Green Bay Packers Depth Chart: Gameday Roster Predictions Following the Draft
Uncertainty and frustration have filled the air following the 2011 NFL draft. The lockout was stopped for a day, but now resumes, tormenting we fans for at least another month.
But through it all, there is still hope, and while history shows it may be longer than we want, the lockout will end, and this hope shines like a beacon through all the doubt and deceit.
And we all know that hope cures writer's block.
So, here are the predictions for the Green Bay Packers 53-man game-day roster for the 2011 NFL regular season.
Let’s break down the positions.
1. Aaron Rodgers, California
2. Matt Flynn, LSU
3. Graham Harrell, Texas Tech
The Packers did not pick up another quarterback in the 2011 draft, and while it was noted that they may or should, I am not the least bit surprised that they did not.
Flynn will stay for another season unless a team throws up a first-round pick, which I find unlikely after the draft and with what will be available come free agency.
Also, Harrell is much more capable than originally thought. The Packers like what they have in Harrell and ultimately feel comfortable moving forward once Flynn leaves.
Look for the Pack to sign an undrafted free agent to the practice squad to provide a little depth.
Running Backs: 3
1. Ryan Grant, Notre Dame
2. James Starks, Buffalo
3. Alex Green, Hawaii
Enter Alex Green, exit Brandon Jackson. Jackson is an excellent third-down back. Most people do not see his true value because he could not handle every-down responsibility, but Jackson is just as important as Ryan Grant or James Starks in his respective role.
It is for this reason that he will leave for a larger contract. Catching out of the backfield, picking up blitzes, dishing out blocking assignments and taking the draw for a five-yard gain when the opponent is in dime—these are the attributes of Brandon Jackson. These will have to be the attributes of Alex Green to make this offense effective.
Think back to the Super Bowl:
Third-and-long and Nelson is left wide open on the same route as the previous play as LeBeau blitzes heavily to the right. Nelson catches a zinger from Rodgers and almost takes it to the house.
Great effort and timing by Rodgers and Nelson? Yeah, sure. Even better effort by Jackson and the right side of the line knowing their assignments to man up and give Rodgers time? Absolutely.
Green has the skill set and experience to fill the role with the right coaching. He will have some growing pains, but all in all, his ceiling is higher than Jackson's and he'll be necessary once the injury bug bites again.
1. John Kuhn, Shippensburg
2. Quinn Johnson, LSU
3. Ryan Taylor, North Carolina
Ryan Taylor gets drafted to upgrade Korey Hall. I know that Thompson confirmed that Taylor was going to be a TE, but we will see as we get closer to the fall.
Taylor is very similar to Hall as an ex-linebacker, will thrive on special teams and has the hands to be productive catching out of the backfield.
Crabtree is the blocking TE, Taylor is a FB.
Wide Receivers: 5
1. Greg Jennings, Western Michigan
2. Jordy Nelson, Kansas St.
3. Donald Driver, Alcorn St.
4. Randall Cobb, Kentucky
5. (Brett Swain)/Undrafted FA (San Diego St.)
James Jones leaves for a more lucrative contract offer and is immediately filled by Wildcat rookie Randall Cobb. Cobb has all of the tools to succeed and will flourish when given the opportunity. Great hands, excellence after the catch and supreme quickness will have opposing defenses running in circles to try and thwart this Packer offensive attack armed with Jennings, Nelson, Cobb and Finley.
Nelson surpasses the aging Donald Driver on the depth chart and will never look back.
Swain is boring, yet productive and may make the team because, for the money, Green Bay may not be able to find a more effective fifth wide receiver that can also play special teams. Cobb is our returner so the fifth receiver will need to be one with excellent hands, and Swain’s are good enough.
Tight Ends: 4
1. Jermicheal Finley, Texas
2. D.J. Williams, Arkansas
3. Andrew Quarless, Penn St.
4. Tom Crabtree, Miami(Ohio)
Donald Lee was cut earlier this offseason and D.J. Williams, the high character and productive rookie for Arkansas, fills the role of H-type TE admirably. His versatility bumps him ahead of talented-but-raw Quarless, who does not improve enough to hold his spot.
Crabtree continues to improve and sees decent playing time on offense and special teams.
Finley, of course, is the starter, and will hopefully make it through a full season so that all this talk of potential can finally turn into genuine productivity.
Offensive Line: 9
1. Chad Clifton, Tennessee
2. Derek Sherrod, Mississippi St.
1. T.J. Lang, Eastern Michigan
2. Nick McDonald, Grand Valley St.
1. Scott Wells, Tennessee
2. Nick McDonald, Grand Valley St.
1. Josh Sitton, Central Florida
2. Caleb Schlauderaff, Utah
1. Bryan Bulaga, Iowa
2. Marshall Newhouse, TCU
Both Colledge and Spitz will leave for higher-paying contracts and the Packers like what they see in T.J. Lang and Nick McDonald to move forward.
Shlauderaff makes the team as a backup and will probably never see on-field action.
Also, look for Sherrod to make a temporary shift to RT and have Bulaga bump to guard until Clifton retires. This would ensure that the five most capable offensive linemen are on the field at the same time, something which will improve a lacking running game and help keep Rodgers upright and concussion-free.
Mason Crosby, Colorado
While inconsistent, Crosby is better than any other option at this time. And really, Crosby performed quite well last year. He had his familiar hiccup, but I’d take him over 85 percent of kickers in the league today.
