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Speed still a major emphasis for Packers in player acquisition

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Speed still a major emphasis for Packers in player acquisition

Athleticism, size and speed.

The Green Bay Packers' last two draft classes have been primarily focused on these three traits, and it's been fairly evident.

Eight of their 11 picks in April tested as "above-average' athletes at the NFL level. Four of those picks rank at or above the 90th percentile for their respective positions.

Names such as linebacker Oren Burks (drafted at No. 88 overall), defensive lineman James Looney (No. 232 overall) and cornerback Josh Jackson (No. 45 overall) all spearheaded an elite class in terms of athletic ability for the Packers. 

But the Packers also placed an emphasis on the overall build of the players they selected. J'Mon Moore (No. 133 overall) stands at over 6'2", Marquez Valdes-Scantling (No. 174) at 6'4" and Equanimeous St. Brown (No. 207) is closer to 6'5".

Bigger bodies with a vast catch radius -- demonstrated at times this season by the latter two receivers listed -- is ideal for playing with a quarterback like Aaron Rodgers, who tends to either throw receivers open or fit the ball into a tight window. Alternatively, he'll almost never throw up a contested ball.

The height trend doesn't just apply to the trio of receivers, either. According to a nugget from Ryan Wood of this spring, nine of the Packers' 11 draft picks are at least 6'2".

Much like in 2017 when the Packers targeted cornerback Kevin King and safety Josh Jones with their first two picks -- both in the second round -- speed also factored into the equation during player selection.

Both Valdes-Scantling and Alexander ranked in the top-10 in the 40-yard dash, tested at the 2018 NFL Combine. It seemed like a less-desired trait to target in this past draft as opposed to the Packers' 2017 class, however, it was far from disregarded.

That desire was amplified more so in the months following the draft with some of their free agent signings.

Prior to the start of the season, the Packers added linebacker Korey Toomer and running back Darius Jackson to their 53-man roster. They also signed cornerback Tony Brown to their practice squad at the time, who has been playing significant snaps the last few weeks due to injury impacting the position.

All three players ran their 40-yard dash -- whether at a Pro Day or Combine -- at or under 4.53 seconds, whereas Brown clocked in at a screaming 4.35.

The trend of acquiring speedsters continued into December, as the Packers acquired former Wisconsin safety Natrell Jamerson.

Jamerson was drafted in the fifth round by the New Orleans Saints this year and was eventually claimed off of waivers by the Houston Texans. Unlike his collegiate days, the Texans listed him as a cornerback and the Packers followed suit this week.

Jamerson clocked in with a 4.40 40-yard dash at his combine, giving the Packers not only someone who could eventually contribute on defense but an immediate special teams asset.

Between Marquez Valdes-Scantling, Alexander, Brown and Jamerson, the Packers currently have four of the top-13 40-yard dash times in the 2018 draft class on their active roster.

It's unknown what area of expertise Brian Gutekunst will prioritize in his second draft as the Packers' general manager, but it will undoubtedly have to be the right one. While the team began their search for a new coach this week, their offseason will need to be a successful and impactful one to quickly strengthen areas of weakness and create a serious contender in 2019.


Zachary Jacobson is a staff writer/reporter for Cheesehead TV. He's the voice of The Leap on iTunes and can be heard on The Scoop KLGR 1490 AM every Saturday morning. He's also a contributor on the Pack-A-Day Podcast. He can be found on Twitter via @ZachAJacobson or contacted through email at [email protected].

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Fan friendly comments only: off Comments (39) This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.

The TKstinator's picture

Big fan of speed. No such thing as too fast. Somewhere Al Davis is smiling, but he is an example of a guy who placed just a little TOO much emphasis on speed.

(Maybe he was in too much of a hurry.)

croatpackfan's picture

I prefer fast over speed player...

Tundraboy's picture

I prefer quick, athletic, and smart. Loves football and if on D to tackle.

Skip greenBayless's picture

The Packers clearly are moving in that direction for more speed with the firing of Mike McCarthy. His 40 time had to be over 10 seconds. My question is who is the fastest head coach out there that is available if this is indeed the direction they are headed.

Ustabeayooper's picture

How about focusing on durability. Kevin King just landed on IR for the 2nd year in a row! Meanwhile Watt continues to rack up sacks and stay on the field for Pittsburgh. The only speed King has shown is to the injury report and IR.

Nick Perry's picture

Sigh.....It's only 3:47 here in Los Angeles and now my blood is boiling after reading your comment...Or should I say reminder.

I'd give back Thompsons ENTIRE draft class other than Aaron Jones for TJ Watt. The perfect player AT a position of need falls into your lap and he trades out to draft a kid who had bum shoulders in college.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

Exactly. How's Biegel doing for us?
King, and Josh Jones. Another guy who's been a dog for 2 seasons. Those were his top 2 picks in that 2017 Draft, his last one spearheading the War Room.

