Ranking the Packers' Top 5 Sleepers to Watch in Camp
One of the biggest reasons I enjoy going to training camp for the Green Bay Packers is to watch the undrafted rookies. The 2014 training camp will be no different when it opens up in a little over two weeks from now.
Last summer before camp opened, I correctly predicted that the Packers would keep three players on the regular-season roster in 2013. They were guard Lane Taylor, outside linebacker Andy Mulumba and wide receiver Myles White.
The year before that, I had my eye on offensive lineman Don Barclay. I had been studying him for a while, even before the 2012 NFL draft. I actually had the Packers taking Barclay in one of my mock drafts.
I also liked safety Sean Richardson as well, as I wrote a story about some of the 2012 undrafted rookies who intrigued me, which included Barclay and Richardson.
That's why I'm anxious to see some of the undrafted rookies from the class of 2014 on the practice field. You really can't determine how good a player can be until the helmets and pads are on, and the real hitting starts.
In this slideshow, I'm listing a number of undrafted rookies who I believe have a chance to make the team, or at least the practice squad. I'm not mentioning some obvious choices like tight end Colt Lyerla or linebacker Adrian Hubbard, both of whom I believe will make the final roster of the Packers.
Instead I'm focusing on some other players who have the talent to make the team. But all the talent in the world won't help you if you don't perform well at training camp and in preseason games.
Linebacker Jake Doughty
The Packers didn't draft an inside linebacker in the 2014 NFL draft. That surprised a number of people, including myself. The Packers did, however, sign a couple of undrafted rookies who can play the position, one of whom is Jake Doughty of Utah State.
Doughty had a good four-year career at Utah State, where current Wisconsin Badger head coach Gary Andersen was his coach for three years with the Aggies. Doughty had very nice numbers, as he had 305 tackles, 20.5 tackles for a loss, three sacks, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
The 6'0", 234-pound Doughty was also named MVP in Utah State's win over Northern Illinois in the Poinsettia Bowl.
No. 45 is very intelligent, as well, as he was a four-time all-conference academic selection. Doughty also has nice speed, clocking a 4.56 40 at his pro day.
Another player to watch as an undrafted rookie inside linebacker is Joe Thomas of South Carolina State. The 6'1", 227-pound Thomas was a tackling machine in college, as he had 272 tackles, 31 tackles for a loss, 11.5 sacks, four interceptions, three fumble recoveries and two forced fumbles.
Offensive Lineman John Fullington
In the past two years, one undrafted rookie offensive lineman made the final roster of the Packers. In 2012, Don Barclay made the team. In 2013, it was Lane Taylor who made the final roster.
In 2014, it could be John Fullington of Washington State. The 6'5", 308-pound Fullington started as a true freshman for the Cougars and ended up starting in 43 straight games.
Like many of the offensive linemen that Green Bay looks at in the draft, versatility is one of Fullington's attributes, as No. 79 had 27 starts at guard and 16 starts at tackle.
Another offensive lineman that the Packers will look closely at is guard Jordan McCray of Central Florida. The 6'3", 322-pound McCray is very strong at the point of attack and excels in run blocking. McCray will wear No. 62.
Running Back LaDarius Perkins
With the recent release of running back Johnathan Franklin due to a neck injury, the chances of an undrafted rookie running back making the team increased a bit. One can never have too many good backs in today's NFL, even if they are stashed on the practice squad.
The opportunity in training camp will be there for running back LaDarius Perkins of Mississippi State. The 5'7", 195-pound Perkins also put up some pretty nice numbers in the toughest conference in college football, the SEC, as he rushed for 2,554 yards, had 714 receiving yards and 25 total touchdowns.
No. 36 also returned both kickoffs and punts for the Bulldogs. That could be a big factor if Perkins does indeed make the final roster of the Packers.
Another undrafted running back who has a chance to make the team is Rajion Neal of Tennessee. The 5'11", 220-pound Neal had some nice numbers in the SEC as well, as he had 2,163 yards rushing (4.9 average) and 19 touchdowns.
No. 34 is also a very good receiver, as he had 66 receptions for 626 yards and five more touchdowns.
Safety Tanner Miller
In the 2013 season, the Packers saw their safeties make too many mistakes, whether it was with blown coverages or missed tackles.
That's why it's important to have a safety who knows precisely what to do on a given play and also makes sure others are lined up correctly.
That's why someone like safety Tanner Miller of Iowa would have a chance to make the final roster of the Packers, or at least make the practice squad.
Why? No. 40 is pretty smart. He scored pretty well on the Wonderlic test. The 6'1", 211-pound Miller also had a nice career at Iowa, where he played with current Packer Micah Hyde for three years.
In the last three years with the Hawkeyes, Miller had 215 tackles, seven tackles for a loss, seven interceptions (one for a touchdown), 13 passes defended and three forced fumbles.
Miller also ran a 4.59 40 at his pro day.
Linebacker Jayrone Elliott
As I mentioned on the opening page of this slideshow, undrafted rookie outside linebacker Adrian Hubbard of Alabama has a good chance to make the final roster of the Packers. That's if he plays like he did with the Crimson Tide.
Another undrafted rookie outside linebacker who might open some eyes is Jayrone Elliott of Toledo. The 6'3", 255-pound Elliott had a terrific senior season for Toledo, as he had 70 tackles, 14 tackles for a loss, nine sacks and five forced fumbles.
If No. 47 can duplicate that type of performance in training camp for the Packers, the team will have a tough time not putting him on the final 53-man roster.