For Minnesota Vikings fans, it’s very difficult to acknowledge anything remotely resembling respect for the Green Bay Packers, but, as the Vikings prepare to play the offseason game of who stays and who goes, they have to admire how Green Bay has built its franchise.
The Packers rarely use the quick fix of free agency and the skewing of the salary cap that often accompanies signing outside players. Not only have they built their roster almost completely through the draft, they have been able to get impressive production from players taken in the middle rounds and later.
To see it laid out by position is pretty impressive.
Quarterback – Aaron Rodgers (1st round, 2005), Brett Hundley (5th, 2015). The Packers didn’t need a quarterback when Rodgers fell to them. As we all know, Brett Favre still had plenty left in the tank, but the Packers couldn’t pass up the chance to take Rodgers, who had been in the discussion as the first overall pick falling all the way to No. 24.
Running Back – Eddie Lacy (2nd, 2013), Ty Montgomery (3rd, 2015), James Starks (6th, 2010). Lacy has had problems with his weight, but has shown flashes of being a dominant back at times. Montgomery has been a valued runner/receiver and Starks has been a long-term backup who has filled in when called upon.
Wide Receiver – Jordy Nelson (2nd, 2008), Randall Cobb (2nd, 2011), Davante Adams (2nd, 2014), Jeff Janis (7th, 2014). The Packers have consistently found a way to glean wide receiver talent in the second round and make them long-term franchise staples.
Tight End – Richard Rodgers (3rd, 2014). The team made one of its few free agent signings to bring Jared Cook to the team, but Rodgers has proved to be a red zone threat in his short career.
Offensive Line – OT David Bakthiari (4th, 2013), OT Bryan Bulaga (1st, 2010), OT Jason Spriggs (2nd, 2016), G T.J. Lang (4th, 2009), G Lane Taylor (undrafted, 2013), G Don Barclay (undrafted, 2012), C J.C. Tretter (4th, 2013), C Corey Linsley (5th, 2014). Aside from using a first-round pick on Bulaga, three of the starting offensive linemen were fourth-round picks and Taylor and Barclay were undrafted. They have consistently been able to stand up in both the run and the pass with a minimal investment from the organization.
Defensive Line – DT Mike Daniels (4th, 2012), DE Kenny Clark (1st, 2016), DE Dean Lowry (4th, 2016), NT Christian Ringo (6th, 2015). Clark and Daniels are solid bookends and former Viking Letroy Guion has served Green Bay well as a strong nose tackle.
Linebacker – OLB Clay Matthews (1st, 2009), OLB Nick Perry (1st, 2012), OLB Datone Jones (1st, 2013), ILB Jake Ryan (4th, 2015), ILB Blake Martinez (4th, 2016), OLB Kyler Fackrell (3rd, 2016). The Packers have invested top picks at the position and have increased their commitment by making one of their rare outside free agent hires by adding future Hall of Famer Julius Peppers, who, like Reggie White and Charles Woodson before him, has earned every dollar and made sense of the expense of bringing in the “right” outsider.
Defensive Back – CB Damarious Randall (1st, 2015), CB Sam Shields (undrafted free agent, 2010), CB Quinten Rollins (2nd, 2015), S Morgan Burnett (3rd, 2010), S Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (1st, 2014), S Micah Hyde (5th, 2013), CB Ladarius Gunter (undrafted, 2015). The Packers have invested in the secondary, but have had more value picks than reaches. Burnett and Shields have been absolute steals and Clinton-Dix and Randall have earned their selection spot. Once again, they find guys.
The Vikings and General Manager Rick Spielman are going to be asked to fill a lot of holes and depth needs in the offseason and, whether they want to admit it or not, Green Bay is the template that other organizations should follow because they consistently get the job done and it’s hard to fight the success they’ve had through the draft.