From 1 to 83: From Nelson to Chillar

We continue our countdown of the Packers' roster, from No. 30 Jordy Nelson to No. 34 Brandon Chillar, with Justin Harrell and two punters in between.

It's the dog days of summer, but the start of training camp is only 14 days away. At this point, the Packers have 83 players on their roster. The limit is 80, but the draft picks don't count until they're signed. With the Packers officially at 80 players, the team will have to make a corresponding roster move when fullback Quinn Johnson, linebacker Clay Matthews III and defensive lineman B.J. Raji are signed.

With that said, we continue to rank the players from No. 1 to No. 83. This list doesn't necessarily list the players from best to worst, but we take into account the players' importance on the roster and other factors such as contracts and potential.

Packer Report Ranking: 30

Jordy Nelson, WR: Nelson (6-3, 217) caught 33 passes for 366 yards and two touchdowns during a solid rookie season as the Packers' top pick (No. 36 overall). Nelson, the third receiver drafted, ranked fifth among NFL rookie wideouts in receptions and yards and caught at least one pass in the final 15 games. He dropped only one pass, and that was the byproduct of a mental error on his route. Also, with Ruvell Martin, was the Packers' best blocker among the receivers. With his size and hands, he's obviously capable of developing into an excellent possession receiver — making him the possible heir to Donald Driver — but does he have the explosive ability to be anything more than a guy who turns a 10-yard catch into a 12-yard gain? There's no designation as the No. 3 receiver, but Nelson will battle James Jones for playing time behind the starters.

Packer Report Ranking: 31

Justin Harrell, DE: This very well could be a do-or-die training camp for the Packers' infamous first-round pick in 2007. In two seasons, Harrell (6-4, 320) has played in only 13 of a possible 32 games. While a glimmer of that talent has surfaced on occasion — a nine-tackle performance at Chicago late in his rookie season, for instance — his next forced fumble, next fumble recovery and next sack will be his first in all three statistical categories. He says he's healthy, evidenced by him making it through all of the offseason practices, and a new staff of defensive coaches care about today rather than yesterday. But as anyone with a back problem knows, it's a cantankerous part of the body. Can Harrell really make it through a whole season at such a physical position? If so, he'd be a huge addition to the defensive line rotation. Assuming he arrives in training camp in shape and at his target weigh of 310 pounds, he'll have ideal size for the scheme. Harrell spent the offseason with the No. 2 defense, and his role primarily would be as a run stopper.

Packer Report Ranking: Tie 32

Jeremy Kapinos and Durant Brooks, P: The punting situation last season was almost bad enough that fans were opining for the good old days of B.J. Sander. The Packers ranked 24th in net punting with a 35.7-yard average, mostly because Derrick Frost flopped in his 12-game tenure. In his place, Jeremy Kapinos ranked 33rd individually in net punting (34.5) in his four games — worse, actually, than Frost's 36.1 net — though at least he had the excuse of kicking in games with kickoff temperatures of 2, 3 and 22 degrees. Kapinos didn't have the benefit of competing in a training camp last year, so he hopes the experience of kicking day after day in an NFL setting will make him better prepared. He'll be challenged by Durant Brooks, who beat out Frost last year in Washington as a sixth-round pick. However, the winner of the Ray Guy Award during his senior season at Georgia Tech ranked 35th in net punting (32.1), allowed two touchdowns and was released after just six games. His problems were a tired leg from overkicking and an injured hip flexor. In 26 punts, Brooks had nine inside-the-20s and no touchbacks. In 17 punts, Kapinos had seven inside-the-20s and one touchback. Kapinos emerged from the offseason as the leader of the battle, and there's a chance neither will win the job. Field position, even a few yards here and there, can be vitally important.

Packer Report Ranking: 34

Brandon Chillar, ILB: Chillar (6-3, 237) was arguably the team's best linebacker last season. After splitting snaps with Brady Poppinga to start the season, he started the final seven games after Nick Barnett's season-ending knee injury. He's not a physical run defender like Poppinga but he's terrific in pass defense. He wound up with nine passes defensed — more than A.J. Hawk (three), Barnett (two) and Poppinga (one) combined — and did good work against Dallas' Jason Witten and Chicago's Greg Olsen. He's moving from an outside linebacker in the 4-3 to an inside linebacker in the 3-4. He took Barnett's place during the offseason workouts, and given Hawk's poor play in coverage last season, it wouldn't be a surprise to see Chillar replace him on passing downs.


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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 and Facebook under Bill Huber.


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