The final say when it comes to the Packers’ roster belongs to general manager Brian Gutekunst and for good reason. Though it’s still early, it appears his first draft class was a success and offseason acquisitions are contributing as well. Gutekunst even shook things up by trading away inconsistencies in Ty Montgomery and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix a couple weeks ago, something former GM Ted Thompson never would have done. It goes without saying he’s had a great first year with the direction he’s taken Green Bay’s roster.
It all started with the selection of Jaire Alexander back in April. Some big names were still on the board, but Gutekunst went with an undersized corner who played with edge. The gamble paid off as Alexander has developed into a dynamic playmaker for the Packers defense. He’s also the top-rated rookie corner according to Pro Football Focus with a bright future ahead.
On offense fifth-rounder Marquez Valdes-Scantling is comfortably surpassing preseason expectations. Because of injuries he’s the team’s second-best receiver behind Davante Adams totaling 402 receiving yards and two touchdowns. It took some time, but now quarterback Aaron Rodgers doesn’t hesitate when looking in the rookie’s direction. Their trust is going to continue to build and Valdes-Scantling might a guy Rodgers’ turns to down stretch. Gutekunst hit on a late-round receiver in his first draft.
Gutekunst also went outside the draft to add quality depth to the roster. Two undrafted free agents in corner Tony Brown and safety Raven Greene put forth solid performances last week against the Miami Dolphins to secure the win.
Brown is a product of Nick Saban’s Alabama program and surprised a lot draft analyst when he wasn’t selected. Against Miami he contributed with a nicely played pass breakup.
He’s had a small sample size of three games, but Brown has made it abundantly clear he belongs on an NFL roster.
Greene out of James Madison University sat out the first two games of 2018, however, it didn’t take long for him to stand out of special teams. He’s been a great gunner in kickoff coverage which eventually helped him crack the rotation in the secondary.
An injury to Kentrell Brice on Sunday allowed Greene to see a career-high 31 snaps and he didn’t let them go to waste. After nearly coming up with an interception in the red zone, Greene sacked quarterback Brock Osweiler to stall a potential scoring drive.
On the ensuing drive, the offense was prepared to punt but instead direct snapped the ball to Greene for a fake resulting in 26 yards. It was an incredible yet unexpected coming out party for a guy from an FCS school and it reassured Packers nation the roster is in great hands.
These four rookies have stood out and are having a great impact this season.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. Brandon graduated from Longwood University in 2016 with a degree in mass media. He has covered the Packers for over two years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.