With OTAs and minicamp in the rearview mirror and training camp not opening until late July, the APC staff decided to rank every member of the Packers' 90-man roster. Players were rated on their playing ability in 2014, not on projected value in future seasons. It follows that the top 53 aren't necessarily the 53 players that will make up the final roster come September.
Today, we continue our 90-man roster rankings with players 20 through 11.
20. Micah Hyde - Defensive Back
Will he mostly play safety or return to primarily covering the slot in 2014? While that question remains unanswered at this juncture, it's clear that Micah Hyde will play a significant role in the Packers defense this season. As a rookie, he demonstrated that, like his career at Iowa, the defensive back performs above what his workout measurements would suggest. At a minimum, he's proven insurance in the event Casey Hayward's hamstring flares up again.
19. J.C. Tretter - Center
Though one of the most off-the-radar selections of the fourth round a year ago, it became clear why the Packers invested so highly in J.C. Tretter after listening what GM Ted Thompson and the coaching staff. At 6-4, 307 pounds, Tretter possesses rare size for an interior offensive lineman. Granted, that's not where he lined up in college; like most Green Bay offensive linemen, Tretter is a repurposed left tackle. Regardless, the coaches trust in Tretter's intelligence to such a degree that not only did he return from the PUP following an ankle injury last season, but the Packers also allowed starter Evan Dietrich-Smith to walk in free agency. While the team won't admit it publicly, the starting center job is Tretter's to lose.
18. Jarrett Boykin - Wide Receiver
Not enough attention was paid to Jarrett Boykin's inclusion on the 2012 final roster. While little was expected of the rookie free agent that season, keeping him on as the Packers' sixth receiver illustrated the team's belief that he could develop into a valuable weapon. He became exactly that last season when injuries sidelined Randall Cobb, James Jones, and Jermichael Finley midway through the season. In what amounted to three quarters of a full season, Boykin registered nearly 700 receiving yards and three touchdowns. While talented rookie Davante Adams may push him for snaps later in the season, Boykin projects as a de facto starter in the Packers offense.
17. Ha'Sean Clinton-Dix - Safety
Much was made of the fact that Ha'Sean "Ha Ha" Clinton-Dix ran with the number two defense during OTAs and minicamp behind the aforementioned Micah Hyde. While Hyde very well could end up the starting free safety in week 1, it won't be because of their respective roles in June. It was only a year ago that Alex Green ran with the starting offense ahead of Eddie Lacy. Obviously, the depth chart looked a little different come the season opener.
Other than timed speed, Clinton-Dix possesses every skill a team looks for in a safety. Alabama sent its defensive calls through him, a rarity for a defensive back. He also stands to put an end to Green Bay's interception-less streak for its safeties.
16. Datone Jones - Defensive End
As with many players entering the NFL, Datone Jones' biggest physical deficiency was his weight. Having played his senior year at UCLA at around 280 lbs., Jones bulked up to 290 for training camp. The weight didn't stick, and by the end of the season Jones' weight reportedly dropped into the 270 range. With a full offseason to bulk up again, most expect Jones' size to be less of a concern in 2014. Assuming that's indeed the case, Jones has as much upside as any Green Bay defender. His physical gifts and skill set compare favorably to Saints defensive end Cameron Jordan. The Packers hope that, like Jordan, Jones takes a huge leap his second year in the league.
15. Morgan Burnett - Safety
Morgan Burnett was never right in 2013. Hampered with hamstring issues during the preseason, he missed the first quarter of the season before finally returning against Detroit. Even then, Burnett lacked the range and physicality that characterized his play in prior years. Now healthy and playing alongside competent safeties again, Burnett should return to his 2012 form. That's the player the Packers deemed worthy of a four-year, $24.75 million extension last July.
14. David Bakhtiari - Offensive Tackle
While he rightfully receives credit for holding down the left tackle position as a rookie fourth-round pick, David Bakhtiari didn't play particularly well by NFL standards. Sure, his pass protection was competent, but he struggled regularly in the ground game. The expectations for Bakhtiari in 2014 are considerably higher. Not only will he need to block better for quarterback Aaron Rodgers, but he also can no longer be a one-dimensional offensive lineman.
Striving for those improvements, Bakhtiari has added "7, 8, 9 pounds of solid muscle" according to his position coach. The extra strength should not only improve Bakhtiari's anchor, but also help make him a more solid contributor on run plays.
T-12. Julius Peppers - Outside Linebacker
Having never played in space during his 13-year NFL career, Julius Peppers represents one of the biggest wildcards for the Packers on either side of the ball. Without question, he immediately becomes the best pass rusher Green Bay has put on the field opposite Clay Matthews. The same can be said for those who've bookended Peppers during his career.
Smartly, the Packers don't plan on making the 34-year-old Peppers an every down player. He also won't play exclusively at outside linebacker. In the 4-3 Under alignment the team is expected to utilize this season, Peppers will move out to the "elephant" end where he can play with his hand in the dirt. Such is closer to his position while in Chicago and Carolina. Regardless, if he stays healthy, he can help transform Green Bay's defense into a more than respectable unit.
T-12. Casey Hayward - Cornerback
For all intents and purposes, Casey Hayward didn't have a 2013 season. After a hamstring pull sidelined him for most of training camp and the preseason, Hayward re-aggravated the injury during the third week of the preseason. He wouldn't come back until halfway through the regular season. Unfortunately, his return was short lived, and after three games Hayward was done for the year.
So why such a high ranking? Well, Hayward played as well as any slot cornerback as a rookie in 2012. He was also the Packers' leading defensive playmaker, leading the team with six interceptions. If he's healthy, that version of Hayward will terrorize opposing quarterbacks.
11. Tramon Williams - Cornerback
It took two and a half years, but the Tramon Williams that dominated the 2010 season finally returned the second half of last season.
A bad shoulder injury suffered during the first game of the 2011 season caused nerve damage that limited the cornerback for much of the time since. However, Williams turned around his play in 2013 beginning with a strong week-10 performance against the Eagles. All three of his interceptions, his forced fumble, and 40 of his 61 tackles came from that point on. While age (31) and contract (final year) may make 2014 Williams' last in Green Bay, he projects to have his best since the Super Bowl season.