With news that the Green Bay Packers had signed Reggie Dunn to their practice squad, the time is appropriate to re-visit our Cheesehead TV 2013 Pro Football Draft Preview guide.
In March, I had ranked Dunn as the No. 2 return specialist in this year’s draft class, and despite being called a wide receiver, Dunn is first and foremost a kick returner.
Possessing elite speed some have reported as being in the 4.2 range, Dunn most definitely had eye-popping numbers during his college days at Utah, averaging an almost unfathomable 51.3 yards on kick returns as a senior, returning four of them for touchdowns.
Upon closer inspection, however, Dunn only had 10 kick returns the entire season. He set an NCAA record with two 100-plus yard kick returns in a single game against Cal, and after that point, teams started to kick away from him.
In fact, Dunn also holds the NCAA record with most 100-plus yard kick returns in a season (four) and in a career (five).
What’s interesting and concerning all at the same time is that Dunn was a kick returner but not a punt returner at Utah.
In a general sense, catching a punt is much harder than fielding a kickoff for reasons such as trajectory, hang time, the spiral of a punt and possibly having defenders in your face.
If Utah didn’t trust Dunn to return punts, it raises a red flag that he’ll be able to do so at the NFL level with the Packers.
Perhaps easing concerns is that Dunn was afforded an opportunity to return punts with the Pittsburgh Steelers in the preseason, running back seven for an average of 9.9 yards with three fair catches.
He also had two kick returns for 73 yards, an average of 36.5 yards per attempt.
Dunn’s experience as a receiver is, likewise, minimal. In three years at Utah, Dunn caught a total of 31 passes for 355 yards and one touchdown. He also had 38 carries for 334 yards and two touchdowns.
Whether Dunn is being seriously considered to handle return duties in the aftermath of the release of Jeremy Ross remains to be seen.
For the moment being, the Packers can most certainly rely on Randall Cobb on special teams, but Mike McCarthy has already said he would prefer to relieve Cobb of those responsibilities.
Other candidates on the roster include running back Johnathan Franklin on kick returns and cornerback Micah Hyde on punt returns.
By signing Dunn to the practice squad, however, the Packers are essentially afforded a risk-free audition from Dunn to see whether he has what it takes.
But if they were truly interested in elevating him to the 53-man roster, the Packers would have to release a player or place someone on injured reserve in order to make room for Dunn.