The Countdown: Roster Rankings

Part 8 is a double-edition, with our rankings going from No. 31 (the punters) to No. 40 (Brandon Underwood). In between are the fullbacks, Brandon Jackson and James Jones, among others.

With training camp 11 days away, we're starting to close in on the start of football season. The Packers have 82 players on their roster, not including the suspended Johnny Jolly. The limit is 80, but the two unsigned draft picks don't count until they're officially under contract (safety Morgan Burnett officially is signed), and restricted free agent safety Atari Bigby doesn't count until he signs his tender.

Like we did last year, we're ranking 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: 31 (tie)

Tim Masthay and Chris Bryan: The Packers' history — not to mention the words of coach Mike McCarthy — suggest these guys are Plans A, B and C to stop the merry-go-round of ineptitude at punter. Masthay, an undrafted free agent in 2009 who spent a week of training camp with the Colts, was signed by the Packers shortly after last season. Bryan, a veteran of Australian Rules Football, was signed in the spring after an impressive YouTube video and tryout. Masthay outkicked Bryan during the offseason practices and appears to be the better holder. Bryan, however, has a lot of potential, consistently has a quicker hand-to-foot time and has a deft touch on pooch punts. The coaches called it a dead heat and said the preseason games will be the determining factor.

In case you missed ...

Part 8 (31 through 40)

Part 7 (41 through 45)

Part 6 (46 through 50)

Part 5 (51 through 55)

Part 4 (56 through 60)

Part 3 (61 through 65)

Part 2 (66 through 71)

Part 1 (long shots) .

Packer Report Ranking: 33

Brandon Jackson: From one perspective, Jackson has been a tremendous disappointment as a former second-round pick. Judging by the way his touches have fallen (from 91 as a rookie in 2007 to 58 last year), it appears the coaching staff thinks little of his skills with the ball in his hands. Of his five career touchdowns, three came last year against Seattle. On the other hand, McCarthy said he hadn't seen a running back so proficient in pass protection since Hall of Famer Marcus Allen. Ask the Steelers about Jackson's blitz-pickup skills. Barring a monster training camp for rookie James Starks, Jackson seems to be a lock to reprise his role as the third-down back. This is his final year under contract.

Packer Report Ranking: 34

Will Blackmon: Injuries continually have been a problem for the only legit kick returner on the roster. In four seasons, he's played in only 32 of a possible 64 regular-season games. As a cornerback, he had no interceptions and four passes defensed in his career before a torn ACL necessitated his offseason move to safety. That knee injury kept him from practicing his new gig during OTAs and the minicamp, so he'll have a short time to hone those skills. Special teams, however, are where he's an impact player. In 2007 and 2008, Blackmon returned three punts for touchdowns. With him spending most of last year on injured reserve, the Packers ranked a lousy 23rd in the league in punt returns. There really isn't another good option on the roster.

Packer Report Ranking: 35

James Jones: Jones is the most enigmatic skill player on the roster. His size (6-foot-1, 218 pounds) and big-play ability (five receptions of 30-plus yards last season, including his playoff touchdown vs. Arizona) should make him a major factor in the offense. Watch him at practice, and he'll make the difficult catches look ridiculously easy. But he drops too many routine passes. According to STATS, he dropped six of the 63 passes thrown his way and turned only 25.4 percent of those passes into first downs. By contrast, Jordy Nelson turned 48.4 percent of his passes into first downs. Despite Jones' strength, he rarely breaks tackles to gain extra yards. This is his final year under contract.

Packer Report Ranking: 36

Brady Poppinga: God forbid something happens to starters Clay Matthews III or Brad Jones, because Poppinga is the depth at outside linebacker. Poppinga is as tough as they come against the run. It's almost as if he takes on a hard-charging fullback with a smile on his face. But he is limited in coverage and, for all of his talk about his pass-rushing production while in college, he has four sacks in five NFL seasons. With Aaron Kampman in Jacksonville and Jeremy Thompson in retirement, Poppinga is a lock to make the roster, and the odds say he's going to play a critical role on defense at some point.

Packer Report Ranking: 37 (tie)

John Kuhn, Korey Hall and Quinn Johnson: Last year, all three fullbacks made the roster, with Kuhn and Hall based on proven production and Johnson on pure potential. This year, it's almost certain that only two will make it. They'll enter camp in the same pecking order as last year — Kuhn, Hall, then Johnson — but not much separates them. Kuhn is probably the better all-around fullback. Hall is the better athlete — which also makes him better on special teams — but he's missed 12 games in his three-year career. Johnson is pure power but plays in an offense that doesn't feature a whole lot of pure power. McCarthy loves fullbacks, but even he used one on only about 47 percent of the total offensive snaps last year. The tight ends also are trained to play some fullback. That makes special teams the deciding factor on who stays and who goes.

Packer Report Ranking: 40

Brandon Underwood: While Underwood's legal future remains in perpetual limbo, what's easy to forget is the key role he might have this season. If everyone's healthy, Underwood will battle Pat Lee to be the fourth corner. Considering how much the top teams in the NFC like to spread out the defense and throw the ball all over the field, the fourth corner is a key position. With Al Harris coming off of a major knee injury and Lee playing in only a handful of games in his first two seasons, Underwood could wind up being the nickel corner, which is practically a starting position. He's tall, rangy, physical and talented. But is he mature enough to handle a key role after playing sparingly on defense as a rookie?

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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at and Facebook under Bill Huber.

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