The Packers' struck gold with undrafted free agent Sam Shields in 2010, can they do the same this year?
Every year teams sign a group of undrafted free agents and every year some of those undrafted free agents stand out in training camp and make the final roster. Some of last year’s undrafted gems included Seattle’s Doug Baldwin, Denver’s Chris Harris and the Giants’ Mark Herzlich. Certainly, the Green Bay Packers’ hope that they have a hidden gem within their group of 17 undrafted players.
Green Bay seemed to stick to positional groupings rather than signing players all over the field. It signed four running backs, three receivers, six offensive linemen, one linebacker and three players in the secondary.
Let’s take a look at the odds of each player making the final 53-man roster.
Marc Tyler working out in OTAs
The Green Bay Packers gave Ryan Grant’s old locker to second-year undrafted free agent Diondre Borel, indicating the likelihood of Grant returning to the Packers is continuing to diminish. With the oft-injured James Starks expected to be the starter and Alex Green coming off ACL surgery, the team will likely keep a third running back on the active roster.
The odds-on favorite for that third running back spot is second-year runner Brandon Saine, who was undrafted last year out of Ohio State. However, the Packers did bring in four possible running backs as undrafted free agents this offseason and they will all be battling it out for Saine’s spot.
There’s always the possibility the Packers will elect to keep a fourth running back on the practice squad, especially given the injury history of both Starks and Green, so seeing one of these four guys stick around would not be too big of a surprise.
Marc Tyler: 6-to-1
Marc Tyler was the No. 2 -rated running back recruit coming out of high school and has many of the tools that teams look for.
Unfortunately, his attitude off the field and unwillingness to stay in shape hurt kept him from being drafted. The Packers could use a physical back like Tyler near the red zone, but his off-the-field antics are not worth putting up with for a guy who wouldn’t serve as anything more than a training camp body and depth on the practice squad.
Nic Cooper: 12-to-1
Cooper is listed at fullback on the Packers' official roster, and rightfully so at 5'10", 249 pounds, but he played more of a tailback role in college at Winston-Salem State. The 23-year-old Cooper ran for 1,808 yards last year on 267 carries.
If he can show some explosion to go along with his big frame, he has an outside shot at making the practice squad, but he has little-to-no chance at making the final roster with all of the other running backs in Green Bay. He would be a good insurance player for John Kuhn, though, if Green Bay can stash him on the practice squad.
Duane Bennett: 12-to-1
Bennett has had some injury troubles of his own after having to redshirt his sophomore season when he blew out his knee in the second game of the season in 2008. However, the undrafted free agent out of Minnesota is a short and compact runner whose ability to grind out yards was a valuable part of the Gopher offense last year.
He was never highly touted as a guy to get drafted and is a long shot to make the roster. He would have to really impress during training camp to get much of a shot. Expect Bennett to be cut fairly early in the process.
Curenski Gilleylen: 20-to-1
The Packers have Gilleylen listed at wide receiver, but he played running back at Nebraska, and ESPN Milwaukee hints the Packers will be looking at Gilleylen as a running back.
He’s likely nothing more than a training camp body. He didn’t start in college and barely saw any playing time. The former track standout (who ran a 10.22 100-meter dash in 2007, according to Nebraska’s official bio) may show enough flashes to get some playing time in preseason games. He’ll need to show those flashes to earn a spot on the practice squad because he’s not going to get it based on previous merit.
He’s likely to be cut fairly early in the process and is very unlikely to earn a spot on the final roster.
The Packers receiving corps is incredibly deep and last week I chronicled the expected depth chart at wide receiver. If Donald Driver sticks around, which it appears as though he will, it is unlikely that any of this year’s undrafted free agents will beat out a combination of Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Randall Cobb and Donald Driver for a spot in the top five.
It’s possible Mike McCarthy elects to keep six receivers on the active roster, but he’d more likely keep either Diondre Borell or Tori Gurley on the 53-man roster due to their experience in the system.
Dale Moss: 4-to-1
The South Dakota State product is a former basketball player-turned-receiver and has only one year of football behind his belt. Despite his limited experience, his raw physical tools are hard to ignore and he is likely to stick around.
Moss’ physical ability alone warrants a spot on the practice squad, but a spot on the 53-man roster is unlikely.
Marcus Rivers: 6-to-1
The 6'5" Rivers impressed at the Buffalo pro day but still did not get drafted. He’s a tall wideout with a large catch radius, but he’s really not an improvement over the Packers’ other oversized receiver, Tori Gurley, whom he will be battling in training camp.
Rivers may find his way onto the practice squad, but it would be a huge shock if he made the 53-man roster.
Jarrett Boykin: 20-to-1
Boykin had a productive collegiate career, starting for Virginia Tech each of the past three seasons, but he was never more than a marginal NFL prospect. He simply doesn’t have the speed or explosion to stand out at the NFL level.
I doubt he makes the practice squad, and it would be a miracle if he made the 53-man roster.
Undrafted rookie Jaymes Brooks blocking at Virginia Tech
The struggles of the Packers’ offensive line have been well documented.
I previously discussed the problems Green Bay may have at stopping the rush with Marshall Newhouse stepping in at the starting left tackle spot. The Packers’ front office clearly recognized this as an area of need as they brought in six undrafted offensive linemen to compete during training camp, by far the most of any positional grouping.
