As we wind down our ranking of the Green Bay Packers' 90-man roster, you'll notice that the top name on the board is the one that everyone expects. Yes, Aaron Rodgers is the best player in the NFL, and by default that makes him the best player on this roster.
However, the next nine players behind him could be arranged in any number of orders. Below is how we have the rest of the top ten ordered, so feel free to give us the rest of your top ten or let us know if you think someone else we ranked lower belongs nearer to the top.
10: Bryan Bulaga, OT
It's clear from this ranking that we feel the Packers' decision to bring back Bulaga was a good one. He has proven himself to be one of the best right tackles in the NFL when healthy, and since he played more than 12 games for the first time since his rookie year, that "when healthy" qualifier will hopefully no longer be necessary.
Bulaga is now the second-highest-paid right tackle in the league, and graded out in 2014 as the fourth-best by Pro Football Focus.
9: Julius Peppers, OLB
Last year's performance by the veteran was impressive even when you ignore the fact that he was playing in a 3-4 defense for the first time. Peppers is still capable of changing a game on any play, as his forced fumble in the playoffs against Dallas proved. With the versatility of being able to move inside on passing downs, Peppers can play in all situations and sub packages (though controlling his snap count does appear to be one key to keeping his production level high).
8: Mike Daniels, DT
The leader of the defensive line, Daniels backed up his big talk with big play throughout most of the 2014 season, his third in the NFL. This year he will have extra motivation, as he is in the final year of his rookie deal (though Daniels finds plenty of motivation elsewhere). Equally adept against both the run and pass, Daniels' quick reaction time and leverage help him win battles at the line of scrimmage despite his smaller, stockier stature, making him one of the better 3-4 defensive ends in the NFL.
7: T.J. Lang, G
Lang was widely viewed as a solid, above-average NFL guard in the past, but he elevated his game in 2014, playing between Corey Linsley and Bulaga. He was a mauler in the run game as well as being a solid pass-protector, and was the third-ranked guard overall in 2014 by PFF. Simply put, the Packers' offensive line is suddenly one of the top units in the league, and Lang's emergence into a Pro Bowl-caliber player is a big reason for that.
6: Eddie Lacy, RB
Two straight 1,100-yard seasons will catch your eye, but it was Lacy's development in the passing game in 2014 that really ratchets him up the rankings. He increased his yards-per-reception number from 7.3 in 2013 to 10.2 last year, good for third among all qualifying running backs, and he earned positive pass-blocking grades from PFF in 15 of the Packers' 18 games. This year, he should at least be in consideration for a top fantasy draft pick in every league format, and should be off the board within the first three or four picks. Simply put, Lacy's running style complements the Packers' passing game perfectly, and has helped make it into the top unit in the NFL.
5: Randall Cobb, WR
Another player whose skill set complements those around him is Cobb, whose connection with his quarterback is now rivaling that of his veteran teammate. Cobb's route-running has become so precise, though, that he is almost indefensible out of the slot. Time will tell if he develops into a bigger threat on the boundary, but with Jordy Nelson and Davante Adams out wide he may not need to do so in Green Bay over the next four years.
4: Jordy Nelson, WR
Speaking of Jordy, he just posted the most productive season by a Packers receiver in history, at least based on receiving yardage. He's a big play threat, to be sure, but he is also equally effective on short routes, timing routes, and going over the middle. Ranked as the 18th-best player in the NFL by his peers, he finally earned his first trip to the Pro Bowl last season and remains under contract as a Packer for the next four seasons.
3: Josh Sitton, G
At this point, it's almost criminal that Sitton has not earned a first-team All-Pro designation yet. Quite simply, Sitton is the best pass-blocking guard in the world, and has allowed a total of 18 quarterback pressures over the past two seasons. That's just over one every two games, and in 2014 he was not credited with a single sack allowed. While "just" above-average as a run-blocker, we feel his argument to be the best at his position in the NFL is slightly better than Nelson's, which is why we have Sitton ranked just above Jordy.
2: Clay Matthews, OLB/ILB
The swiss-army knife of the Packers' defense, Matthews proved he could be every bit as effective as an inside linebacker as he has been outside over the past several years when he was shifted to the middle midway through the 2014 season. In fact, he earned All-Pro votes at both positions. His versatility makes him the key player for Dom Capers, and allows the coordinator to exploit matchup advantages across the field. Equally adept in pass coverage, run defense, and pass-rushing, Matthews is more than just an edge rusher - he's a true linebacker, one who transcends position or scheme.
1: Aaron Rodgers, QB
I would hope we don't need to explain this choice. Rodgers is the reigning NFL Most Valuable Player, and is the best quarterback in the league. No mystery here.
Stay tuned tomorrow as we reveal our individual rankings.