Last year's breakout player, wide receiver Jarrett Boykin, was an undrafted free agent. Both the Packers' starting cornerbacks, Sam Shields and Tramon Williams, never heard their names called in the NFL draft.
So, when Green Bay and general manager Ted Thompson bring in UDFAs, we shouldn't be surprised to see a handful make an impact early in their careers. In fact, it wouldn't be shocking at all to see two or three players see significant playing time as rookies, a la Shields back in 2010.
The Packers signed 12 undrafted free agents, and today we will highlight three of them who could make an impact in Green Bay this season.
Adrian Hubbard, OLB, Alabama
If there is any UDFA who is going to not just make an impact, but make a huge one, it's the former Crimson Tide outside linebacker.
Hubbard was one of the more shocking players to not get drafted this year. In fact, Hubbard would have likely been a mid-round pick had he not had a minor heart abnormality, according to Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee-Wisconsin Journal Sentinel.
At 6'6" and 257 pounds, Hubbard has great length and size for an outside linebacker. While he doesn't have elite burst or explosiveness off the snap, he's still an extremely athletic player.
In fact, CBS Sports' Dane Brugler compared Hubbard to the No. 3 pick from last year's draft, outside linebacker Dion Jordan. Brugler said this about this to say about Hubbard:
Hubbard's combination of length, flexibility and power could earn him comparisons to the former Oregon star, the No. 3 overall pick in 2013 by the Dolphins. Hubbard isn't as explosive off the snap as Jordan (in fact, Hubbard is often slow off the ball) but his long gait does help him build speed quickly and he has some bend to avoid blocks.
Being compared to a former No. 3 overall pick is never a bad thing.
With Nick Perry failing to develop as quickly as the Packers would like, it wouldn't be surprising at all to see Hubbard take a chunk of his snaps as the season progresses.
Joe Thomas, ILB, South Carolina State
When people heard the Packers signed a Joe Thomas, they were probably hoping it was the All-Pro offensive tackle of the Cleveland Browns. Unfortunately, that's not the Thomas that Green Bay added.
Instead, it added an incredible playmaker at inside linebacker. He finished his senior season as the MEAC Defensive Player of the Year after recording 115 total tackles, 19 tackles for loss, 7.5 sacks and one interception.
While Thomas did play against "lesser" opponents, it's hard to ignore the overall impact he had on defense. What's most impressive about his senior statistics is the number of negative plays he caused for opposing defenses.
It's that type of playmaking ability that the Packers desperately need at inside linebacker. Smith has the speed and overall ability to eventually replace either A.J. Hawk or Brad Jones in the starting lineup.
While it could take some time for Thomas to get used to the speed of NFL offenses, if he develops quickly he could find himself making a rather large impact in his first year in the league.
Rajion Neal, RB, Tennessee
The final undrafted free agent who could make a first-year impact is Neal, a former Volunteer running back. While it's true the Packers are absolutely loaded at the running back position, there are two reasons Neal could make an impact this year.
For starters, Neal is an all-around back. He can run, block and catch the ball out of the backfield. Neal added 27 receptions to his 1,124 rushing yards in his last season at Tennessee.
The second reason Neal could make an impact this year is because of the fragility of the Packers' running backs. The top four running backs in Green Bay are Eddie Lacy, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin and DuJuan Harris. However, all four of those backs have struggled with injuries during their careers.
That could ultimately open the door for the solid, but not spectacular, Neal. The impact that Neal would have as a rookie wouldn't likely be huge, but it's definitely possible he'll see significant playing time if the running backs ahead of him struggle to stay healthy.
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