Undrafted rookie free agent wide receiver Tori Gurley has managed to put the Green Bay Packer braintrusts into a mind boggling position of keeping an unheard of six wideouts on its final roster heading into the regular season next Thursday.
Gurley has shown some promise as a receiver, but his true value apparently lies in his special teams presence. If he makes an impact at all this year, it would be primarily as a punt block specialist.
The 23 year old left the University of South Carolina as a redshirt sophomore to enter the 2011 NFL Draft even though he was projected as a late round pick, if at all. His advanced age was cited as his reason for coming out this year as he will turn 24 this November. Gurley was not drafted, but was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent.
One would wonder why a potential receiver would choose Green Bay as his best opportunity to crack an NFL roster given the team’s strength at this position. Perhaps the squad’s reputation as a believer in UFA’s led Gurley to Green Bay. Cornerback Sam Shields and linebacker Frank Zombo were solid contributors in the Packers championship run in 2010 despite being passed over by all NFL teams in the draft.
The 6 foot four inch tall Gurley has an incredible wingspan of 83.5 inches that far exceeded anybody else at the NFL Combine. His long reach allowed him to block five punts during the Packers training camp sessions to make an immediate impression on the coaching staff. For a team that hasn’t blocked a regular season punt since 2003, the prospect of this added weapon has forced Green Bay to at least think about carrying six receivers.
Not to mention that the weakest area of the 2010 Super Bowl team and the entity that could see the most improvement in 2011, is the special teams. With Randall Cobb returning kicks and possibly Tori Gurley blocking punts, the team could turn a weakness into an area of strength.
The NFL and Mike McCarthy like to talk about “explosive plays” as a deciding factor in many crucial games. Whatever inconvenience and shortage carrying an extra wide receiver might bring to the rest of the offense, could certainly be offset by the potential of decisive game changing plays on special teams.
It is believed that there would be one less fullback on the roster or one less tight end because of this possible unconventional scenario.
Versatility has certainly become key for today’s NFL and the Packers could use B.J. Raji as a lead blocker in short yardage situations that could make FB Quinn Johnson expendable.
With one more preseason game to go it will be interesting to see if the Packers take a gamble on Mr. Gurley or another wide receiver, Chastin West or stick with a more conventional final roster. If they keep Gurley, it will be a sure sign that the team feels this young man can be an immediate impact player on special teams.