For young players trying to secure a spot on the roster, special teams, not play on at their particular position is what can earn them a coveted spot on the 53 man roster. Particularly this season, where the 28th ranked Packers special teams has been struggling for what seems like a decade. They will be looking to turn the page to a brighter future under new Special Teams Coordinator Maurice Drayton. His teaching has been evident so far at OTAs and minicamp, but he needs an infusion of athleticism to his units. Luckily, Green Bay is full of players that fit the bill this year. In particular, three at deep position groups could be exactly what Drayton needs to turn the special teams around.
Packer coaches and fans have already seen small a preview of what Dominique Dafney can do. Entering the league undrafted last year, he was promoted from the practice squad in the December. A high effort player, he quickly became a part of the special teams units. Against the Bears, not only did Dafney catch a TD, but then made a bone crushing hit on the ensuing kickoff. His energy and willingness to throw his 243 lb frame around makes him extremely valuable to Drayton. With an pretty deep TE room this year, becoming a core 4 special teams player is his best route to breaking onto the initial gameday roster.
6th round rookie Issiah McDuffie is another player at a deep position that could make a quick impact on special teams. He had an impressive pro day, with a 4.61 40 yard dash and 25 bench reps. McDuffie also showed sure tackling and taking good angles at Boston College. These traits scream kick and punt teams. If McDuffie can translate his skills to special teams during training camp and pre-season, he’ll be a tough cut for the Packers.
The Packers are known for undrafted free agents making their team and Christian Uphoff could be the next in the long line of UDFAs to make the team. It was surprising on draft weekend that he was not drafted given his size (6-3) speed (4.48 40-yard) and strength (23 bench reps). Additionally, his on-field play at Illiois State was also impressive. Uphoff is no stranger to special teams, playing on the units all three years. It is easy to see how he could rapidly become a cornerstone on special teams while he develops on defense.
Training camp will quickly show us more about what the Packers roster is going to look like. It will be fascinating to see who builds a role for themselves on the team. If Drayton can find young building blocks like Daffney, McDuffie, and Uphoff, he could bring consistency and league average play to a unit that has been vacant of that over the last decade.
Jordan is a lifelong Packer fan who grew up in Idaho and now lives in Seattle, Washington. You can follow him on twitter at @jordantwolf.