After two weeks of counting down, today we reach the end of our ranking of the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster. Obviously, the top ten players on our countdown qualify as stars in some measure of the term, but they encompass players with diverse levels of experience. There are players in this list with as many as 14 years of experience or as few as two.
Perhaps most concerning for the team’s long-term future is the fact that four of the players in the top ten will be free agents in 2017. Even more problematic is the fact that three of those four are offensive linemen, which will make for a difficult decision-making process for Ted Thompson.
Let us know what you think of the order of the top ten in the comments section below.
T-9: WR Randall Cobb
Though he had a down year last season without his receiving partner on the field to draw away coverage, Cobb remains one of the league’s best slot receivers. In addition to Nelson’s absence, Cobb was hampered by an injury to his shoulder suffered in the preseason; how much this affected him throughout the season is a matter of some conjecture, but he should be back to 100% and ready to terrorize the middle of the field again in 2016.
T-9: OLB Julius Peppers
After a pair of seven-sack seasons in 2013 and 2014, Peppers bounced back with a 10.5-sack effort last season, his ninth double-digit sack season of his career. He also added a pair of forced fumbles (bringing his career total to a whopping 48). When his snap counts are kept under control, Peppers remains a fearsome pass-rusher, both from the outside linebacker spot and from the interior.
8: OT David Bakhtiari
The first of a trio of starting linemen in our top ten is Bakhtiari, who has become one of the steadier pass-blocking left tackles in the NFL. Don’t expect a ton of push out of him in the run game, but protecting Aaron Rodgers will always be job #1 for the Packers’ linemen, and Bakh has done an excellent job of just that in his three years as a starter. The question is whether the Packers will be able to afford him in 2017 and beyond, as his rookie contract expires in March.
7: G T.J. Lang
Like Bakhtiari, Lang hits free agency in 2017. Unlike the tackle, Lang is equally strong as both a pass-protector and a run-blocker. He’ll turn 29 early on this season, so a new long-term deal appears to be on the horizon for him. Hopefully, a well-deserved Pro Bowl or All-Pro nod will be coming his way too; not only has he missed just two games since taking over as a starter in 2011, but he and his fellow starting guard make up arguably the best starting guard tandem in the NFL.
6: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
This ranking seemed a bit high to me upon first glance, but it makes sense after thinking about it. After just two years in the league, Clinton-Dix has six interceptions - three in the regular season and three in the playoffs - and his steady presence at free safety has allowed Morgan Burnett to focus on playing the run-supporting role that best suits his talents. Clinton-Dix is no slouch in that role, either, and he led the Packers in tackles in 2015. All in all, he is clearly on an upward trajectory that should see him earn All-Pro honors at some point in the next few years, and he is already one of the league’s top few free safeties.
T-4: DT Mike Daniels
The vocal leader of the defense starts off our top five. Daniels’ continued absence from Pro Bowl and All-Pro rosters is disappointing, but is more a function of the wealth of talented interior linemen around the NFL right now. Still, Daniels is every bit as good as any of them at the 3-technique spot and as an interior pass-rusher.
T-4: G Josh Sitton
Tied with Daniels is a player he sees on a frequent basis in practice. Sitton earned another Pro Bowl nod last season and remains the NFL’s best pass-blocking guard. The big questions about Sitton are whether the team will prioritize him in the offseason over Lang or Bakhtiari, and whether they will be able to afford what he would likely command on the free agent market.
3: WR Jordy Nelson
Nelson’s value and talent were shown in 2015 by his absence. Without him, the Packers’ offense sputtered and failed to find any consistency or a reliable deep threat. Considering Nelson wanted to work out fully during the entire offseason program, there’s no reason to think that he will be anything short of 100% by the time training camp starts. Sure, things will change when he tries to make cuts for the first time in live action, but we have faith in Nelson regaining his form from 2014.
2: OLB Clay Matthews
Now back on the outside, Matthews can return to doing what he does best: harassing opposing quarterbacks. Clay remains the star on defense, and despite a few disappearing acts on the inside last season, he is still a complete 3-4 linebacker. One thing that I will enjoy seeing again is Matthews running down a running back from the backside.
1: QB Aaron Rodgers
Well, yeah. The only reason the Packers’ offense wasn’t a complete dumpster fire in 2015 was because of the herculean efforts of Rodgers, who still managed to come up with over 30 touchdowns and throw just eight picks. Sure, the two-time MVP didn’t play up to that form last season, but he still is unquestionably the best player on the team.