UDFAs Given Legit Opportunity

A whopping 17 players who entered the league as undrafted rookies on the current roster spent time on the Packers' 53-man roster last season. Moreover, 11 former college free agents started games last year.

The first-round pick gets a lot of attention. To a lesser extent, so do the players taken in the second and third rounds.

Even the seventh-round picks get their share of ink and camera time.

The undrafted rookies? They're ignored — until they force their way into the spotlight.

The Packers' roster is stuffed with undrafted rookies who have tasted NFL success.

A whopping 17 players on Green Bay's current roster spent time on the team's 53-man roster last season. For 2013, potentially, three-fourths of the starting secondary will have entered the league as undrafted free agents with Tramon Williams, Sam Shields and M.D. Jennings. Evan Dietrich-Smith figures to start at center and Don Barclay is a strong contender at right tackle. Brett Goode is the snapper, Tim Masthay is the punter and Jeremy Ross might be the returner. Receiver Jarrett Boykin, running back DuJuan Harris and outside linebacker Dezman Moses should be key backups, and safety Sean Richardson could make some noise when healthy.

"The success that we've had with the undrafted free agents, you have to first look at our personnel department," coach Mike McCarthy said on Wednesday. "It is a credit to Ted Thompson and the area scouts and getting to know the players in the area, not only on the field but off the field, and seeing something in a player that may not be rated as high at that particular time in his career. I think it's a great example of, it's not where you start, it's where you finish. So, we've had a lot of success there. Really, the credit goes, No. 1, to our personnel department and then, secondly, you have to look at the opportunity and the approach that is given to younger players in our program. Everything that we do is designed to coach and to teach to the youngest and most inexperienced player in the room. And it has had its benefits and will continue to do so. I'm confident of that."

Based on last year's Week 1 starters, there were 412 undrafted free agents in the league compared to 277 first-round picks. That equates to 12.9 undrafted free agents per team.

The Packers are ahead of the curve. Last season, Barclay, Boykin, Moses and Richardson made the team out of camp, and Greg Van Roten earned a practice-squad promotion later.

Barclay, Tom Crabtree, Dietrich-Smith, Goode, Harris, Jennings, Shields, Masthay, Moses, Erik Walden and Williams were starters last season (or primary special-teamers). That's 11 of 25 positions.

That reputation is a recruiting tool and a reason for optimism for this year's undrafted class of quarterback Matt Brown, receivers Alex Gillett, Sederrik Cunningham, Tyrone Walker and Myles White, tight end Jake Stoneburner, running back Angelo Pease, fullback Jonathan Amosa, center Patrick Lewis, guard Lane Taylor, safety David Fulton, outside linebackers Andy Mulumba, Donte Savage and Jarvis Wilson, and defensive tackle Gilbert Pena. Cornerbacks Brandon Smith and Loyce Means are considered first-year players.

"One thing I told him about the situation is you're always going to get a fair shot," Williams said of fellow Louisiana Tech product White, who's been an early standout. "That's the way I felt when I got here. The Packers definitely gave me a fair shot and I took advantage of it. You know you're not just here to be a camp body or anything like that. You're here. If you make your mark, you're definitely going to be rewarded for it."

Veteran undrafted free agents

— Don Barclay (2012)

— Jarrett Boykin (2012; Jacksonville)

— Evan Dietrich-Smith (2009; re-signed late in 2010)

— Robert Francois (2009; Minnesota)

— Brett Goode (2007; Jacksonville)

Graham Harrell (2010; not signed after rookie minicamp tryout with Cleveland in 2009)

— DuJuan Harris (2012; Jacksonville)

— M.D. Jennings (2011)

Jamari Lattimore (2011)

— Tim Masthay (2009; Jacksonville)

Jordan Miller (2011; Chicago)

— Dezman Moses (2012)

— Jeremy Ross (2011; New England)

— Sean Richardson (2012)

— Sam Shields (2010)

— Greg Van Roten (2009)

— Tramon Williams (2006; Houston)

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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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