Last week, Acme Packing Company broke down the Green Bay Packers’ roster position-by-position and gave our unit-level predictions for who will make the team’s initial 53-man roster when final cuts come down on August 28th. Now it’s time to recap the prediction as a whole and explain how our consolidated prediction came together.
This year, we had seven contributors submit pre-camp 53s. In compiling a 53, we first looked at the positional breakdowns to decide on numbers at each unit, then examined the players at each position that would fill those spots. Here’s how everything broke down.
Note: Unanimous selections are shown in italics.
Quarterbacks (3): Blake Bortles, Jordan Love, Aaron Rodgers
We still expect Rodgers to show up and play in 2021. This might go down as a poor prediction within 24 hours of this article’s publication, but we’re sticking to our stance that he’ll be back, relegating Love to the backup role. The majority of our writers also think that the Packers will want to keep a veteran on the bench in case of emergency, and Bortles’ experience with OC Nathaniel Hackett gives him the best chance of any of the three other options.
Running backs (3): AJ Dillon, Kylin Hill, Aaron Jones
Jones and Dillon should make for a fun 1-2 punch, with the RB3 job up in the air. Our bet is that Hill, the 7th-round draft pick, earns the spot based on his ability to contribute in all phases of the game. We made this pick before realizing that Patrick Taylor was starting training camp on the PUP list for the second straight year, which will surely hurt his chances of making the 53 even if he is able to start practicing soon.
Others receiving votes: Patrick Taylor (1)
Wide receivers (6): Davante Adams, Allen Lazard, Amari Rodgers, Equanimeous St. Brown, Malik Taylor, Marquez Valdes-Scantling
Few positions had such variation as wide receiver. While there were four unanimous picks, the staff was almost evenly split on whether the team would keep six or seven receivers, and there was little consensus on who the last two or three would be. Ultimately, St. Brown makes the squad as a deep threat/big slot option, while Taylor’s special teams acumen gets him the sixth and final spot.
That leaves Devin Funchess on the outside looking in, though he would be on the team if we were able to hold a seventh spot for a wideout.
Others receiving votes: Devin Funchess (4), Juwann Winfree (2)
Tight ends (4): Dominique Dafney, Josiah Deguara, Marcedes Lewis, Robert Tonyan
The only fully unanimous position group on the team, this tight end squad looks solid heading into 2021. Tonyan and Lewis will be the primary in-line players, while Deguara and Dafney will move all over the formation as well as contribute on special teams. Jace Sternberger is suspended for the first two games of the season, and the team will face an interesting decision on his status when he returns.
Reserve/suspended: Jace Sternberger
Offensive linemen (9): Ben Braden, Elgton Jenkins, Josh Myers, Royce Newman, Yosh Nijman, Lucas Patrick, Jon Runyan, Jr., Simon Stepaniak, Billy Turner
Ultimately, we do not believe that David Bakhtiari will be ready to go for week one. As a result, we see Billy Turner starting at left tackle with Elgton Jenkins on the right side. That leaves Runyan, Myers, and Patrick on the interior until Bakh’s return. Newman is a unanimous pick as a versatile backup, while Braden, Stepaniak, and Nijman claim the last few spots.
Note: in our OL breakdown, we made a mistake and listed Cole Van Lanen on our 53 ahead of Nijman.
Others receiving votes: Cole Van Lanen (4), Bakhtiari (3), Jake Hanson (1)
Reserve/PUP: David Bakhtiari
Although a few of our writers believe that Bakhtiari will start out on the 53 — either ready to play in week one or to go on injured reserve 24 hours after the cut deadline to preserve his eligibility for the rest of the season — the majority believe he will indeed start the season on the PUP list. That would keep him out for at least six games instead of the minimum three he would miss if he goes on IR.
Defensive linemen (5): Kenny Clark, Kingsley Keke, Tyler Lancaster, Dean Lowry, TJ Slaton
The only non-unanimous pick here is Lancaster, who was left off one ballot. Otherwise, this was the most consistent group on our ballots, with six of our seven contributors having this five-man group.
Outside linebackers (4): Johnathan Garvin, Rashan Gary, Preston Smith, Za’Darius Smith
Another consistent group on our ballots is the edge rushers, with these four being unanimous picks. The only question is whether the team will keep a fifth outside linebacker, but if the unit stays healthy, that may not be necessary.
Others receiving votes: Randy Ramsey (1), Delontae Scott (1)
Inside linebackers (5): Krys Barnes, De’Vondre Campbell, Kamal Martin, Isaiah McDuffie, Ty Summers
Here’s where the defense gets weird. Although Barnes and Martin, the two second-year returning starters, are unanimous, it was a four-way battle for three spots. Ultimately, Oren Burks fell one vote short of the other three players, who each appeared on five of seven ballots.
Others receiving votes: Oren Burks (4)
Safeties (4): Adrian Amos, Will Redmond, Darnell Savage, Vernon Scott
Although this group has an established starting duo and at least one solid backup, the fourth safety had a significant amount of disagreement. Perhaps the biggest range in numbers was here at safety, where two writers each kept six players. However, four is the consistent number, with Redmond getting the nod over a pair of undrafted players, one a rookie and one who contributed a bit in 2020.
Others receiving votes: Henry Black (3), Christian Uphoff (3)
Cornerbacks (7): Jaire Alexander, Ka’Dar Hollman, Shemar Jean-Charles, Kevin King, Stanford Samuels, Eric Stokes, Chandon Sullivan
We expect the Packers to keep seven corners this year. The top four of Alexander, King, Sullivan, and Stokes should get most of the reps, but this young group of backups offers plenty of talent and grit, as well as special teams ability. They will be needed as gunners, as we have only one notable special teams contributor at the wide receiver position (Taylor).
With that said, we like Samuels’ chances to make some plays in the preseason, while Jean-Charles will compete his tail off and Hollman’s pure speed should keep him in the conversation. Ultimately, we see the end of Josh Jackson’s tenure in Green Bay coming soon, perhaps with the team sending him away via trade late in camp. Still, with the team likely to run more zone, he could stick in a scheme that’s more conducive to his skill set.
Hollman and Jackson actually ended up in a tie for the last spot here, but after opening up a 1-on-1 vote to the entire APC team, Hollman came away as the staff’s clear preference.
Others receiving votes: Josh Jackson (3), Kabion Ento (1)
Special Teams (3)
Specialists (3): Mason Crosby, Joe Fortunato, JK Scott
Although there is competition at all three specialist positions this year, our one surprise pick is Fortunato beating out Hunter Bradley for the long snapper job. Otherwise, Crosby will return off a 16-for-16 performance last year unless his leg falls off, while we think Scott gets one more shot in the final year of his rookie contract.