Will Any of the 2011 Undrafted Free Agents Make the Packers 53-Man Roster?

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Green Bay Packers 2011 Undrafted Free Agents - UDFAs

It probably goes without saying that the 2011 Green Bay Packers should have a deep, talented roster.

That was likely the case before the last season begun, too, and it was proven time and time again during the course of the season when 15 players went to IR. Because of that talent and depth in the roster, the Packers were able to overcome the injuries and win the Super Bowl.

Heading into this season, the Packers only lost a handful of players from that run. The list of players from 2010 playing elsewhere this year: Cullen Jenkins (Eagles), Nick Barnett (Bills), Brandon Jackson (Browns), Daryn Colledge (Cardinals), Jason Spitz (Jaguars), Korey Hall (Saints) and Brady Poppinga (Rams). Brandon Chillar, Mark Tauscher, Anthony Smith, Atari Bigby, Matt Wilhelm, Justin Harrell and Derrick Martin are currently free agents without a team.

From those names, only Jenkins, Jackson, Colledge, Spitz and Hall were with the team the entire season. All the others were either mid-season pickups or went on IR at some point during the year. The point here is that the Packers found adequate replacements for the rest of the players listed, somewhat nullifying their impact on this year’s roster.

It’s a testament to GM Ted Thompson and his team of scouts, as they have done a terrific job of identifying talent, regardless of which avenue they’ve taken to acquire it.

However, the impressive depth of the Packers 2011 roster could mean that Thompson has to back off a strategy he’s used so well in recent years: keeping an undrafted free agent or two on the 53-man roster.

The lockout robbed many of them of valuable time during summer practices, but it’s also forcing both the UDFA’s and Thompson to make quick evaluations during training camp.

The players have had to learn an entire playbook quickly and still impress coaches with their play on the practice field. As if they were already behind, who do you think lost out the most from Saturday’s rainout at Family Night? These guys. Only the No.1 offense and No. 2 defense got any reps in team action. Typically, the scrimmage is just another critical evaluation period for the bottom of the roster. But that didn’t happen Saturday night, as storms called off the practice just 30 minutes or so in.

That also puts a strain on Thompson, who has been as successful with undrafted free agents as any general manager in the NFL today. He’ll have to make the call on these guys after seeing very limited reps—reps in which the players are just starting to digest and understand an NFL playbook.

It’s been an unusual offseason, to say the least. That could just mean that the no undrafted free agents make the Packers roster.

 

Let’s quickly run down the undrafted free agents to see if any have a legitimate chance to crack the 53.

WR Diondre Borel (Utah State): The Packers are loaded at receiver, but he may be worth an extra look because he can contribute on special teams. Still, it’s likely practice team or nothing for Borel, a former quarterback at Utah State.

S Anthony Bratton (Delaware): He may have a decent chance at making the 53. The Packers lack depth at safety behind Nick Collins, Morgan Burnett and Charlie Peprah. Bratton will likely have to beat out Anthony Levine to win the fourth safety spot.

DE Chris Donaldson (Oklahoma State): Depth along the defensive line is questionable, too. But Donaldson has a tough hill to climb to unseat any of the incumbents.

Shaky Smithson (9) catches a pass over Brandian Ross. (Photo: AP)

G Ray Dominguez (Arkansas): He’s struggled in camp so far, as he’s been forced into switching back-and-forth between guard and tackle. Dominguez will likely have to beat out sixth-rounder Caleb Schlauderaff to win a spot.

C Sampson Genus (South Florida): The Packers could use a young understudy to Scott Wells, but they also have other options at the position. Nick McDonald can play there if necessary, and Evan Dietrich-Smith was the backup towards the end of the season.

WR Tori Gurley (South Carolina): You have to love the frame and athleticism, but where does Gurley fit? The Packers are stacked at receiver. He’s practice squad or bust.

