This draft season should be an interesting ones for fans and for those at 1265 Lombardi. For the first time in many years, both wide receivers and running backs are positions of at least slight need. Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb’s futures in Green Bay are in question after Davante Adams signed a long-term deal late last December, so its possible the Pack will look to replace the other high earners sooner rather than later. Though rookie running backs Aaron Jones and Jamaal Williams have shown true potential, and Ty Montgomery is not to be passed over, it’s safe to say new GM Brian Gutekunst will consider taking a running back in the mid to late rounds to go for another diamond in the rough.
Marcell Ateman, Oklahoma State
Standing at 6 foot 4 inches, Ateman is much taller and bigger than his former OSU teammate James Washington. After missing his junior season with a broken foot, Ateman caught 8 touchdowns last season. His big frame could make him an ideal red zone target. He averaged 19.6 yards per catch in his last season at Oklahoma State, so his productivity is not limited to the ends of the field. With the potential emergence of Michael Clark, it would be interesting to see what Philbin and McCarthy could do with two big bodies at receiver.
Tre’Quan Smith, Central Florida
As the leading receiver on UCF’s undefeated 2017 campaign, Smith possesses the skills to be a big play threat. He had a big day at the Senior Bowl, hauling in 5 catches for 79 yards and a touchdown. A possible deep threat, Smith has good speed and good route running ability. You won’t see him blaze by defenders, but he’s able to get open deep with a combination of speed and route running. Keep an eye on Smith, because he’s likely to be available in rounds 2-4, which is where I see the Packers going after a receiver.
Anthony Miller, Memphis
Memphis’ all-time receptions, yards, and touchdowns leader was a scratch from the Senior Bowl after suffering an undisclosed injury to his foot during the Liberty Bowl. Nevertheless, the undersized Miller is a tantalizing pass catcher with real ability. A former walk-on and current day 2 prospect, Miller may be overlooked in the draft due to his bowl game injury. With his short stature and athleticism, Miller has the potential to be the heir apparent in the slot.
Dante Pettis, Washington
Pettis holds the NCAA record as the only person to score a punt return touchdown three weeks in a row. He is a freak athlete and was one of the premier returners in college football last year. His special teams abilities should make him an impact player immediately but his athleticism isn’t limited to returns. Pettis is a more than capable receiver who put up big numbers at Washington despite being the second option behind John Ross until this year. I see him as a possible Trevor Davis 2.0, if the Packers go that direction.
Jordan Lasley, UCLA
The jack-of-all-trades Lasley could be a potential late round prospect for the Packers. He’ll likely fall in the draft due to a mystery three game suspension for an undisclosed reason this past season. Regardless, in the wake of injuries to UCLA’s top receiver Darren Andrews, and top tight end Caleb Wilson, Lasley soared. After becoming one of Josh Rosen’s favorite targets, Lasley led the Bruins in receiving yards last year. If Gutekunst is willing to go high risk, high reward this year, Lasley may be his man.
Bo Scarbrough, Alabama
A big bruiser from Alabama? Sound familiar? Bo Scarbrough has the potential to be Eddie Lacy and more… if he can stay healthy. Health is a huge issue for Scarbrough, who was plagued by various ailments in his time at Alabama. Though his raw yardage stats aren’t spectacular since he was seemingly always plagued by an injury and split time with other Alabama backs Damien Harris and Najee Harris, he managed 4.8 yards per carry this year and 6.5 ypc in 2016. With Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, and Ty Montgomery on the roster as very capable backs, it wouldn’t be a huge risk to take Scarbrough late in the draft.
Kerryon Johnson, Auburn
Auburn’s feature back had a breakout season this year, running for 1391 yards and 18 touchdowns, including 104 yards in Auburn’s upset of Alabama in the Iron Bowl. Likely to go before the Packers would be looking for a running back, but his smaller frame could make teams hesitate to grab him early. If Green Bay wants a guy who can complement the tough running of Jamaal Williams and Aaron Jones with an explosive burst, Johnson could fill that role, depending on what the Pack end up doing with Ty Montgomery.
Akrum Wadley, Iowa
Wadley has had 2 extremely productive, 1000+ yards, 13 touchdown years at Iowa. At the Senior Bowl, he won the practice award for top running back. Though a bit undersized at 5’11” and 195 lbs, Wadley runs much bigger. He’s a very versatile back who is more than capable of catching out of the backfield. He’s had more than 300 yards and 3 touchdowns receiving each of his last 2 years at Iowa. Wadley seems like someone who Green Bay could pick up in the mid-to-late rounds and have a chance at something special. The Pack had a lot of trouble getting the screen game going last season and Wadley has the potential to be that 3rd down spark that they need.
Kalen Ballage, Arizona State
Another back with receiving potential, Ballage, while not as productive in college as Wadley (Ballage split carries with Demario Richard), presents another late-round flyer that the Packers should keep an eye on. Standing 6’3’’ and 230 lbs, Ballage looks more like a receiver than a running back. Lacking top end speed, Ballage could fall to as late as the 6th round. He has the tools, however, to be a bruiser. Watch out for Ballage to open eyes with his strength at the combine and improve his stock.
Rashaad Penny, San Diego State
Penny was somewhat of a household name in 2017, racking up absurd stats along the way. He led the nation in rushing yards, all-purpose yards, and finished second in touchdowns with 23. Although he faced sub-par competition at San Diego State, he won co-MVP honors for the South team in the Senior Bowl, so he can hold his own among the nation’s best. He is a patient runner with ideal measurables to compete in the NFL. At a position where the Packers can take a risk, it might be worthwhile to take a look at Penny because he could be a game changer.