Thompson has drafted in the first three rounds of the NFL Draft during his time as the Green Bay Packers' General Manager. Only Murphy failed to become a starting-caliber NFL receiver, as his career was cut short by injury. The other four have been key parts of the Packers offenses over the past decade, and it seems that Thompson has refreshed the position a season or two before it seemed to be necessary.
With that said, it seems entirely feasible that Ted may do the same in 2014, and we will take a look at one receiver prospect whose skills, size, speed, and production may make him a desirable target for the Packers: Jordan Matthews from Vanderbilt University.
You said size and speed?
I did indeed. At the Senior Bowl in January, Matthews measured in at 6 feet, 2-5/8 inches, and 209 pounds. He also had the biggest hands of any receiver at the Scouting Combine, measuring in at 10-3/8 inches long. During testing at the combine, he ran his 40-yard dash in 4.46 seconds, which was certainly in the "very good" range for straight-line speed. Add strength in there too, as he was among the leaders at his position with 21 reps on the bench press.
That sounds promising. Now what about the skills part?
As his Combine numbers indicated, he's got good speed and strength but average explosiveness and quickness. As a three-year starter, though, he's well-versed in the art of route-running and is crisp in his cuts. Still, he's more likely to be a guy making tough catches in traffic due to his size and great hands rather than shaking defenders loose consistently. His acceleration is one of his weaker traits - he probably needs to get a relatively clean release off the line to get past NFL corners on deep routes.
So he's a strong guy who runs good routes and makes tough catches...who do I know like that?
Are you thinking of James Jones, perhaps? Because that's a comparison that comes to my mind. The differences are that Matthews is taller by an inch and a half and a bit faster than Jones (4.46 vs. 4.54 in their 40 times at the Combine). Jones eventually made a name for himself for making tough catches in tight coverage over the past few years, and he lined up almost exclusively at Flanker. Because of Matthews' skill set, I think he would make a great long-term replacement for Jones at that position, allowing Randall Cobb (and to a lesser extent Jordy Nelson) to continue manning the slot.
You said something about elite production?
Yeah, Matthews was kind of a big deal at Vanderbilt. He is the career leader in receptions (262) and receiving yards (3,795) in SEC history, and he added 24 touchdowns in his four years.
Okay, cool. Can you finally get to the highlights set to some ridiculous music?
But of course! The music isn't terrible stuff by itself, but it's definitely over-the-top and way too dramatic for a highlight reel. It probably belongs in a movie about Pirates or something. Anyway, hit play below:
Good stuff. Where is he projected to go in the Draft?
As always, this depends on whose rankings you look at, but most pundits seem to have him with a second-round grade, though some have him sneaking into the last few picks of the first round while others project him slipping to the third. He did help alleviate some concerns about his straight-line speed with that 40 time, though, which probably helped his stock a bit.
Overall, Matthews would be a great find for the Packers, especially in the second round or later, and he would help alleviate the loss of James Jones and give the Packers some long-term options in the event that they have difficulty coming to terms with Nelson or Cobb on contract extensions. Plus, there's always the fact that he already has connections to the Packers organization, thanks to his college coach, James Franklin. If Matthews ends up in Green and Gold, Packers fans should be quite happy.