GREEN BAY, Wis. – Ted Thompson decided a little local flavor is what Green Bay needed.
The Packers general manager selected Wisconsin wide receiver Jared Abbrederis with the 176th overall pick in the NFL draft Saturday. It is the first time that Thompson has drafted a Badgers player in his 10 years at the helm.
Asked if he has shied away from Wisconsin players in the past, Thompson brushed off the possibility.
“Hope that it’s not true, it’s just the way it’s worked out,” said Thompson, who was surprised Abbrederis was still available in the fifth round. “There have been a number of times when we were anxious to take a Badger and they get taken in front of you or something like that.”
Abbrederis, who grew up in Wautoma, less than 100 miles from Green Bay, had four productive years at Wisconsin. He put up huge numbers, amassing 202 catches for 3,140 yards and 23 touchdowns. It’s the ideal scenario for Abbrederis to be drafted by his hometown team.
“Just being a walk-on at Wisconsin and then being able to have my dream to play in the NFL on the Packers, which is my team growing up. That’s who I rooted for, so I’m excited,” Abbrederis said.
Packers wide receiver coach Edgar Bennett likes Abbrederis’ versatility at wide receiver and his ability to return punts.
“He’s a savvy route runner, he understands coverage, he understands how to defend leverage of the defender,” Bennett said. “So those are some of the little things that kind of stood out as far as creating separation.”
Green Bay drafted Alabama safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in the first round, Fresno State wideout Davante Adams in the second round and then made Cal tight end Richard Rodgers one of their two third-round picks along with Khyri Thortnon of Southern Mississippi. That brought them to Saturday.
The Packers lost their No. 3 wide receiver James Jones to free agency and were looking for other weapons for All-Pro quarterback Aaron Rodgers. With their final pick, the Packers took Saginaw Valley State wide receiver Jeff Janis at No. 236, marking the first time the Packers have picked three wide receivers in the same draft since 2000.
“I’ve said this over and over, I didn’t go into this draft trying to address need,” Thompson said. “If the perception is that we relieved a need, that’s fine but that’s not the way we build our team.”
With their first pick on Day 3, the Packers selected Arizona State linebacker Carl Bradford at No. 121 of the fourth round.
Bradford started 28 games in three seasons for the Sun Devils. He had 21.5 sacks, 154 tackles and 43 tackles for loss. Bradford entered the draft after his junior year, but it was his sophomore season that he was most dominant with 11.5 sacks and 81 tackles.
Bradford was used primarily as an outside rusher in college and rare dropped into pass coverage. Packers coach Mike McCarthy believes Bradford will stick to the outside, but Bradford knows he could fluidly move to inside linebacker.
“I believe I’m a versatile player and I’m a smart player, so I’d understand it,” Bradford said. “I could play either outside or in the box, so I would enjoy that as well.”
At nearly 6-foot-1 and 250 pounds, Bradford isn’t a typical NFL-sized linebacker.
“Probably one of the reasons he was staring us in the face where he was,” Packers director of college scouting Brian Gutekunst said. “It’s the fact that he’s not your prototypical 6-4, 35-inch type of guy. But after watching the tape and doing the workouts, we felt comfortable that he transitioned to this league pretty well.”
With the Packers’ first fifth-round pick at No. 161, the team took Ohio State center Corey Linsley. At 6-foot-2 and 296 pounds, Linsley will get a chance to compete for the Packers starting center spot after last season’s starter Evan Dietrich-Smith left for the Buccaneers via free agency. This will mark the fourth time in as many years that the Packers will start a new center.
In the sixth round, the Packers selected Baylor cornerback Demetri Goodson at No. 197. For a defense that finished 25th overall in the NFL in yards allowed per game, the Packers used just four of their nine picks on the defensive side of the ball. McCarthy isn’t concerned, however.
“We’re going to be a better defense this year, and you can write that in big letters,” he said.