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Packers Rookie Review: 2016 class looks for big step forward in year two

We look to see which members of last year’s Packers rookie class need a big improvement in their second NFL seasons.

NFL: New York Giants at Green Bay Packers Milwaukee Journal Sentinel-USA TODAY Sports

As free agency begins to heat up and the NFL Scouting Combine is underway, now is a good time to reassess how the Packers’ 2016 draft picks fared last season. Of the Packers’ seven selections, we will look at three players in particular — T Jason Spriggs, LB Kyler Fackrell and LB Blake Martinez — who are facing a crucial second year along with WR Geronimo Allison, who was signed by the Packers as an undrafted free agent last season.

Jason Spriggs

In the second round of last year’s draft, the Packers traded up nine spots to select the 6’6” OT Jason Spriggs out of Indiana University. In his draft profile, Spriggs was described as a “durable four-year starter” with “good patience” and “quick hands.”

For the Packers, Spriggs played in all sixteen regular season games in his rookie year and started two of those, both at guard. Although he wouldn’t be described as an impact player last season, that’s not necessarily an issue just yet. The Packers’ offensive line is one of the most solid in the league right now, especially on the outside, with David Bakhtiari and Bryan Bulaga. For now, Spriggs provides solid depth in that position when needed.

However with both T.J. Lang and J.C. Tretter looming on the free agency market, Spriggs could be an option to slip in and fill the gap on the inside if need be. More than likely the Packers will draft a replacement for either Lang or Tretter if they depart, but either way 2016 will be an important year for Spriggs to step up and be a contributor to the Packers’ strong offensive line.

Kyler Fackrell, Blake Martinez

The Packers used their third-round pick and one fourth rounder last year to select two explosive LBs — Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez. Although Fackrell was the earlier selection, Martinez was a name we became more accustomed to hearing throughout the season.

Described in his draft profile as a “productive tackler” and a “business-minded machine against the run” the 6’2” inside linebacker out of Stanford was a solid producer for Green Bay in 2016. Martinez played in 13 regular season games, starting nine of those and recording 69 tackles, one sack, one interception and four pass deflections. Martinez also contributed in the games against the Giants and Dallas in the post-season where he added on five more tackles.

Martinez is on track to be a star in Green Bay at his position and with uncertainty remaining on the inside, he could be in line for a big step up. The upcoming season will be crucial in seeing how he develops.

Third round selection Kyler Fackrell had a relatively strong start to the season for a rookie with his biggest game coming against the Giants in week five where he recorded three tackles, including one strip sack. In the weeks that followed, Fackrell’s production was spotty at best and his playing time decline as a result. At 6”5’ he’s surprisingly agile for his height and has the potential to be a premium pass rusher with some time and experience. Now that he’s had a year to learn the ropes in Green Bay and bulk up in the weight room, the upcoming season will be an important test for Fackrell to see if he’s got what it takes to stick around the Packers’ roster for a few more years.

Geronimo Allison

After stepping in off the practice squad in the middle of last season, Allison became another option for Aaron Rodgers in the Packers’ diverse offense. His biggest game came on New Year’s Day against the Lions where he recorded four receptions for 91 yards and a touchdown. The Packers are outstanding at turning no-name WRs into playmakers and Allison could be no different if he continues to improve.

Allison will need to prove himself as a steady player, as the Packers are not afraid to test out several different receivers within the course of a season. The stakes are high for Allison, who may not get another starting position anywhere else. With top targets Jordy Nelson aging and Randall Cobb having only moderate success in 2016, Allison could be a decent stand out if he puts the work in.

All four of the players listed here have the potential to be playmakers in Green Bay. The Packers need depth on defense that Fackrell and Martinez can provide that, while Spriggs could be an option to replace either Lang or Tretter on offense. For Allison, a high level of consistency will be key to maintaining his position in Green Bay’s receiving core.