Each offseason, one of the more interesting storylines concerns which undrafted free agent rookie or rookies will make the Packers' roster. Some years produce preseason overachievers who completely disappear afterwards (Vic So'oto). Other years turn out raw but talented athletes that end up becoming vital cogs (Sam Shields).
This year presents the same opportunity for an unknown player to win over the coaches and perhaps earn playing time during the regular season. With the draft now over and the undrafted free agency period essentially through, it's as good a time as any to evaluate which UDFA's are best positioned to make the roster.
Andy Mulumba, OLB, Eastern Michigan
Mulumba is a wanted man. Not only was he selected second overall in the CFL's player draft, but he received a $10-15 thousand signing bonus to come to Green Bay. While signing bonus alone won't keep Mulumba in green and gold, it does place him at the very front of the line as far as UDFA are concerned. It also helps that the Packers are thin at outside linebacker. After losing Erik Walden and Frank Zombo to free agency, Green Bay is left with 6th round pick Nate Palmer, a tandem of second year players in Nick Perry and Dezman Moses, and All-Pro Clay Matthews. Chances are that the Packers will have more than those four on the final roster. Unless Ted Thompson finds someone he really likes after one of the league's cut down dates, a decent showing from Mulumba should land him on this year's 53.
Myles White, WR, Louisiana Tech
It's a pretty safe bet that the Packers will carry no fewer than 5 receivers in 2013. However, only Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, and James Jones are locks to make the team. That leaves two or more spots to be filled by last year's additions Jarrett Boykin and Jeremy Ross and this year's crop of Charles Johnson, Kevin Dorsey, and Myles White. So why makes White likely to stand out in that crowded field? Speed, if you can believe it. While Johnson and Dorsey both ran in the 4.4 range, White has run as well as 4.30. It was that speed and athleticism that placed him with Robert Griffin III in the 2007 AAU Junior Olympics. White can hit a gear no other receiver on the roster can. If he flashes good hands and a decent handle on the offense, White could land one of the two available receiver roster spots.
Ryan Roberson, FB, Texas
As we detailed in the Post-Draft Positional Review for running backs, Roberson may threaten John Kuhn's hold on the sole fullback roster spot. Roberson, a converted linebacker, has the size and physicality to forge holes for Eddie Lacy and the other running backs. With Kuhn likely to lose his third and short duty this year, and a $2.5 million price tag if he stays, there's an opportunity for the Packers to save some money if Roberson is competent. Even if Kuhn keeps his job, Roberson would be a prime candidate for the practice squad.
Ben Ericksen, S, Illinois State
Like Mulumba, Ericksen can provide depth at a shallow position. The only Green Bay safeties that are locks for the roster are Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, and Jerron McMillian. The Packers likely will carry one more, and unless 5th round pick Micah Hyde transitions to safety, Ericksen is in the best position to capitalize. As of the moment, his competition for the fourth safety spot is Sean Richardson, who made the team as a UDFA last year, and Stony Brook's Cedrick Moore, if he wins over the coaches in his tryout. Ericksen was a ballhawk in college, most notably intercepting seven passes his senior year. He's also been an effective kick returner. Those skills could give him the upper hand when it comes time to cut down the roster.
Jake Stoneburner, TE, Ohio State
While the exact reason varies, many expect Jermichael Finley to leave Green Bay following the 2013 season. In this event, the Packers would be left with torn ACL survivor Andrew Quarless and a pair of untested tight ends, D.J. Williams and Ryan Taylor. Enter Jake Stoneburner. The former Ohio State Buckeye didn't rack up yards in college, but he did often find the endzone. In his final three years, Stoneburner hauled in 13 touchdowns. This figure looks even more impressive when you consider how infrequently the Buckeyes aired it out during the Luke Fickell and Urban Meyer seasons. Stoneburner isn't much of a blocker, but if he can flash as a pass catcher he'll have a good chance of making the team. After all, the Packers have kept no less than four tight ends each of the last two seasons.
Keep in mind that opportunity and ability don't always translate to a roster spot. In 2012, Jarrett Boykin made the final roster despite starting behind the five returning wide outs from 2011 and competition for the 6th WR spot from presumptive favorites Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel. Just because these players have found themselves in advantageous positions doesn't mean they're anywhere close to locks to make the Packers.
Jason Hirschhorn covers the Green Bay Packers for Acme Packing Co. He has previously written for Lombardi Ave, College Hoops Net, LiveBall Sports, and the List Universe. He is also currently a senior writer for Beats Per Minute, an indie-music webzine. Follow him on Twitter at twitter.com/JBHirschhorn.