Earlier today, Acme Packing Company broke down the rookies on the Green Bay Packers’ roster and how they landed on our 90-man roster ranking. Today we’ll do the same for the 2018 rookie class, looking at the how these players have moved up or down the ranking since this time last year.
There have been a few big movers here — a pair of late-round wide receiver picks impressed last season, while a third spent the year as an afterthought. There are some impressive performances from last year’s undrafted rookie class as well, as several of those players made the roster and had significant impacts a year ago.
2018 Draft Picks
6. Jaire Alexander, CB, 1.18 (last year: #20)
The Packers’ top pick from a year ago justified his draft position, playing with endless swagger and physicality that belies his small stature. Alexander’s coming-out party was probably when the Packers narrowly lost to the Los Angeles Rams, who ended up in the Super Bowl; that day, the rookie corner broke up five passes, putting the NFL on notice. A top-ten ranking is clearly well-deserved as he enters year two. Still, this will probably be the play that sticks out in the minds of Packers fans the most from his rookie year:
Congratulations to @packers CB @JaireAlexander!— NFL (@NFL) November 29, 2018
He won the Week 12 #NFLWayToPlay Award for this strike down block with his shoulder + finishing wrap-up tackle! https://t.co/KV9s98pWDQ pic.twitter.com/ebygkzvJmM
21. Equanimeous St. Brown, WR, 6.207 (last year: #40)
Despite being a sixth-round pick, St. Brown vaulted up the rankings after his rookie season thanks to a few huge catches and a big game late in the season. He didn’t have the consistency of production or snaps that the player ranked below him did a year ago, but St. Brown’s frame and skill set still make him one of the top candidates to be the Packers’ #3 wide receiver this year.
22: Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR, 5.174 (last year: #51)
When he was drafted, APC expected MVS to be a special-teams gunner. Instead, he ended up as the Packers’ third-leading receiver last year, starting ten games and providing a deep threat for Aaron Rodgers. For now, he’s running ahead of EQ in practice, and the new offensive scheme could provide him with myriad opportunities to take the top off the defense.
28: Josh Jackson, CB, 2.45 (last year: #24)
Jackson entered last season with high expectations; he was viewed to be a steal with the 45th pick, and the hope was that his ball skills would translate immediately to the NFL. To start his career, however, he struggled despite playing the third-most snaps of any DB on the team. He is still adjusting to playing man coverage, but a versatile skill set could put him in a better position in his second year.
35: Oren Burks, ILB, 3.88 (last year: #30)
Burks showed tremendous potential in the preseason a year ago, demonstrating the speed and athleticism that earned him a third-round selection. However, an injury late in the exhibition season cost him much of his rookie year, as he ended up largely sitting behind Antonio Morrison and a handful of safety/linebacker hybrids. This year, he’ll need to take a big step forward, now that he is fully healthy and will need to fight off a group of young players looking for a bigger role on defense.
T-40: JK Scott, P, 5.172 (last year: #39)
The Packers’ new punter didn’t really move from last season, which sounds about right. His rookie year was underwhelming, as he struggled with his directional punting and keeping balls out of the end zone. He’ll need a big improvement in 2019 to start justifying his draft selection.
50: J’Mon Moore, WR, 4.133 (last year: #31)
The biggest downward mover from last year was Moore, who never made an impact in the regular season. His movement skills looked great in training camp, but when game time came, he had major struggles catching the football. As a result, he fell behind his two fellow receiver draft picks in the regular season, catching just two passes for 15 yards. Can he carve out a role in the new scheme?
52: Cole Madison, OL, 5.138 (last year: #42)
While Packers fans talk about “lost seasons” for Burks and Moore, it was literally that for Madison, who did not show up to training camp last summer amid concerns for his mental health. Now back in the fold since the start of the offseason workout program, he’s fighting for a versatile backup role on the line.
57: Kendall Donnerson, EDGE, 7.248 (last year: #57)
After being relegated to the practice squad last year, Donnerson never made it on the active gameday roster following his late-season call-up to the 53. He is still the same player he was a year ago: one who possesses elite athleticism but who needs to find a way to harness that on the field.
59: Hunter Bradley, LS, 7.239 (last year: #54)
A rare long-snapper who was drafted, Bradley won the competition at the position during last year’s training camp (despite some struggles in the preseason), then had a few rough patches during the regular season. However, he is the team’s long-snapper for now by default, and will have the job barring any further breakdowns this summer.
62: James Looney, DL, 7.232 (last year: #55)
Another seventh-round pick, Looney started on the practice squad before landing on the 53 when Mike Daniels was shut down for the year. He played 19 snaps in three games, failing to record an entry on the stat sheet. With the arrival of Kingsley Keke and the development of fellow DL Tyler Lancaster, who had a much more impressive rookie year, Looney needs a big camp in August.
T-31: Tyler Lancaster, DT (last year: #70)
39: Raven Greene, S (last year: #80)
44: Robert Tonyan, TE (last year: #88)
53: Alex Light, OL (last year: #73)
54: Tim Boyle, QB (last year: #67)
These are the five players who were part of last year’s initial batch of undrafted rookies and who are still with the team. In other words, they were around early enough to be on our 90-man countdown last spring. Predictably, since each has stuck around for a full year, each has also dramatically improved their standing on the roster.
The top three players were surprises last year, but APC actually had Lancaster as the highest non-quarterback of the group, matching the fact that he now is ranked highest among them. His 39-spot jump is massive, though Greene’s and Tonyan’s were 41 and 44 respectively.
It is interesting that Tonyan was third from the bottom in last year’s ranking. He was the lowest-ranked player to make the opening 53 last fall, with Greene next. The player ranked immediately below Tonyan at 89, Greer Martini, also made a good run at the roster, though he was a late cut.
Notable In-season Acquisitions
49: James Crawford, ILB
60: Natrell Jamerson, DB
65: Gerhard de Beer, OT
66: Allen Lazard, WR
The Packers acquired all of these four second-year players after our initial ranking came out; Crawford was a shocking surprise, making the team on the back of his special teams contributions after signing two weeks into training camp. Jamerson was a late-season waiver-wire pickup, while the Packers plucked Lazard off the Jaguars’ practice squad and signed de Beer to their own PS late in the season.