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. 4: Williams' way
On a defense that revolves around making plays, Tramon Williams is one of the game's great playmakers.
In his five seasons, Williams has 20 interceptions. Among active players who were 28 or younger at the start of last year, Williams was tied for fourth in interceptions behind DeAngelo Hall (35), Chris Gamble (27) and Antonio Cromartie 22 and tied with Leon Hall. At the same age, Charles Woodson had 17 interceptions. Including playoffs, Williams leads the NFL in interceptions over the last two seasons with 13.
Even last season, when he was limited by an injured nerve in his right shoulder, Williams intercepted four passes and led the team with a career-high 24 passes defensed.
However, of the 66 cornerbacks who played at least half of his defense's snaps, Williams gave up the 10th-most completions (61), most yards (1,034) and second-most yards after the catch (341), according to ProFootballFocus.com. Only two cornerbacks missed more tackles that Williams' 16.
As the stats show — both the good ones and the bad ones — Williams' footwork and anticipation were fine. Sometimes, he was guilty of gambling too often. More than anything, though, he simply lacked the strength to reroute receivers at the line of scrimmage and then bring them down when they made the catch.
"Tramon is a selfless man, because he shouldn't … I'm not going to say he shouldn't have been out there, but he did what he thought was best for the football team, and he put the football team before his body," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "And guys don't do that in this era. He was really hurt but he thought and I thought he gave us the best chance to win football games. Was he close to 100 percent? No he wasn't. Did we make any excuses about that? No, because once he ran out there, that meant that he was good enough to help us win."
Williams wasn't sure if the shoulder would be 100 percent healthy in time for training camp but said it's "a lot stronger" and that he didn't think "it will be an issue at all."
And if Williams is healthy?
"With a healthy Tramon Williams, the way he played in 2010 is what you'll see," Whitt said. "I'm confident with him. With how he played in 2010, you'll see that in 2012."
No. 5: Perry to the rescue?
An outside linebacker in a 3-4 scheme has a diverse job description, including muscling up against a 340-pound offensive tackle against the run and running deep with one of the new-wave tight ends.
Nothing, however, is more important than rushing the passer, which is why the Packers used their first-round pick on Nick Perry.
According to the numbers compiled by ProFootballFocus.com, the Packers' outside linebackers combined for 12 sacks, 35 quarterback hits and 68 hurries for a combined 115 pressures. Of those, six sacks, 14 hits, 29 hurries and 49 total pressures came from the outside linebackers without the long, blond hair and No. 52 jersey.
To put that in perspective, nine 3-4 outside linebackers had more pressures and 11 had more sacks. Erik Walden led that group with three sacks; 21 3-4 outside linebackers had more.
Perry, with 21.5 sacks in three seasons at USC, has the ability to dramatically upgrade the Packers' woeful pass rush.
"I liked the fact that he had some God-given pass-rushing ability and instincts to him," outside linebackers coach Kevin Greene said.
Much has been made of Perry lining up at Clay Matthews' left outside linebacker spot and Matthews going to the right side. As long as they're bringing the heat, it won't matter who lines up where.
"You know, obviously, with Nick coming in here, bringing a presence off the edge, it's only going to help us out," Matthews said. "The misnomer about the position is that we're stuck to one side. On paper, it's going to say ‘left outside linebacker' or ‘right outside linebacker.' Really, those positions are interchangeable, so the faster we can get him up to speed, the faster we can have some fun moving him around, flying around and making some plays together."
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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 firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/PackerReport.