FB Jon Hoese (Minnesota): The only way Hoese makes the team is if the Packers decide to stick to their old way of three fullbacks. I think they have better uses for a roster spot than a third fullback.

S M.D. Jennings (Arkansas State): Like Bratton, Jennings could push for a spot because of a lack of depth at safety. Still, 187-pound safeties don’t usually make NFL rosters.

DE Eli Joseph (Temple): Injuries have kept Joseph out of practice to start camp. That’s a roster death-wish for an undrafted free agent who’s already this far behind.

LB Peanut Jospeh (Temple): Peanut, Eli’s brother, could benefit from the Packers depth issues at inside linebacker. Cardia Jackson and Robert Francois have looked good early in camp, however.

LB Jamari Lattimore (Mid Tenn. State): OLB Frank Zombo stuck last year, giving Lattimore an outside chance of winning a spot if he has a big camp. He’s shown some good things so far.

CB Brandian Ross (Youngstown State): Picking off Aaron Rodgers to start the Family Night scrimmage can’t hurt his cause, but Ross has plenty of competition at cornerback to win a spot. He’ll need to keep making those kind of plays to warrant a look.

RB Brandon Saine (Ohio State): His size and speed combination are worthy of an NFL running back. Saine will need to show something on third down and special teams to convince the Packers to keep an extra back. He’s definitely practice squad material, however.

T Theo Sherman (James Madison): The Packers have needed extra bodies at tackle during camp, but that has more to do with the coaches caution in regards to Bryan Bulaga and Chad Clifton. The emergence of Marshall Newhouse at tackle could eliminate the need to carry an extra one.

WR/KR Shaky Smithson (Utah): He’s slowly become a fan favorite, but Smithson is still a long shot to make the team. If Randall Cobb and Alex Green can handle the returning duties, the Packers won’t need to waste a roster spot on a player who is solely a returner.

LB Vic So’oto (BYU): He’s an interesting pass-rushing prospect, but is he good enough to beat out the likes of Brad Jones or Erik Walden?

WR Kerry Taylor (Arizona State): I like the bloodlines (nephew of 49ers receiving great John Taylor), but like most receivers in camp, how does he fit in? If a guy like Brett Swain, who made the roster last season, is a likely cut, how can a guy like Taylor make the team?

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Zach Kruse is a 23-year-old sports journalist with a passion for the Green Bay Packers. He currently lives in Wisconsin and is working on his journalism degree, while also covering prep sports for The Dunn Co. News.

You can read more of Zach's Packers articles on AllGreenBayPackers.com.

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  • Bob

    I would not want to be undrafted and trying to make this team – will be interesting to see if any of them show up elsewhere.

    • Zach Kruse

      Some of these guys I think could be good players. Just no where to fit them in. Packers training camp is an audition ground for the rest of the 31 NFL though. Most will catch on

  • Ron LC

    It’ll be an uphill climb for the FA’s this year. Thanks for the great summary of all those guys I don’t know anything about.

    • Zach Kruse

      Thanks Ron. It definitely is an uphill climb.

  • FireMMNow

    i think dominguez, ross, lattimore and shaky are the only guys that have a chance. shaky may have gotten to this team one year too late. i could see him as a practice squad guy. if cobb gets injured it would be nice to have an actual return man to stick in the lineup instead of throwing jordy or tramon back into the mix.

    lattimore is an explosive guy that will warrant a little extra time. if greene feels like he is developing i would guess that he sticks or PS.

    ross and dominguez seem to have some potential at positions of constant need.

    i doubt any of the safeties make it. guys like anthony smith and derrick martin are out there. they are nothing special, but they know the system.

    • Zach Kruse

      I don’t think Anthony Smith or Derrick Martin are options anymore at safety. They’re not with the team. Only an injury could potentially bring one back (like Smith last year).

