Hidden Gems: Ranking the Packers Top Undrafted Rookies

Beginning late Saturday and continuing on Sunday announcements were being made regarding former college players who have reached agreement with the Green Bay Packers as rookie free agent additions.

The Green Bay Packers entered the draft with 64 players under contract for the 2015 season. They are allowed to bring 90 to training camp. Easy math says that there will be at least 26 fresh faces premiering as the team enters training camp in July.

Given the Packers recent history all eight draft choices, four on offense and four on defense, will make the squad barring injury.

In addition the team is reported to have signed 18 undrafted rookies and eight more have been invited to mini-camp on a tryout basis.  Obviously many will not even make it to training camp, much less the final roster.

However since 2005 no team has had more free agent players make on-field contributions than the Green Bay Packers. Thus the Packers become a popular free agent destination for players who just want a chance to compete for a dream job in the NFL.

Today I will give you my view as to some of the more intriguing prospects who may crack the final 53 man roster.

Here is the complete list as we know it for the free agents so far:

Offense:

John Crockett, RB, North Dakota State
Raymond Maples, RB, Army
Alonzo Harris, RB, Louisiana Lafayette
Malcolm Agnew, RB, Southern Illinois
Adrian Coxson, WR, Stony Brook
Larry Pinkard, WR, Old Dominion
Ricky Collins, WR, Texas A&M-Commerce
Jimmie Hunt, WR, Missouri
Javess Blue, WR, Kentucky
Mitchell Henry, TE, Western Kentucky
Fabbians Ebbele, OL, Arizona
Matt Rotheram, OL, Pittsburgh
Marcus Reed, OL, Fayetteville State
MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: QB, Blake Sims, Alabama
MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: OT, Jake Silas, Buffalo

MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: G, Andy Phillips, Central Michigan
MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: WR, Chris Mallott, Southeastern Louisiama
MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: OT, Josh Bredl, Colorado State-Pueblo
MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: TE Mitch King, Penn

Defense:

Lavon Hooks, DT, Mississippi
James Vaughters, OLB, Stanford
Tavarus Dantzler, ILB, Bethune-Cookman
Bernard Blake, CB, Colorado State
Ladarius Gunter, DB, Miami Florida
MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: DB, Skye PoVey, BYU
MINI-CAMP TRYOUT: CB, JD Rousell Sacred Heart (Conn.)

Here are the free agent players who may have the best chance of landing an opening day roster spot in 2015 and why:

1.  Matt Rotheram, OT, Pitt.

Rotheram was reportedly in contact with the Packers throughout the later stages of the draft and had the team kept their seventh round pick it could very well have been him as the player selected. Rotheram is huge and is an accomplished run blocker. He was primarily used as a right guard by the Panthers this past season. He can effectively play any of the line positions except for left tackle. Given that the Packers current backup interior lineman entering training camp will be JC Tretter who didn’t distinguish when he was presented the opportunity, undersized Garth Gerhart and ineffective Lane Taylor, the opportunity to stick with the club is very high.

2. John Crockett, RB, North Dakota State

Crockett tallied three 1,000-yard rushing seasons and was an integral piece of the school’s FCS Championship run. Crockett, who is nicknamed “Taz” after Tasmanian devil for his energetic style is a vocal leader in practice and during games and runs downhill – tough and determined. Very productive – set his school rushing record for yards in a season with 1,994 and 21 touchdowns. A poor man’s version of Eddie George and is a special teams demon while  bringing toughness and maximum effort to the running back position. After Lacy and Starks there is no proven backup.

3. James Vaughters, OLB, Stanford

Played against tough competition in the Pac 12 Conference and shined. With 31 career starts, Vaughters was a leader of a Stanford defense that’s been one of the best in the nation in 2014. He can play both inside and outside linebacker, but predominantly will play upright and on the edge in a 3-4 defense like the Packers play. A downhill tackler who deliver a pop and relishes a collision. He would be perfect for special teams and convertible inside – outside providing depth to two positions. A nasty, aggressive individual who will ‘bring it’ on defense and special teams is just what the Packers are looking for.  Linebackers depth is also a team need.

4. Lavon Hooks, Defensive Tackle, Mississippi

Was a two year starter on one of the best defenses in nation last season. At 6’ 3” and 312 lbs. Hooks is adept at clogging the middle and has 2 sacks to his credit as well. Needs some seasoning but could present a tempting piece to a team looking for depth at the position and rotational players especially with their two primary NT’s only signed for this upcoming season.

