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.——————
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 .