Wide Receiver/Kick Return Options Exist Late First Round

Torrey Smith, Titus Young and Randall Cobb are just some of the options that could be available to the Packers in the first round.

INDIANAPOLIS––The Green Bay Packers haven't had a legitimate kick return threat for years.

On a Super Bowl-winning team with few apparent holes, it stands to reason the Packers will look to fill their most gaping one with a draft choice this coming April.

"Kick returner, the punt, the kickoff, is one of many things we want to improve on as a football team next year," said head coach Mike McCarthy while at the NFL Combine this past Friday.

Not since Allen Rossum in 2000 have the Packers returned a kickoff for a touchdown. And that's not to intimate that a player must return kicks for TDs to be successful, but it at least paints a picture of how long of a drought the Packers have gone through.

The Packers also proved in 2010 that a team doesn't need an elite return specialist to win an NFL championship.

But by the same token, Desmond Howard showed to what extent an effective kick returner can have a positive impact on a team when he helped the Packers earn a trip to the Super Bowl in the 1996 season and assisted in their winning it by becoming Super Bowl XXXI MVP.

The Packers ranked a lowly 26th in the NFL in 2010 with an average kick return of 20.1 yards using primarily a combination of Jordy Nelson, Pat Lee, Sam Shields and James Starks. All except Lee had problems with ball security, and only rarely did any of them show explosive capability.

Tramon Williams impressed by not losing a single fumble on a punt return all 20 games of the season including the playoffs, but he wasn't dangerous with the ball in his hands. And as one of the team's best players, it's a risk using him in the return game going forward.

To the Packers' and special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum's credit, they did manage to rank 10th in the NFL in average starting field position (27.6), according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. However, an effective return man would stand to improve that mark even more.

"I think anytime you have someone on your team, whether it's a kick returner or another player that can make progress in a specific area, whether it's the return game or passing game, that brings high quality production to your football team, it's important," said McCarthy.

With James Jones slated to become a free agent this offseason, whenever it happens based upon the league's labor negotiations, wide receiver may also be a position to be addressed by the Packers. Combine that with Donald Driver's advancing age, and the Packers may look to the draft to bolster the wide receiving corps with a player who can also return.

Georgia's A.J. Green and Alabama's Julio Jones are sure to be gone by the time the Packers select at the 32nd pick at the first round, although several second-tier options could still be available.

Torrey Smith of Maryland (6-1, 204) is in the next group of wideouts and is known to be a vertical threat. He ranked tied for fourth among players at his position at the Combine with a 4.43 40-yard dash.

"I'm pretty sure the NFL is fast, but I can run well," said Smith. "My speed will definitely be one of my strengths as I head to the next level."

Maryland coach Ralph Friedgen also told Bill Hass of theACC.com about Smith, "As good a football player as he is, he's a better person."

While Smith averaged less than 20 yards per kick return in 2010, he averaged over 25 yards per return in both his sophomore and junior seasons, returning two for touchdowns in 2009 and one more in 2008.

If the Packers can find extra value in return capability in addition to wide receivers, players like Titus Young of Boise State (5-11, 174) and Randall Cobb of Kentucky (5-10, 191) are also options late in the first round.

Young has been compared to DeSean Jackson of the Philadelphia Eagles both off and on the field. The Bronco averaged nearly 27 yards per return in 2009 and had two touchdowns.

The return threat that a DeSean Jackson brings is very intriguing, but Young also has some baggage. He refused to talk with the media about suspensions early in his college career, both 2007 and 2008. Being years ago, it raised eyebrows by declining to address it.

As for Cobb, he brings a multi-dimensional aspect to the game having contributed as a receiver, running back, quarterback, punt returner, kick returner and even place kick holder when he took over duties from current Packers punter Tim Masthay after he graduated.

"Some teams have mentioned it, and if they didn't, I would," said Cobb about holding. "I'm willing to do anything to help a team and an organization out."

The Kentucky product finished second in the nation in the FBS in all-purpose yardage as a senior with 184.3 yards per game and is willing to do whatever is necessary to help his team at the next level.

"I've had a few coaches ask me about RB," said Cobb. "I'm willing to play anywhere. I've said that ever since I was in high school. I just love the game so much. Anywhere I can get on the field and help the team out is where I want to play."

For a team that typically only carries two quarterbacks on its 53-man roster, Cobb could provide even more value as an emergency or 'Wildcat' quarterback.

Perhaps the most convincing argument of a player's return ability came from mid-round prospect Niles Paul of Nebraska(6-1, 224) who averaged 25 yards per kick return and had a touchdown in 2010, averaged nearly 28 yards on 16 kick returns in 2009 and averaged over 23 yards and had one touchdown on kick returns in 2008.

So what makes him so good?

"I think my size and my speed combined when you put the ball in my hands," said Paul. "And if you watch the film, the first guy never tackles me on any return, punt return or kick return. So I'm able to make people miss."

Every time?

"You can watch my film, and I guarantee that," said Paul with confidence.

Bold statement. And intriguing.

BONUS AUDIO: Jeremy Kerley of TCU talks about his return and special teams acumen while at the NFL Combine...