  • Chris K

    I think we’re gonna have a heck of a practice squad!! WR-Diondre Borel, TE-Ryan Taylor, RT-Ray Dominguez, RB-Brandon Saine, G-Caleb Schlauderaff, DE-Lawrence Guy, OLB-Vic So’oto, & CB-Brandian Ross

    Sampson Genus has been playing RG in camp.

    • Zach Kruse

      Practice squad should be decent— but remember, on the practice squad, you might as well be a free agent. Any team can take you from the PS, as long as they put the player on the active roster.

      • Mojo

        Zach, a question regarding the PS. If a team takes a player off your PS do you have the right to add him to your own roster (and cut a current 53 player) before the other team can claim him? I thought that was the case but not certain.

        If it is the case then the PS rules allow the team the right of first refusal, which could be useful if there is a PS player you deem as a highly worthy prospect(There could be reasons a team would rather stow a prospect on the PS vs the 53).

        • Zach Kruse

          Think of the Practice Squad this way: They are simply free agents who practice with the Packers. They can sign with any team (given it is six days before their current team’s next game), but that team must make put them on the active roster. I suppose if a team knew another team was about to take one of their players, they could bring them up to the active roster. But either way, the PS is a tenuous way of keeping 8 extra players along for practice. Does that help?

          • Mojo

            Thanks Zach.

            Sounds like there is no right of first refusal for the team relating to players on the PS.

            If so, then it is very risky trying to stash players you like there.

            • http://allgbp.com Jersey Al

              There is no right of first refusal, but these rules do apply:

              Practice squad players are always free agents, meaning any NFL team can sign them away from another team. The catch with this? A team can’t sign a player one week before they play that team and the team that signs a practice squad player must count that player against their 53-man active roster for at least three weeks, bye weeks included. This is even if the player is released after one week – they still count as a spot on the roster.

              Players that are promoted internally from the practice squad to the active roster must remain there for three weeks and get paid the minimum salary for their status (rookie or veteran). If they are let go for some reason before the three weeks are up, they are still paid for those three full weeks.

      • Chris K

        Absolutely, but I do believe alot of these players know what kind of time they’ve invested in learning this defense and to leave and get a gameday check while it may be more, I think they would choose to stay! If they make it past waivers, I dont see many leaving afterwards. It seem every year 1 may leave but most stay.. We grabbed Dimitri Nance last year.

        Its really intringing b/c I think for undraftednot oly this year but the next two or three years this may be the way they could break onto our squad. Like Anthony Levine is looking to do this year! I am surprised CB-Josh Gordy isn’t showing up though, thought we might have had something maybe…

        • Zach Kruse

          I think Levine makes the roster. And about Gordy—he made a few plays in the scrimmage the other night. But sometimes as a cornerback, it’s better to be invisible. You know?

  • Mojo

    I don’t know these guys well enough. Will have to wait til the exhibition season ends to see if any have a chance. You probably will see a number of these guys on the PS not necessarily on the 53.

    Just not a lot of openings.

    • Zach Kruse

      It’s definitely too early to draw too many conclusions, but it’s hard to see where any of them fit. Preseason will tell us a lot. But just because a guy surprises in the preseason doesn’t mean they’ll get a roster spot. Not many available on this team

  • Lucas

    I would like to see G.B. not show off Shaky in pre-season games, and hide him on the practice squad for a year. Looking to the 2012/2013 season, TT & MM may not want Cobb to be as exposed to special teams.

    • Zach Kruse

      My guess is most teams already know quite a bit about him. There’s really no way to “hide” someone in the NFL. Like Shaky said in his interview with Lori Nickel, he had other teams after him, but he liked Green Bay. Maybe he stays on the practice squad, maybe not. But it’s risky either way keeping him there

  • http://none GalaxyM81

    Sometimes I wish for a 55 man roster because one thing for sure, other teams (Especially this year) will be waiting to see who the Packers cut. There are a couple of guys here you do not want to see get cut and end up with another team, especially someone in the north division.