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:
Seasons: 11 Receptions: 488 Yards: 7,991 Avg.: 16.4 TDs: 99
Seasons: 9 Receptions: 530 Yards: 9,656 Avg.: 18.2 TDs: 49
Seasons: 7 Receptions: 595 Yards: 8,134 Avg.: 13.7 TDs: 65
Seasons: 10 Receptions: 577 Yards: 7,989 Avg.: 13.8 TDs: 43
Seasons: 11 Receptions: 448 Yards: 6,918 Avg.: 15.4 TDs: 40
Seasons: 8 Receptions: 431 Yards: 6,651 Avg: 15.4 TDs: 57
Seasons: 12 Receptions: 345 Yards: 6,346 Avg.: 18.4 TDs: 50
Here is a list of Packer receiving records: Click Here