Download Versions:
Download Audio Podcast
Free Subscription Option

0 points

Comments (25)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
jeremy's picture

March 01, 2011 at 01:19 pm

If they draft a kick returner in the first round I will be very, very surprised,

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PackerAaron's picture

March 01, 2011 at 01:20 pm

Never say never with Ted! :)

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Brian Carriveau's picture

March 01, 2011 at 01:21 pm

We're talking about guys who can be wide receivers and kick returners here, not just a Desmond Howard-type.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Norman's picture

March 01, 2011 at 01:26 pm

Oh c'mon, Desmond was a wide receiver too. Just not as accomplished as Devin Hester (smirk).

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Brian Carriveau's picture

March 01, 2011 at 01:31 pm

As far as no. 5 wide receivers go, Howard was good.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
jeremy's picture

March 01, 2011 at 03:26 pm

Besides DeSean Jackson, how many guys have been really good KR's and also really good at a from scrimmage position?

I'm not trying to be dismissive. I just can't think of any, so I can't figure the chances of finding one to be good at all.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PackerAaron's picture

March 01, 2011 at 03:31 pm

Brandon Tate seems well on his way in New England.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PackersRS's picture

March 01, 2011 at 03:38 pm

Santonio Holmes. Santana Moss did it. So did Steve Smith. Dez Bryant, though it's a little soon.

Ted Ginn...

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
jeremy's picture

March 01, 2011 at 05:10 pm

Yes, Steve Smith was both a very good Returner and WR so that's two proven guys. I think Brandon Tate is a possible future member, but Returners have a very short shelf life.

If TT looks at the board and sees a guy with return talent and guys who could be a OL or DL for ten years I'll bet he goes with the big man. TT has taken a QB, DL or OL with one of his first two picks every year since he came to GB.

Just my opinion; like Aaron said TT just might show sizzle. :)

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Norman's picture

March 01, 2011 at 06:26 pm

Gale Sayers, Terry Metcalf, Jim Thorpe....

Or did you just mean in this millenium?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
PackersRS's picture

March 01, 2011 at 09:25 pm

@jeremy:

"The good Lord only makes so many of those big, athletic guys." Ted Thompson (though IIRC he quoted Ron Wolf)

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Bad Knees's picture

March 01, 2011 at 01:31 pm

If everyone misses him on returns, how does he do with screen passes? And can he block on passing downs?

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
rich's picture

March 01, 2011 at 02:08 pm

i think swain is replacable after his abysmal performance in the superbowl we need someone and a speedster wouldnt hurt the roster

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Nerdmann's picture

March 01, 2011 at 02:18 pm

Wasn't Swain a pretty decent returner in college? I guess the Packers don't think he's so great in that capacity.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
dgtalmn's picture

March 01, 2011 at 02:58 pm

I believe the Packers will do what they have always done, select a bunch of guys, try them out as a returner, and then use the best one. I cannot see TT or MM doing it any different and I am using History as proof.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Kevin's picture

March 01, 2011 at 04:45 pm

I agree that kicks returned for touchdowns are exciting but they also put the defense back on the field with little or no rest. I'd much rather see the offense on the field for a few minutes. I'm thinking about Atlanta's kick return in the playoffs that kept their D gasping for air! I'm sure Ted Thompson will do his job and pick up more great players. In Ted I trust!

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Nerdmann's picture

March 01, 2011 at 08:32 pm

If we get decent field position, that's huge. We can burn clock with high percentage passing and running if we want.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Chad Toporski's picture

March 01, 2011 at 05:14 pm

Great stuff, Brian, though even if we do get a returner in the draft, I'm still going to worry about whether he gets enough coverage to make his attempts really count.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Hands's picture

March 01, 2011 at 05:23 pm

Odd that Niles paul was discussed when he dropped several passes in 2 games I saw against Texas. I wasn't impressed but I'm not a scout.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Sam's picture

March 01, 2011 at 10:44 pm

Ya I found that weird too he always seems to drop more passes than he catches. I'm wondering why Shakey Smithson isn't getting any love in the later rounds he's got a big upside in the return game. Don't know about as a receiver though.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
Jacob's picture

March 01, 2011 at 05:48 pm

I kinda think we go and take a defensive player in the first round. OLB or D lineman

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
djbonney138's picture

March 01, 2011 at 07:39 pm

Titus Young gets my vote! We already have a few dudes from Idaho schools.Idaho feels a lot like a western version of Wisconsin but with mountains, so he would fit right in.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
lebowski's picture

March 02, 2011 at 08:57 am

I'm all for a returner. And 10 guys who can figure out how to block and open holes for him. And a special teams coach who can get his troops to accomplish that.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
tyler21's picture

March 02, 2011 at 11:24 am

Like I said on here a while back we can not go wrong with Titus Young, he is a great returner and a very good wr. Watch his tape..

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0
BrianD's picture

March 02, 2011 at 08:31 pm

As much as Eagles' fans love DeSean Jackson on kickoff returns, I bet they feel uncomfortable having their #1 receiver fielding kicks. If the Pack is absolutely dedicated to drafting a dynamic return man, I'd love to select either a full-out athlete in the first round (Desmond Howard style/highly unlikely) or utilize the pick on another position. Using such a high draft pick on a receiver might best be reserved for one with great receiving skills because of the injury risk that comes along with returning kicks.

To sum it up, if you're on the hunt for a WR/KR combo, look toward the mid/late rounds.

+ REPLY
0 points
0
0

Log in to comment and more!

Not a member yet? Join free.

If you have already commented on Cheesehead TV in the past, we've created an account for you. Just verify your email, set a password and you're golden.