Finally, the 2015 NFL Draft is over, and we know the bulk of the rookie class that the Green Bay Packers will bring to training camp. The eight players chosen by the Packers, consisting of four on offense and four on defense, will look to make an early impact in the team's rookie minicamp next week, along with the team's undrafted free agent signings and tryout invitees.
We'll take you through the draft class pick-by-pick to break down each player, and we also identify a few of the undrafted players who have a good chance at making the final regular-season roster. Finally, we'll recap the class as a whole and assign a grade based on how Ted Thompson balanced need and value as well as the players' expected impacts in 2015 and beyond.
Round One, pick #30
Damarious Randall, cornerback, Arizona State
Randall is a college safety, but more than half of the teams who he spoke with during the draft process (including the Packers) see him as a cornerback in the NFL. In fact, Randall's college coach, Todd Graham, told Packers GM Ted Thompson that he would have been the best cornerback on Arizona State's roster, but that they needed him at free safety because that position was so critical to the success of their defense.
Though he played most of his snaps at free safety, Randall did spend a significant amount of time lined up in man coverage as a slot corner, which is where he will likely have the best chance to contribute immediately in the Packers' defense. Look for him to compete for Casey Hayward for a starting job on the outside opposite Sam Shields, but it's likely that his best shot at playing time on day one comes in the slot in the nickel or dime packages.
All in all, the Packers are enamored with Randall's pure cover ability and ball skills, and he has good athleticism and speed as well. His tackling needs work, though it appears to be primarily his technique that needs to improve - he is certainly willing to make the effort, but just needs to improve on his number of missed tackles.
Round Two, pick #62
Quinten Rollins, cornerback, Miami (OH)
Where Randall's strength is his top-shelf athleticism and range, Rollins profiles more as a brawler. He's a physical corner who relishes mixing it up with receivers. Rollins doesn't have the size or length of the departed Davon House, but he could earn a similar role playing mostly along the boundaries.
Rollins' background also suggests there's plenty of untapped potential. He played just one year of college football for the Miami Redhawks. Though he made his share of mistakes, Rollins performed well enough to secure MAC Defensive Player of the Year honors.
As with Randall, the key to the Rollins selection is the presence of cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt. Whitt aided the development of Tramon Williams, Shields and House at the position, and the team expects him to do so again with their top draft picks in 2015.
Round Three, pick #94
Ty Montgomery, wide receiver, Stanford
At 6'0", 221 pounds, the Stanford product has a versatile body type. He possesses the strength and quickness to come out of the backfield as well as line up at multiple receiver spots on offense. Montgomery also projects as an NFL-caliber returner, averaging 27.4 yards per kickoff and 18.3 per punt during his college career.
At the same time, Montgomery is still developing as a receiver. He needs to learn how to set up defensive backs to create extra separation and fill out his route tree. Until he does, his contributions in Green Bay are likely to be limited to special teams.
Round Four, pick #129
Jake Ryan, inside linebacker, Michigan
The Packers waited until the early part of day three to address the inside linebacker position. Ted Thompson must not have seen a significant drop off from the higher rated inside linebacker prospects to others that would be available in the later rounds. Opting not to take a run stuffer like Denzel Perryman, the Packers seemed to have a priority on a player that has upside in coverage ability.
Ryan is good in zone coverage, though time will tell if he'll be ready to step in next to Sam Barrington right away. Though Ryan is the best bet of any of the draftees to make a significant impact early in 2015 simply based on the depth chart, it seems likely to be in sub packages. Clay Matthews will likely continue to get snaps inside on early downs before moving back outside to rush the passer in passing situations. In those situations, Ryan may be a good option to come on the field and help out in coverage.
Round Five, pick #147
Brett Hundley, quarterback, UCLA
After trading up about 20 spots in the fifth round (giving up just their seventh-round pick in the process), the Packers grabbed a long-term quarterback project for Mike McCarthy. After going through a long draft fall (and resorting to watching Family Guy and playing ping-pong to take his mind off of it), Hundley landed in a great situation for a raw quarterback, learning from Mike McCarthy and Aaron Rodgers.
Most of the knocks on Hundley regard his technique and comfort level with the position, not athletic ability. That is ideal for a player that will have multiple years to learn from the league's best at the position and from Packers head coach Mike McCarthy. Hundley may be disappointed that he won't have a chance to play right away, but he does have the opportunity to compete for a backup spot. He is still a relatively raw prospect who played in a short passing scheme at UCLA; in 2014, over 54 percent of his attempts traveled six yards or less downfield.
Round Six, pick #206
Aaron Ripkowski, fullback, Oklahoma
Possessing a bad attitude towards defenders on the field and the best fullback name in the draft, "The Ripper" is a punishing player as both a blocker and a ball-carrier. He's a competent special-teams contributor as well, and appears to be an ideal long-term option to take over for John Kuhn when he inevitably retires or leaves Green Bay.
