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Packers Mock Drafts: Mel Kiper finds a big, athletic target for Aaron Rodgers

It’s a new name for the Packers at 30, one whose rise up the draft boards has coincided with a tremendous Combine.

NFL Combine - Day 3 Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

As of today, the 2020 NFL Draft is exactly 30 days away. That’s not much time, but with no Pro Days and private workouts to track, it feels like an eternity.

Of course, one way to pass the time is with mock drafts, and this week ESPN’s Mel Kiper has a new one out. This mock is Kiper’s third for this year, and for the third time he is picking a wide receiver for the Green Bay Packers at pick number 30.

However, he has gone through three different receivers now at that selection, with the latest being an example of a Combine workout driving a player up the board. Immediately following the end of the college football season, Kiper projected Penn State’s KJ Hamler to the Packers, then switched to Justin Jefferson from LSU before the Combine.

Now, he has Notre Dame’s Chase Claypool as the pick, coming as the seventh wide receiver off the board. Here’s Kiper’s explanation:

Green Bay cut Jimmy Graham and hasn’t added any receiving help this offseason, so I’m sticking with a wide receiver for its pick, though it’s the third different wideout in my three mock drafts. Like Denzel Mims, Claypool had an electrifying combine, running a 4.42 40 and putting up a 40.5-inch vertical at 6-foot-4, 238 pounds. This might be a slight reach, but a team could fall in love with his traits, and he produced last season, catching 66 passes for 1,037 yards and 13 touchdowns. He could be a matchup nightmare for Aaron Rodgers.

All told, Claypool in the first seems to be a bit of a stretch, even despite his big production, size, and athleticism. To be fair, Claypool fits that size/speed combination that the Packers seem to love, especially in recent years; he finished in the 82nd percentile or above for wide receivers in every Combine measurement he participated in, save for arm length, where he was in the 64th percentile. For what it’s worth, however, he did not run in agility drills in Indianapolis and presumably will not be able to do so before the Draft.

The other factor here is that Claypool does not bring a different skill set to the team from that of the Packers’ other receivers, a potential problem when the team’s head coach has said he likes to have a variety of types of players on his roster. The big slot role that Claypool would seem ideally-suited for is already well-established on the team, with Allen Lazard excelling there in 2019 and Equanimeous St. Brown showing major flashes as a rookie in 2018.

In that vein, perhaps a player like Brandon Aiyuk could be a better fit for the Packers. Aiyuk still has very good speed and explosiveness, and although he did not test in agility drills either, he appears to be a more sudden player on film than Claypool. An added bonus for Aiyuk is return ability, as he averaged more than 31 yards per kick return and 16 yards per punt return for Arizona State in 2019.

In this mock, however, most of the top options were already off the table by pick number 30. Kiper sent the top six receivers in order to the following teams:

  • Jerry Jeudy, Alabama (#13, SF)
  • Henry Ruggs, Alabama (#15, DEN)
  • CeeDee Lamb, Oklahoma (#17, DAL)
  • Tee Higgins, Clemson (#19, LV)
  • Justin Jefferson, LSU (#21, PHI)
  • Denzel Mims, Baylor (#22, MIN)

With that group unavailable, it’s understandable to look to a player like Claypool given his measureables and production. And in 30 days’ time, Packers fans will know if this ends up being Brian Gutekunst’s approach.