Green Bay Packers Undrafted Rookies: Three Poised to Make an Impact

As you may have seen from my Friday post, I went out on a limb by predicting the opening day roster for the 2015 Green Bay Packers. The roster contains sixteen new faces who were not active roster players at the end of last season. Not all are ‘new’ however as four players return from IR to make this year’s team (B.J. Raji, Jared Abbredaris, Don Barclay and Khyri Thornton) as well as one former practice squad player (Adrian Hubbard).

Perhaps most surprising would be the eleven rookies including three undrafted rookies that I projected to contribute this year. Two are on the defensive side of the ball: Tavarus Dantzler, a speedy and versatile linebacker from Bethune-Cookman and Ladarius Gunter, a tall physical corner-safety from the University of Miami. One offensive player is also pegged to make the team in huge OL, Matt Rotheram.

Today I preview those three and why they would be a good fit on this Packers team.

TAVARUS DANTZLER, ILB, Bethune-Cookman

Home Town: Homestead, Fla.

Basics: 6’ 2”, 238 lbs.

The Numbers: 4.66 40-yard dash, although in private workouts has run a 4.54 – the same time as first round pick Damarious Randall. Vertical jump of 35.5”, broad jump of 121”, 21 reps on the weight bench.

Stats: Played in 46 career games and finished with 176 tackles with 19 recorded for a loss. He also notched 2.5 sacks, six forced fumbles and five passes defended. Has played both inside and outside, but spend most of his time on the strong-side in a 4-3 formation.

Notes: Dantzler comes from the same school as former Packers standout Nick Collins. The two have met and compared notes. A tremendous athlete who possesses long arms and a motor that never quits. Good in coverage. He has said that he believes he will be most effective in a 3-4 scheme and the Packers must agree as they have told Dantzler that we will compete at the inside ‘Mike” position for them. His versatility to play inside or out, size/speed and natural athletic ability will be sure to have him competing for a position on the kickoff and punt return teams. A workout warrior and an impressive specimen even among his peers. A solid citizen who is hard-working and humble, which should translate into a roster spot on this 2015 Packers team.

LADARIUS GUNTER, CB, Miami (Fla.)

Home Town: Montgomery, Ala.

Basics: 6-1½”, 201 lbs.

The Numbers: 4.65. Vertical jump of 33½, broad jump of 108”, 12 reps on the weight bench and Wonderlic Test score of 18.

Stats: Started at the University of Miami, the same school that produced another highly successful undrafted rookie CB in Sam Shields. Gunter started five of the last six games at CB in 2012 before starting 25 games at safety in the 2013-2014 season. He tallied 101 tackles including three for loss, six interceptions and 18 passes defensed.

Notes: It was not lost on Gunter and his agent after he went undrafted that signing with the Packers might be his best way to make an NFL roster ala Sam Shields. Dallas, Detroit and Carolina were said to have been in competition for his services before choosing Green Bay. Gunter possesses the height and weight that coaches look for in a press-man cover corner. Although he finished his career at Miami as a safety, Gunter would become the Packers longest corner, where he is expected to compete for playing time and would also be a key special teams performer. Said to be a quality individual who works hard and looks forward to competition.

MATT ROTHERAM, G-C, Pittsburgh

Home town: North Olmsted, Ohio.

Basics: 6-5, 326 lbs.

The Numbers: A 40 yard dash time of 5.38, vertical jump of 28, broad-jump of 104”, 22 reps on the bench and a Wonderlic Test score of 24.

Stats: Rotheram made 40 career starts for the Panthers, seeing action at both right tackle (27 starts) and right guard (13 starts). He was a second-team All-ACC pick by the conference’s coaches as a senior. He teamed up with fellow rookie T.J. Clemmings (4th round Vikings) on the right side of the Pitt line to power a dynamic run game.

Notes: One of the top free agents to sign with Green Bay after the draft. A huge individual known mostly for his run blocking and can play either guard (right guard in college) center or right tackle. A powerful man who has the ability and desire to improve in pass-blocking. Not fast but good in tight spaces. Played in college at 342 lbs. and was coached by new Wisconsin Badgers Head Coach Paul Chryst at Pitt. A tough guy who would add versatility to the inside of the Packers line. Would seem to be competing for the final OL position with Lane Taylor, generally thought to be the Packers weakest offensive lineman. Solid character, hard-working and comes with a chip on his shoulder after not being drafted.