Ripkowski should be able to find his way on the field on offense as well, however. With the Packers often using the inverted wishbone formation last year with Kuhn and either Andrew Quarless or Richard Rodgers lining up as double fullbacks, the team could plug him into that alignment as a lead blocker for the 2015 season before handing him the reins in 2016 as the team's long-term fullback. Ripkowski also lined up occasionally as a tight end at Oklahoma, adding a tiny bit of extra versatility to his value.
Round Six, pick #210
Christian Ringo, defensive lineman, Louisiana-Lafayette
Ringo is, physically, a doppelganger to Mike Daniels when he was chosen in the fourth round of the 2012 Draft. As such, he project to be Daniels' backup at the 3-technique position, at least in the short term. And like Daniels, Ringo was a strong pass-rusher at Lafayette, and therefore is a candidate to contribute in sub packages as an interior rusher as well. His big-play ability is evident, as his stats (11.5 sacks, 20.5 TFL in 2014) show a player who has a knack for getting to the quarterback.
Prior to the draft, Pro Football Focus identified Ringo as one of their top sleepers on the interior of the defensive line. In fact, Ringo earned the #1 pass-rush grade among all draft-eligible defensive linemen (while still grading out positively against the run), and he had the top Pass Rushing Productivity score of any lineman or edge rusher in the draft as well. Dom Capers should have another player to add to his interior pass-rushing package if Ringo makes the team out of camp.
Round Six, pick #213
Kennard Backman, tight end, Alabama-Birmingham
Backman is a lean, fast tight end prospect who is likely to contribute on special teams early on in his NFL career. With Quarless and Rodgers ahead of him on the depth chart, he will not necessarily see the field much on offense, but has experience lining both in-line as well as in the slot as a receiver - Pro Football Focus notes that he spent about 75% of his snaps on the line with another 13% split out and 12% in the backfield.
He is a shifty runner when he gets the ball in his hands as well, forcing seven missed tackles last season on his 39 receptions. Though Backman has the versatility that the Packers look for in a tight end, look for him to contribute mainly on special teams in 2015 if he makes the roster.
As always, the Packers nabbed a few solid players with 53-man roster potential immediately following the draft.
One player who has a great shot at making the team is running back John Crockett from North Dakota State University. With only Eddie Lacy and James Starks established at the position and last year's UDFA signing Rajion Neal currently occupying the third spot on the depth chart, Crockett comes into a good situation. He was a ridiculously productive running back at NDSU, especially in 2014 when he recorded nearly 2,000 yards on the ground along with 21 touchdowns. He also showed good receiving ability as a senior, catching 30 passes for 397 yards and another score.
Pittsburgh offensive lineman Matt Rotheram could be the Packers' latest undrafted lineman to make the team. With Don Barclay coming off a torn ACL and interior backup Lane Taylor struggling when he was pressed into action, Rotheram should have an opportunity to contribute and earn a spot on the 53-man roster.
On defense, linebacker Tavarus Dantzler from Bethune-Cookman will have a shot to take advantage of the Packers' lack of depth inside. Though he played defensive end and outside linebacker in college, he told Steelers Wire that he spoke to the Packers about playing inside. Given his size at 6'2" and 237 pounds, that seems logical, plus he has the speed to translate inside - he ran his 40-yard dash at 4.60 seconds at his Pro Day.
To put a theme on the Packers' draft as a whole, it appears that the class chosen over the past three days will be defined by their development over the next few years rather than their immediate impact. The first two picks will need time to transition to corner - Randall back to that position from safety and Rollins continuing his football development in general from his basketball career. Montgomery will be a work in progress, as Edgar Bennett attempts to get him integrated into the offense.
Likewise, Hundley gives McCarthy a quarterback project for the next few years, while the trio of sixth-round picks each come into a position where one of the players above him on the depth chart has a contract expiring after 2015 (John Kuhn, Mike Daniels, and Andrew Quarless respectively). Jake Ryan is the only pick who looks primed to step in with an immediate impact this season, and even he will be a work in progress as he makes the transition to a 3-4 scheme after working in a 4-3 at Michigan.
However, the Packers still did address most of their perceived "need" positions at some point in the draft - they added a pair of corners, an inside linebacker, and a tight end, while also taking a step towards finding a new long-term answer at backup quarterback. Only the edge rusher position remains a question mark, and that was more of an anticipated need for 2016 and beyond, as the team is relatively well-stocked there at least for this season.
Though the rookie class might not have a player who enters the 2015 season at the top of the depth chart, there is more than enough talent in this class to improve the backup talent pool. Come 2016, as many as four of the eight picks could be starting for Green Bay, which would work just fine.