One of the staples of the Ted Thompson era was the undrafted free agent making good in the NFL. Whether it was Sam Shields, Lane Taylor, or Geronimo Allison, the Packers could always be counted on to find a diamond in the rough who would make an impact.
However, that won’t be the case in 2018. With new leadership in Brian Gutekunst, the Packers have been more aggressive in patching holes in free agency, especially at positions where undrafted guys have made impacts in the past. Throw in 11 Drafted Rookies as well and it’s now extremely hard for the 2018 undrafted class to make it to the Final 53.
Primarily, the undrafted players have been most successful in Green Bay if they were a receiver, tight end, offensive lineman, or defensive back. But this year, the front office made a concerted effort to bolster all four of those position groups with Draft Picks and Free Agents who will have a significant leg up on those who didn’t hear their name Draft weekend.
There are a few guys who could make it this year. Kevin Rader and Ryan Smith had to be loving their chances of making it as a third tight end, but the addition of Marcedes Lewis has pretty much squashed that opportunity. The same can be said for someone like Tyler Lancaster or Connor Sheehy. Both guys got an increased signing bonus but are blocked by Muhammad Wilkerson, James Looney, and Montravius Adams.
Even at long snapper, Zach Triner was probably thinking he could be in good shape to make. Then Hunter Bradley was drafted in the sixth round. It’s been uncanny how much the undrafted guys, no matter how talented they are, have been blocked by veterans and Draft Picks this year.
The only spot on offense where I can see a UDFA make the team would be on the interior of the offensive line. Austin Davis got a nice signing bonus to join the team and compete for the backup center job behind Corey Linsley. But he’s in competition with waiver pickup Dillon Day and his former teammate Lucas Patrick for the job. Patrick has a leg up on both with his versatility and experience, and Day may have an edge just because he was brought in at the end of last season.
The only defensive guy who has a better than 30% shot at making the team might by CJ Johnson as a pass rusher, but that’s likely only if Kendall Donnerson and/or Chris Odom falter in camp.
If Johnson, Davis, or other offensive lineman like Jacob Aldasek or Alex Light don’t make it on the 53, then the 2018 Packers will buck the trend that has lasted for over a decade: no undrafted rookies will make the team.——————
Mike Wendlandt is originally from Iola, Wisconsin and graduated from Drake University in 2015 with a degree in History. With a significant journalism background both in writing and broadcasting, Mike can be heard as the play-by-play voice of Central Wisconsin High School sports on WDUX FM 92.7 and on Twitter @MikeWendlandt.
Mike Wendlandt is a writer covering the Green Bay Packers for PackersTalk.com.