The Green Bay Packers are one of the most effective teams in the league when it comes to drafting players who can have an impact in their rookie season.
As discussed last week, the Packers are expecting and hoping for significant impacts from each of their first three draft selections: Kenny Clark, Jason Spriggs, and Kyler Fackrell. Their draft status makes it likely that they will be given opportunities to excel early on in the 2016 season.
However, it is much harder to determine what the roles of the Packers’ third day selections will be. Players selected after the fourth round have a harder time making the final roster and contributing during their first year in the league, but that does not mean that these rookies cannot develop into role players for Green Bay.
The Packers had four picks on day three of the 2016 draft, including two in the fourth round, one in the fifth, and one in the sixth. Despite being lower picks, Green Bay has reason to be excited for its incoming class. What roles can Blake Martinez, Dean Lowry, Trevor Davis and Kyle Murphy have on the 2016 team?
Blake Martinez, ILB, Stanford (Round 4, Pick 131)
Over the last two seasons, the Packers’ largest position of need was undoubtedly inside linebacker. Green Bay was forced to move Clay Matthews to fill that void after other players were just not capable of leading the defense in the middle of the field. Jake Ryan was drafted to try to fill the void last season, and while he showed promise the team clearly wanted to add more depth. Blake Martinez, who recorded a Pac-12-high 141 tackles last season, could fight for a spot and possibly even earn a berth as a starter.
Martinez has impressed already during OTAs. He was taking reps with the defense’s top unit during his first day of practice, showing that the team genuinely believes he could make an impact from Week 1. Of the late-round picks the Packers made, Martinez is far and away the most likely to play a significant role in 2016.
Sam Barrington, Carl Bradford, and the other inside linebackers that the team gave chances over the past few seasons have not demonstrated the growth that the Packers hoped for. Martinez should plant himself firmly in the competition for a starting role, and has a good chance to win that battle and emerge as one of Green Bay’s starting inside linebackers when the season kicks off.
Dean Lowry, DE, Northwestern (Round 4, Pick 137)
Lowry benefits from a defensive line that, for the most part, lacks established depth. Datone Jones, Letroy Guion, and Mike Daniels are the established veterans that will be ahead of Lowry on the depth chart, and first-round pick Kenny Clark will also start the year above him. Admittedly, these players do not all play the exact same position as Lowry, but Lowry has a pretty decent shot of coming in just behind this group of four players to begin the year.
Lowry displayed athleticism at Northwestern and the NFL Combine. In fact, he was tied for the fastest 40-yard time by a defensive lineman over 290 pounds. He will attempt to use that speed and overall athletic ability to his advantage when fighting for a roster spot.
Realistically, Lowry will not surpass the established veterans to become a starter, especially at the beginning of the season. But more likely than not, he will still see some snaps this season and could be a valuable role player along the Packers’ defensive line.
Trevor Davis, WR, California (Round 5, Pick 163)
The Packers like to keep drafted skill position players around, and Davis fits a very particular role for Green Bay. The former Golden Bear boasts incredible speed, posting a 4.42 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine. With Jordy Nelson out last season, the Packers lacked a speedy, down-the-field threat. Davis could help add some quickness to the team’s receiving corps.
Additionally, Davis could be an instant contributor on special teams. He was a strong kick returner at Cal, and would likely compete with Jeff Janis to be the team’s primary returner. His ability to play on special teams greatly helps his chances of making the team, and it could result in Jared Abbrederis being left off the team’s final roster. A strong camp from Davis would likely secure his role as a returner and the fifth or sixth receiver for the Packers in 2016.
Kyle Murphy, OT, Stanford (Round 6, Pick 200)
Murphy faces the hardest battle to make the team in 2016. Barring injury, the Packers already have their starting offensive line set. Beyond that, J.C. Tretter, Lane Taylor, and Jason Spriggs would likely rank above Murphy as the team’s primary backups along the line.
Murphy displayed an ability to be healthy and turn in solid performances. He started every game for Stanford last season. Nonetheless, he will likely be relegated to the practice squad for this season. There are simply too many established players (and a rookie that Ted Thompson traded up for in Spriggs) that will make the roster ahead of Murphy.——————
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 .