With injuries abounding everywhere during the first half of the Green Bay Packers' season, multiple rookies have been forced to step up and contribute much earlier than expected.
Some of these first-year players have grabbed the opportunity by the horns and performed exceedingly well. Others haven’t yet received that chance.
Overall, however, this young corps of players seems like it will provide a strong foundation for many years to come.
Here are my power rankings for how each rookie has performed thus far.
This group includes Don Barclay, Greg Van Roten, Brandon Bostick, Justin Cheadle, B.J. Coleman, Andrew Datko and James Nixon.
I obviously can’t rank any of these guys because none of them have played for Green Bay yet this year.
That may change soon for Barclay and Van Roten if one more injury occurs on the offensive line.
Hopefully that won’t be the case, given that both of them were undrafted.
I really couldn’t separate these two fairly. Manning has only participated in four games while Richardson has only seen playing time in three.
Both only play special teams. The former has made two tackles on the season, and the latter has recorded three.
Neither has accrued any other stats.
I think Manning has the higher upside. He could be another Desmond Bishop-type but a little better.
Richardson also has a bright future as long as he stays in Green Bay’s phenomenal developing system.
But as of right now, neither has done anything to wow anyone.
He’s been relatively quiet since then, but he did just pick up his second sack of the year against the Arizona Cardinals.
That never-ending motor every draft expert raved about is evident so far, which is something every player needs if they want to one day be successful.
Moses was the big surprise of training camp. Not only did he make the roster as an undrafted free agent, he was getting many reps with the second-team defense and even occasional first-team practice.
But with All-Pro Clay Matthews, first-round draft pick Nick Perry and a rejuvenated Erik Walden playing the same outside linebacker position as Moses, he hasn’t received very many opportunities during games.
He’s looked good when he has seen some snaps, getting some solid pressure on opposing quarterbacks.
Moses should get a grand opportunity soon, with Matthews likely missing a game or two and Perry already on injured reserve.
We’ll see if this guy is for real.
Boykin is yet another undrafted free agent that made the Packers’ squad. They really make a living off those guys, huh?
Anyway, I know he’s only caught three passes for 16 yards and no touchdowns on the entire season. Those certainly aren’t jaw-dropping numbers.
But Boykin really passes the eye test. He’s looked strong and confident in his receptions, a sign he will surely be productive in the future.
He’s also only been targeted three times, meaning he’s caught every ball to come his way. Again, not a great sample, but he’s producing when given the chance. If he wasn’t on the same team as Jordy Nelson, James Jones and Randall Cobb, I think he’d have much better numbers.
Ted Thompson drafted Perry to be the future pass-rushing complement to Matthews. He appeared to be well on his way before going on IR.
Although he only sacked opposing quarterbacks twice in the six games in which he played, Perry produced enough penetration to free up constant double-teams on Matthews. Matthews’ numbers have blossomed—his record of nine sacks is already three more than last season.
As expected, Perry’s biggest weakness as a rookie is pass coverage. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a 116.7 passer rating when throwing the ball into his coverage. Yikes.
Worthy is justifying Thompson’s decision to trade up in order to draft him. He also has two sacks so far on the season, which is more impressive in the 3-4 for a defensive lineman than an outside linebacker.
He’s showing he can be the future replacement for Cullen Jenkins, whom Packers fans miss so much.
Worthy is continuing to prove he’s one of the best players in football at jumping the snap. While he’s been flagged a few times for jumping offsides, he’s also gotten numerous terrific jumps that enable him to immediately disrupt offensive lines.
Once he learns to time it just right and physically matures a bit more, he’ll be one of the league’s premier 3-4 defensive linemen.
Call me crazy, but I believe McMillian has the most potential out of any of Green Bay’s rookies. I truly can see him becoming another Charles Woodson that is slightly worse at causing turnovers but a little better in pass coverage.
He’s already a phenomenal tackler, which is why Green Bay surprised everyone by taking him in the fourth round of the draft.
McMillian has also shown very promising signs as a blitzer and pass-defender. His stats just aren’t there because of limited opportunity.
I’m very confident McMillian will be a special player within a few years.
Hayward is a natural ball hawk. Despite being a rookie, he’s already intercepted four passes, which is tied for third-best in the NFL.
Early on he seemed like he could be a potential defensive MVP candidate for Green Bay rather than just the best rookie distinction. But he has cooled off a little the past couple of games, bringing him back to Earth.
Still, Hayward has held opposing quarterbacks to an incredible 38.3 passer rating on throws into his coverage.
And although McMillian is the one known for his superb tackling, Hayward isn’t too shabby at wrapping up ball-carriers himself.
McMillian may have the better long-term potential, but there’s no doubt Hayward has been Green Bay’s best rookie through nine games.