Kickoffs will be moved up five yards closer for next season, but that hasn’t stopped the Green Bay Packers from evaluating kickoff returners. In fact, they might also be looking at improving on punt returns.
“I think anytime you have someone on your team, whether it’s a kick returner or another player that can make progress in a specific area – whether it’s the return game or passing game – that brings high quality production,” Packers head coach Mike McCarthy said during the NFL Scouting Combine in February. “Our draft board, our draft process won’t change. … Kick returner … is one of many things we want to improve on as a football team next year.”
The team is expected to have WR/KR/PR Antoine "Shaky" Smithson (Utah) and WR/KR/PR Jeremy Ross (California) in for pre-draft visits within the next few weeks, sources confirmed.
Smithson (5-11, 202), who played two years at Utah, averaged 24.4 yards per kick return and a very solid 16.2 yards per punt return. Anything higher than a 10.0 average for a punt return is considered to be good. He led the nation in punt return average (19.1) last season.
Ross (6-0, 212), who as high as a 4.39 in the 40-yard dash during his pro day workout, averaged 15.2 yards per punt return and 20.3 yards per kick return during his career at California.