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Position Analysis: Wide Receivers

With players set to report on Friday, and the first practice on Saturday, I'm finishing up a position-by-position analysis. Last, but not least, is the wide receivers.

Obviously this position is important, but I'd say there is no more important position, after quarterback. Mike McCarthy's offense is built around the passing game; he's much more likely to call pass than run. The offense was still good last season, despite RB Ryan Grant's struggles, because of the receivers. When the offense struggled in 2006, Mike McCarthy's first season, it was because QB Brett Favre wasn't able to rely on any receiver except WR Donald Driver.

  1. Greg Jennings. It seemed like he moved ahead of Driver in 2007, but he made it perfectly clear in 2008 that's he's the new No. 1 receiver. The offense just isn't the same when he's not involved in it.
  2. Donald Driver. Despite his age and all the games played, he's still a great receiver. He's not a Top 10 receiver, but he's in the Top 20 and one of the best No. 2 receivers in the league.
  3. Jordy Nelson. He could be the No. 3 receiver, he might be the No. 4 receiver, it all depends on what happens during the preseason. He had a nice rookie season with 33 receptions, 366 yards, and 2 TDs, but not a lot of big runs after the catch. He'll have fewer passes thrown his way than either Jennings or Driver, but based on research done by Nick Higgins, it's very unlikely he would have been an immediate success as a rookie, but much more likely he has a jump forward in any of the next three seasons. 
  4. James Jones. We shouldn't write off Nelson if he doesn't have a big 2009 season, but based on Nick Higgins' work, if Jones doesn't jump forward in his 3rd NFL season, it's unlikely he'll ever be anything more than a 4th or 5th WR. 
  5. Ruvell Martin. He'll never be a starter, and although he's likely to make the 53 man roster, he'll continue to be left inactive in a lot of games. He's got good hands and always seems to know where the 1st down marker is. An undrafted rookie is really going to have to show something to the coaches to get them noticed ahead of him.
  6. Tied for 6th: Brett Swain, Kole Heckendorf, Patrick Williams, Jake Allen, and JaRon Harris. They had signed another undrafted receiver, Jamarko Simmons, who broke some of Jennings' school records at Western Michigan, but he played little during the OTAs and was released when they signed LB Clay Matthews. That leaves five undrafted players left to beat out Martin, or claim a spot on the practice squad. Swain and Allen might have an advantage because they played last preseason. The Packers do a good job at giving all their receivers a chance during the preseason, so all of them will get at least one shot on the field.