The Green Bay Packers had four rookies who made significant contributions to the team in the 2014 season. A handful of others were drafted but, for various reasons, did not have as big of an impact. These nine players who were drafted by Green Bay last year will look to prove themselves in their second season.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Corey Linsley, Richard Rodgers and Davante Adams all played a large portion of the Packers’ snaps last year. The other draftees, Jeff Janis, Jared Abbrederis, Khyri Thornton, Carl Bradford, and Demetri Goodson, were less essential to Green Bay winning the NFC North title.
So what can the Green Bay Packers realistically get from each of last year’s draft picks? When looking at each player, it is clear that there will be both major and minor contributions from these second year players.
Linsley exceeded all expectations during his rookie year in Green Bay. He was drafted in the fifth round to be a backup, but after J.C. Tretter went down with an injury in the preseason, Linsley was forced to become the starting center.
He responded better than the Packers could have hoped. Linsley was rated the fourth best center in the league by Pro Football Focus. He stayed healthy throughout the year, and was the only player to be on the field for every single offensive snap.
There is no reason to expect a regression from Linsley. Both his run blocking and pass protection got better over the course of last season. After going through an offseason where he now expects to be the starter, he will only improve. Linsley will be the starting center in 2015, and has the potential to become a consistent Pro Bowler for the Packers.
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
Clinton-Dix started twelve games last season (including playoffs) and finished with the second most tackles on the team. He can be a ball hawk in the secondary, displaying his potential in the NFC Championship game where he recorded two interceptions. He was on the field for 87 percent of Green Bay’s snaps, which reflects an ability to stay healthy.
is biggest weakness was consistent tackling. Clinton-Dix led the team with 15 missed tackles, but that is something that practice and experience should help easily. The Packers should hope that the game against Seattle was a sign of things to come. It is likely that he plays on par or better than he did last year and will continue to be a solid starter in the Green Bay secondary.
While Clinton-Dix and Linsley are expected to be starters for the Packers, Adams’ role is a little different. He will spend the season as the number three receiver, behind Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb. He flashed brilliance in the games against New England and Dallas, but was invisible at times as well. The Packers can realistically expect Adams to put up solid numbers, but still be a receiver who sees most of his targets when Cobb and Nelson are double teamed.
Rodgers is the first player on this list whose status on the depth chart could change over the course of the offseason. Like Adams, Rodgers had games where he showed his potential. But the starting position is not guaranteed to be his; he will have to battle Andrew Quarless to be the primary tight end.
Rodgers struggled as a blocker, which means that the Packers should expect him to be more of a receiving threat than a do-it-all tight end. His exceptional hands make him an asset, though his impact for the Packers will be determined by his ability to win the position battle with Quarless.
Jeff Janis and Jared Abbrederis
Both of these wide receivers will have a tough time making an impact for the Packers. Janis saw just 15 snaps last season, and Abbrederis was on injured reserve for the entire year. To make their job more difficult, Green Bay drafted another receiver, Ty Montgomery, with their pick in 2015.
Janis is more of a raw talent, while Abbrederis looked to be more suited in a return role. Going into 2015, the two will likely compete with Montgomery for the fourth receiver spot. It is possible that the Packers only keep five receivers, meaning one of them might find themselves playing somewhere else.
Bradford benefits from the fact that inside linebacker is the Packers’ weakest position. The Packers will look to move Clay Matthews back outside, and Sam Barrington is likely to take one inside spot. That means Bradford and 2015 fourth round pick Jake Ryan will be the favorites to land the other starting spot. His inexperience would mean expectations are low going into next year. At the very least, he could be a special teams contributor.
Like Bradford, Goodson benefits from some moderate roster overhaul. Losing Davon House and Tramon Williams opened the door at cornerback, though Goodson will also have an uphill battle to secure a roster spot. Realistically, he can be expected to be a solid special teams player.
Thornton is the player who is most likely to miss out on a roster spot this year. As a 25-year-old rookie, he showed very little promise. He got a large number of preseason snaps last year but made no major impact. Barring a significant improvement, the Packers may choose to part ways with Thornton.
Overall, the Packers have a solid group of sophomore players heading into training camp and OTAs. Some have roster spots secured; others will have to prove themselves in the preseason. But in the 2015 season, there will undoubtedly be major impacts made by some of the Packers’ second year players.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .