Well here we are just days into the start of another season. News reports have placed some Packer players in a bad light this offseason. Two with a suspension to start the season and one with a suspension to be named later. Not a good off season for that nonsense at all. All I’ll say about that is “Stupid is as Stupid does”.
Even with those distractions the Packers might have the best roster in the NFL. And one of the toughest to make. If there were NFL betting lines for some of these players making the Packers’ roster, the term “longshot” would certainly be appropriate.
The entire starting offense and many backups are back, the first time since the mid 1960’s that has happened.
The defensive line will have a lot of competition and thankfully so will the Inside linebacker position. This is also the first season Ted Thompson has drafted prospects for the same position #1 and #2.
This year the team has signed 18 UDFA’s to the 90 man roster from the 2015 draft class. I believe UDFA’s will have the hardest time yet under GM Ted Thompson to make the 53 man roster, not because of their talent, but the development of UDFA’s from the 2014 season. Lets look at a few that might make it to the 53 man roster this year and maybe a couple from last year that did not make the 53 in 2014.
We all know the inside linebacker position needed rebuilding more then any spot on the team. The best possible thing that could happen is finding two starters that keep Matthews at OLB other then special packages. Matthews play there last year was impressive for a player that never played the position before. Much of that IMO came from his basic athletic ability. And lets be honest Hawk lost what ever athletic ability he had and Jones had some athletic ability but little instincts.
There are a few interesting undrafted linebacker prospects out of those 18 UDFA’s. Tavarus Dantzler looks promising at ILB. He played OLB at the Bethune-Cookman, the same school that brought the Packers Nick Collins. Dantzler has some physical attributes comparable to Matthews coming into the NFL. Both 6-3, 240#. Dantzler’s 40 time, quickness, vert and long jump are nearly mirror images of Matthews pre draft testing, where the comparison ends is in agility. Matthews numbers are off the charts with agility numbers you see for a DB. Dantzlers agility numbers are in line with the ILB’s drafted in the 2015 draft.
He reads plays well, reads and reacts. Shows the ability to take on a blocker and shed that blocker. Good timing at the line of scrimmage. Quickness is very evident. He could possibly plays some OLB also. I really want to see him in coverage and having played OLB does he have some pass rush at ILB.
The other linebacker worth watching this pre season is James Vaughters 6-2 254# he has some skills, not the greatest athlete, but he is smart and knows where he needs to be. The one thing he does have is special teams ability. And on the 2015 team that is going to help a lower end of the roster player more then anything. His biggest obstacles are two 2013 UDFA’s, one that made the 53 man roster in Jayrone Elliott and the other Adrian Hubbard. Hubbard has everything you look for in a 3-4 OLB, but he lacked strength and needed to find out he was just another player trying to make it in the NFL. This off season has been very positive for Hubbard and I for one will be keeping a close eye on him. Same with Elliott, he flashed ability in the Pre Season and improved on special teams over the season.
With Harris leaving, the Running back position will have a number of UDFA’s fighting for a spot on the 53 man roster. My leader in the club house is Rajion Neal another of the 2014 UDFA’s. The Packers signed two interesting RB’s to compete for that 3rd RB spot. Of those two I like John Crocket the best, a highly productive 6-0 217# RB from North Dakota State. He was the #2 all time in total yards for the Bison. He shows good vision, excellent feet and a good cut back and jump cut. Balance is above average, and he is a decent receiver out of the back field. My only thing is not seeing him break tackles or use a stiff arm very well.
Tight End is getting a lot of press with one of the Suspension “stupid is as stupid does” players coming from that group. I really like one of the 2014 UDFA’s Justin Perillo, watching him play last year he has the ability to get more playing time. My 2015 UDFA TE is Mitchell Henry, 6-4 254# Western Kentucky. I think he is a better prospect in time then Kennard Backman who was drafted in the 6th round. Backman is just slightly faster in the forty and just slightly quicker, Henry is better every where else. We are talking difference of .02 in speed and quickness.
With time I think Henry could become a total TE, inline, move, Hback. Sorry not much for Western Kentucky TE highlights out there.
Out of the offensive linemen UDFA’s, I like is Vince Kowalski a 6-4 305# OT from Villanova. First you got to love the name. That sounds like a Linemen. His testing numbers are good, nothing special. But watching him play you just got love guys like that. He sure knows how to finish a block.
Every year going into the Training camp the fans are fired up about this player or that player. I am fired up about the competition that is going to start when some real hitting goes on. It is going to be tough to keep their jobs for some, and it is going to be hard to be a back up in many positions.
I’m ready how about you?
Don “Yoop” Christensen is an annual contributor to Packers.com. He delights in finding potential sleepers in the draft and especially UDFAs. He can usually be found hanging around the Packers forum, TalkinPackers.