There is a fourth undrafted free agent of merit in RB John Crockett from North Dakota State. Crockett will possibly be pushing James Starks for the primary backup running back role behind Eddie Lacy and thus would have a realistic chance to make the roster. You can read more about that competition here.

The undrafted rookie class is a strong one and the three players noted above will look to add to the Packers’ rich history of mining talent post-draft, who go on to become solid multi-year contributors to the team.

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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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  • Archie

    GB has the well earned reputation as being a place where UDFA get a fair shot. That helps them attract a quality UDFA class every year. Getting compensatory picks (by not signing FA picks) and being attractive to UDFA are two ways that TT uses to stock his roster. Now if only he could draft on the defensive side of the ball.

  • dobber

    These three are all interesting prospects and were good finds on the UDFA market, but I see Dantzler and Gunter as practice squad material. Rotheram and Crockett–from my admittedly novice perpsective–have the best shot out of the UDFAs to stick on the final 53, I think.

  • Jay

    I am really high on Gunter because he’s large and physical. I thought he would have been drafted in the 5-6th round, but I guess his 40 speed turned teams off. Hopefully, the Packers can find a way to use him where his speed isn’t a liability because he has potential. He could immediately contribute on special teams and gives some flexibility as a corner or safety.

    • dobber

      “He could immediately contribute on special teams and gives some flexibility as a corner or safety.”

      …because the Packers failed miserably in trying to address either of those things through the draft? 😉

      • Jeff

        How did you come to that conclusion? Rollins is a beast with speed, Randall is another ball hawk like Hayward who BTW will be better than Williams on the outside this year and IMO he will out play Shields as well. So please explain why TT failed miserably.

        • dobber

          Sorry, I didn’t submit using my “sarcasm” font… 😉 I was just funnin’ on ya.

          • Jeff

            Oh lol my bad..I was just curious how you came to that conclusion I am slow with the sarcasm fonts 🙁

        • Nick Perry

          I’m with Jeff on this (I did notice you were funnin with him Dobber) about Hayward being better than Williams this year. My ONLY concern is Hayward strong enough. When throwing at Williams last year opposing QB’s had a pretty high passer rating, allowed like 40 first downs when throwing at him, and I believe the TD passes against him was pretty high too.

      • Jay

        You need options in training camp. Sometimes, players get hurt. Sometimes, they don’t pan out. Sometimes, they exceed expectations and become immediate starters, pulling them away from special teams. You never know, so you need to have options. This is a good thing.

  • marpag

    I posted this on the previous article, but I’ll add something here, too. TT certainly does well with UDFAs, but the fact is that the vast majority of these guys will suck. In TT’s tenure, there are really only four guys that TT brought in as UDFAs who really made a significant difference, outside of a few special teams plays. Two of them are very marginal interior linemen – EDS and Barclay. Sam Shields is another… let’s call him an average starter. The fourth is Tramon Williams – who was actually signed by HOU and cut at the end of his first camp. Pretty much everybody else brought in as a UDFA has been crap. Guys go undrafted for a reason, and it’s usually that they aren’t very good.

    Let’s hope that we get a couple of “Tramons” in this group, because the vast majority of them are likely to be “Zombos” and “Lumpkins.”

    • dobber

      Very true. We can’t lose sight of the fact that many of these guys went undrafted for good reason. But, given that this is the only kind of free agency that brings talent in from outside the organization that TT really seems to like, anything that raises the talent floor of the team in any way is a plus. I’d rather have newer, younger deadwood with wholly unknown potential than older, more expensive (and more proven) deadwood.

      It’s akin to MLB where some teams pour tremendous resources into the Latin American leagues and into the initial development of 15 and 16-year-old kids. Very few of those kids will ever do much, but every now and then, you’ll find a gem.

    • funcrusher

      Nice points! It’s good to keep expectations realistic. I think Crockett could have an impact this year if there’s an injury, but that’s about it.

