In this multi-part series, I will be examining the Green Bay Packers 2010 crop of undrafted free agents and analyzing their chances of making the 53-man roster or practice squad. This first installment will deal with the wide receivers.
With 13 undrafted free agent rookies (UDFAs) currently on the 2010 roster, the Packers’ Ted Thompson will once again be spinning the “Undrafted Free Agent Wheel of Fortune.”
Will any of these 13 spins of the wheel land them a big win or will they hit bankrupt and go away empty-handed? Recent history indicates the Packers will walk away with at least a consolation prize. But before that happens, three of these players are likely to be let go to make room when Mike Neal and Bryan Bulaga sign contracts and if and when Atari Bigby signs his tender.
Since 1992, 21 undrafted free agents who signed with the Packers immediately after the draft have made the Packers season opening roster. Presently, there are 32 players on the Packers current roster who entered the league as undrafted free agents.
In each of the last five years, at least one UDFA has made the Packers’ 53-man roster. Will the trend continue in 2010? Lets first take a quick look at the wide receiver position and some of the candidates.
Part One – OFFENSE – Wide Receivers
The Packers kept five wide receivers last year and stashed one on the Practice Squad (Jake Allen and later, Patrick Williams). They are almost certain to do the same in 2010.
Shawn Gore, Bishop University, Canada. 6’0″, 198 lbs, 4.50 40yd time.
Signed by Green Bay on May 3, 2010, after participating in Green Bay’s rookie orientation camp on a tryout basis… Played in 29 games with 28 starts during his career, and posted 72 receptions for 1,141 yards (15.8 avg.) and seven TDs… Started all eight games at slotback as a senior, and led the Gaiters with 32 catches for 496 yards (15.5 avg.) and five TDs. Gore was a special teams contributor as a gunner and blocker. He did not return kicks as there was another player handling that job on his team.
Nice interview here with Shawn Gore by Greg Bedard.
Jeff Moturi, Texas El-Paso, 5’11”, 186lbs, 4.43 40yd time. Ranked 48 out of 273 Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com.
Scouting report: Moturi was a productive, average-sized pass catcher with reliable hands. Plays with balance, consistently finds the open space on the field, and finds a way to get separation from opponents. Speed receiver who cannot run to the deep throw. Will lose focus on occasion. Best fit would be as a slot receiver running underneath patterns.
Signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on April 30, 2010… A four-year letterman for the Miners, he played in 44 career games with 34 starts. Registered 2,527 receiving yards on 170 catches (14.9 avg.). As a senior, earned honorable mention All-Conference USA recognition… Led the team in catches (53) and receiving yards (974)… His 18.4-yard average per reception led the conference and ranked fourth in the country among players with 50 or more catches. Moturi returned punts as a senior and averaged appx. 5 yards a return.
Interview here with Jeff Moturi by NFL Draft Bible.
Chastin West, Fresno State, 6’1”, 216lbs, 4.59 40yd time. Ranked 64 out of 273 Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com.
Scouting report: Athletically gifted prospect with an incomplete game. Extends his hands to make the reception away from his frame, and gets up and then out muscles opponents to come away with the ball. Shows marginal quickness to his game. Does not play with great balance. He lacks a burst of speed and cannot run to the deep throw. West offers the size/speed numbers the play at the next level yet has shown only flashes of ability in college.
Signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on April 30, 2010. Was a three-year letterman who made contributions as a WR and as a return man… Played in 36 games with 26 starts during his career, missing 2007 due to injury, and posted over 2,000 all-purpose yards for the Bulldogs. Caught 79 passes for 1,008 yards (12.8 avg.) and six TDs during his three years of action, along with a 21.3-yard avg. on 45 kick returns and a very respectable 11.3 avg. on 21 punt returns.
2nd Year UDFA Players:
Patrick Williams, Colorado. 6’2″, 204 lbs, 4.54 40yd time. Ranked 81 out of 312 Wide receivers by NFLDraftScout.com. At Colorado, played in 50 games, starting 20. Best season was his senior season, with 30 catches, 322 yds and 2 touchdowns. Does not appear to have had any return experience, but did have 8 tackles playing special teams as a junior.
Signed to the Packers’ practice squad on Oct. 27, 2009… Originally signed by Green Bay as a non-drafted free agent on May 1, 2009 and participated in the Packers’ offseason program and part of training camp before suffering a hamstring injury and being placed on the reserve/injured list on Aug. 14, 2009…
Charles Dillon, Washington St,, 6’0”, 202lbs, 4.46 40 yd time at Pro day. Unranked in top 100 by NFLDraftScout.com.
