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Surprise, surprise. The Green Bay Packers exited the first round of the 2022 NFL draft without taking a wide receiver. After a run on receivers in the middle of the first round, general manager Brian Gutekunst stayed put and picked Georgia linebacker Quay Walker at No. 22 overall and Georgia defensive lineman Devonte Wyatt at No. 28 overall.
The Packers defense could be terrific in 2022. But what about wide receiver, the team’s biggest need position? Fortunately for the Packers, the draft is seven rounds long, and both the general manager and quarterback are confident the team can find quality options on Day 2.
“There are some really good receivers left in this draft,” Brian Gutekunst said late Thursday night.
While talking with “The Pat McAfee Show,” Aaron Rodgers mentioned the team’s past success in finding receivers in the second and third rounds.
Both are right. There are at least 14 receiver options for the Packers to target in the second and third rounds on Friday. Don’t be surprised if Gutekunst selects one or two of the names from this list.
George Pickens, Georgia
(AP Photo/Brynn Anderson)
Prototypical “X” receiver who tested like an elite athlete and is still only 21 years old. Pickens has length, deep speed and ball skills but is coming off an ACL injury and has some off-the-field question marks. The Packers might have to move up in the second round to get him. He has No. 1 receiver traits and potential.
Jalen Tolbert, South Alabama
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Arguably the most skilled receiver left on the board. Tolbert is lightning quick, a terrific route runner at all levels and a legitimate deep threat given his speed and tracking ability. Getting him at No. 53 or No. 59 would be a home run. Tolbert is going to be productive early in his NFL career and has the upside of a true No. 2 receiver.
Christian Watson, North Dakota State
(AP Photo/Butch Dill)
His combination of athleticism (99th percentile athlete by RAS) and versatility (used at receiver, running back and returner) makes him one of the most unique prospects in the class. Some thought he had a chance at the first round. In the second round, he’d be a terrific option. Watson has the traits of a highly productive pro receiver and proved he can play against top competition at the Senior Bowl. He could thrive in Matt LaFleur’s diverse scheme.
Alec Pierce, Cincinnati
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His size, straight-line speed, body control and ball skills will remind many of Jordy Nelson. That’s a lofty comparison, and one he probably won’t live up to at the next level, but Pierce checks a lot of boxes for the Packers at wide receiver. Getting him in the second round, like Nelson back in 2008, could be possible.
John Metchie III, Alabama
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The Saints traded up to get Chris Olave at No. 11, but Metchie provides an opportunity to get a discounted version of Ohio State’s silky smooth receiver on Day 2. Like Olave, Metchie runs crisp routes and understands how to get open despite not having the same physical gifts. He’s coming off an ACL injury.
Khalil Shakir, Boise State
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All he did was create explosive plays for Boise State over the last three seasons. Shakir was used in a million different ways, including on gadget touches, but he always found ways to be productive because he’s quick, tough and one of the best players after the catch in the class despite being only 196 pounds. His lack of length might be an issue at the next level, but he could be an excellent complementary weapon in the right offense.
Romeo Doubs, Nevada
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His size, movement ability and ball skills are all reminiscent of James Jones, a third-round pick who caught a lot of passes and scored a lot of touchdowns while playing with Aaron Rodgers in Green Bay. Doubs produced back-to-back 1,000-yard receiving seasons at Nevada, and he also has return value.
Tyquan Thornton, Baylor
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Thornton is 6-2 and ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.28 seconds) at the position. His length and vertical speed could make him an ideal replacement for Marquez Valdes-Scantling. The Packers reportedly like him a lot. He could be the pick at No. 59 or No. 92 on Friday.
Kevin Austin, Notre Dame
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He has some off-the-field red flags, but his receiving talent and elite athleticism make him worthy of coming off the board on Day 2. He enjoyed a breakout junior season in 2021 (48 catches, 888 yards, seven touchdowns) and then blew up the combine, running the 40-yard dash in 4.43 seconds and acing both jumps and the agility drills. His Relative Athletic Score is in the 99th percentile. Bet on the traits and potential.
Danny Gray, SMU
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Gray caught 49 passes for 803 yards for SMU in 2021 and then ran 4.33 in the 40-yard dash. His speed is a huge asset. He also has experience as a returner. While on the smaller side, Gray can get open at all levels and is slippery after the catch.
Skyy Moore, Western Michigan
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Moore is only 5-10, but he has terrific speed (4.41) and enormous hands (10 1/4″), and he consistently proved capable of getting open to all levels of the field over three seasons of highly productive work at Western Michigan. He caught 95 passes and scored 10 times in 2021.
Bo Melton, Rutgers
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Melton lacks ideal size, but his speed (4.34) and quickness (6.81 three-cone) make him tough to keep covered and dangerous with the ball in his hands. Get him a decent quarterback and his middling collegiate production could get a big boost in the NFL. He was also a two-time team captain and has experience returning punts and kicks.
Justyn Ross, Clemson
Clemson wide receiver Justyn Ross (8)
His injury history is troubling, and his poor athletic testing pre-draft could send him plummeting down the draft board. But Ross was an ascending talent early in his Clemson career (caught 46 passes for 1,000 yards and nine touchdowns as a freshman), so there’s real upside if he can return to pre-injury form. He’s 6-3 with a 78″ wingspan, and he left Clemson with 20 career touchdowns.
David Bell, Purdue
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He’s hardly even an average athlete for the receiver position, but he simply found ways of getting open and being productive at Purdue (17 100-yard games). Bell’s route-running is decisive and strong, and he caught everything thrown his way. His lack of elite athleticism will limit his upside, but he could end up being a decent complementary option in the right passing game.