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Early Projections for Green Bay Packers' Final 53-Man Roster

Matt SteinCorrespondent IIMay 19, 2014

Early Projections for Green Bay Packers' Final 53-Man Roster

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    Is wide receiver Jared Abbrederis a lock to make the Packers' final 53-man roster?
    Is wide receiver Jared Abbrederis a lock to make the Packers' final 53-man roster?Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Thanks to free agency and the NFL draft, the Green Bay Packers' roster already looks quite different from last year's. And we haven't even cut the current group down to only 53 players.

    The biggest difference we're going to see in our projected 53-man roster is on the defensive side of the ball. There are new starters at a handful of positions, including the defensive line and safety.

    However, there will also be some changes on offense due to the loss of players like James Jones, Jermichael Finley and Evan Dietrich-Smith. That means there will be a handful of rookies sticking in Green Bay for the regular season.

    While it's likely that quite a bit will change over the next few months, we've done our best to give you early projections for the Packers' final 53-man roster.

Quarterbacks

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    Morry Gash/Associated Press

    Projected on Final Roster: Aaron Rodgers (Starter), Scott Tolzien

    This is going to come as a major surprise, but it's going to be extremely difficult for the Packers to keep three quarterbacks on their 53-man roster. There are simply too many holes at other positions that Green Bay needs depth at.

    Now people will point at the Packers' struggles last year after Rodgers was injured as a reason to have three quarterbacks. However, last year was different because the Packers didn't have any signal-callers on their final roster that spent training camp and the preseason with them.

    That will be different this year with Tolzien and Matt Flynn already signed and on the roster. They'll have the whole offseason running the offense in Green Bay and won't be thrown into the fire should Rodgers face another unfortunate injury.

    While Flynn has more experience as a backup, Tolzien should ultimately win the No. 2 job. There's also undrafted free agent Chase Rettig, but he seems like a prime candidate for the practice squad this year.

    It'd sure be nice if the Packers could keep three quarterbacks, but it just doesn't seem possible with the team needing depth at so many other positions.

Running Backs

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    Tom Uhlman/Associated Press

    Projected on Final Roster: Eddie Lacy (Starter), James Starks, Johnathan Franklin

    Much like with the quarterbacks, it's going to be a shock to many to see only three running backs on the final roster. This is especially true when you consider that all three of these backs missed games last year due to injury.

    However, the Packers can't put together their final roster thinking that all their players are going to get injured, so they stick with three backs. What's great about these three players is that they form a dynamic offensive option for Green Bay.

    Lacy proved last year that he's an absolute stud and one of the better backs in the league. Starks had an extremely productive season as a change-of-pace back for the Packers. And while Franklin didn't see the field too often, he did excel when given the chance against the Cincinnati Bengals.

    With these three running backs, the Packers will feel confident in the production from their ground game, even if they have to deal with injuries.

Fullback

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    Mike Roemer/Associated Press

    Projected on Final Roster: John Kuhn (Starter)

    Another reason the Packers will only keep three running backs is because of Kuhn. While he's listed as a fullback, he really needs to be considered an additional running back.

    Kuhn is easily one of the biggest fan favorites in Green Bay. He excels in short-yardage situations and as a receiver in the backfield.

    For a while, it looked like the Packers might be ready to move on from Kuhn. However, the team re-signed him late in the offseason, and now the Packers faithful can continue to scream his name on Sundays.

Wide Receivers

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    Tony Avelar/Associated Press

    Projected on Final Roster: Jordy Nelson (Starter), Randall Cobb (Starter), Davante Adams (Starter/Rookie), Jarrett Boykin, Jared Abbrederis (R), Jeff Janis (R)

    There are a handful of new names on the projected group of receivers. Some of this is due to the loss of Jones, but most of it is due to the Packers drafting three receivers in this year's draft.

    Both Adams and Abbrederis should have no difficulty making the Packers' final roster. The wild card will be Janis, but his upside will ultimately force receivers like Myles White, Kevin Dorsey and Chris Harper to either find new teams or spend time on the practice squad.

    The other surprise is that we're expecting Adams to start over Boykin. While Boykin was impressive last year, he started to fade down the stretch. Boykin also lacks the overall potential of a player like Adams.

    Even with all the new faces in Green Bay, this position should still be one of the most productive on the roster.