A two-year letterman at Washington State, he played in 24 games, starting 14 after transferring from Ventura (Calif.) College… Saw his most extensive playing time as a senior in 2007, starting all 12 games at wide receiver and also serving as the team’s leading kickoff return man. In 2 seasons, Dillon caught 52 passes for 526 yds and 4 touchdowns. He also returned 30 kickoffs for a very good 28.3 yd. average.
Spent the 2009 season with the Spokane Shock of Arena Football. Appeared in 13 games with eight starts at wide receiver as a rookie, racking up 89 catches for 1078 yards and 23 touchdowns for a Shock team that posted a 19-1 record and won the ArenaCup Championship… Initially entered the National Football League as a non-drafted free agent with the Indianapolis Colts on May 2, 2008… Spent the 2008 offseason program and part of training camp with the Colts before suffering a groin injury, and was ultimately waived on Aug. 7, 2008. Signed by Green Bay on March 9, 2010.
These five players are all hoping to take the fifth receiver spot away from Bret Swain, who did the same last year to Ruvell Martin. Swain is coming off an ACL injury and is currently hoping to be ready for training camp.
One factor that will be an obstacle to his quest is the position he plays. As described in an article by Packer Report’s Bill Huber, a study was performed of wide receivers or running backs coming off of ACL injuries. Twenty-one percent never made it back to the NFL. Of the ones that got back, their performance on average was reduced by about one-third. So Swain reclaiming his spot, even if physically ready, is no guarantee.
All of these players, including Brett Swain, are eligible for the Packers practice squad. Swain, however, would be more likely to be put on the “Physically Unable to Perform” (PUP) list, than the practice squad, where he would be a prime target for other teams.
Swain made the team last year by showing talent in several areas. As a receiver, a special teams player and even as an emergency cornerback. Swain may have made the special teams play of the year, sniffing out a Chicago Bears fake punt, preventing a huge gain for the Bears.
Just like Swain used special teams play to make the team last year, if any of this group of five hope to have a chance, they will have to show that ability to contribute on special teams.
Gore has shown good athleticism at the Canadian combine and was a productive player at wide receiver and on special teams, but the level of play he competed at is so low compared to US Colleges, it’s difficult to predict if his individual physical abilities will be enough to make that giant leap. My guess is he has a slim chance and will end up back in Canada, where he was the tenth overall pick in the CFL draft. If the Packers currently don’t see him having a chance, they probably do him a favor and let him go soon so he can join his CFL team.
Moturi is smaller than the Packers normally like in their wide receivers, but there’s no discounting he was a productive player in college and a good “after the catch” receiver. Has been timed as fast as 4.38 in the forty. He may be the most useful receiver of the group, but has limited experience on special teams. A candidate for the practice squad.
West is a strong receiver, without a lot of quickness or blazing speed (sounds like a James Jones type). West comes to the ball well and catches what’s thrown at him. You would not expect a big guy like this to be a return man, yet West was very successful running back kicks, especially punts. Without having seen any tape, I have to imagine he was a no-nonsense North-South returner than did not go down easily. I really don’t think the Packers are looking for another James Jones type as their 5th wide receiver. Practice squad possibility if he shows blocking or tackling ability on special teams.
Williams is an enigma to me. There’s little in his college career that jumps out at you and I gave him little chance in last year’s training camp. Yet, he had outlasted several other UDFA receivers with better resumes before getting injured two weeks into camp. The Packers thought enough of him, however, to bring him back to the practice squad in late October and added him to the roster in December (although he was game day inactive and never saw the field). There’s obviously something there the Packers like that we haven’t had a chance to see. Combine that with having an extra year in the system and he has to be considered a favorite in the attempt to unseat Brett Swain.
Dillon, through no fault of his own, became the brunt of jokes when signed in March (who says Ted Thompson doesn’t go after free agents!). As a junior college transfer and then Arena League player, he lacks experience playing at a high level of competition, but I like what I’ve seen and read about him. He had a fantastic kickoff return average in college, and boy could the Packers use that. He catches the ball with his hands, and appears to have some great jitterbug moves after the catch (can you say WR screen?). I don’t know how much we can extrapolate from Arena Football tape, but he certainly looks impressive as a receiver and also as a gunner. If Swain isn’t ready, Dillon looks like the guy that has what the Packers need. One problem though – he says he hates playing in cold weather – sorry Charles…
Look for part two of this series where we examine more undrafted free agents and their battle to make the Packers roster.——————
Jersey Al Bracco is the founder and editor of AllGreenBayPackers.com, and the co-founder of Packers Talk Radio Network. He can be heard as one of the Co-Hosts on Cheesehead Radio and is the Green Bay Packers Draft Analyst for Drafttek.com.