Checking Up on the Packers’ Third-Year Players

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Packers RB Alex Green could have the most to lose among third-year players.
Packers RB Alex Green could have the most to lose among third-year players.

At a time where rookies are looking to make an impression, sophomores are trying to make that jump, and veterans are honing their skills, it’s easy to overlook the third-year players. These guys are knee-deep into that transition between being a “young guy” and being a “veteran.” And for many of them, it’s this transition that will make or break their careers. When a football player goes looking to sign his second contract after three or four years, he’s going to know exactly what he’s worth – both to his own team and other teams.

The third-year players for the Green Bay Packers are an interesting group, to say the least. After winning the Super Bowl in 2010, the Packers picked at the 32nd spot in the 2011 NFL Draft. It’s a double-edged sword, because it represents a great achievement, but also provides a great challenge on draft day.

General Manager Ted Thompson ended up taking ten players that day, and four of them are no longer on the roster: G Caleb Schlauderaff (Round 6, No. 179), LB D.J. Smith (Round 6, No. 186), LB Ricky Elmore (Round 6, No. 197), and their final pick DE Lawrence Guy (Round 7, No. 233). Schlauderaff was traded to the New York Jets at the beginning of the regular season, Elmore was a disappointment who left with the cuts, Guy spent a year on injured reserve before being signed from the practice squad by the Indianapolis Colts, and D.J. Smith was a semi-surprising cut by the Packers last April.

The remaining six picks and two undrafted rookie free agents have made it this far, so let’s take a quick look at where they might be headed:

T Derek Sherrod (Round 1, No. 32)

  • Fate hasn’t been kind to Sherrod. No matter what people gleaned about his abilities from his short time in training and practices, there’s no avoiding the fact that his injury killed the value of Thompson’s first round pick. Sherrod’s been off the field since December 2011, and there’s no telling when he’ll get back on, not to mention how he will perform if he does. The Packers will be as patient as possible, but the outlook just isn’t promising.

WR Randall Cobb (Round 2, No. 64)

  • Cobb could very well be one of the top steals of the 2011 NFL Draft. He has that second round tag on his name, but as the last player to be chosen in that round, he’s just one pick away from being a third rounder. Last season, Cobb played double duty as the kick/punt returner and wide receiver. He was number one among the receivers, gaining 954 yards and eight touchdowns on 80 receptions. It’s safe to say Cobb will continue to have a primary role on the Packers offense going forward.

RB Alex Green (Round 3, No. 96)

  • If you look at 2012, Green was the top rusher for the Packers. He got almost twice the number of carries as the next closest running back for almost twice the yards. Unfortunately, the snake seems to have nipped at Green, who lost time at the end of the year due to injury, making way for DuJuan Harris’ emergence. Now Green is sitting below Harris, Lacy, Starks, and even Franklin on the depth chart. Depending on how many backs McCarthy decides to keep, Green is dangerously close to losing a spot on this team.

CB Davon House (Round 4, No. 131)

  • For a guy that was only active for four games in his rookie season, House sure made a splash during the 2012 training camp. The splash was so big that when he dislocated his shoulder in the preseason opener, fans were struck with grief. After spending a season in a harness and undergoing surgery in the offseason, House is now back to form. Sadly, that form took a beating against the Arizona Cardinals last week. It’s doubtful he’s going anywhere this season, but right now rookie draft pick Micah Hyde is breathing heavily down his neck.

TE D.J. Williams (Round 5, No. 141)

  • Call him the “Training Camp King” or “Star in Shorts.” Fact is, D.J. Williams can’t seem to crack a consistent role on the offense come regular season. In 2012, he played 262 snaps across 14 games, two of which he started in. His special teams contributions are even poorer. It must be a frustrating situation for McCarthy to deal with, and I’m sure Williams’ door of opportunity is slowly closing. I’m expecting him to last another year, but I wouldn’t be totally shocked if he doesn’t make the final cuts.

TE Ryan Taylor (Round 7, No. 218)

  • Taylor got some praise as a rookie from Aaron Rodgers, but we haven’t heard much since. He’s had fewer opportunities on offense than fellow draft class buddy D.J. Williams, yet he’s also been a much bigger presence on special teams. That said, you can’t be a special teamer forever. As with Williams, I won’t be shocked if Taylor gets cut, and the truth of the matter is that he’s become replaceable.

LB Jamari Lattimore (UDFA)

  • This is Lattimore’s last year under his current contract with the Packers. Right now, he’s the back-up to Brad Jones at ILB, with Sam Barrington the third man up. He actually followed a similar path as Jones, starting out first as an OLB. Lattimore also received some notoriety for his special teams efforts last season, which definitely helps his stock. He’ll never be more than a back-up, but for this season he’s probably safe in that role. Nevertheless, it might take some convincing to get the Packers to sign him to another contract in 2014.

