As a draft and develop team, the Green Bay Packers are incredibly reliant on the ability of their coaching staff to get players to make large strides from year one to two and from year two to three. The Packers have several candidates to be breakout players this offseason.
CB Herb Waters
Waters will face a difficult challenge just making the roster. After changing positions from Wide Receiver halfway through last season, Waters impressed the coaching staff with his natural ability to cover. With a whole offseason to work on his new craft, Waters is the not-so-under-the-radar candidate to be the preseason fan favorite. Secondary Coach Joe Whitt compared Waters to Tramon Williams, and the Packers could use some quality depth at the CB position.
DT Kenny Clark
Clark had a quiet rookie campaign, but came on very strong at the end of last season. The DT in the 3-4 isn’t going to make a ton of highlight plays, but he was routinely occupying multiple blockers (and often times beating multiple blockers). Clark has a chance to become one of the most important and effective players on the Packers defense this season.
OLB Jayrone Elliott
I have been banging the Elliott drum for 3 years, and he has yet to have a big impact on the regular season roster. It took Nick Perry awhile to become an impact player, and I think Elliott is finally ready to make the next step. The Packers desperately need better results from their pass rushers, and Elliott and Kyler Fackrell will be asked to team with Clay Matthews and Perry to get to the QB from the outside. Without Elliott’s development Matthews and Perry may be too gassed come playoff time to make the impact Green Bay needs.
DE Dean Lowry
Lowry struck me as a guy who wouldn’t succeed in the NFL because of his short arms. However, he looked to be a factor in the interior pass rush last season, and he will have every opportunity to build off of that in his second year. Lowry has a tremendous motor, instincts, and a quick twitch that he uses to overcome his short arms. The key for the Northwestern product, will be keeping o-lineman’s arms from locking in on him.
S Kentrell Brice
I was excited when the Packers signed Brice as an undrafted rookie free agent last year. He has blazing speed and a devastating hitting ability. He had a good showing as a rookie, but all Safeties take time and reps to develop into NFL products. Brice will combine with Morgan Burnett, HaHa Clinton-Dix, and Josh Jones to form a Dime package that features Safety/Linebacker hybrids who can do multiple things on the field. Brice’s ability to control the deep middle of the field will allow Burnett and Jones to play closer to the line of scrimmage.
WR Geronimo Allison
Allison is my only breakout pick on an offense that is full of veterans. I knew Allison had the size and hands to be an NFL wideout, but he showed tremendous ability as a route runner when activated from the Practice Squad last season. His continued development will give Aaron Rodgers a legitimate 4th WR and another red zone threat.Andrew Mertig is a a lifelong Packers fan and draft enthusiast. He has covered the NFL draft for radio and television stations in Green Bay. He is currently a host of the Pack-A-Day podcast and a writer for PackersTalk.com. You can follow him on Twitter @andrewmertig