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: 16
— Ryan Pickett: Last year, the key to the success or failure of the new 3-4 defense was whether Pickett would adjust to life as a nose tackle. He adjusted with ease, and the Packers wound up leading the NFL in run defense for the first time in franchise history — cutting their yards allowed per carry by a full yard over 2008. Now, Pickett is on the move again, sliding over to left defensive end so last year's top pick, B.J. Raji, can take over his preferred position of nose tackle. Pickett is confident that the change will go well. Unlike a defensive end in a 4-3 scheme, in which the end would have to make plays all the way to the sideline, Pickett said an end in a 3-4 isn't too much different than playing nose tackle, other than he'll face fewer double teams. The challenge this year might be an increased workload. Last year to keep him fresh, Raji could take some snaps at nose tackle. This year, it'll be up to one of the unproven ends — Justin Harrell, Mike Neal, Jarius Wynn or C.J. Wilson — to play at a high enough level that the coaches don't feel like they must keep Pickett on the field.
Packer Report Ranking: 17
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Packer Report Ranking: 18
— Josh Sitton: Back in the heyday of the Mike Sherman era, the Packers consistently boasted one of the NFL's best offenses. A big reason was the play of guards Marco Rivera and Mike Wahle. Well, Sitton is today's Rivera. A no-nonsense run blocker and quickly improving pass protector, Sitton was the Packers' best offensive lineman last season. While he allowed four sacks and was penalized four times (one holding), Sitton was the biggest reason why the Packers ranked fourth in the NFL in converting third-and-short running plays (53.8 percent success). If the Pro Bowl voting for offensive linemen was more than a popularity contest, Sitton would challenge for consideration this season if he takes another solid step forward.
Packer Report Ranking: 19
— Morgan Burnett: There's a lot of hype surrounding this rookie third-round pick. Taking advantage of the starters' reps during the offseason practices, Burnett proved to have the mental capacity and physical ability to compete for a starting job immediately. Burnett picked off 14 passes during three seasons at Georgia Tech. It was easy to see why during OTAs and the minicamp. He's got a nose for the ball, can cover a lot of ground and has good hands. If Burnett pans out, imagine a safety duo of Burnett and two-time Pro Bowler Nick Collins.
Packer Report Ranking: 20
— Atari Bigby: Bigby, of course, will have a say in things. For a player with so many shortcomings (perceived or real), it's hard to deny the impact he makes when healthy. He might not cover a lot of ground, but he puts himself in position to make plays, with four interceptions last season and 10 in his three years as a starter. That stat comes with an asterisk, though. He's also the defense's only real intimidator, though that comes with an asterisk, too. Three of his interceptions last year came late in the season against Seattle and Arizona. And for his big hits, he also can be a shoddy tackler. Two more numbers to note. Bigby has missed 12 games with injuries the last two years. But when he starts over the last three years, the Packers are 25-8; when he doesn't, they're 5-10.
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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 email@example.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.