Ranking the top 22 Packers

With not much happening in the NFL until later this month, when teams open training camp, it seems like the right time to look at the Packers' projected starting lineup on offense and defense — and rank the players 1 through 22.

There are a lot of ways to go with all 22 players, but when studying the roster I couldn't move No. 4 out of the No. 1 spot. He still makes plays, although his 29 interceptions last season might say otherwise. Many national Web sites that cover the NFL also rank Favre as a top 10 player at his position. He is usually the reason the Packers win and lose, but I'd still take him over many other players at his position. With this in mind, here are the rankings:

1. Brett Favre: Still one of the best at his position, but needs to cut down on interceptions to maintain this position all season.

2. Mark Tauscher: He hardly has had a penalty during his career at right tackle, and he's reliable as they come. He's a gamer, and once you find a good tackle, you keep him.

3. Chad Clifton: Playing left tackle can be tough, but Clifton more than holds his own protecting Favre's blindside. He, along with Tauscher, give the Packers one of the best tackle tandems in the NFL.

4. Donald Driver: He's a great guy who performs year-in and year-out. Over 1,000 yards last season, despite not having a quality No. 2 on the other side.

5. Al Harris: Yes, he's likely going to hold out, but on the field Harris has been worth every penny he signed for. He's a true cover-corner who makes plays most of the time.

6. Charles Woodson: The former Heisman Trophy winner is so talented that if he stays healthy this season the Packers' cornerback combination will be one of the best in the NFL.

7. Nick Barnett: Plays hard and makes plays. He's a good athlete who should be helped with the arrival of A.J. Hawk.

8. Aaron Kampman: A hard worker who won't record 10 sacks as a defensive end, but he doesn't take plays off.

9. A.J. Hawk: He hasn't played a down yet, but Hawk has Pro Bowl written all over him. He'll make an impact Sept. 10 vs. Chicago.

10. Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila: Pass-rush specialist who plays every down hard. However, can be a liability against the run.

11.Ryan Pickett: Expected to make an impact inside, Pickett, at the worst, should be average this season.

12. Nick Collins: Rookie made a splash last season. His speed allows him to make plays that most safeties can't make.

13. Bubba Franks: Catches almost everything thrown his way and blocks well. Lacks speed and struggled with injuries last season.

14. Daryn Colledge: Rookie should be a starter for years to come. Solidifies one-half of the guard tandem.

15. Scott Wells: Playing center after receiving playing time at guard last season. That experience should make him solid.

16. Cullen Jenkins: Blue-collar player who can't be kept off the field. Easily in the rotation at defensive tackle.

17. Ahman Green: Not sure he'll start, but he'll be sharing time with the starter, making this player replaceable.

18. William Henderson: Quality fullback, but this position doesn't make huge impacts in the NFL.

19. Marquand Manuel: He is expected to start ahead of Mark Roman at safety, but nothing's for sure. Whoever starts the season-opener may not be there at the end.

20. Robert Ferguson: Always injured and has never lived up to expectations. Nobody would be surprised if he doesn't start. He may even get released in training camp.

21. Jason Spitz: May become the second rookie guard, but has to fight off competition to do so. His future is as a starter, but is it in 2006 or sometime later?

22. Ben Taylor: The Packers don't know who will be the No. 3 linebacker. Taylor gets the nod over rookie Abdul Hodge — for now. It wouldn't be a surprise if Hodge overtakes Taylor at some point.

Three players who could break into the starting lineup:

— Hodge: Who's Ben Taylor? A journeyman player, so Hodge, who had a solid career at Iowa, could give the Packers two rookie starters at linebacker.

—Rod Gardner: The former Redskin and Panther may challenge Ferguson, if he can rediscover the form which made him a first-round talent. Someone will challenge Ferguson.

—Samkon Gado: Green hasn't practiced this off-season because of his injury, leaving Gado as a his top threat. Gado has put his 2005 injury behind him and may possess the best threat at halfback.

Doug Ritchay

Editor's note: Doug Ritchay is a longtime sportswriter and former Packers beat writer for the Green Bay News-Chronicle. E-mail at dritchay@sbcglobal.net.

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