After a rough couple of years in 2011 and 2012, the Green Bay Packers have drafted well in the past few seasons, and some of the young players in that draft have developed quickly into critical roles on the roster. However, there are talented players who, for one reason or another, have not had a chance to show what they can do on the field and are legitimate candidates for breakouts in the coming months.
No, I’m not talking about Jeff Janis or Jared Abbrederis, at least not for now. Instead, there are two other Packers who are listed among the NFL’s top “breakout” candidates in an article by Football Outsiders and published by ESPN.com. The eligibility criteria for consideration on the list includes a few critical items: players must be entering their second, third or fourth NFL season; they must have played fewer than 500 snaps on offense or defense; and they must have been drafted in the third round or later, or gone undrafted.
One of the Packers’ players ranked in the top 25 of players fitting the criteria is entering his second year after being inactive each week last season, while the other was slated to be a starter in 2014 before an injury robbed him of the job. That’s right, we’re talking about quarterback Brett Hundley, who ranks 8th. and offensive lineman JC Tretter, who slots in at number 11.
Here’s what the FO staff had to say about Hundley:
Hundley fell to the Packers in the draft because he wasn't really asked to do much for UCLA. Jim Mora's scheme didn't let him audible, and the offensive line made Hundley's job hell. Despite all that, Hundley fits the new mold of NFL's infatuation with a dual-threat quarterback who can actually pass. Hundley tore up the preseason, completing 69.1 percent of his passes with seven touchdowns and only one pick. That doesn't mean he's ready to start tomorrow, but as with Tyrod Taylor last year, it's certainly proof that he has earned a real shot. Hundley won't get that shot for a bit -- this Aaron Rodgers fella is all right -- but he's our favorite quarterback prospect nobody is talking about.
Well, they’re certainly right in that Hundley won’t get a shot to start in Green Bay any time soon - at least not in an ideal world, as we knock on wood that Rodgers stays healthy. However, the analytics team’s praise of Hundley should give Packers fans a little bit of additional confidence that the team could successfully deal with a short-term injury to Rodgers should that take place.
Meanwhile, Tretter is the Packers’ sixth lineman and backup center, who played remarkably well in relief of David Bakhtiari at left tackle in last year’s Wild Card game. Here are the comments about Tretter:
Another embarrassment of riches on the Green Bay depth chart. Tretter came in cold off the bench against Washington in the playoffs, shifted to left tackle to replace David Bakhtiari, and helped hold the Skins to just one sack. He's an interior lineman by trade, but with the line as strong as it is today, it's hard to see an open spot for him -- at least until the annual Bryan Bulaga injury, anyway.
This analysis is a little tougher to agree with, at least on Tretter’s position. Although he did line up at left tackle, last season he hardly came in “cold” - Tretter started a few games at center in place of Corey Linsley, and he did not play right tackle (Bulaga’s position) at all in 2015. For now, he is lined up as the center on the number one line, and will be there at least until Linsley comes off the PUP list.
Furthermore, the Packers drafted a pair of college tackles this year in Jason Spriggs (2nd round) and Kyle Murphy (6th round). While it’s certainly possible that Tretter gets some snaps as a backup tackle, the Packers may be inclined to use Spriggs as the swing tackle instead with Tretter as more of an interior option. Regardless, that impressive performance Tretter had against Washington will not soon be forgotten, and as he enters a contract year it looks likely that he will earn a new contract in Green Bay if he can display his versatility through another healthy season.
In any case, it’s nice to see the Packers stocking the cupboard with plenty of talent, and if that talent has trouble breaking through the starters on the depth chart, then that just means that the depth on the roster is that much better.
(Oh, and in case you were wondering, Jeff Janis did earn honorable mention.)