Thanks SenileTed.

HankScorpio's picture

"Exactly. How's Biegel doing for us?"

Biegel is the latest in a long line of developmental failures of Winston Moss. Thankfully he'll be the last one.

RCPackerFan's picture
Rak47's picture

I don't think even that article is going to quite folks in regards to Kings injuries. It will be interesting to see however if King can overcome his soft tissue injuries and become a better overall player than Watt. PFF is actually pretty good when it comes to predicting trends.

EddieLeeIvory's picture

King has speed.....fastest guy to the trainers room every single week.

croatpackfan's picture

The evaluation season starts.

I hope everybody understands that this is preseason 2019 first part. Players placed on IR in the last 2 weeks are there to make place for other "prospects" to be tested in the real football game, while they have protected status as Packers players for the future...

I'm always amazed how many fans can be blind and misunderstand basic moves form management...

Since '61's picture

You can't coach height and speed. Gute is heading in the right direction. Thanks, Since '61

jeepingmakooi's picture

Not often we agree but I'm here with you on that.

The TKstinator's picture

If you’d agree with 61 more, you’d be right more.

nostradanus's picture

Lets hope that King and Jones are not wasted second round draft picks. Sometimes it takes young guys like King a few years to grow into their NFL body and out of injuries. Maybe a new workout program will help, who knows?
As for Jones maybe a position switch to full time LB is in order, when he's used as a blitzer he stands out and he loves to hit. We got to make lemon-aid out of those lemons after all.

Packer Dave's picture

I expected more from Burks this year, but the rest of the class is solid save Moore.

The OL needs some work going forward beyond the obvious pass rush situation. Maybe power will be the new theme.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

A good LB has to be smart and have ability to anticipate. Maybe with Winston gone next year Burks improves under new tutelage. Let's hope!

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Tonyan and Madison are the unknown keys to the Packers draft next season and both could help turn the Pack into immediate playoff contenders next year if they are talented with a good draft and a couple of decent FA pickups.

Of course every draft is different and depending on how a draft unfolds round by round I would enter the draft with the mind set of drafting two pass rushers with the first three picks. Without a doubt the first selection most likely a pass rusher barring an unusually talented player at another position not expecting to be there. Aside from the two pass rushers I'd draft a OT within the first three selections.

I hope the Packers bench Graham the rest of the season and then cut him. I want to see Tonyan play extensively the rest of the way. I think the Pack has something special in Tonyan. If correct it allows the Pack to focus on pass rushers and OL in first three selections.

Following that my focus would be a safety and one to two more OL. If Madison is coming back for sure a minimum of at least one more OL and maybe a decent OG pickup in FA.

Pierre's picture

Agreed. Tonyan needs to play and be given opportunities to catch passes at TE. He has speed and height and as a former wide receiver should be able to exploit the middle of the field. Just play him to see what he can do out there.

Guam's picture

Generally agree with your priorities, but I believe we are in the same boat with Graham as we are with Perry - large cap hit and small cap savings in 2019. I think both will be on the team next year simply because there aren't enough savings to sign a better replacement. I also would not expect either player to be on the 2020 roster unless they somehow perform miracles in 2019.

egbertsouse's picture

To paraphrase Max McGee, they can run fast. Jump high, and lift a lot of weight but can they play football?

The TKstinator's picture

It can't hurt.

flackcatcher's picture

I believe that Gute will have a fine draft this year. He has a good team in the front office, and is drafting for the 'new style NFL'. He has shown us fans that he is unafraid to move in the free agent market and make radical changes. Problem right now is IAM is dealing with too many X-factors that could get in the way of him doing his job. Good news is the Packers have a guy, who knows what he is doing on the personal front. Let him do his job, and this team will soon be back in the hunt.

Richard Smith's picture

Stop crying about Watt. It's over with and King was not injury prone in college. He hurt himself his senior year and played through it. He's a good player and will be. Don't forget, we had two pass rushers that year in Matthews and Perry. We needed corners. How about you shift your blame to one of them for not performing, instead of ripping on a young, ascending player learning a very tough position in the NFL.

TXCHEESE's picture

Agreed, King is still very young, and has a great chance to be a very good corner. Great speed and a willing tackler. Pass rusher and OL have to be priorities for the Pack this coming off-season. I'm not big enough follower of college ball to know who the studs coming available in the draft are, but hopefully Gute can find a game changing rusher either there or FA. Hopefully Perry has seen his last days as a Packer. I wouldn't mind bringing Mathews back as an insider backer at the right price. He still plays with attitude.

