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.
We continue our 90-man roster rankings with players 10 through 6, with 5 through 1 coming later today.
10. Bryan Bulaga - Offensive Tackle
It's been 20 months almost to the day since Bryan Bulaga's last regular season snap. Another two will pass before he takes the field against the Seahawks in the season opener. That's a long layoff for anyone, let alone a starting offensive lineman.
That Bulaga finds himself in APC's top ten is a testament to how dominant the Packers right tackle has played when healthy. After Mark Tauscher's season-ending injury thrust Bulaga into the starting lineup his rookie year, the Iowa product fought through early inconsistencies to become the youngest player to start in a Super Bowl.
When he returned in 2011, he blossomed into one of the NFL's best right tackles. His strong play continued into the following year before a hip injury ended Bulaga's season early. Still, the coaching staff thought enough of him to flip him over to left tackle for 2013, and had it not been for a torn ACL, that's where he'd be now. However, his replacement David Bakhtiari has entrenched himself in that spot, leaving Bulaga to return to his old position.
Other than the hulking knee brace Bulaga wears over his surgically reconstructed knee, all reports are that the lineman looks like his old self. That's great news for Green Bay, which could enjoy its best year out of the offensive line in many years.
9. T.J. Lang - Offensive Guard
The less heralded of Green Bay's guard tandem, T.J. Lang has nevertheless established himself as an excellent, versatile lineman. Over the past two seasons, Lang has played every position along the offensive line save for left tackle. While he's at his best in the interior, his position flexibility has saved the Packers more than a few times, such as when starting center Evan Dietrich-Smith was sidelined for stretches last season.
Lang's reached the point in his career where he can cover up for his less experienced line mates. That's important when you consider that second-year center J.C. Tretter is expected start this season. Lang's presence will also help Bryan Bulaga while he gets back up to speed following a lengthy absence.
8. Mike Daniels - Defensive End
No Packers defender performed at a higher level in 2013 than Mike Daniels. The second-year defensive end not only carved out a huge role in the defense, but he also proved himself the Packers' best interior pass rusher since Cullen Jenkins. And incredibly, Daniels' best football lies ahead of him.
With Clay Matthews and Julius Peppers roaming on the outside, offensive lines will have little choice but to single block Daniels. Expect Daniels to eat blockers alive and spend another season terrorizing opponents' backfields.
7. Sam Shields - Cornerback
Sam Shields' best season came in 2012. Despite missing six games in the middle of the year, Shields developed into an impact player, slowing down several top receivers and creating turnovers.
Last year Shields' play took a step back. However, it's hard to see that as a personal shortcoming. The Packers defense struggled to pressure opposing quarterbacks much of the year. Shields did everything he could to stick with his man, but there's only so much time a cornerback can cover before the defense breaks down.
The Packers believe Shields is indeed the player they saw in 2012 if not an ascending player. Accordingly, they awarding him a four-year, $39 million deal. The Packers plan to lean on Shields heavily this season, as he'll shadow the opponent's top receiver for the majority of every game.
6. Randall Cobb - Wide Receiver
When a low hit from Ravens safety Matt Elam fractured Randall Cobb's leg in week 6 of the 2013 season, it also shattered what would have been the receiver's finest season. At that very moment, Cobb was on pace to catch 93 passes for 1,210 yards. He would not return until the final week of the regular season... where he caught two of the game's most important passes, both for touchdowns.
Cobb's place in Green Bay's offense mirrors Wes Welker's old role with the New England Patriots. He plays the vast majority of his snaps in the slot where his speed and quickness present mismatches for linebackers and most corners. While his 12.0 career yards per catch average doesn't suggest it, Cobb possesses the speed necessary to take the top off a defense. While Jordy Nelson is the Packers' top receiver, Cobb is more than a mere sidekick. He's a budding star in his own right.
In case you skimmed through the top of the article, Acme Packing Company will reveal the top five players later today.