5. Tavarus Dantzler, Linebacker, Bethune-Cookman

Looks that part at 6’ 3” and 238 lbs. Solid, strong and fast – for a big man.  He ran a blazing forty time of 4.54 seconds. He registered 80 tackles, 8.5 for a loss, as a senior. The last time the Packers gobbled up a player from tiny Bethun-Cookman it turned out pretty well for them (Nick Collins). Linebacker is a need for the Packers and Dantzler would project better o the outside edge. Raw, but the sky is the limit for this athlete. Considered signing with the Steelers before inking with the Packers.  Excels at an area of need.

See Danzler’s amazing speed video here:

6. Fabbians Ebbele, OL, Arizona

A massive offensive tackle at 6’7” who played against elite competition in the Pac 12. A four year starter who is good against the run and only needs coaching to become a better pass blocker. Men his size and disposition are hard to find. As I have said before the cupboard is might empty once you get beyond the starters and Ebbele could fit the bill.

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Jeff Albrecht grew up just north of Green Bay and was lucky enough to attend some of the Lombardi Era classic games, like the 1962 championship and the Ice Bowl. Jeff went on to play HS football in the Green Bay area and College ball at UW - Stevens Point. Jeff is retired but still does some writing for his local paper. Jeff is a writer with AllGreenBayPackers.com and you can follow him on twitter at @pointerjeff .

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  • Razer

    The UDFA are always my icing on the cake and we love our icing. RB Crockett, OL Rotheram and LB Dantzler are most intriguing. Crockett has a good chance of sticking given that we only kept two starters. Reminds me of Starks but he is well spoken and I assume smart.

    • Americans1st

      I saw Crocket on a draft diary show and was pulling for him to make it to the NFL. Now, even more so. He does seem to be a decent guy and to really love the game (A Packer guy).

      • dobber

        He reminds me of Fred Jackson (who did have a tryout with the Packers, btw), who came out of little Coe College, in Iowa. Jackson bounced around indoor leagues and NFL Europe before getting his foot in the door with the Bills. Prior to reading this post, I would have picked him as the most likely to make the team…mostly due to a lack of RB depth behind Lacy and STarks, though.

        • Americans1st

          Dantzlers measurables put him in the elite category of ILB’s. I know he needs to add a few pounds, but that will be easy with a nutritionist and our weight lifting program. I guess level of competition is a factor, but you can teach a guy with athletic ability if he is smart enough. He could be a find.

          • dobber

            Certainly, light ILB didn’t scare many teams this year…

            • ted, of bill and ted

              Dantzler weighed like 240 at his pro day, I believe (228?). And we specifically spoke to him about playing ilb, per one of his interviews. He certainly passes the ‘needs to be a man among boys’ trait you look for from a smaller school guy’s tape

              * edit: may not have been his pro day. But I have found multiple sites reporting him to be 240. He mentions in his interview he played some tweener for bcu…I would assume he’s a little heavier than 225 to play that role. Could be wrong though, I suppose

    • holmesmmd

      Anyone not excited about this guy needs their head examinedSteelers were courting this guy heavily and he bailed for GB when they didn’t select him in the 7th rd. If this guy played for a bigger school, he would have been a high profile pick! Bravo TT. Kid reminds me a bit of Shazier from last year’s draft but is taller and not quite as fast. Very productive!
      http://youtu.be/TpsMBctOPxE

  • I think this is a fine haul. This might be impolitic, but I like several of these players better than two of our three 6th round draft picks. Despite the general packer’s history, I rather doubt some of the 8 drafted players make the roster but time will tell.

  • Big T

    Let TT handle the UDFA’s and anyone else handle the draft (especially Defensive players)

  • croatpackfan

    Good article… Almost every player I mentioned in previous article… I’ll became snippy…

  • dobber

    Vaughters looks more like an inside plugger to me than an OLB. I like that he brings an element of nastiness to the table. The Packers need more of that.

  • montana83

    Gavin Lutman – written up by Mike Reuter here 3/26
    FA with the Vikings
    Not sure why we didn’t bring him in. Bet he makes the team.

  • Rusty Weise

    The guys I hope stick are Dantzler, Gunter and perhaps the TE Mitchell Henry. Dantzler could be a super find if he has football instincts to go with his measurables. I was on Gunter long ago, but his 40 at the combine really killed him. I’m hoping he plays faster than that. And Henry is 6’4″, 252, and runs a 4.69 40, 37″ vert and good at contested catches. I could see that at TE.

  • AgrippaLII

    I hope your assessment is right…would really like to see some upgrades at backup on the Offensive Line.

  • Tundraboy

    I’m as excited, perhaps more, about the UDFAs and this years second year players as the draft picks. Going to be a lot of pleasant surprises I believe.