From 1 to 89: Option QB?

In Part 2 of our fifth-annual series, we bring No. 71 through No. 79. We lead off with versatile receiver Alex Gillett and continue with two veteran offensive linemen, a talented tight end, two intriguing undrafted rookies and three speedy cornerbacks.

As we've done in past years, we're counting down the Green Bay Packers' roster, from No. 89 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 89 players in the process.

No. 71: Kaepernick and RGIII?

Perhaps Alex Gillett signed with the Packers solely because the team liked his potential at a wide receiver group that was depleted by injuries toward the end of the offseason practices.

Or, maybe there's a bigger picture in mind, which the coaching staff has kept behind closed doors.

Gillett threw for 4,448 yards and 35 touchdowns and rushed for 2,433 yards and 14 more scores while starting 30 games at quarterback for Eastern Michigan. However, he was benched as a senior after the team started 0-3 and was moved to wide receiver. All 14 of his receptions came in the final four games of the season.

Gillett went undrafted and earned tryout looks at Washington as a wide receiver and at Kansas City as a quarterback.

Gillett ran some read option at Eastern Michigan, so he's well-versed in the nuances of a scheme that perplexed the Packers in the playoffs. He's got tremendous athletic ability and throws the ball well enough that he'd provide a good scouting look in preparation for the season-opening games against Colin Kaepernick and the 49ers and Robert Griffin III and the Redskins.

As a wide receiver, he caught the ball inconsistently but made two big plays during the one practice open to reporters to end OTAs. On one, he made a diving catch, and he followed that up by hauling in a bomb from B.J. Coleman.

With his option experience and raw ability at receiver, it certainly would make sense to keep him on the practice squad.

No. 72: Long shot again?

Last year, Greg Van Roten went undrafted out of Pennsylvania and wasn't signed after a tryout with San Diego. He was signed by Green Bay on the eve of training camp, then proceeded to notch win after win after win during the daily one-on-one pass-blocking drill to earn a spot on the practice squad.

Van Roten earned a midseason promotion to the 53-man roster and wound up playing in seven games. In three games and about 22 snaps, he was used as an extra blocker.

He'll be challenged again to make the roster, though there's no clear-cut backup at any of the interior offensive line positions and Van Roten has experience on his side.

No. 73: Intriguing tight end

Undrafted rookie tight end Jake Stoneburner is an intriguing prospect with his down-the-field ability. He played tight end during his first three seasons at Ohio State, catching 37 passes for 445 yards and nine touchdowns. Upon Urban Meyer's arrival and his installation of a spread offense, Stoneburner was moved to a hybrid receiver-tight end position. Earning on-the-field comparisons to Aaron Hernandez by Meyer, Stoneburner caught 16 passes for 269 yards and four scores, including a 72-yarder that beat Penn State.

Stoneburner, who interviewed with the Packers at the Scouting Combine, ran in 4.65 there and then in 4.53 at pro day. Not only does he have good height at 6-foot-3 but he's got a 34.5-inch vertical leap. He'll challenge D.J. Williams and Brandon Bostick for a roster spot.

"I feel like playing tight end, you've got to be able to stretch the field," he said. "That's what I can bring: I can stretch the field, and if you split me out, I can stretch the field that way, too. I think my receiver background, playing it in high school and college, helps gives me a good knowledge of ball skills and how to run routes, how to get open. I think that can carry over down the road."

No. 74 (tie): Speedy cornerbacks

Brandon Smith, Loyce Means and James Nixon have speed and youth on their side.

Nixon went undrafted in 2012 and failed to make the Cardinals' roster. He was on his way to the UFL before the Packers called, and he spent most of the season on the practice squad. Nixon played both sides of the ball and averaged 25.8 yards per kickoff return at Temple before playing cornerback at California (Pa.) as a senior. He's got big-time speed with a 4.31 in the 40.

Smith couldn't stay on the field as a receiver at Arizona State. He went undrafted in 2011 and failed in two opportunities to make a roster. At the urging of Seattle coach Pete Carroll, who tried to get Smith to USC as a cornerback, he spent all of last year working with Darrelle Revis' trainer in making the switch to defense. Smith was signed after trying out at the rookie camp. He's a superb athlete with 4.39 in the 40 and 40-inch vertical.

Like Smith, Means went undrafted in 2011 and failed to make a roster. He met Packers scout Alonzo Highsmith at an airport in Memphis and earned a tryout on Good Friday. Means ran a 4.34 40-yard dash and earned a contract.

"They've been doing outstanding," cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said. "They've brought good energy, a lot of competition. That creates excellent play. These young guys — Means, Smith, Nixon had a great interception — they're a very talented group. I'm pleased with the way the men here are working."

No. 77: Undrafted center

Patrick Lewis went undrafted out of Texas A&M and chose the Packers out of a handful of other free-agent offers. One of those opportunities was with the Dolphins, where he would have joined familiar faces Mike Sherman and Ryan Tannehill. However, Lewis had taken a predraft visit to Green Bay and saw a golden opportunity to make the team, with only Evan Dietrich-Smith as an established center.

Lewis started 22 games at guard during his first two seasons before moving to center and starting every game during his final two seasons. While the schemes are different, he's used to being the point man of a high-octane offense that demands intelligence and athleticism from its offensive linemen.

Lewis received a $4,000 signing bonus.

No. 78: Tackle candidate

The Packers signed veteran free agent offensive tackle Kevin Hughes on Feb. 6 to a three-year, minimum-salary deal. Hughes, a three-time all-Southland Conference offensive tackle at Southeastern Louisiana, entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2011. He played in three games for the Rams in 2011, and spent time on the Rams' practice squad in 2011 and the Chargers' practice squad in 2012. His road to Green Bay includes having his family uprooted by Hurricane Katrina before his high school senior year.

He'll be in the mix to be the swing tackle. His fate will hinge largely on the development of Derek Sherrod and Andrew Datko.

No. 79: Caught McCarthy's eye

Twice during the rookie camp, coach Mike McCarthy singled out Kansas State running back Angelo Pease.

Pease was a dual-threat quarterback at Cairo (Ga.) High School, which reached the 2007 state title game and won the championship in 2008. He spent two seasons as a run-first quarterback at Hutchinson (Kan.) Community College before landing at Kansas State. He made minimal impact in two seasons with 477 rushing yards (5.0 average) and seven receptions for 44 yards.

With a second-round pick invested in Eddie Lacy and a fourth-round selection used on Johnathan Franklin, Pease's shot a roster spot took a hit when he missed OTAs and the minicamp with an undisclosed injury. He'll be six out of six on the depth chart when camp opens.

"He's shown some good work ethic," running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said at one point. "He's got some nice speed, a natural runner. I don't think he played a ton there but he's been impressive since he's been here."


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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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