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Driver in Good Company

By Kraig Gibson

Last week against the Lions a Packer’s player broke a record held by arguable one of the best Wide Receiver’s ever to put on a Packer’s uniform. Donald Driver overtook Sterling Sharpe on the list of most career receptions by a Green Bay Packer’s player. When you think of the top Packer’s Wide Receiver’s over the years names like Don Hutson, James Lofton, and Sterling Sharpe are often the first to come to mind; perhaps Boyd Dowler, Robert Brooks, and Antonio Freeman as well. Right now Donald Driver doesn’t seem to be too high on that list, but at 34 he’s playing football just as well if not better than he has when he was drafted in the 7th round in 1999. Of the 24 wide receivers drafted before him only Torry Holt, Marty Booker, and Brandon Stokley are still playing. Despite being a long shot just to make the team Driver has gone on to hold several Green Bay franchise records including career receptions as a Packer (602), Consecutive games with a reception (116), and most receptions and touchdowns at Lambeau Field (290 and 4068 respectively). With a contract extension to 2010 and only 1300 yards to go there is a good chance Driver will break James Lofton’s receiving yards record by the time his career, or at least his time as a Packer is over.

So the question is whether or not Donald Driver will go down as the greatest Green Bay Packer’s wide receiver of all time. Despite never leading the league in receptions, touchdowns, or yards he’s in the top 15 of those categories among all active players. This is in addition to being used minimally his first 3 years in the league. While players like Sterling Sharpe and James Lofton have actually led the league at times Driver has earned his records by steady consistent play. Despite never leading the league Driver still has more seasons with 1000+ receiving yards (6) than either Lofton or Sharpe, as well as consecutive seasons with 1000+ yards (5). Earning most of his yards and receptions with slant routes going across the middle, Driver has taken many hits throughout his career and despite it all has only missed one game due to injury; that injury coming in the 2003 season in which he was flipped in the air and landed hard on his neck. Despite the sprained neck Driver was back after only one week out. When he isn't taking big hits he's fighting hard for every yard almost always requiring two people to bring him down. Able to run deep routes as well, this season alone he’s made two one handed grabs on deep spirals. His toughness and versatility make a good case for him being one of the top Packers wide outs.

From 2002 to the present Driver has moved seamlessly between the first and second wide receiver spot as needed; able to bear the load as the top wide receiver as well as complementing any young player who may step up. Remember Javon Walker? Walker had a breakout season in 2004 and Driver settled into a number 2 position with ease. When Javon Walker was injured the 2005 season Driver stepped right back up and took over the top receiver spot having his second best season statistically. Well Driver has continued on a steady pace even earning three trips to the Pro Bowl Javon Walker has made his way to the black hole of Oakland perhaps never to be seen or heard from again. Now with the emergence of Greg Jennings, Donald Driver may once again be seen as a number two wide receiver but he will still be just as productive as he’s always been.

It’s yet to be seen whether Driver will be considered the greatest wide receiver to play as a Packer. There simply are too many unanswered questions to ever be sure. Had Sterling Sharpe’s career not been cut short Driver may not even be close to being the greatest. Had James Lofton stayed a Packer his entire career he may very well be considered the greatest. Then again had Driver been used more in his first three seasons the numbers could be drastically different. Though there may never be an answer to the question, the fact that a seventh round draft pick can be compared with two top 10 picks is impressive enough. In the 90 years of the franchise's existence only Boyd Dowler has played more games at the wide receiver position than Donald Driver, and even that record will belong to Driver by the end of this season. So even if he isn’t considered the greatest of all time he is no doubt one of the most enduring.

Packers Mix blog featured writers John Linn, Zach Letter
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