Randall Cobb, Kentucky
Cobb held in college and gives the Packers an interesting option during field goals and extra points. I mean, why not?
Defensive Line: 6
1. B.J. Raji, Boston College
2. Howard Green, LSU
1. Ryan Picket, Ohio St.
2. Mike Neal, Purdue
3. C.J. Wilson, East Carolina
4. Lawrence Guy, Arizona St.
Johnny Jolly will never play in a Packers uniform again, and likely will never make it back to the NFL (a real shame too, because he had the potential to be an All-Pro). Cullen Jenkins is too old and too expensive to rehire.
Insert upstart ex-rookies Mike Neal and C.J. Wilson. Neal was quite productive before going down with a season-ending injury and Wilson played excellent football down the stretch for an injured Jenkins and as a backup.
Jairus Wynn will once again proceed to his role of practice-squad king, just to eventually make the jump back up to the roster once someone eats it.
Guy will see random action but still needs a full year before he makes any kind of real contribution.
Oh, and Justin Harrell will finally be cut.
Inside Linebackers: 4
1. A.J. Hawk, Ohio St.
2. Desmond Bishop, California
3. Brandon Chillar, UCLA
4. Brad Jones, Colorado
Nick Barnett will be traded this offseason (assuming there is football, of course), leaving Hawk and Bishop to move forward as the well-deserved starters.
Chillar was injured last year but will see a lot of action next year during passing situations and on special teams.
Jones has quietly entered position-change conversation as he is a bit lighter than necessary for a 3-4 OLB while draftee D.J. Smith is too small to fill the role in the NFL.
Outside Linebackers: 4
1. Clay Matthews, USC
2. Frank Zombo, Central Michigan
3. Erik Walden, Middle Tennessee St.
4. Ricky Elmore, Arizona St.
To the dismay of most, the Packers did not make a real attempt to upgrade the OLB position opposite Clay Matthews, but that is OK.
Zombo will only improve next year and will win the starting job in camp over Walden and Elmore. Dom Capers and Kevin Greene think very highly of what they have in Zombo and we will be more than capable next season.
Elmore will show flashes but he needs time to ultimately change positions. Ricky Elmore is the OLB of the future, however; just give him 2-3 years—mark my words.
1. Charles Woodson, Michigan
2. Tramon Williams, Louisiana Tech
3. Sam Shields, Miami
4. Davon House, New Mexico St.
5. Jarrett Bush, Utah St.
Pat Lee and Brandon Underwood are both cut after unsuccessful stints in Green and Gold and failure to reach their ultimate potential.
House is athletic enough and will make the transition to the inside ahead of schedule, making the team because of his tremendous upside.
Bush makes the team again, and while I have always scratched my head when he makes the team and cursed at the T.V. when he blows coverage, with his play in the Super Bowl and consistency on special teams, all is forgiven.
1. Nick Collins, Bethune-Cookman
2. Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech.
3. Charlie Peprah, Alabama
4. Anthony Levine, Tennessee St.
Atari Bigby will get offers elsewhere and we will not pay him his due salary for a backup role.
Anthony Smith will remain on the practice squad or leave in favor of talented Anthony Levine. The Pack would love to keep Smith, but Levine shows too much growth and makes the team to contribute on special teams and in dime when injuries eventually rear their ugly head again.
Punter/Long Snapper: 2
Tim Masthay, Kentucky
Not enough can be said about the masterful job and giant improvement of punting that Masthay accomplished last season. At the beginning of the year, I was calling for his head, but towards the end I was ready to give him the MVP.
We have finally found our punter for years to come.
What a relief it is, ladies and gentlemen.
Brett Goode, Arkansas
Solid long snapper, but more importantly, who is going to jam with A-Rodge during the offseason if he leaves?? Seriously though, a good long snapper is hard to find (I should know, I was one in high school) and Goode is as good as they come.
He is Rob Davis 2.0.
Overview: 22 Starters Among 53 Players
Overview of Starters
QB: Aaron Rodgers
RB: Ryan Grant
FB: John Kuhn
WR: Greg Jennings
WR: Jordy Nelson
TE: Jermicheal Finley
LT: Chad Clifton
LG: T.J. Lang
C: Scott Wells
RG: Josh Sitton
LG: Bryan Bulaga
K: Mason Crosby
KR/PR: Randall Cobb
NT: B.J. Raji
DE: Ryan Picket
DE: Mike Neal
OLB: Clay Matthews
ILB: Desmond Bishop
ILB: A.J. Hawk
OLB: Frank Zombo
CB: Charles Woodson
SS: Morgan Burnett
FS: Nick Collins
CB: Tramon Williams
P: Tim Masthay
Not too much change from last year, which is expected for a team that just won a championship. The Packers have reloaded their roster and look to make another deep playoff run. The additions of the 2011 draft class and players off of injury reserve will help this team hugely and most effectively on special teams, at tight end and at running back.
Also look for Double T to find some more “Sam Shields-esque”-type players as undrafted free agents such as: Marc Schiechl (DE/OLB Colorado School of the Mines), Antareis Bryan (CB Baylor), Willie Smith (OT East Carolina), Collin Mooney (FB Army), Anthony Bratton (S Delaware) and Michael Lockley (LB FAU), to name a few.