Packers Roster Countdown Part 9

Woo pig sooie: Three Arkansas players are among the players ranked 46th through 50 on our most-important list. Also, two players with big roles on special teams.

As we've done in past years, we're counting down the Green Bay Packers' roster, from No. 90 to No. 1.

These rankings are not simply based on skill. Players were ranked on their importance to the team. Skill, a player's position, the depth of his position group, the odds he contributes, salary and draft history all play a part in how a player is ranked. More than the ranking itself, hopefully you will learn a little something about each of the 90 players in the process.

No. 46: Big man, big step forward?

The Packers' starting offensive line is about as solid as there is in the NFL. The depth, however, is a whole other sack of potatoes.

Outside of guard/center Evan Dietrich-Smith and tackle Derek Sherrod, none of the Packers' reserves played in an NFL game last season. That creates an opening or two for the young players. Going specifically inside, Ray Dominguez has the best chance of joining Dietrich-Smith on the roster.

Typical of most Packers linemen, Dominguez started at left tackle for Arkansas, including all 13 games as a senior to help the Razorbacks set 24 single-game or season records. An undrafted free agent, Dominguez struggled badly at tackle during training camp, but at 6-foot-4 and 334 pounds, he's got a future at guard. After opening the season on the practice squad, Dominguez was either inactive or didn't play in his 12 games on the 53-man roster.

No. 47: Special addition

The Packers didn't need a tight end when they used a seventh-round pick on Ryan Taylor in 2011. Not with Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree and Andrew Quarless on the roster and a fifth-round selection used on No. 49 on our list.

But Taylor wasn't your ordinary tight end. He was North Carolina's three-time special teams player of the year, and he'd be joining a team that was coming off a third consecutive year near the bottom of the Dallas Morning News' special teams rankings.

The Packers' rise to 13th in those rankings certainly wasn't all because of Taylor, but he played a big role. He played on each of the special teams units and finished fifth with 10 tackles.

Offensively, his only catch was a 4-yard touchdown against Oakland. He has a big supporter in Aaron Rodgers.

No. 48: Swing man

Brad Jones spent his first three seasons in the NFL at outside linebacker but has been moved to the inside. Typically, position changes involve desperate times and desperate measures.

In Jones' case, the reason for the move has as much to do with Donald Driver and B.J. Coleman as the addition of first-round pick Nick Perry. With Driver, Tori Gurley and Diondre Borel, there's a good chance the Packers will keep six receivers instead of five. With the addition of seventh-round pick Coleman, there's a good chance the Packers will keep three quarterbacks instead of two. If the Packers are going to go heavy at two positions, they've got to cut back somewhere. Why not linebacker, where Jones can play inside and outside? With 11 tackles on special teams, he has value to the roster.

One of the great mysteries to last season is why Jones didn't get a chance to help a downtrodden defense. For 15 weeks, the Packers sent Erik Walden into the game and the payoff was a meager three sacks. Jones started in Week 17 against Detroit and the playoff game against the Giants and got a sack both times.

No. 49: Opportunity knocks

During one of the OTA practices, D.J. Williams tipped the ball to himself and made a one-handed grab over safety M.D. Jennings. It was one of the great individual plays of the offseason practices, and Williams was surrounded by several reporters and TV cameras after practice.

What went unnoticed to the media horde is that Williams dropped an easy pass a few minutes later.

Williams was selected in the fifth round last year. He caught 152 passes during four seasons at Arkansas, including 61 as a sophomore and 54 as a senior, when he won the Mackey Award as the nation's top tight end.

With Andrew Quarless coming off a serious knee injury, the door is open for Williams, who caught two passes for 13 yards in 13 games, to seize a major role in the offense. Just imagine the Packers' offense with Jermichael Finley and Williams forming the Green Bay version of New England's Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez.

No. 50: He's good

There's not much that can be said about long snapper Brett Goode. At his position, anonymity equals job security. In his four seasons on the job, Goode hasn't had a snap that's resulted in a kicking disaster.

"These NFL games are so competitive that the margin of a made or missed field goal can greatly influence the outcome of the ballgame," special teams coordinator Shawn Slocum said.

If you missed ...

Rookies at key positions: 51-55

Gurley's detours: 56

Fighting for jobs: 57-60

Five defenders: 61-65

Don't be surprised if ...: 66-70

It's Noah's Ark: 71-81

Roster long shots: 82-89

Longest of long shots: 90


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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.


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