Tight Ends

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected on Final Roster: Andrew Quarless (Starter), Brandon Bostick, Richard Rodgers (R), Colt Lyerla (R)

    No position was more difficult to figure out than the tight end. The loss of Finley was a big reason why, but there's really more to it than just that.

    The Packers desperately needed an influx of talent at this position. They need more consistency to go along with big-play ability. That's where the combination of Quarless and Bostick as the top two tight ends comes into play.

    Behind them will be a pair of rookies. Rodgers was drafted in the third round, so it'd be rather surprising to not see him on the final roster. As for Lyerla, he's a huge risk, but there is no denying the talent. While he hasn't been signed to a contract yet, the Packers are mulling it over, according to Rob Demovsky of ESPN.com.

    Both Rodgers and Lyerla have the potential to overtake Quarless and Bostick on the depth chart if they develop quickly. It's definitely possible that this group will take some time to become truly productive, but the future looks bright at tight end in Green Bay.

Offensive Tackles

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected on Final Roster: David Bakhtiari (Starter), Bryan Bulaga (Starter), Don Barclay, Derek Sherrod

    The Packers currently have six offensive tackles on their roster. That number will be cut down to four by the time the regular season starts.

    This is actually a pretty solid position with three of the four tackles having starting experience. Throw in the fact that Sherrod is a former first-round pick who has struggled with injuries and that makes this group even more talented.

    The only thing that Green Bay needs to figure out at this position is who'll start on the left and right side. As of now, it wouldn't be surprising for the Packers to keep Bakhtiari at left tackle and Bulaga at right tackle.

    Offensive line hasn't been the strongest of positions the past few years for the Packers. However, that could change this year with so much experience at the position.

Offensive Guards

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    Charles Rex Arbogast/Associated Press

    Projected on Final Roster: Josh Sitton (Starter), T.J. Lang (Starter), Lane Taylor

    Like the offensive tackles, the guards for the Packers should once again be pretty good.

    Both Lang and Sitton are coming off quality years for Green Bay. In fact, they were both ranked as top-15 guards in the league last year, according to Pro Football Focus (subscription required).

    The only potential issue with this position is the lack of depth. However, Barclay has the ability to kick inside should the Packers need him to.

    While it'd be nice to have one more true guard on the roster, the Packers simply won't have the room.

Centers

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Projected on Final Roster: JC Tretter (Starter), Corey Linsley (R)

    The biggest concern on the offensive side of the ball is at the center position. Losing Dietrich-Smith could potentially turn into a major problem for the Packers.

    While Dietrich-Smith wasn't the best center in the league, he at least had experience at the position. Tretter is a second-year player who didn't play a single snap last year and Linsley is a fifth-round rookie.

    The good news for Green Bay is that it has had success over the past few seasons with switching centers. It went from Scott Wells to Jeff Saturday to Dietrich-Smith without much hiccup offensively.

    With that said, don't be surprised if this position is the weakest for the Packers offense during the 2014 season.

Defensive Ends

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Projected on Final Roster: Mike Daniels (Starter), Julius Peppers (Starter), Datone Jones, Khyri Thornton (R)

    There are a couple of surprises for the final roster at defensive end.

    For starters, you won't see the name Jerel Worthy on the depth chart. The former second-round pick has struggled with injuries during his career and failed to make any type of impact. Instead of keeping him around for another year, the Packers will move on to developing Thornton.

    The other surprise is having Peppers play defensive end instead of outside linebacker. While he'll likely play both positions regularly, Green Bay could use him with his hand in the dirt more often than standing up. Making him a defensive end also opens the door up to keep an additional outside linebacker on the roster.

    This position has the potential to be an extremely dominant group for the Packers. If Daniels can continue to produce at an extremely high level with more snaps and if Jones can continue to develop, this could be the best unit on defense by the end of the 2014 season.

Defensive Tackles

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    Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

    Projected on Final Roster: B.J. Raji (Starter), Letroy Guion

    Defensive tackle was the hardest position to cut down on the final roster. It would have been nice to keep Josh Boyd as No. 3 on the depth chart, but there simply wasn't the room for him.

    Instead, the Packers will have to roll with Raji and Guion, one of the Packers' few free-agent signings. Both players have the potential to excel during the 2014 campaign.

    Raji is making the move back inside to defensive tackle. He had a horrid year as a defensive end last season, but he is definitely more natural playing inside. As for Guion, he's struggled with injuries during his career. However, he still has an extremely high ceiling if he can stay healthy.

