Is it time for Packers to finally use a first-round pick on a WR?

Tee Higgins' 2020 NFL draft profile (0:46)

Check out highlights from Clemson wide receiver Tee Higgins as we get closer to the 2020 NFL draft. (0:46)

GREEN BAY, Wis. -- Between them, ESPN's Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay mocked five different players to the Green Bay Packers at No. 30 in their combined six NFL draft projections to date.

All five play the same position.

"Aaron Rodgers isn't getting any younger; it's time for the Packers to use a first-round pick on a receiver," Kiper wrote in his first mock draft of the year, in which he had the Packers taking KJ Hamler of Penn State.

Since then, Kiper has switched his pick to LSU's Justin Jefferson in mock 2.0 and then Notre Dame's Chase Claypool in his most recent projections.

"When Green Bay had two first-round picks a year ago, I thought surely it would use one on a receiver to help out Aaron Rodgers, who has had Davante Adams and a bunch of late-round picks for the past few seasons," Kiper wrote in his second version. "But no, the Packers went defense on Day 1. And while their defense was improved, the dearth of talent behind Adams reared its head again, as the No. 2 non-running back pass-catcher was former undrafted wideout Allen Lazard. What does Rodgers have to do to get some help?"

McShay has been on the receiver-to-the-Packers campaign since his first mock in December, when he had them taking DeVonta Smith (who later decided to remain at Alabama). Since then, he's jumped to Jefferson and most recently Clemson's Tee Higgins.

Now is a good time for a history lesson: The most recent time the Packers drafted a wide receiver in the first round, Higgins and Jefferson were 3-year-olds. It has been since 2002, when the Packers picked Javon Walker at No. 20 overall. Since 2003, the Packers have selected 14 defensive players in the first round, tied for the most (with the Jets) in that span. According to ESPN Stats & Information research, they're the only team not to draft a receiver, tight end or running back in the first round in that same time frame.

When one longtime NFL scout was asked if this was finally the year the Packers broke that streak without a first-round receiver, he didn't hesitate.

"Yes, and I'm shocked they didn't sign [Robby] Anderson," the scout said of the Jets free agent who signed a two-year, $20 million contract with the Panthers last month.

McShay took the offensive additions a step further in his two-round mock that included the Packers taking Florida State running back Cam Akers.

"Paired with [Aaron] Jones, [Akers] could do some damage in the backfield and potentially become the guy if Green Bay moves on from Jones after the season," McShay wrote.

The Packers haven't selected multiple offensive skill-position players in the first two rounds of the draft since 2008, when they took both wide receiver Jordy Nelson and quarterback Brian Brohm in the second round.

"I think any time you look at the running back position, it's such a long season, and those guys take on a ton of punishment," Packers coach Matt LaFleur said this offseason. "I think that's one of the more tougher positions to play in terms of physicality, and I think you always need multiple guys to get to that finish line.

"Certainly we'd like to play one more game than we did last season, and we're going to need not only those two guys [Jones and Jamaal Williams], but I do think we're going to need a third guy to put into that mix moving forward."


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As badly as Rodgers needs help after relying so heavily on Adams (83 catches for 997 yards in 12 games) and Jones (1,558 yards from scrimmage and 19 touchdowns), there's reason to think Packers general manager Brian Gutekunst might not bite in the first round.

The draft is strongest at wide receiver and not just with top-heavy talent, although it could rival the 2004 draft, when a record seven receivers went in the first round.

"You can find that guy, the No. 2 receiver to Adams, in the second round," an NFL position coach said this week after completing his review of the draft prospects. "I'm not so sure that's the case with their other positions [of need]."

The Packers have famously made hay in the second round with receivers. Among them, Nelson (2008), Randall Cobb (2011) and Adams (2014). The Packers have taken just one receiver in the top 100 -- Ty Montgomery (third round, No. 94 overall in 2015) -- since the Adams pick.

"I think this is a little bit deeper class, maybe, than it has been in the past," Gutekunst said of this year's receivers. "So I think if you're looking for something specific, all types are out there."

In order, the Packers' needs probably rank like this: pass-catcher (receiver and/or tight end), inside linebacker, offensive tackle. Yes, those are the three spots they addressed in free agency with receiver Devin Funchess, linebacker Christian Kirksey and tackle Rick Wagner. Perhaps the Packers can get by with Kirksey and Wagner if they can stay healthy, but even the addition of a healthy Funchess might not be enough. While Lazard (35 catches for 477 yards and three touchdowns) came on late last season as a promising receiver prospect, he's probably a No. 4 (or a No. 3 at best) in a high-ranking offense.

There are some strong prospects at tackle, but the position coach said the drop-off comes quickly.

"You're not getting [a starting] tackle where they're at in the second round," the coach said of the Packers' pick at No. 62 overall. "There's not one worth taking from the middle of the second 'til probably the fifth round, where you can start thinking about a developmental guy."

The same assistant said there were two inside linebackers the Packers should consider, if available, at No. 30: LSU's Patrick Queen over Oklahoma's Kenneth Murray. If they're gone, he said, then pick another position.