With veteran free agency essentially concluded and the 2019 NFL Draft in the rear view mirror, Acme Packing Company will once again rank and break down the Green Bay Packers’ 90-man roster.
Today’s rankings move forward to 25-21, headlined by two second-year receivers looking to build off of up-and-down rookie seasons, as well as an edge rusher that surprised many with a double-digit sack campaign.
T-25: Elgton Jenkins, OL
Green Bay made Jenkins its second-round pick of the 2019 NFL Draft and he was announced as a guard during the selection. Entrenched as Mississippi State’s starting center for his final 32 games in Starkville, Jenkins should quickly become the Packers’ top backup option at center behind Corey Linsley but figures to get his first pro reps at guard. Hard work and toughness helped Jenkins go from a passed-over recruit to early-round selection, and those intangibles along with his size and athleticism should lead to a long career.
Although the Packers signed Billy Turner to a lucrative free agent contract, Jenkins will have an opportunity to immediately battle for a starting spot at right guard in his first season. Even if he does not earn that role, Jenkins should bring the versatility to fill in almost anywhere on the offensive line after making starts at tackle, guard, and center during his college career for the Bulldogs.
T-25: Jamaal Williams, RB
Over his first two seasons in the league, Williams has had games like the one he had in New York last year when he rushed for 95 yards and added 61 yards as a receiver. And then there are others in which Williams has produced results much closer to his 3.7-yard career average per attempt. He’s probably somewhere in the middle of those extremes as a quality change-of-pace back for this Packers team.
Williams’ biggest asset to Green Bay is his third-down ability. The Packers’ best pass-blocking back, Williams has also been a fairly reliable pass-catcher out of the backfield. He will get a boost in competition from the arrival of another Williams, Dexter, to the Packers’ backfield, but Jamaal should continue to be used in the third-down role. Even as a complementary piece to Aaron Jones, Williams should increase his touches in 2019 with a focus on the running game and Jones’ struggles to stay healthy over 16 games.
24. Kyler Fackrell, OLB
A team-high 10.5 sacks raised some eyebrows among the Packer faithful in 2019 as Fackrell put together his most complete season as a pro. Fackrell registered three-sack performances against both Buffalo and Seattle last season and was much better as an edge-setter in the running game, though he still must become more consistent in that area. Appearing in all 16 games, Fackrell had a clean bill of health for a second consecutive season and played more like his former third-round pick status with Nick Perry limited by injuries.
Green Bay spent unprecedented money in free agency to improve its edge rushers and that will directly impact Fackrell’s playing time in 2019. Add Rashan Gary into the mix and Fackrell figures to settle into a role as a depth pass rusher. Fackrell may not be every Packer fan’s favorite player, but having a third or fourth pass rushing option who is coming off a double-digit sack year is not a bad position for the Packers’ defense to be in.
23. Lane Taylor, OL
A 14-game starter last season, Taylor anchored down the left guard position while the right side was in flux. However, he earned just an “average” grade from Pro Football Focus during the 2018 season and will have increased competition from the incoming Turner and Jenkins. In Matt LaFleur’s offense, linemen need to be athletic and able to move. Taylor would appear to be more limited than the other two competitors, but brings more experience.
While Taylor may not be an All-Pro caliber guard, he remains a steady starter on reasonable contracts over the next couple of seasons. With the right guard position in line for a new starting face in 2019, continuity could prove effective at the left guard spot. Still, the selection of Jenkins in particular should provide Taylor and the Packers with some much-needed training camp battles across the interior of the line.
22. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR
One of three wide receiver draft selections as a fifth-round pick in 2018, Valdes-Scantling was the quickest to emerge as a rookie. In the first nine games of the season, MVS reached 100 yards receiving twice, while posting two games of at least six catches. Whether it was the rookie wall or a factor on the field, Valdes-Scantling only caught 14 passes for 179 yards over the second half of the season.
With a 4.37-second 40-yard dash at 6-foot-4, MVS has natural tools to work with that few are born with. When the Packers drafted him, they knew they were getting a project to develop. Yet, Valdes-Scantling’s early playing time and production came much quicker than many expected and his growth in year two will be watched closely. He has the ability to become the team’s best vertical threat if he can win 50-50 balls with more frequency, and his route-running and ability to get open in space will be the key in earning Aaron Rodgers’ trust.
21. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR
Unlike Valdes-Scantling, St Brown’s rookie season started very slowly. Green Bay’s sixth-round pick was inactive for games two through four before posting three catches for 89 yards in week five. Those reception and yards totals would be St. Brown’s season-highs until a five-catch, 94-yard breakout in week 15 against the New York Jets. Although St. Brown did not reach the end zone in his first season in Green Bay, his route-running and hands stood out in the final stretch.
In 2019, St. Brown will join Valdes-Scantling in trying to become a key contributor for the Packers’ offense. Without an external addition in the offseason, Green Bay’s biggest improvements at wide receiver will have to come from within. St. Brown was a weapon as a crosser over the middle at Notre Dame and, without a true slot receiver on the roster, the Packers could look to pair him with Geronimo Allison as an inside receiver. Though the numbers may not show it, St. Brown’s talent and consistency rose as the 2018 season progressed and each was an encouraging sign for the upcoming season.