    • Sven

      I can think of some other UDFAs that have done well, such as Ryan Grant, Dujuan Harris, and Jarrett Boykin. Those three made notable contributions. Pepprah, MD Jennings, Mulumba, and Sean Richardson, are JAG, Richardson and Mulumba could become more. Some great players make it beyond the draft and Packers seem to find gems a lot more than average.

      • marpag

        I can’t argue with your thoughts, Sven. I just think it’s a question of “how notable” is “notable?” In general if you ask me whether or not Boykin and Harris are good NFL players, I’d say no.

        Grant had a decent career, but I didn’t include him because (like Kuhn) he spent the first two years with a different team (NYG). GB picked him up in trade.

        Another guy like that would be Jarrett Bush.

  • Jeff

    I think Gunter plays faster than his 40 time, and with his size he can be physical with receivers to slow them down as well so he could be a good prospect to mold for the future!

    • dobber

      Here’s Richard Sherman’s NFL.com draft evaluation, for comparison’s sake. Sure, none of the Packers DB draft or UDFA prospects are 6’3″, but there’s nothing really to get excited about here besides the fact that he’s 6’3″ — and look how he turned out!

      http://www.nfl.com/combine/profiles/richard-sherman?id=2495507

      • Sherman had a tremendous broad jump – 17 inches longer than Gunter. Sherman ran 4.56/4.53 (pro day) versus Gunter’s 4.69/4.65. Sherman could actually high point the ball whereas Gunter should be able to but too often didn’t. One never knows though: perhaps Gunter worked out privately for GB, and measurables aren’t everything.

        • dobber

          “…measurables aren’t everything.”

          Too true. I think it’s not just us that get hooked on things like 40 times and arm length. I would argue that Sherman’s attitude is probably his greatest asset (along with being 6’3″). He plays like it’s his field and he’s pissed that anyone else is running around on it. Packers need a few of those guys.

          • marpag

            And as much as he refuses to admit it, he certainly does benefit from playing in a press scheme, often on a #2 WR, and backed up by the best safety combo in the league.

            • Taryn Miller

              Taking advantage of match ups is a key part to success…Sherman covers one part of the field and whoever is sent there allowing double cover on the other side.

              We were not able to take much advantage when Sherman didn’t follow Nelson to which ever side….Sherman shut down his side and we were doubled on the other side…heck we didn’t go against when he was clearly injured.

              Also,what does it say about a guy who dictated who your QB isn’t throwing against individually or the half the field he covers.

              Whether Sherman is or isn’t the best CB in the NFL is an will be an ongoing discussion but he certainly makes easier the job of others regardless and that is a needed advantage for any defense.

              Like a key aspect of what separates QB’s…the ability to make others better.Sherman undoubtedly makes others better and his play against the Rodgers led Packers is proof undeniable.

              • marpag

                I didn’t say that Sherman wasn’t good, so it sounds to me like we are pretty much agreed. He benefits from by used correctly according to his strengths, he doesn’t always have to cover the #1 guy, and he has great safeties behind him.

                The idea of “shutting down a side” is an awfully inaccurate expression, unless Sherman (or any other corner) is able to shut down trips right in a bunch formation single-handedly.

              • Taryn Miller

                “Shutting down a side is an awfully inaccurate expression”.

                If one fails to eliminate to obvious impossible or one concludes that not one catch should be allowed made no matter the level of the WR,a PI called against etc,instead of the amount of prohibits he inflicts upon an offensive game plan directly or indirectly..then yes,it is inaccurate.

              • marpag

                Let me just pop this ^^^ into Google Translate and I’ll get back to you…

              • Taryn Miller

                Google would laugh at one needing translation for something clear and simple.Do you also need a calculator for the x’s table still?

              • marpag

                If one fails to eliminate to obvious impossible grammar or one concludes that not one mistake should be allowed made no matter the level of the education,a verb used as noun etc,instead of the amount of prohibits he inflicts upon an offensive lack of clarity directly or indirectly..then yes,it is clear and simple.

              • Taryn Miller

                What do you expect when I had to offer all punctuation etc to you to ease your pain recently elsewhere.

  • Ferrari Driver

    Pretty optimistic; hope you are correct.

  • I like Dantzler & Crockett. End comment on them to avoid repetitive posting.

