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Packers Friday Musings: Which former practice squad players will fight for larger roles?

Multiple positions on the roster, including cornerback, should provide increased opportunities for young players on futures contracts this summer.

Green Bay Packers Training Camp Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

Up next, OTAs!

With rookie minicamps officially over, the Green Bay Packers now look ahead to Organized Team Activities over the next several weeks. As players get set for meetings, instruction, and limited drills, it is the start of a valuable learning time for the youngest members of the Packers’ roster.

A number of those players returning to the team after a year of scout team experience in Green Bay could compete for final spots on the 2021 roster, including a pair of running backs. Today’s musings touch on the chances available to those specific players and two others on the defensive side of the ball, before noting a position of intrigue over the next several years for all teams in the NFC North.

With one or two running back roster spots to play with, who will step forward?

When the Packers selected Kylin Hill in the seventh round this past April, the pick was met with plenty of positivity by the fanbase and many were quick to assume that he would win the vacant third running back spot left by Jamaal Williams. While Hill has plenty of potential to be enamored with in each phase of his game, he will have a number of competitors when training camp kicks off this summer.

After two topsy-turvy years in which he appeared in just seven total games, former sixth-round pick Dexter Williams is the most tenured back on the roster after Aaron Jones. After a breakout final collegiate season for Notre Dame, Williams has had trouble finding his groove in Green Bay, particularly during his 2019 rookie campaign. The Packers must see enough talent to work with for Williams to remain on the roster at this moment, but time is ticking for him to make a bigger impression.

In addition to Williams, last year’s undrafted pickup Patrick Taylor and former Ohio State back Mike Weber are also set to compete for spots. Taylor was one of several former Memphis Tigers to find their way to the NFL in recent years, but a foot injury sustained during his senior year lingered after reaching Green Bay. Placed on the non-football injury list in 2020, Taylor was able to practice for 21 days in late December before ultimately finishing the season back on the list. Taylor showed flashes of a higher ceiling while at Memphis and has a good blend of size and speed for the Packers to scout at a more effective rate this summer.

The Packers should have one or two running back roster spots to work with after losing Williams and Tyler Ervin to free agency. Jones and AJ Dillon are locks for the final roster, but opportunity exists for each of the four other younger and more inexperienced hopefuls.

Will any of the Packers’ practice squad holdovers make a larger impact in 2021?

Weber and Dexter Williams were two carry-overs from last year’s practice squad signed to futures contracts in January and will be hoping to win roster spots this season. However, there are a couple other candidates to not only win a final place on the 53-man roster, but factor into the team’s on-field success.

Green Bay has a need for more beef and disruption along the defensive front, and Willington Previlon could be one player to watch during training camp. At 6-foot-5 and 287 pounds, Previlon has the size and length to fill a variety of needs along the line and mold into a rotational player. Previlon was elevated the active roster for just one game last season in Week 2 and posted average production at Rutgers, but could be one of those late-blooming undrafted prospects that have made up the Packers’ line in recent seasons.

However, perhaps the most intriguing player in this writer’s opinion is Stanford Samuels. Active for two mid-season games in 2020, Samuels had some growing pains in his limited action, but had previous experience at both cornerback and safety while at Florida State. In new Defensive Coordinator Joe Barry’s scheme, Samuels could fit the valued slot position or even a hybrid type of role with the Packers similar to Taylor Rapp and John Johnson III in Los Angeles. Samuels had a strong training camp as a rookie and Barry will be on the lookout for high-upside pieces to develop at a position group with plenty to prove.

A few years from now, it will be interesting to rank the NFC North by the success of its 2021 offensive line selections

For a second draft in a row, Green Bay added three offensive line picks to its class. Josh Myers went off the board in round two, while the Packers added Royce Newman and Cole Van Lanen in rounds four and six, respectively. Myers, in particular, will be intriguing to watch and will surely be compared against Creed Humphrey, a fellow center picked immediately afterwards by Kansas City. But even Newman was selected just 10 picks before the Chicago Bears landed tackle Larry Borom and the ultimate results for each player will continue to be compared as the two rivals face off in future seasons.

As heavy as the Packers have been on drafting offensive linemen as of late, the rest of the division was almost equally aggressive this April. On top of Borom, the Bears drafted Teven Jenkins, a popular mock draft target of the Packers, in round two. While his position in the pros is unclear, he will almost certainly see the field early and the Packers will get an up-close-and-personal view. Detroit, meanwhile, picked up arguably the draft’s top tackle in Penei Sewell in round one and, likewise, the team should get an instant right tackle and a left bookend of the future. Finally, Minnesota grabbed a falling Christian Darrisaw in the first round before picking up third-round guard Wyatt Davis. Both appear to be a strong value picks by the Vikings, who are looking to re-make their own protection unit in front of Kirk Cousins.

While the Packers peel through an assortment of younger players to find their best starting five and reserve options, so will the rest of the NFC North. Three to five years from now, it will be fun to watch how each team’s picks unfolded.