The current crop of tackles and guards in Green Bay is not likely to change so it will be tough for many of these guys to make the current roster. What the team will be looking for is players who show the versatility to play multiple positions and someone it can rely on to back up Jeff Saturday at center.
Jaymes Brooks: 2-to-1
Brooks played right guard for Virginia Tech over the past few years and I felt that his play warranted a selection on draft day. He’s a great fit in Green Bay’s zone-blocking scheme with his quick feet and burst off the line. He’s does a great job of blocking on the move and could be a solid depth guy for the Packers.
He has also lined up at center in the past and can give Green Bay some much-needed depth behind Jeff Saturday.
Tommie Draheim: 6-to-1
Draheim earns the second spot amongst offensive linemen almost by default. There is so little depth at center in Green Bay behind Jeff Saturday that the Packers may be forced to keep Draheim on the roster if nobody else stands out.
Draheim is expected to transition to center after playing most his collegiate career at tackle.
Don Barclay: 7-to-1
The 2011 first-team Big East selection was a three-year starter at left tackle at West Virginia and specializes in his ability to protect the passer.
It’s a given that Newhouse, Derek Sherrod and Bryan Bulaga will make the roster and it’s more likely that seventh-round draft choice Andrew Datko takes the fourth tackle spot than the undrafted Barclay.
It would take a rash of injuries for Barclay to crack the roster.
Shea Allard: 20-to-1
Allard was a three-year starter at left tackle at Delaware before being signed as a tryout player by the Packers this year. He started for one of the best offensive lines in the country at the FCS level, joining Baltimore Ravens’ fourth-round pick Gino Gradkowski.
Here is a great story that details Allard’s journey to the Packers.
Grant Cook: 20-to-1
The Packers did pretty well by signing former Arkansas guard Ray Dominguez last year, so why not try to strike gold twice?
That’s exactly what the Packers are hoping for when they signed Cook as an undrafted free agent. Although less heralded, Cook is a big body at 6'4", 318 pounds and he has experience starting against SEC-level talent.
Despite those positives, the guard positions in Green Bay are already crowded and it’s unlikely Cook would ever see playing time. He’s very likely to be cut early in the process and has little to no chance of making the final roster.
Mike McCabe: 30-to-1
In mid-May the Packers signed offensive tackle McCabe out of Holy Cross. The first-team All-Patriot league selection is a big body and experienced with 36 career starts at Holy Cross, but it is unlikely he even earns a practice squad spot.
The Packers simply have too much invested in their other tackles to warrant keeping a player like McCabe on the roster.
The Packers had a serious problem generating a pass rush last year, and a big part of that was inability to find a consistent threat opposite Clay Matthews. The Packers think they found that threat in first-round pick Nick Perry.
However, they also signed Dezman Moses, a converted defensive end, to compete in training camp as an undrafted free agent.
Dezman Moses: 25-to-1
Moses played defensive end at Tulane after transferring from Iowa during the 2009 season. He's a player who can get into the backfield and make plays.
However, his chances of making the final roster are slim with all of the other guys fighting for spots in Green Bay’s front seven. He would be lucky to make the practice squad and is likely to be cut very early in the process.
Sean Richardson tackling his new teammate Randall Cobb
The Packers secondary struggled last year, and following the loss of Nick Collins, the grouping may struggle again this year. However, the team focused heavily on defense in the draft and added Casey Hayward and Jerron McMillian to shore up those spots.
The Packers’ secondary is rather deep, despite its struggles, with Charles Woodson, Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and Hayward already etched in as the top four players. Jarrett Bush is likely to be back as the fifth corner due to his reputation on special teams.
The Packers thought they were going to be set at safety after they drafted Morgan Burnett. A combination of Burnett and Collins was supposed to be a staple of the Packers secondary for the next decade. Unfortunately, Collins’ potential career-ending injury that forced the Packers to release him spoiled those plans and the Packers were left with a void at safety.
They did draft Jerron McMillian and there’s speculation Woodson may move to free safety, but the opening is there if someone steps up in training camp.
Sean Richardson: 1-to-1
Richardson is an in-the-box safety with good speed. He ran a 4.52 40 at the combine. He was a tackling machine for Vanderbilt in the secondary recording 84, 99 and 63 tackles in the past three seasons respectively. Many thought Richardson was worthy of a late-round selection on draft day.
Combined with Green Bay’s need for a safety, he has as good of a chance as anyone at making the final roster.
Dion Turner: 15-to-1
Turner has a higher probability of making the roster than Miller due to Turner’s versatility to play both cornerback and safety. He played cornerback his last two years at Southern Utah but played his first two at safety.
However, it’s still very unlikely he’ll beat out anybody currently on the roster for a spot on the final roster.
Otis Merrill: 25-to-1
As chronicled above, the Packers’ simply have too much depth at the cornerback positions for Miller to make the 53-man roster. His only chance really is for injuries to happen, but even then, second-year corner Davon House would likely be moved up ahead of him.
Merrill was a second-team selection to the All-Missouri Valley Football Conference team and started 10 games last year. He previously played for the Wisconsin Badgers before transferring after the 2008 season.
Again, likely just a training camp body who can push some of the guys on the current roster.