Ranking the Packers Roster: 50-1

Following our look at players 90-51 on the Packers roster, here are the top 50 players as the team heads toward training camp.

41-50: Geoff Gray’s got a good grasp on guard

Gary: You’ve got an undrafted rookie free agent, Geoff Gray, here over veteran offensive linemen like Lucas Patrick and Don Barclay. What about Gray makes him an appealing offensive lineman?

Jon: Short answer: athleticism. Longer answer: He’s very, very, very, very, very athletic for an offensive lineman.

According to our data, Geoff Gray is more athletic than any offensive lineman drafted during the Ted Thompson era other than Jason Spriggs, and his numbers almost matched what Spriggs did at the combine. Spriggs ran and jumped like a skill position player and Gray almost matched him, despite weighing in the neighborhood of 10 to 15 pounds more. That’s intriguing, if nothing else.

We’ve both got a couple young defensive backs in this tier. Who makes the bigger splash: the very athletic Josh Hawkins or the big and athletic Marwin Evans?

Gary: Between the two, I’m taking Evans. Sure, I may be a tad biased because Evans is from Wisconsin, but no matter. Evans stepped up and played well after Kentrell Brice went down with an injury in the NFC Championship Game. Had Evans made the catch on a leaping interception, I think many would view him in a brighter light heading into 2017. I’m not holding the drop against him, and have him inside the top 53 on my list.

31-40: Richard Rodgers and third-string tight ends

Jon: I see a lot of similarity in our rankings of 31-40, but Richard Rodgers catches my eye the most. He’s not a real physical prospect and I wonder about his special teams value. Is it good enough to have consistent hands and only consistent hands if you’re going to be the number three tight end?

Gary: If there’s an offense where you could be a third-string tight end with and only with consistent hands, Green Bay is probably it. The additions of Martellus Bennett and Lance Kendricks are going to force Rodgers to have to take his blocking to the next level if he wants to see the field. There’s certainly room for him on the roster if Rodgers can continue to improve.

Seeing Rollins next to LaDarius Gunter caught me off guard, but I don’t disagree with it. Is it a given that Quinten Rollins makes the roster out of camp this year?

Jon: I wouldn’t say an ironclad, carved in stone given, but I’d be more inclined to bet in favor than against. Rollins, like Damarious Randall, also battled a groin injury last year, which is about the worst injury for a cornerback to have. He may never be a top-flight, lock-down corner, but I think he makes the 53.

21-30: The importance of being a backup quarterback

Gary: It seems like we both value Brett Hundley as a pretty valuable member of the Packers, even if he hasn’t taken a meaningful snap under center in the regular season or postseason. (I wrote about Hundley’s future after trade rumors swirled around the draft.) Why’s he such a valuable member of the Packers?

Jon: A dependable backup quarterback is the most valuable insurance policy in sports. In a sport with as few games as football, teams simply can’t afford to lose any ground with a backup player taking over at the most important position. Aaron Rodgers is the most important player on the Packers, and if he were to go down, Hundley would be responsible for no less than saving the season.

I think it’s interesting that we both pegged Montravius Adams at the same slot. What was your reasoning for putting him 30th?

Gary: It’s a daunting task to rank 90 men from 1-90, and the easiest way I’ve found to do it is to break it up into smaller chunks. I went ten at a time, and couldn’t place Montravius Adams above anyone from 29-21, but also felt he had a leg up on 31-40. The hardest evaluation was between Adams and Ricky Jean Francois. I think the rookie will likely get more opportunities this season, and I think he’s a more valuable piece to the Packers.

11-20: Concern over the depth at offensive line

Jon: First Montravius Adams and now Kenny Clark. We’re really in #synergy on our defensive lineman rankings.

Kenny Clark is getting plenty of positive press through OTAs so far. Do you think he makes a big jump this year?

Gary: He’s so young, Jon. Clark is still going to be the youngest player on the roster this season. I’m not sure how big of a jump he’s going to make in year two, but he’s going to be an important part of the Packers defense this season. The line’s leader is unquestionably Mike Daniels, but Clark impressed me against the Cowboys in the playoffs. I think he has the brightest future of anyone on this list.

How concerned are you with the depth at offensive line heading into the season? You have Jahri Evans, who couldn’t make the dismal Seahawks roster last season, pretty high on this list.

Jon: Somewhere between pretty concerned and very concerned. I don’t think there’s any reason to worry about the starters at each offensive line position. Each has proven himself in his own way already in his career. But if any were to go down, you’d have an untested backup at his spot. Think about this: even if Bryan Bulaga were to switch to left tackle in place of a hypothetically injured David Bakhtiari, he’d still be playing a position he hasn’t played in well over half a decade. That’s a little scary.

1-10: Martellus Bennett over Jordy Nelson?

Gary: I took note of two things about your top ten. First, you’ve got both David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga as the second and third ranked offensive players. Second, you ranked free agent acquisition Martellus Bennett ahead of Jordy Nelson.

Both of these moves are bold – what made you rank the tackles so high and Bennett above Nelson?

Jon: Because of the way Aaron Rodgers plays, his tackles have a uniquely challenging role in the offense, even more so than their counterparts throughout the league. With Rodgers constantly breaking the pocket, Bakhtiari and Bulaga have to be extra-aware of what he’s doing both to keep him safe and to avoid a hold. Plus, the Packers have very little tackle depth, so their value is magnified.

As to Bennett, I have him one slot above Nelson because I think he creates more opportunities for Nelson than Nelson does for Bennett. Their relationship this season will be symbiotic, but I think Bennett ends up benefiting Nelson more than the other way around. It’s a close margin though.

I left Clay Matthews out of my top ten, but he made your cut. Why?

Gary: It’s very hard to rank Clay Matthews because of how much he has meant to this team over the past decade. Matthews has had more than his fair share of games where he almost won the game by himself. That’s near impossible to do as a defensive player.

However, he has not been the same player recently. It hurts to admit it, but he’s lost the edge of his explosive quickness. I can understand where you ranked Matthews, and don’t really disagree with it. I ranked Matthews in the top ten over players like Bennett, Bulaga and Ty Montgomery because he’s a vital part of the defense. The Packers are betting big on Matthews being productive this season, and I’m ranking him accordingly.