S M.D. Jennings (UDFA, 2014 free agent)

  • Jennings didn’t do much his rookie season, but Nick Collins’ injury quickly bumped him up the safety totem pole. Right now, he’s currently battling second-year player Jerron McMillian for the starting role at strong safety. They’ve actually been battling since last season, when both received nearly identical snap counts at the position. Whether he gets the nod ahead of McMillian or not, it’s safe to say Jennings will be a contributor this season. In fact, the Packers might just extend his contract this year if he performs well.
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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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  • Wagszilla

    It’s time to end the DJ Williams experiment.

    Bostick can join Finley, Quarless, Mulligan, and Taylor in the TE unit.

    I’d be interested in seeing Stoneburner after he learns some of the offense and puts on more weight.

  • http://cheesestradamus.com BobBrews

    Normally if a player is to stay and make a splash in the NFL (as in Randall Cobb) It is pretty obvious from the get go that there is something special about this player (as in Randall Cobb). If they haven’t made the transition by year three than cut them loose. A few players take longer and become reliable players but not Stars!

    • Chad Toporski

      While it’s definitely easy to identify the superstars within the first year, they still take time to develop. Just look at Clay Matthews. He started out as a phenomenal pass rusher, but it took him a few years to go from that to an all-around great OLB who can rush the passer, play the run, cover receivers, and spy the quarterback.

      • Wagszilla

        I agree with your greater point but think that bringing up Matthews undercuts your case.

        Clay Matthews stripped Adrian Peterson and took it to the shed his rookie year. That’s the sort of game-changing play you don’t expect from most older players let alone rookies.

    • BubbaOne

      Hey Bob,
      Ah, er, you mean like Aaron Rodgers who sat on the bench for three years and even when he got his chance most fans had their doubts suggesting he was injury prone. Tramon Williams had a long road before becoming a shutdown corner in 2010…and the list goes on…and on.

      • Wagszilla

        And has suspiciously dropped off since Nick Collins couldn’t babysit the deep zone for him to gamble for picks.

  • Mike Sherman

    After reviewing the picks, I’m reminded how much hope I had for Alex green when we drafted him. His Hawaii college tapes were amazing….. Even if he was basically running thru holes big enough to drive a truck thru. Also had the back story of being poor and living out of his car for a year. I was so happy Thompson finally got us a running back that could play all 3 downs. What a difference a major knee injury makes. I’m not sure if Green ever would have been a star but its pretty safe to say that the knee has greatly effected him. Doubt he makes the team this year, he hasn’t looked good and while both he and Starks have bad injuries, Starks hasn’t suffered anything major. Pretty sad when your career gets so derailed with an injury that James Starks ends up being a better runner the last 3 years than green has!

    • http://allpackers.com nick perry

      I don’t mean to rain on your Alex Green parade but most had Green as a 5th or 6th rounder, and what we’ve seen of him injured or not, he lacks the vision to be a quality NFL RB. Go back and watch any Packer game from last year and you’ll see Green up the rear ends of his linemen more often than not. He also NEVER breaks a tackle. For a man that size to be tackled every time and never break free is pretty alarming IMO.

      • Stroh

        NFL draft scout (CBS scouting service) had him #90 overall, basically right where he was drafted. On the low side the had 4th or 5th, not 6th.

        • http://Allpackers.com Nick Perry

          Several others had him 5th or 6th. Doesn’t really matter in the end, he plays like a UDFA.

  • BubbaOne

    Real estate has it’s adage as location, location, location…the NFL’s should be be availability, availability, availability.
    What could this draft class have been if…Sherrod doesn’t break his leg. Alex Green had an expanded role in the game plan in the game Randall Cobb ran up his back blowing out his knee. D.J. Williams in a different game likewise was poised for an expanded role but IIRC tweaked his hammy during practice that week…and since has had minor dings that have hampered his playing time. Last year Davon had earned the starting role at CB and then injures his shoulder.

  • http://allpackers.com nick perry

    The fact that the Detroit Lions picked Titus Young instead Randall Cobb in Rd. 2 is one of the many reasons why we should give thanks to the Lions this Thanksgiving when we beat them again.

  • http://butlerrf@msn.com old time packer fan

    When you look at our list of injuries major and/or minor, how awesome is Adrian Petersons return from major surgery.

    • Stroh

      Nothing short of miraculous. Just make sure you don’t start holding all ACL injuries to his stardard. It was unique in extremely uncommon.

    • Mike Sherman

      steroids

  • Biggfootz

    Green and especially Starks stunk it up again against the Rams. For what it’s worth, they were running behind the two’s and three’s sometimes but there were a lot of no gainers and you’d think they could at least pound out a yd or two. Starks actually got stymied at the one yd line. Have to think Lacy would have shoved that in no problem.