Packers 53-Man Roster Prediction: Volume 1

Ted Thompson promises there will be a few surprises in the preseason. Packer Report, which has covered every practice of training camp and talked to all of the coaches, offers a few surprises of our own as we take our first crack at the 53-man roster and eight-man practice squad.

Here is our first installment of weekly Green Bay Packers roster projections. Before we start, a word of warning from someone who knows: general manager Ted Thompson:

"Every year, there's always surprises," Thompson said on Tuesday, two days before his Packers open the preseason at San Diego. "It's a fascinating time of the year for us in the personnel business because you have this idea of how things will go based on something you've seen in the past, but then to actually watch these guys – especially the young guys – play the game, you're always surprised. Sometimes it's a good surprise and sometimes it's a not-so-good surprise. At the same time, everybody's still learning, everybody's still growing. We haven't even played our first preseason game. I think it's easy to jump to conclusions this time of year. We're going to let it play out and see how we do."

Quarterbacks

Locks: Aaron Rodgers and Graham Harrell.

Bubble: B.J. Coleman.

Long shots: None.

Comment: Rodgers looks like he's in MVP form and Harrell transformed his body during the offseason to improve his throwing arm. So, they're the clear No. 1 and No. 2. What will the Packers do with Coleman, a prospect with all the tools to be a potential starter? They'd love to stash him on the practice squad to save a roster spot elsewhere. Prediction (2): Rodgers and Harrell, with Coleman on the practice squad.

Running backs

Locks: James Starks, Alex Green, Brandon Saine.

Bubble: John Kuhn.

Long shots: Marc Tyler Duane Bennett, Nic Cooper, Jon Hoese.

Comment: Maybe the preseason changes something here, but Starks, Green and Saine are head and shoulders ahead of undrafted rookies Tyler and Bennett at running back. At fullback, Kuhn is practically a lock but Cooper has a similar skill-set at about 1/9 the price. Prediction (4): Starks, Green, Saine and Kuhn, with Cooper and Tyler on the practice squad.

Wide receivers

Locks: Jennings, Nelson, Cobb.

Bubble: Driver, Jones, Borel, Gurley.

Long shots: Smithson, Boykin, Moss, Gilleylen.

Comment: Going to the bubble guys, Driver has had an outstanding camp and nobody seems to care that he's 37. Jones excels because of all the talent around him; maybe he'd have some value if the Packers think their offensive line depth could threaten the season. Borel has been sensational and practically has a choke hold on a roster spot. A groin injury hasn't done Gurley any favors, but Borel has been so good that Gurley would have had an up-hill battle, regardless. Prediction (6): Jennings, Nelson, Cobb, Driver, Jones and Borel, with Moss on the practice squad and Gurley being quickly snatched up on waivers.

Tight ends

Locks: Jermichael Finley, Tom Crabtree, D.J. Williams, Ryan Taylor.

Bubble: Andrew Quarless.

Long shots: Brandon Bostick, DeMarco Cosby, Eric Lair.

Comment: At this point, there's little reason to believe the Packers won't stick with their top four and put Quarless on the physically unable to perform list to give him another couple months to rehab from last year's knee injury. Prediction (4): Finley, Crabtree, Williams and Taylor, with Quarless on PUP.

Offensive line

Locks: Marshall Newhouse, T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday, Josh Sitton, Bryan Bulaga, Evan Dietrich-Smith.

Bubble: Derek Sherrod, Herb Taylor, Andrew Datko, Ray Dominguez.

Long shots: Shea Allard, Mike McCabe, Don Barclay, Jaymes Brooks, Greg Van Roten, Sampson Genus, Tommie Draheim.

Comment: The first five locks are the starters and Dietrich-Smith is the top backup at the interior spots. Never mind the sack numbers: There might not be a better starting five in terms of pass protection than the Packers' quintet. Nobody seems to know the status of Sherrod, so he could wind up on PUP. Regardless of whether Sherrod is ready to start the season, Taylor looks like the No. 1 backup at tackle. Sherrod has a long road back after missing all of the offseason and training camp. Prediction (9): Newhouse, Lang, Saturday, Sitton, Bulaga, Dietrich-Smith, Taylor, Sherrod and a player who's not on the roster, with Datko and Draheim on the practice squad.

Defensive line

Locks: DE Ryan Pickett, DE Jerel Worthy, NT B.J. Raji.

Bubble: NT Daniel Muir, DEs C.J. Wilson, Philip Merling, Mike Daniels, Jarius Wynn.

Long shots: Lawrence Guy, Johnny Jones.

Suspended: Mike Neal (four games), Anthony Hargrove (eight games). Comment: C.J. Wilson has been a starting end in the base defense so he's a front-runner, and Muir not only is hard to move against the run but has offered a little pass rush in the one-on-one drills. Of the bubble players, who's the best pass rusher? It's probably Jarius Wynn, but the Packers tend to go with youth as a tiebreaker. Prediction (6): Pickett, Worthy, Raji, Muir, Wilson and Daniels.

Linebackers

Locks: ILB Desmond Bishop, ILB A.J. Hawk, OLB Clay Matthews, OLB Nick Perry, ILB D.J. Smith.

Bubble: OLBs Dezman Moses, Erik Walden; ILB Robert Francois; OLB/ILB Brad Jones, Jamari Lattimore.

Long shots: ILB Terrell Manning, OLBs Vic So'oto, Frank Zombo.

Comment: Bishop, Hawk, Matthews and Perry are the starters. Moses is practically a lock with his consistent ability to pressure the passer. Walden, with his experience, is probably worth a roster spot, too. From there, it boils down to special teams, and that's where Francois, Jones and Lattimore have the advantage. Manning, a rookie fifth-round pick, needs a strong preseason, as does So'oto, who's fallen off the face of the earth. Zombo's never healthy. Prediction (9): Bishop, Hawk, Matthews, Perry, Moses, Walden, Smith, Lattimore and Francois, with Manning on the practice squad.

Defensive backs

Locks: CBs Tramon Williams, Davon House, Jarrett Bush, Casey Hayward; S Charles Woodson, Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian.

Bubble: CB Sam Shields; S Sean Richardson.

Long shots: CBs Brandian Ross, Otis Merrill, Dion Turner; S Anthony Levine, Micah Pellerin.

Comment: The battle for roles on the defense is intense but there's not a whole lot of intrigue with who makes the team. Richardson, an undrafted free agent, is a big, fast prospect who got his first crack on the No. 1 punt team on Monday night. Richardson and McMillian have the potential to be standouts on the kicking units. Prediction (10): Williams, House, Bush, Hayward, Woodson, Burnett, Jennings, McMillian, Shields, Richardson, with Ross on the practice squad.

Specialists

Locks: K Mason Crosby, P Tim Masthay, LS Brett Goode.

Bubble: None.

Long shots: None.

Comment: The Packers didn't bring in any competition. With Crosby and Masthay under long-term contracts, the team has one of the best kicking duos in the league. Prediction (3): Crosby, Masthay and Goode.


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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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