Nothing was more surprising on cutdown day this year than Brian Gutekunst’s decision to keep all four Packers seventh round draft picks. Each of the four players, Tariq Carpenter, Jonathan Ford, Rasheed Walker, and Samori Toure made the team over a player that many fans and reporters felt deserved to win the spot. Let’s discuss why each of these players was kept.
Carpenter is an athletic freak who was drafted for his potential on special teams. His position is safety, but he’s really a tweener between safety and linebacker and weighs 230 pounds.
Shawn Davis, who has built up a few years of experience in the league, was projected to be third safety on the depth chart. Instead, he was released, Carpenter was kept, and Rudy Ford was signed after being released by Jacksonville.
Carpenter didn’t have much of a chance to play in the preseason and Tom Silverstein, a reporter with the Green Bay Press Gazette, made a good point on a podcast that it’s the third game that matters most—at that point players no that they need to perform or get cut—and Carpenter made a few splash plays in that game.
I believe Gutekunst sees more long-term potential and special teams ability in Carpenter and Rasul Douglas will be the third safety.
Ford is probably the most egregious to Packers fans. He had the lowest PFF grade on the team in the preseason and two players, Jack Heflin and Chris Slayton, outperformed him.
I think there’s an easy explanation. Joe Barry wants to move Kenny Clark around more and needs nose tackles to do it. Ford certainly didn’t play well, but at 330 pounds he has 25 pounds on Heflin and Slayton.
Clark will be the nose tackle in crucial situations, TJ Slaton will be the nose on run downs, and Ford is the backup. Clark, Dean Lowry, Jarran Reed, and Devonte Wyatt can all play the 3/4i technique pass rushing defensive tackle/end spot where Heflin and Slayton would line up. Slaton is the only one who can be a true nose tackle absorbing double teams.
Walker got the spot over Caleb Jones, the massive 6’9 370-pound tackle who performed well in the preseason. Well enough that Rodgers brought up in an interview that he would’ve liked to keep Jones on the team.
I think this one is about waiver claims. Walker was a 4-star recruit who played at a big-name college, was projected to be drafted in the third round, and did an impressive job in pass blocking in the preseason. Jones was a UDFA who didn’t require a big signing bonus and was better run blocking than pass blocking. The Packers, rightfully, assumed they could get him back on the practice squad.
My guess is that this was the hardest decision for Gutekunst. Like Carpenter, Toure played his best football in the final preseason game, but Juwann Winfree has more experience in the system, was praised by Rodgers (days after Toure was criticized) and is a plus special teams player.
It’s all about upside. Winfree has been in the league for close to three seasons now and you can argue Toure had more flashes of potential in the preseason with no NFL experience.
Mike Price is a lifelong Packers fan currently living in Utah. You can follow him on twitter at @themikeprice.