clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

2018 Packers 90-man roster ranking, 10-6: Jimmy Graham must deliver more than red-zone production

New, comments

In order for the Packers offense to reach its ceiling, Jimmy Graham has to become more than just a red-zone threat.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at Seattle Seahawks Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports

With veteran free agency essentially concluded and the 2018 NFL Draft in the rearview mirror, Acme Packing Company will once again rank and break down the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster.

These rankings represent a composite of the individual selections from several APC contributors. Today, we continue by revealing players 10 through six, a group that includes the Packers’ biggest free-agent additions.

10. Muhammad Wilkerson, DL

The first significant free agent to visit Green Bay this offseason, Muhammad Wilkerson ended up taking multiple meetings before circling back to the Packers. The two sides agreed on a one-year prove-it deal, giving Wilkerson plenty of motivation to reclaim his Pro Bowl form and the team adequate cover should he fail to regain it.

But while Wilkerson might look like a lottery ticket on paper, the fit with the Packers makes him a much better bet. Once again, the defensive lineman will work with Mike Pettine, his defensive coordinator during his first few years with the New York Jets. Wilkerson will also have plenty of talent around him, with Mike Daniels and Kenny Clark garnering plenty of attention from opposing offenses. Wilkerson represents far from a sure thing, but the reward outweighs the risk.

9. Corey Linsley, C

After a three-year, back-and-forth rotation with JC Tretter, Corey Linsley finally became the undisputed starting center in Green Bay in 2017. Linsley responded with a solid season in which he started all 16 games and avoided most major mistakes. While the performance went largely unnoticed due to Aaron Rodgers’ absence and the resulting offensive struggles, the Packers rewarded Linsley with a three-year, $25.5 million extension.

With the entire right side of the offensive line in flux due to Bryan Bulaga’s injury and the open competition at guard, the Packers might need even more from Linsley than in past years. Certainly, they can’t afford for Linsley to miss significant time given the lack of proven depth behind him.

8. Clay Matthews, OLB

For the majority of Clay Matthews’ nine-year career, the Packers had no better pass rusher and arguably no better overall defender. Matthews might still rank as the team’s best pass rusher, though that says more about the lack of proven options on the current roster, and other defenders have surpassed him within Green Bay’s hierarchy.

Even so, Matthews has plenty to offer in 2018. He remains a steady disrupter when rushing off the edge, leading the Packers with 7.5 sacks last season. Furthermore, his versatility allows him to shift inside situationally, either as an interior pass rusher or in coverage. Pettine will likely ask him to do all of the above as Green Bay attempts to resurrect its defense.

7. Nick Perry, OLB

Nick Perry transformed himself from apparent first-round bust to coveted edge rusher two seasons ago, becoming the prized piece of the Packers’ free-agent class. He returned to Green Bay on a lucrative five-year deal, entrenching him as part of the team’s nucleus moving forward.

However, injuries intervened as they so often have during Perry’s six-year career. The outside linebacker missed four games and played several more with a clubbed hand. While still productive -- Perry finished second on the team with seven sacks -- he didn’t provide the spark missing from the defense.

Either by choice or by necessity, the Packers didn’t make any significant additions to Perry’s position group. As such, they’ll depend on him and Matthews to improve upon last year’s pressure production.

6. Jimmy Graham, TE

Despite the near-constant clamoring for a big-name free agent among fans and media, the signing of Jimmy Graham divided opinion. The move simultaneously provided Green Bay with its most talented tight end of the Mike McCarthy era and resulted in the jettison of Jordy Nelson, Rodgers’ most trusted pass catcher. While Graham and Nelson ostensibly play different positions, they fill the same role within the offense. Graham will spend most of his time in the slot, giving Rodgers a huge, athletic target that specialized in red-zone production a year ago.

But for Graham to justify his price, he needs to deliver more than just touchdowns. The Packers need him to open up the middle of the field, taking pressure off Davante Adams and the other boundary receivers. If Graham can bring that balance to the passing game, Green Bay’s offense could indeed reach its apex.