Highlighting the Packers' Deepest, Thinnest Positions Ahead of 2014 Season
General manager Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers he uses a modus operandi in putting together the roster. The Packers are truly a draft-and-develop team, and the current roster reflects that.
Thompson drafted 42 players on the 90-man roster. His other means of bringing in talent is by signing street free agents or undrafted rookie free agents. There are 43 players on the roster who were acquired that way.
In addition, he has brought in three other players (Jarrett Bush, John Kuhn and Chris Harper) via waivers.
Yes, Thompson will occasionally sign pure free agents like he did earlier this year when he inked Julius Peppers and Letroy Guion, but that has rarely occurred during his 10-year regime in Green Bay.
The bottom line is that he has put together some very good depth and talent at certain positions for the Packers.
I'm going to list three of those position groups in this slideshow. I'm also going to list a couple of position groups that for now are lacking a bit in those areas.
The Packers have a very nice set of quarterbacks now. The team learned the hard way last year that quality depth is very important at the position.
Aaron Rodgers is one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL and is capable of winning his second NFL MVP award in 2014, after missing almost half of the 2013 season due to a fractured clavicle.
Matt Flynn saved the season last year and is a very solid backup. He is a modern-day Zeke Bratkowski. Some in Packer Nation remember how well Bratkowski played at quarterback in the 1960s when Bart Starr was unable to play.
Scott Tolzien has a better arm than Flynn, but he hasn't mastered the mental portion of the offense yet.
Rookie Chase Rettig is the fourth arm in camp and will be trying to impress the coaches enough to make the practice squad.
I expect the Packers to keep three quarterbacks on their roster in 2014, especially after what occurred last season. Both Flynn and Tolzien will be unrestricted free agents in 2015.
- Eddie Lacy
- James Starks
- DuJuan Harris
- Johnathan Franklin
- Michael Hill
- Rajion Neal (rookie)
- LaDarius Perkins (rookie)
It's funny how the depth and talent at the running back position have changed in just a couple of seasons. In 2012 the Packers were using running backs like Cedric Benson, Alex Green and Ryan Grant, along with James Starks and DuJuan Harris.
Starks and Harris are still in Green Bay, along with Eddie Lacy, who won the 2013 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year award last season.
Lacy will continue to be the bell cow at running back for the Packers, but Starks stayed healthy for the most part last season and was very solid in relief of Lacy.
In Lacy and Starks, the Packers have a very good combination at running back, as they combined for 1,671 yards rushing and 14 touchdowns last year. They also combined for 45 catches for 346 more yards and another touchdown.
At the end of the 2012 season, Harris had become the best back on the team, but he missed last season due to a knee injury. He is an excellent change-of-pace back.
The Packers also have second-year back Johnathan Franklin, who flashed some nice potential in a game against the Bengals last season. He has not been able to practice recently at the OTAs due to a neck injury.
The rest of the backs on the depth chart will be battling for spots on the practice squad.
I expect the Packers to keep at least three running backs on the roster and possibly four, to go along with fullback John Kuhn.
- Jordy Nelson
- Randall Cobb
- Jarrett Boykin
- Davante Adams (rookie)
- Jared Abbrederis (rookie)
- Jeff Janis (rookie)
- Chris Harper
- Myles White
- Ken Dorsey
- Alex Gillett
Even after losing two very productive wide receivers (Greg Jennings and James Jones) to free agency over the past two seasons, the cupboard at the wide receiver position is definitely not bare for the Packers.
In fact, it's still oozing with talent.
It starts with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, who both are eligible to become unrestricted free agents in 2015. Both of them have continued to get better in their time in Green Bay and are definite playmakers.
Jarrett Boykin had a breakthrough season in 2013, which was just his second in the league.
Behind those three receivers, the Packers already had some young talent with players like Chris Harper and Myles White, but the team drafted three more wide receivers in the 2014 NFL draft.
Davante Adams, Jared Abbrederis and Jeff Janis all were exceptional in college football and have a chance to make the final roster.
In fact, I believe that the Packers will keep six wide receivers on the roster this season. And don't be surprised if all three of the drafted wideouts make the team.
The other young receivers have to shine in training camp and stay healthy if they expect to have a chance to make the roster. Otherwise, the practice squad will be their next best option.
- A.J. Hawk
- Brad Jones
- Jamari Lattimore
- Sam Barrington
- Carl Bradford (rookie)
- Jake Doughty (rookie)
- Joe Thomas (rookie)
Some people were a bit surprised, me included, that the Packers did not address the inside linebacker position in the 2014 NFL draft.
They were ranked 25th in rushing defense in the NFL last season. Part of the problem was the defensive line play, but the inside linebackers were not very effective either at times in stopping the run.
A.J. Hawk did have one of the better seasons of his career in 2013, but the other inside backer position did not play up to par with both Brad Jones and Jamari Lattimore manning the spot.
The Packers are very high on second-year linebacker Sam Barrington, so don't be surprised if he ends up as a starter this year.
They drafted Carl Bradford in the 2014 NFL draft, but the plan is to use him more on the outside at linebacker. That being said, he has the ability to become a very solid inside linebacker.
The team also brought in both Jake Doughty and Joe Thomas as undrafted rookie free agents, but they would have to be exceptional in training camp to make the team. But you never know, as Lattimore made the team that way when he was an undrafted rookie free agent in 2011.
Most likely, however, I expect either Doughty or Thomas to end up on the practice squad.
- J.C. Tretter
- Corey Linsley (rookie)
- Garth Gerhart
- Don Barclay
For the fourth time in four seasons, the Packers will have a different starting center snapping the ball to Aaron Rodgers at the beginning of the season.
Evan Dietrich-Smith was the latest to leave, as he went to the Bucs via free agency earlier this year.
That opens the door for J.C. Tretter to become the heir apparent at the position. The Packers love his smarts and quickness. No. 73 broke his ankle at an early OTA last year in his rookie season, but he did return to the roster later in the season, although he did not get any playing time.
He will be pushed by rookie Corey Linsley, who is very strong. At the NFL Scouting Combine, he had 36 reps in the bench press and can lift more than 500 pounds on the bench as well, per NFL.com. He was also a first-team All-Big Ten center in 2013 at Ohio State.
The Packers also have Garth Gerhart on hand to compete. He was on the practice squad in both 2012 and 2013.
Don Barclay could also get some reps at center, much as he did last training camp before injuries forced him to return to right tackle. The Packers view him as a better inside player on the offensive line, so expect to see him getting reps at both center and guard this training camp.