    Gunter has a chance as a safety or possibly in sub packages, but a 4.69 forty at the combine, which he only managed to improve to a 4.65 forty at his pro day, suggests to me that he can’t be an NFL starting CB. He does have pretty good hips. I think he is much better suited to safety. Broad jump (M. Rueter’s metric) was only 108″. Good, not great, 10 yd dash time (1.68/1.58). PS

    Most folks like Rotherham – I do. He is a fine run-blocker, who might help in 1st and goal situations as a guy who can move a defender out of the hole. Not so sure about pulling or pass blocking at this point anyway. Not clear to me whether scouts think he can back up at center (correct – I am not that big of a fan of Tretter, who in any case is entering his third year in the league). PS with a good chance at the 53.

    • dobber

      The fact that Rotheram played some RT in his college career leads me to hope that he’s better athletically than your average short-area road-grading interior lineman. Maybe he becomes a guy who can play from C all the way out to RT. The fact that people seem to be souring on Tretter and Barclay at this point is a cause for concern…

      • marpag

        I’m not souring on those two. Before Tretter got hurt in camp, I thought he was actually looking like a stud. I think if he’s settled at a position and can get comfortable, he’ll be solid. Barclay needs to be healthy. When he was healthy, I would put him as a “very nice backup” sort of guy, but certainly not a primo starter. Both guys are good depth, IMO.

      • Sorry, I should have been more clear. I noted that Tretter was entering his 3rd year, and I have long had a moneyball way of thinking. He has 2 years to show he belongs in the NFL and for GB to get good play while he is still on his rookie contract. It looked to me like he could play center (but preseason, especially when he often only played a few series, is a hopeful sign to me, not proof of actual ability to start), and it is TBD about guard, much less tackle. Clearly GB liked what they saw.

  • AgrippaLII

    I see these three guys as more than camp fodder. They all have experience at multiple positions…Ted values that very highly. Dantzler is in if he can beat out any LB on last year’s roster…and of course ILB is up for grabs. Gunter I can see as a possible future replacement for Richardson. I like Rotherman most of all. He is an upgrade at OL depth…Gephart ,Tretter ,Barclay…at least one of these guys and maybe two won’t make the final roster if Rotherman does. TT won’t be able to hide him on the PS without losing him…same goes for Dantzler and Gunter. I look for Crockett to take the last RB spot away from Neal…if he doesn’t make the final cut he’ll be on some other team’s roster.

    • marpag

      In my opinion, the biggest weak spot on the line is that they need a backup who is clearly able to play TACKLE. We’ll see if Rotheram can, but my guess is that he doesn’t have the movement to stay in front of speed rushers, and will probably be limited to guard or center. I think Barclay can play RIGHT tackle, but probably not left, and we don’t know yet if his knee is right. Maybe Tretter can (he was a tackle in college) but he hasn’t shown that he can do it in the pros.

      Right now, I’d have much higher hopes for Tretter and Barclay than I would for Rotheram. Gerhardt and Taylor aren’t players at any position, IMO.

      • TedTomsin

        Tretter will definitely be able to fill in at left tackle. Solid backups with him and Barclay. Rotherham sounds promising. If TT signed him than he definitely has a shot at sticking.
        Ted

      • Nick Perry

        Taylor had enough problems blocking for FG and Extra Points didn’t he? I can only hope that Rotherham is a better option than Taylor.

  • Dan Stodola

    I’m wondering where you found that Dantzler 4.54 private 40 is the same as Randall’s 40 time? Per his combine page Randall ran 4.46 and didn’t run in his pro day.
    Dantzler and Rotheram have strong chances to make the 53 roster. I don’t see Gunter and his 4.65 40 being up to the task. Maybe practice squad, but I don’t think there are many, if any, CB w/ a 4.6+ 40 playing in the NFL. If he is a special press CB possibly, but even then I tend to doubt it.

    • Good catch. Randall ran a 4.46. Perhaps the author could amend it to Dantzler’s private 4.54 forty time being better than Rollins’ 4.57 forty. Also agree on Gunter, though he could perhaps be a zone corner, perhaps in a nickel, not unlike Hayward last year, or even convert to safety since he tackles well and is 6’1″ tall & 202 Lbs.