4 Undrafted Free Agent Position Battles To Watch
The word is out when it comes to the Packers and undrafted free agents (UDFAs). Every year Ted Thompson brings in 15 to 20 players who weren’t drafted, and every year it seems like two or three end up making the roster.
This year should be no different. More so this year than in years past, Thompson seems to have picked a group that will help make his decisions for him. The UDFA crop has four natural position battles that could end up determining which undrafted players make the roster. Let’s take a quick look at each one.
Inside linebacker - Beniquez Brown vs. Manoa Pikula
Physically very similar (6-0, 238 vs. 6-0 ½, 235, respectively), Brown and Pikula come to the Packers with very different playing backgrounds. Brown went to a much higher profile school (Mississippi State in the lauded SEC), but only played weak side linebacker. Pikula, meanwhile, played most of his time as an inside linebacker in BYU’s 3-4 defense.
Pikula is also considerably more athletic, at least on paper. He runs faster (4.56 in the 40 to Brown’s 4.71), jumps higher (36 ½-inch vertical to Brown’s 31) and benches more (24 reps at 225 to Brown’s 18). With the Packers still in need of coverage from their inside linebackers, Pikula’s athleticism could be a significant edge.
Defensive line - Tyler Kuder vs. Brian Price
The Packers will be perilously short on big bodies early in the season with Mike Pennel out for the first four games due to suspension. That could be a blessing to both Kuder and Price, who (much like Pennel) come from smaller schools not known as football powerhouses.
Kuder is smaller than Price (6-3, 310 vs. 6-2 ½, 325), but he’s incredibly strong. He set the school bench press record at Idaho State with 505 pound lift, and also squatted 685.
Price seems to fit into Pennel’s role as a pure run stuffer, but he may not be quite as much of a pile-pusher. He only posted 20 reps at 225 in the bench press. He also has a semi-concerning injury, missing two games last season after an injection to treat a bulging disc.
Running Back - Brandon Burks vs. Don Jackson vs. Brandon Ross
The only three man battle on this list, these running backs may not actually have a job to fight for. John Crockett is out there as well, and he already spent some time on the active roster. Still, if the Packers’ brain trust thought he had the job locked up, these three wouldn’t even be here.
Burks is just 5-8 ½ and doesn’t have explosive speed (4.56 in the 40), but he was productive at Troy. Scouts praised his pass protection and “pure running” skill.
Jackson was even more productive at Nevada, scoring 19 touchdowns in his two years as a starter and averaging 4.5 yards per carry. He, too, isn’t that big or fast (5-10 ½, 4.49)
Ross is a late pickup, joining the Packers from Maryland. He allegedly ran as low as a 4.37 in the 40, but even his highlight tape doesn’t show that kind of speed. However, Ross played in the toughest conference and averaged a whopping 6.4 yards per carry in 2015.
Quarterback - Joe Callahan vs. Marquise Williams
The Packers will almost certainly carry just two quarterbacks this season, saving a roster spot to use elsewhere. That means Callahan and Williams are likely battling for a spot on the practice squad.
Though wildly productive at the DIII level, Callahan is a smallish (6-1, 210) pocket quarterback, running a lineman-esque 4.98. Williams, though not a burner by any means, is much more mobile and put that athleticism to good use: he rushed for more than 2400 yards in his career along with 35 touchdowns. He’s a bit bigger at 6-2 and 218 pounds as well. Developmental potential probably carries the day here.