Packers Roster Countdown Part 11

We reach the 30s on our list of the Packers' most important players, leading off with an under-the-radar rookie who was drafted for one purpose. Also, a gritty role player, a promising second-year pro, an underrated defender and more on Donald Driver.

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. 36: A shot of Daniels

This is a little high in the rankings, you're saying? Mike Daniels, as a fourth-round pick, might not even make the team, after all.

I recall doing my predraft work and I barely made a mention of Daniels. At 6 foot and 291 pounds, he wasn't a fit in the Packers' scheme. Or so I thought. Call me guilty of not thinking even the smallest bit outside the box.

Because the NFL is such a pass-happy league, there's really not much of a difference between the 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Can Daniels play defensive end in the Packers' base 3-4 alignment? Sure, but that's not why he was drafted. Daniels was drafted to put at defensive tackle and attack the quarterback in passing situations.

Daniels, who figures to battle Jarius Wynn for a roster spot, had nine sacks as a senior. If he makes the team, he would fit in the nickel-rusher rotation of B.J. Raji and Jerel Worthy to start the season, with Mike Neal and Anthony Hargrove joining the group after their suspensions. It's an admittedly apples-to-oranges comparison, but Raji had 12.5 sacks in four seasons at Boston College and Worthy had 12 sacks in three seasons at Michigan State. Daniels had 13 sacks in his final two seasons at Iowa.

"He's not a rebounder (tall), but he's quick and explosive and just plays with a lot of energy," Iowa coach Kirk Ferentz told Packer Report after the draft. "He might be blocked for a while but he's not going to stay blocked, unless the guy's really proficient at blocking. He's got some good skills. I read where Coach Capers talked about using him on sub downs, and I can see that. He can be a real effective matchup as an inside guy."

No. 37: Crabby

Under the assumption that Andrew Quarless won't be ready for the start of the season after tearing an ACL and MCL on Dec. 4, Tom Crabtree will be secure in his role of being the unit's designated blocker.

Last season, he was used as a run blocker or in pass protection on 71.3 percent of his snaps, according to Pro Football Focus. His ability to motion into the backfield and essentially be a fullback allowed the Packers to go with only John Kuhn at fullback. In two seasons, he's caught 10 passes for 99 yards and one touchdown and tallied 18 tackles on special teams. He added two catches in the 2010 playoffs: a touchdown at Philadelphia and the biggest 1-yarder in franchise history, a diving grab that allowed the Packers to burn 40 seconds off the clock late in the Super Bowl.

"Whenever he gets his opportunity, he generally produces," tight ends coach Jerry Fontenot said. "We want to give him enough where we're not stressing him out by having him do a whole wide range of things, but he has to be in tune enough to fill in at any position he's asked to play in."

No. 38: Playing House

Davon House had a quiet rookie season.

By design.

A fourth-round pick last year, cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said all along that he didn't want to play House until he was good and ready.

Singled out on a couple of occasions by coach Mike McCarthy during offseason media sessions, House appears to be good and ready.

House, who intercepted 11 passes at New Mexico State, played only on special teams in the two games he got on the field. He will challenge Sam Shields, Jarrett Bush and Casey Hayward for playing time at one of the outside positions in the Packers' nickel and dime packages.

"I think he's done a nice job of starting to detail his work, or finishing plays, playing with the violence that we're going to ask them to play with," Whitt said at the minicamp. "I've been pleased. He's come a long way. He's learning how to be more of an NFL player with his tempo. That competition is very steep and he's right in the middle of it."

No. 39: Mr. Underrated

A funny thing happened to C.J. Wilson.

After registering 26 sacks at East Carolina, Wilson has joined Ryan Pickett as the Packers' best run-stopping defensive linemen.

Pro Football Focus defines a "run stop" as making a tackle that prevents the offense from getting 45 percent of the required yardage on first down, 60 percent on second down and 100 percent on third down. Last season, Wilson recorded 19 run stops on 173 snaps of run defense. That's one for every 9.1 snaps, compared to 12.9 for Pickett and 35.2 for B.J. Raji among the defensive linemen who regularly get snaps in running situations.

Moreover, Wilson's run-stop percentage — the percentage of his tackles that were run stops — was 9.6. That ranked sixth among the 29 3-4 defensive ends who played at least 25 percent of their team's defensive snaps. With that run-stopping ability, Wilson joined Pickett as the No. 1 defensive ends in the base defense during offseason practices.

However, Wilson has become a nonfactor in the pass rush. He's got one career sack, and last season, he had no sacks and one quarterback hit on 234 passing plays, by the team's count.

No. 40: Farewell tour

How good has Donald Driver been during his career? Statistically, he's one of the best receivers to ever play the game.

However, Driver's days of dominance are over. He went from 70 catches in 2009 to 51 in 2010 and 37 last season. His combined 88 catches over the last two seasons fall short of his career-high 92-catch output in 2006. Back then, he was practially a one-man gang. From 2005 through 2007, he averaged a stunning 37.7 more catches than the No. 2 wide receiver. In 2006, he more than doubled Greg Jennings' total of 45.

Time, of course, marches on. Jennings, even while missing three games with a knee sprain, had 30 more catches than Driver.

It's not that Driver, 37, can't contribute. Nothing could be further from the truth. However, Jennings is an established star, Jordy Nelson is a budding star and Randall Cobb is a potential star. Jermichael Finley needs to get the ball and James Jones is an underrated playmaker. For years, Driver's greatest asset was his run-after-catch ability. With incredibly quick feet, it was rare to see the first defender get Driver to the turf. Last year, however, he broke just one tackle.

Driver will contribute and help win games, but the offense would keep rolling without him.

If you missed ...

Make-or-break camp for two vets: 41-45

Going hog wild: 46-50

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 and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at

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