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Packers 2020 90-Man Roster Ranking, 10-6: 2019 breakout stars poised for 2020

Brian Gutekunst’s 2019 offseason will go down as one of the momentous springs in Packers history. Whether it was big money in free agency or a surprise pick at the top of the draft, Gutey added impact players to upper echelon of the roster.

NFL: Green Bay Packers at Dallas Cowboys
Aaron Jones waved goodbye to the inconsistent usage in the Mike McCarthy offense.
Tim Heitman-USA TODAY Sports

The Green Bay Packers, like every other team in the NFL at this point in the offseason, have 90 players on their roster. Those 90 men have varying backgrounds, experience levels, and natural skillsets, but they can be defined into various strata of player.

Each year following the player acquisition phase of the offseason, Acme Packing Company conducts a ranking of the 90-man roster, based purely on the caliber of the players with no attention paid to positional value or value to the team. It’s an attempt to identify who the best players are on the roster regardless of position, and this year six of our contributors submitted rankings, which we have compiled into our master list.

Over the next week-plus, we will reveal the rankings ten at a time. Today we continue those rankings with spots 6-10.

#10: C Corey Linsley

Highest ranking: 8
Lowest ranking: 12

The lone old guard name on the list, Linsley excelled in relative anonymity as most centers do. For the third straight season, Linsley started all 16 games, leading the league in ESPN’s Pass Block Win Rate stat among all centers. Only former Packers center JC Tretter and future Hall of Fame guard Marshal Yanda matched Linsley’s 98% win rate.

While Linsley’s future in Green Bay will likely be short—the Packers just don’t give third contracts to most offensive linemen and Linsley will be 30 next year— he’s one of the elite players at the position, helping to set protections and always knowing when Rodgers wants the ball snapped quickly to draw a patented free play. His steady play no doubt aided in the development of the next player on the list and it’s not hard to make the case that from center to tackle, the Packers’ left side of the line is the best in football.

#9: G Elgton Jenkins

Highest ranking: 8
Lowest ranking: 10

On the scale of Brian Gutekunst’s shocking 2019 offseason, the Jenkins selection ranks pretty low on surprise meter, but only because of what else went on. For the first time in years, the Packers drafted an interior offensive lineman who actually played on the interior in college. Though Jenkins dominated at center for Mississippi State, he’d played all over their line and given his pass-blocking prowess, his skills proved even more valuable at left guard.

Jenkins finished 8th in pass block win rate, though he had been near the top most of the season. Lane Taylor’s injury ultimately cemented his spot in the lineup, but Jenkins played so well in training camp and preseason, Matt LaFleur had the two rotating in games like this was high school. That rarely happens in the NFL, but indicates just how impressive Jenkins blocking had been.

He looks like the next great Packers guard in a long line of recent vintage players.

#8: RB Aaron Jones

Highest ranking: 5
Lowest ranking: 14

The real ones knew Jones could be good. No one told Mike McCarthy, but even casual NFL observers watched Jones over the last few seasons prior to 2019 wondering why he wasn’t getting more touches. LaFleur remedied that error last season, feeding Jones, who responded with a star-turn season, leading the league in touchdowns and taking the offense on his shoulders.

Let’s not equivocate: Jones made this offense go in ‘19. He was the engine for a machine that did sputter in fits and starts at times, but never in the run game. Green Bay finished fourth in DVOA running the ball and only the Cowboys had a better success rate running out of 11 personnel, the Packers’ preferred deployment last season.

Of Jones’ 1558 scrimmage yards last season, his 474 through the air stuck out, as did his 68 targets. Outside of Davante Adams, Jones was the most potent receiving threat on the team, solidifying him as the kind of dual-purpose weapon teams crave in the modern NFL.

#7: OLB Preston Smith

Highest ranking: 4
Lowest ranking: 10

It’s funny to think back on last March and remember Preston Smith was considered the “prize” of the edge rusher market heading into free agency. Mike Pettine said his hope was to get one of the Smith Bros, and Gutey snagged them both. Preston delivered with his versatility as a pass rusher and cover player, able to play 84% of snaps and finishing 10th in pass block win rate and posted 12 sacks with four passes defended.

This late pressure against the Vikings and Broncos sealed wins, and his sack of Russell Wilson secured victory in the playoffs. Able to win with speed, length, and power, Smith consistently wins 1-on-1 battles in the trenches, and thanks to the prowess of his fellow Smith Bro. and Kenny Clark (both of whom you’ll hear about later), he sees plenty of those matchups.

Smith’s impact on the defense extends beyond more than just his play on the field as well. His immediate elevation to leader of the Packers, his bond with Za’Darius, and their combined energy on the team elevated this squad beyond what seemed possible in one season.

#6: CB Jaire Alexander

Highest ranking: 5
Lowest ranking: 9

Don’t be surprised if Alexander somehow finds his way to be even higher on this list next season. Alexander’s playmaking stands out among his peers, as he’s consistently been among league leaders in passes contested. He plays well above his size and won’t back down from players bigger, stronger, and faster than him. His ability to match quicker players makes him uniquely valuable in the NFL where he can mark players like Stefon Diggs, Emmanuel Sanders, and Terry McLaurin, all of whom Alexander locked down at various points last season.

If there is a flaw in his game, it’s the kind you want to offer in a job interview. He cares too much. He’s a little too aggressive. He wants to make every play. That leads to a vulnerability on double moves, a facet of his game the Cowboys were able to exploit with Amari Cooper. If he can play a little more disciplined but maintain his playmaking and fire, Alexander can be that Chris Harris Jr. player who takes opposing No. 1s, including and especially when teams try to put them in the slot.

Stay tuned for the top five coming later this afternoon.