Green Bay Packers: DJ Chark is the vertical threat they desperately need

BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 14: DJ Chark #7 of the LSU Tigers returns a punt for a touchdown in the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The LSU defeated the Auburn 27-23. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images)
BATON ROUGE, LA - OCTOBER 14: DJ Chark #7 of the LSU Tigers returns a punt for a touchdown in the second half against the Auburn Tigers at Tiger Stadium on October 14, 2017 in Baton Rouge, Louisiana. The LSU defeated the Auburn 27-23. (Photo by Wesley Hitt/Getty Images) /

They say speed kills, and the Green Bay Packers have been lacking speed for a while. Enter LSU’s DJ Chark, a speedy receiver who could be the missing piece in the Packers’ offense.

Ever since Jordy Nelson suffered a torn ACL in 2015, the Green Bay Packers have lacked a legitimate deep threat. Coupled with the current players on the roster, the draft seems to be the best option for filling their need for speed. Luckily enough, there’s an ideal candidate for the job, and his name is DJ Chark.

Chark is a 6-3, 200 lb freak. At the NFL combine he posted a 4.34 40-yard dash, jumped a 40″ vertical leap, and had a 129″ broad jump, all of which were top performances at his position. He also posted 16 bench reps, which shows he has decent strength to add to his speed.

Chark’s measurables stack up favorably to another combine warrior – Martavis Bryant.

Chark: 6-3, 200, 4.34 forty, 40″ vert, 129″ broad jump, 16 bench reps

Bryant: 6-4, 210, 4.42 forty, 39″ vert, 124″ broad jump, 16 bench reps

As an athlete, the two compare very similarly, although Chark is the more polished prospect. He has better hands, runs better routes (although neither excels as route runners), and has much better body control. Ironically, the Packers were rumored to be interested in a Martavis Bryant trade earlier this offseason.

A glance at Chark’s college days

Chark is the ultimate deep threat. According to Pro Football Focus, he racked up 572 yards on deep passes in 2017; good for 6th best in the NCAA. His longest catch was 68 yards, and he averaged 21.9 yards per reception. 

He finished the 2017 season with 40 receptions, 874 yards, three receiving touchdowns, and one rushing touchdown – all with Danny Etling throwing the ball (sorry Danny).  He’s also a decent punt specialist, returning two punts for touchdowns on only 18 returns. Finally, Chark only dropped five out of 76 catch-able passes throughout his career, per PFF’s 2018 Draft Guide.

If nothing else, Chark was given the No. 7 jersey for his senior season. A tradition that started in 2007, the jersey is given to team leaders and is considered a huge honor. Past players to have worn it include Leonard Fournette, Tyrann Mathieu, and Patrick Peterson – not a bad list.

Where Chark excels

Besides his most obvious trait (speed), Chark shows outstanding ability on contested catches. His long length and jumping ability allow him to box out most defenders. In the play below, the ball is underthrown, but Chark has the athletic prowess to scale back and fight for the catch.

Here’s another example of his incredible ability to catch the ball in traffic. It’s almost as if he has magnets for hands.

Sometimes Chark is too fast for his own good. In the play below, he outran the entire defense, but had to track back for the catch. In the NFL, that’s a touchdown.

The play below shows off Chark’s longest play of the season, a 68-yard touchdown. The corner lines up 12 yards from the line of scrimmage and still gets beat deep. In combination with no safety help over the top, this play was done before it even started:

Where he needs to improve

Chark is somewhat lean for a player of his stature. This is most likely why he gets bullied at the line of scrimmage sometimes. He could stand to gain 5-10 lbs of muscle, but this should come with a couple offseasons in an NFL training program.

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He’s also not the most polished route runner. His skill-set mainly suits vertical routes, bubble screens and skinny posts. If he ever wants to reach his potential as a true No. 1 receiver, he’ll need to refine his route running abilities.

Finally, for as twitchy as he is, Chark has difficulty breaking tackles. On 71 career receptions, he only forced three missed tackles, according to PFF. This may be attributed to his insufficient lower-body strength. He excels in open space, but in close quarters he’ll likely be taken down.

Final thoughts

Expect Chark to be a mid-2nd to early-3rd round selection. This bodes particularly well for the Packers, who hold the 45th and 76th overall picks on day 2 of the draft – with plenty of other selections to move up.

Although he could improve in some areas, he has the top-end speed that many NFL general managers crave. This alone could cause him to be drafted a round earlier than what he’s projected at. After all, you can’t teach speed.

Chark should have a productive rookie season wherever he goes, but it could be argued the Packers need him most. As a team lacking down-the-field speed, Chark’s presence would help open up the passing game. Whenever on the field, he’d likely draw safety help; in-turn opening up other passing lanes.

Next: Packers secondary still a work in progress

So what do you say, Packers fans? Just picture it now: Davante Adams, Randall Cobb, Jimmy Graham, and DJ Chark on the same field. With Aaron Rodgers throwing the ball, what could go wrong?