Roster prediction: Breaking down Packers' 53
This is all a numbers game. There are 16 practices. Five preseason games. Forty days until final cuts.
Then the Green Bay Packers' roster will be trimmed to 53.
Camp may go by fast, but it is an eternity. A lot can happen between now and then. Most of it is impossible to foresee in the final week of July.
Regardless, here’s an attempt to look into that crystal ball and tell the future. With training camp set to open, read our stab at the Packers’ projected 53-man roster. Then, make sure you become the general manager with our RosterBuilder.
QB (2): Aaron Rodgers, Brett Hundley
The Packers showed confidence in Hundley backing up their MVP quarterback when they allowed former backup Scott Tolzien to sign with the Indianapolis Colts this offseason. The organization views Hundley as a future NFL starter, and he could become a valuable trade chip down the line. Hundley should only benefit from learning behind Rodgers.
RB (3): Eddie Lacy, James Starks, John Crockett
Has Lacy slimmed down? It is arguably the single biggest question to answer when training camp opens. Lacy’s playing weight was in the mid-250s last season, and he lost roughly 10 pounds before reporting for organized team activities. That’s about halfway to the 234 pounds he was listed as a rookie in 2013. Clearly, there was more work to do over the past few weeks.
If Lacy once again reports to training camp out of shape, it could be another busy season for backup Starks. A seventh-year veteran, Starks is a reliable commodity in the Packers' backfield.
Behind Lacy and Starks, it’s unclear what the Packers have in a third running back. Right now, Crockett is the leader in the group, but there could be competition between Crockett and undrafted free agent Brandon Burks. The Packers released undrafted free agent Don Jackson on Monday.
FB (1): Aaron Ripkowski
Ripkowski should be more than ready to replace John Kuhn, whose knowledge of the offense was valuable last season. Barring injury, the job is Ripkowski’s entering 2016. Keeping one fullback will provide easier decisions in other corners of the roster, namely …
WR (7): Jordy Nelson, Randall Cobb, Davante Adams, Jeff Janis, Ty Montgomery, Jared Abbrederis, Trevor Davis
It is certainly realistic — if not likely — the Packers will do what hasn’t been done under Ted Thompson. Since he became general manager in 2005, the Packers have never kept seven receivers on their initial 53-man roster. Most years, they keep five.
This summer could be different because 1) there’s a swell of underdeveloped, drafted receiver talent acquired the past few seasons, 2) there isn’t much separation between Nos. 3 and 7 and 3) receivers provide special teams value that make them multidimensional on a 53-man roster.
Expect Adams to get the first crack at the No. 3 job, but Janis isn’t far behind and could earn that role sooner or later. The Packers like Montgomery’s versatility and Abbrederis’ reliability. Davis could be a practice squad option if he underwhelms in the preseason, but his speed could be enough to crack the roster.
TE (3): Jared Cook, Richard Rodgers, Mitchell Henry
Another position where the Packers could save a spot and add an extra receiver. Between Cook and Rodgers, the Packers have a full set of receiving skills for the tight end position. Cook is big, fast and can stretch the field vertically; Rodgers big, sure-handed and can be a red zone threat.
What neither does particularly well is block. Expect the third tight end job to go to the best blocker in camp.
OT (3): David Bakhtiari, Bryan Bulaga, Jason Spriggs
JSpriggs was drafted to give the Packers insurance at the tackle position next season, but his time could come sooner than that. Bakhtiari and Bulaga have the starting jobs locked up, but both missed games because of injury in 2015. In Spriggs, the Packers hope they at least have a solid No. 3 option this fall.
OG (4): Josh Sitton, T.J. Lang, Lane Taylor, Don Barclay
The Packers have arguably the league’s best guard tandem in Sitton and Lang, plus the ability to plug in JC Tretter at either spot. Taylor provides more depth, as he showed in a spot start last season against the Minnesota Vikings. The interior of the Packers' offensive line should be in good shape. One of the final roster spots could come down to Barclay, Kyle Murphy or Matt Rotheram. The Packers, in a Super Bowl-or-bust year, could go with the veteran and stash the younger linemen on their practice squad.
C (2): Corey Linsley, JC Tretter
Linsley has played better than the Packers could have expected in his first two seasons, and there’s every reason to believe he will do so again. But the Packers have a luxury at the center position, with Tretter also capable of locking down the starting job. One of the strongest positions on the Packers roster.
DL (6): Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry, Christian Ringo, Brian Price
There are two positions on the Packers' defensive line not occupied by Daniels, and both could have competition. Expect Guion to play five-tech defensive end, similar to 2015, though he was better as an interior defender in 2014. Clark should be a plug-and-replace starter filling in for the retired B.J. Raji, and it will be interesting to see whether he teams up with Daniels on the interior in the Packers' nickel.
Behind those three, a lot of factors are up in the air. Mike Pennel will miss the first four games after being suspended for violating the league’s substance-abuse policy, opening a spot through the season’s first month. Lowry, a fourth-round pick, should provide depth at defensive end. The Packers hope Ringo is ready to play on the interior after spending last season on the practice squad.
Defensive line is ripe for an undrafted rookie to earn a roster job, as is the case in most years under Thompson. The Packers like Price’s size, athleticism and upside.
OLB (7): Julius Peppers, Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Datone Jones, Jayrone Elliott, Kyler Fackrell, Lerentee McCray
The plan is for Matthews to be a full-time outside linebacker this season, though he could also step inside in a pinch. Matthews and Peppers could provide bookend edge rushers, something that has been lacking. Perry and Jones give the Packers strength against the run, while Elliott must improve his run defense to find more snaps. Camp should also reveal what the Packers have in third-round rookie Fackrell and offseason acquisition McCray.
ILB (3): Jake Ryan, Blake Martinez, Sam Barrington
Want a bold prediction? Not only will Martinez be the Packers' nickel and dime linebacker to start the season but he’ll also be a starter in their 3-4 base defense. Martinez impressed this offseason while taking exclusive first-team reps. The hope is he has good range in pass coverage and is a good complement for fellow inside linebacker Ryan, a more traditional thumper. In Barrington, the Packers have much-needed depth in the middle of their defense, something that’s been missing for a while.
CB (5): Sam Shields, Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, LaDarius Gunter, Makinton Dorleant
The Packers will most likely keep five cornerbacks, and the first four are locks. Along with Shields, Randall and Rollins should be ready for starting snaps. Gunter could be one of the most improved players on the entire roster.
Cornerback is another position ripe for an undrafted rookie, with Demetri Goodson suspended the first four games for violating the league’s policy against performance-enhancing drugs. It’s a toss-up as to who fills the No. 5 cornerback role, but Dorleant is well thought of in the scouting community.
S (4): Morgan Burnett, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Micah Hyde, Chris Banjo
Three years ago, this was perhaps the biggest weakness on the Packers roster. Give Thompson — and position coach Darren Perry — credit for remaking the safety position. Burnett and Clinton-Dix have ascended into being one of the league’s better back-end duos. Hyde is a Swiss-army knife in the Packers secondary, while Banjo provides clear value on special teams.
P (1): Tim Masthay
The Packers would appear to want stiff competition for Masthay after his troubles in the playoffs last season, but the guess here is Peter Mortell won’t quite beat out the veteran.
K (1): Mason Crosby
A new $4-million-per-year kicker, and worth every penny.
LS (1): Rick Lovato
A new era begins with Lovato replacing Brett Goode.