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DD: One for the ages?

DD: One for the ages?

 

Is Donald Driver the fourth-best receiver in Packer history?

 

 

 

 

 

When Donald Driver finally hangs it up—some day in the distant future, we hope--what will we remember most about him? With all due respect to his playing abilities, I think what we’ll remember most of all is his smile. Has there ever been a more cheerful player wearing the Green and Gold? And Driver is no mere pretty boy: Behind that smile is toughness, leadership, and smarts.

And now, with ten seasons under his belt, it is time to start asking where Driver fits in among the all-time great Packer receivers. While there is plenty of room for debate, I am willing to say that he has moved into a tie for fourth. Not bad at all for a 7th round pick out of Alcorn State who was more of a track star than a football player in college.

It is unlikely that Driver will ever move into the top three, because each of those players—Don Hutson, James Lofton, and Sterling Sharpe—were phenomenal athletes who were among the best to ever play the position. There is no shame in being ranked behind any of those guys.

But Driver is right up there with that next tier of Packer receivers, which includes Boyd Dowler, Max McGee, and Antonio Freeman. I am intentionally holding off on a discussion of statistics, as it is difficult to compare receiving statistics from different eras. (If you must get your stat fix right now, go ahead and skip to the end of the article, then come back.)

Another reason for holding off on the stats is that Donald Driver’s value to the team cannot be measured in mere numbers. He has been a mentor to young players and a fan favorite for all the right reasons. He has been loyal to the team and loyal to his QBs and has managed to avoid controversies, including last summer’s Favre saga, which he easily could’ve fallen into with even one careless comment.

Like Antonio Freeman before him, Driver is at his best on third down and he is not afraid to go over the middle and take a shot. In fact, he seems to relish it. And he always gives 100% effort. I still remember Driver playing harder than anyone in that humiliating home playoff loss to the Falcons in January 2003, before finally being knocked out of the game after scoring the only Packer TD of the day. And although he takes a lot of hits and is not particularly big, Driver has added muscle over the years and is extremely durable.

Now for the stats. Take a look at Driver, Dowler, and Freeman. The numbers are close. You could make a case for Dowler based on the fact that he was a key part of a championship offense for years. And you could make a case for Freeman based on all those TD catches, along with his key role on one championship team. And Max McGee is still in the conversation based on his 50 TDs and several championships. But Driver is well ahead of all of them in terms of yards and receptions and will soon pass Sharpe as the all-time Packer leader in receptions as well as passing Sharpe and Hutson in yards to move into second place, with only Lofton ahead of him.

Driver’s biggest statistical weakness, compared to most of these players, is his relatively low number of TDs. This stat is not to be taken lightly, but does it cancel out the others? I’m willing to say that it does not. While Driver has seldom been the main source of TDs for his team, he has been a key part of some very potent offenses that have done a good job of finding their way into the end zone one way or another.

My verdict? Driver is in a dead heat with Boyd Dowler for #4 all-time, and in another season or two, he will be a solid #4. A championship ring would seal the deal. I can’t think of a player on our team who deserves one more.

Career stats of top Packer receivers:

Don Hutson
Seasons: 11    Receptions: 488     Yards: 7,991     Avg.: 16.4     TDs: 99

James Lofton
Seasons: 9      Receptions: 530     Yards: 9,656     Avg.: 18.2     TDs: 49

Sterling Sharpe
Seasons: 7      Receptions: 595     Yards: 8,134     Avg.: 13.7     TDs: 65

Donald Driver
Seasons: 10    Receptions: 577     Yards: 7,989     Avg.: 13.8     TDs: 43

Boyd Dowler
Seasons: 11    Receptions: 448     Yards: 6,918     Avg.: 15.4     TDs: 40

Antonio Freeman
Seasons: 8      Receptions: 431     Yards: 6,651     Avg: 15.4      TDs: 57

Max McGee
Seasons: 12    Receptions: 345     Yards: 6,346     Avg.: 18.4     TDs: 50

 

Here is a list of Packer receiving records: Click Here

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (8) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

Andyman's picture

Great article. DD has always been one of my favorite Packers, both on and off the field. I think he proved just how much of a fan favorite he is and how much he enjoys the fans when he took over the softball game last year. And also, true story: Double D likes his Cinnabons (I got to serve him on a couple of occasions when I worked there - it was awesome)

Dale Z's picture

I love Driver.

I also love cinnabons.

Alex Tallitsch's picture

Wow, I can see why they call it the Don Hutson center 99 TD's? Whoa. Great article. Cinnabons are a good eat.

Franklin Hillside's picture

I say Hutson gets taken out of the argument. He's possibly the best receiver in the history of the league. The moves Driver up to three.

Paul's picture

It's amazing that Hudson's stats still compare to the leagues best now but considering the next WR on the list during that time was another Packer who had about 1/3 of the yards it's insane to think just how good he was.

Greg C.'s picture

Yeah, Hutson was incredible. He might've been not just the best receiver, but the best PLAYER in the history of the league.

For some reason, I have a craving for a Cinnabon.

Alex Tallitsch's picture

I am having a tough time deciding between Sharpe and Lofton for tumber two. I guess Sharpe had the benefit of better QB's but he put up some nice numbers in two fewer seasons. On the other hand Loftons YPC has big play guy written all over it, which he was.

Greg C.'s picture

Sharpe is hard to rank because his career was cut short by injury. I still think he was as good as or better than Jerry Rice and may have been the best WR ever if he had played a full career. With a couple more years even, I think he would rank ahead of Lofton. It's hard to decide how much credit to give a player for what he MIGHT have accomplished. It's comparing apples to oranges.

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