Now that the Green Bay Packers have wrapped up the 2017 NFL Draft and rookie minicamp, the team has finalized its 90-man roster heading into the start of OTAs. The Acme Packing Company writing staff has ranked the players in terms of the players’ overall talent levels and likelihoods to make an impact in Green Bay. We will present the single compiled ranking set over a two-week stretch.
No. 5: WR Jordy Nelson
In most cases, the Packers protect themselves for the possibility of regression from an older player by adding backup options during the offseason. That holds even truer when the veteran in question has recently suffered a serious injury. However, in the case of wideout Jordy Nelson, who suffered a torn ACL during the 2015 preseason, the Packers made no real such preparations. Either Nelson would return to some semblance of his Pro Bowl form or the offense would sink as a result.
For a time, it appeared the Packers miscalculated. Nelson looked a step slow during the early portions of the season, no longer slipping through coverages on the perimeter as he had for most of his time in Green Bay. Aided by a move into the slot and additional time removed from the injury, Nelson rediscovered his dominance. He finished the regular season with nearly 100 catches for 1,257 yards and 14 touchdowns. The consistent field-stretching ability never quite materialized, though Nelson did make a few key plays late in the season as the Packers ran the table.
Rodgers will once again depend on Nelson as his primary outlet. That becomes a dicier proposition as the wideout turns 32 at the end of May, but the Packers don't appear concerned. He hasn't let them down yet.
No. 4: S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix
After a career-changing neck injury stole Nick Collins from the Packers, the defense went years without the centerfielder required in Dom Capers' defense. The arrival of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix in 2014 began to reverse the course, with the safety developing into Green Bay's best defensive back and one of the best players at his position across the league.
Clinton-Dix didn't made the leap to true field-tilter status until last season, however. He improved in coverage, rarely giving up big plays and limiting opposing quarterbacks to less-than-pedestrian passer ratings most weeks. Clinton-Dix also nearly doubled his career interception total, finishing with five.
Now as the Packers reconstruct their secondary, Clinton-Dix has become the one figure around which the entire unit rotates.
No. 3: OT David Bakhtiari
As a rookie, fourth-round pick David Bakhtiari found himself thrust into action at left tackle protecting the eventual league MVP. In the two years that followed, he added needed strength and became a more well-rounded offensive linemen, teaming with Pro Bowl guard Josh Sitton to give the offense a valuable B gap through which to run the ball. That play earned Bakhtiari a long-term deal paying out an average of $12 million annually.
While Bakhtiari's contract fell in line with blindside protectors with his track record, not everyone saw him turning the deal into a proverbial steal. Yet Bakhtiari did within months of signing, stepping up for the loss of Sitton to become a rock on the left side. For his efforts, Bakhtiari earned second-team All-Pro honors and appeared in his first Pro Bowl.
At only 25, Bakhtiari should continue manning the most important position on the offensive line past the end of the decade.
No. 2: DT Mike Daniels
Even with the arrival of tight end Martellus Bennett, no player on the Packers will get in the ears of his opponents more than Mike Daniels. The star defensive tackle's mouth would have become his trademark if not for his dazzling play over the past three seasons.
As age catches up with Clay Matthews, Daniels has stepped in as the defensive centerpiece. Offensive lines routinely send double teams his way, yet he has recorded 20 sacks over the last four seasons as an interior defensive lineman in a scheme that often asks him to two-gap rather than rush the passer. He also serves as the unit's top interior run defender, clogging lanes and either forcing ball carriers into the arms of teammates or his own clutches.
While the supporting cast around Daniels should improve in 2017, he remains the engine that drives the entire defense.