TXCHEESE's picture

Agreed, King is still very young, and has a great chance to be a very good corner. Great speed and a willing tackler. Pass rusher and OL have to be priorities for the Pack this coming off-season. I'm not big enough follower of college ball to know who the studs coming available in the draft are, but hopefully Gute can find a game changing rusher either there or FA. Hopefully Perry has seen his last days as a Packer. I wouldn't mind bringing Mathews back as an insider backer at the right price. He still plays with attitude.

Colin_C's picture

Agreed 100%. To me, the far bigger travesty that draft was passing on Carl Lawson 4 times. I thought he had 1st round talent, and we could have had him the 4th. Hopefully Gute can unearth a couple gems at OLB this year.

Old School's picture

Yes, let's get more fast guys who can't play, like Randall and Rollins. Let's get fast guys like Josh Jones so they can take bad angles quickly.

Speed is overrated. It takes 0.5 seconds to blink. So the difference between a guy who runs a 4.4 and a 4.9 is the blink of an eye over 40 yards. If you think that's significant, we disagree.

Quick minds will always be quicker than quick feet. Find guys with instincts. Find defensive players who like to tackle. Find receivers who can catch. Find people who can stay healthy and available.

And if in addition to all those things, if they're fast, then that's a bonus. But speed is no substitute for guys who can be available and can tackle.

KnockTheSnotOutOfYou's picture

Totally agree!

CheesyTex's picture

As I recall, it was Dick Vermiel who famously said "speed kills". There is nothing that says fast athletes are any more fragile than slower ones.

I, for one, love the idea that Gute now has 3 rookie flyers at WR and 4 at DB. Some are showing more than just promise already, and speed among your back-ups is a terrific asset.

It's not hard to believe that 2 of the rookie WR and 2 of the rookie DB will be at least solid rotational players in 2019.

I'm old school enough to believe Vermiel, and that speed is not overrated.

The TKstinator's picture

Yes on instincts and anticipation, but I wouldn’t put a 4.9 corner one on one with a 4.4 wide receiver.

ILPackerBacker's picture

As per norm a hodge podge of misinformation and distortion.

King is injury prone.
He was in college too, missing games in each of his first three years.
He came to Green Bay damaged goods like so many other TT choices and naturally the medical staff/review and trainers all escape accountability.

Now IR two years of two.

The TKstinator's picture

1. In that case I’d stop listening to “norm”.
2. Didn’t Hodge Podge play fullback for Pittsburgh?

Lare's picture

I'll be curious to see how some of these players perform under new coaches and a new strength & conditioning program.

I agree with Gutekunst doing all he can to improve the speed and athleticism on this team.

TheBigCheeze's picture

" immediate special teams asset."------whose special teams??.....surely not the Packers.....worst ST in the nfl....

Old School's picture

You had to get me started. Special teams. This is the worst special teams I've ever seen the Packers put on the field. Ever. And I go back a long way.

I do not think it is any exaggeration to say that they flat out cost us two games this year. I think they were big factors in a couple of other losses. Even with all the other leaks in the boat this year, if our special teams had just played well we'd still be in the hunt.

Here are my special teams proposals for 2019:

Fair catch every punt or let it go into end zone. Don't return, ever. First, make sure we don't get fooled by some fake and then see if we can pressure the punter into an occasional bac kick. Fair catch the ball.

This way, we never get a block in the back penalty, we shouldn't lose a single fumble, and we won't get anybody hurt on punt returns.

Field goals: If we're close enough for a FG and it's less than 4th and 5, keep the offense on the field and try to convert. If it's more than 5 yards, kick the FG.

Extra points: Go for two, always, unless a one point conversion wins the game.

Kick returns: Down it in the endzone when possible. Guard against onside kicks and practice not screwing that up.

Kickoffs.. Crosby should drill hard line drives that skid down the field a little bit left or right of center We should try onside kicks more.

If we could have just done that this year, we'd have a better record right now.

PatrickGB's picture

I think we have had a number of “Special Teams “ that stunk up the place. So I am not sure this is the worst one. Slocums teams were pretty bad too. And the guy before him too I think. In any case, we have almost always rank at or toward the bottom when the rankings come out. Last years team was an exception when we were somewhere in the middle but we had Janis as gunner.
I don’t think that enough emphasis and training is put into STs.

Duneslick's picture

Does anyone besides me think there is something wrong with Ted Thompson being put in the Packer hall of fame while everyone is pointing at him for running the current team into the ground. He only had a few hits in his drafts through the years and Aaron Rodgers was given to him because no one wanted a Quarterback. Rogers carried the team once he started but can't do it anymore as there is not enough talent on the team do to poor drafts by ted his last 4 or 5 years

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