    Should both Raji and Guion live up to expectations, the Packers will look like geniuses for their offseason moves. If both struggle, it could be a long season for the defensive line in Green Bay.

Inside Linebackers

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Projected on Final Roster: A.J. Hawk (Starter), Brad Jones (Starter), Carl Bradford (R), Jamari Lattimore

    When this projected final roster was being put together, no position looked worse than inside linebacker. It would have been really nice if the Packers spent an early-round pick on one to add some speed and athleticism to the position.

    Unfortunately, the Packers are stuck with Hawk and Jones as the starters for another year. We could see either Lattimore or Bradford beat them out, but it's unlikely right now. Lattimore still has some growing to do, and Bradford will be making the switch to inside linebacker and likely be too raw.

    There is a chance that an undrafted free agent like Joe Thomas or Jake Doughty sneak in as one of the final 53 players and push for playing time. However, it'll be hard for the Packers to keep five inside linebackers on the roster. 

    Look for the Packers to roll with this group and simply hope for the best.

Outside Linebackers

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    Streeter Lecka/Getty Images

    Projected on Final Roster: Clay Matthews (Starter), Nick Perry (Starter), Mike Neal, Andy Mulumba, Adrian Hubbard (R)

    There's a lot to like about the initial group of outside linebackers the Packers will have on their final roster. The ultimate key for this group will be staying healthy.

    We all know what Matthews is capable of when he's 100 percent, and he'll be the anchor of this unit. As for the other starter, it'll be Perry's job to lose.

    He has failed to perform like a first-round pick in his two years in the league, and this will likely be his last chance to make an impact. Luckily, the Packers can replace Perry with Neal should the third-year player continue to struggle.

    The real interesting player at this position is Hubbard, who went undrafted in this year's draft. He has an extremely high ceiling and could reach it rather quickly. It wouldn't be a surprise at all to see him starting before the regular season is over.

    There's no doubt that the talent is there for this group to make a huge impact for the Packers this year. 

Cornerbacks

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    Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

    Projected on Final Roster: Tramon Williams (Starter), Sam Shields (Starter), Casey Hayward (Starter), Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Demetri Goodson (R)

    Few positions on the Packers roster have the depth that the cornerbacks are projected to have. It's not just the fact that Green Bay has three talented starters, they also have three solid backups to work with.

    Now it might be a stretch to call Goodson a "solid backup" since he's never played a down, but the former Baylor cornerback is loaded with potential. As for House and Bush, both players have seen significant time on the field the past few seasons.

    With the starters, the Packers have to be pleased with the possibilities of this group. Both Williams and Shields were playing strong football near the end of last year, and they both have proven they can be legitimate shutdown cornerbacks. Hayward missed most of last year with a hamstring injury but was stellar during his rookie campaign.

    There's a lot to like about the group of cornerbacks the Packers are putting on the field during the 2014 season. They should be one of the better positional groups in the league.

Safeties

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Projected on Final Roster: Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Starter/Rookie), Morgan Burnett (Starter), Micah Hyde, Sean Richardson

    Last year's weakest position could be one of the strongest this year thanks to some changes the Packers made. It started with cutting Jerron McMillian and passing on re-signing M.D. Jennings.

    Then the Packers went out and drafted Clinton-Dix, the best safety in this year's draft. His presence will slide Burnett back over to strong safety, where he'll be much more comfortable.

    The Packers also have quality depth behind Burnett and Clinton-Dix with Hyde making the switch from cornerback to safety. He proved last year that he could excel as more of a hybrid safety, which he'll have a chance to do now.

    The safeties were a huge reason why the Packers defense struggled so much last year. If this group can play up to their full potential, then the Packers should be set defensively for the 2014 season.

Specialists

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    Nam Y. Huh/Associated Press

    Projected on Final Roster: Mason Crosby (Kicker), Tim Masthay (Punter), Brett Goode (Long Snapper)

    All three of the specialists from last year should have no trouble making the final roster for the 2014 season. In fact, the Packers don't currently have anyone on their roster to even challenge for these positions.

    Now it's certainly possible that the Packers bring in some competition during training camp or the preseason, but that'd be quite the surprise. Crosby, Masthay and Goode were all solid last year, so they certainly deserve to keep their jobs.

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