Sunday, November 11, 2012

2012 Green Bay Packers Midseason Player Rankings

I knew this was going to be a lengthy post so yesterday I dealt with the roster turnover from my initial player rankings to the current 53-man roster.  Just to quickly reiterate how I cobble together my list; I factor in contract, age, position, and it runs in reverse order.  For a longer explanation of my methodology check my initial rankings.  Here are my mid-season rankings of the 53-man roster for the 2012 Green Bay Packers (initial rankings are in parenthesis):

#53 (53) Jarrett Boykin (WR) - The Packers could easily add a 6th wide receiver in place of Boykins who has seen little action despite injuries to a number of wide receivers.

#52 (51) Sean Richardson (S) - Injuries have really hampered Richardson's ability to get on the field, which is too bad because his combination of size and speed is very enticing.

#51 (NR) Johnny White (RB) - The former Buffalo Bills castoff, which is usually NOT a compliment, was claimed off waiver by the Packers to replace Brandon Saine as a special teams player.  After being inactive for his first week after joining the Packers, White picked up right where Brandon Saine left off as a special teams player that happens to be classified as a running back.  Trust me, if White is getting significant carries in anything other than the Packers blowing out an opponent, we've got problems.

#50 (NR) Andrew Quarless (TE) - Recovering from gruesome injuries has to be physically and mentally draining.  I hope Quarless can make it through 2012 healthy while catching a few passes along the way to make all the hard work he has put into getting back onto the field worth it.

#49 (42)Terrell Manning (MLB) - I am always reticent to meet players because it clouds my ability to objectively write about them.  When Cheesehead Chick, Mama Cheese, Papa Cheese, and In-Law Cheese stopped in Green Bay to buy gear from the Packer Pro Shop on the way to Door County we met Manning because he stopped to take tons of pictures with fans. Let's just say Manning is a nicer person off the field than a player on the field.

#48 (NR) Greg Van Roten (OL) - With starting right tackle Bryan Bulaga most likely headed to injured reserve, Van Roten is two injuries away from playing in a real NFL game.  Add in that Van Roten really can only play guard and the Packers are in real trouble if Van Roten plays a meaningful snap in 2012.

#47 (41) Graham Harrell (QB) - At some point the Packers might want to consider signing a competent veteran backup to the 53-man roster instead of leaving Harrell one play from taking over if Rodgers gets hurt.

#46 (46) Rob Francois (MLB) -
Some players can carve out a niche as a career special teams guy, which is what Francois has to continue to do if he wants to keep his roster spot.

#45 (39) D.J. Williams (TE) - With all the injuries the Packers suffered at wide receiver and fullback, it looked like Williams might be the beneficiary but shaky hands have prevented him from capitalizing on those opportunities.

#44 (44) James Starks (RB) - Might as well gives Starks his jersey number for two sets of rankings in a row right?  A 17 carry, 61 yard performance against the Arizona Cardinals is hardly something to brag about but the Packers have gotten absolutely no production out of Starks for the first eight games of the season so they will take what they can get on the ground.  I would like to see the Packers make Starks their every down back when they are trying to grind it out with Green as their every down back when they go no huddle.  I know that tips their hand a bit but they might as well cater to each player's strengths.

#43 (50) Don Barclay (T) - I hate cliches but the Packers truly buy into the "next guy up" because there is no talk of them adding a veteran offensive lineman, so they are one injury away from undrafted rookie free agent Don Barclay being one of the five guys that protects Aaron Rodgers.  I try to pick my spots where I am critical of general manager Ted Thompson because he has done a very impressive job managing the roster but Thompson needs to add a quality veteran offensive lineman to the roster sooner rather than later, especially if they put Bryan Bulaga on injured reserve.

#42 (NR) Frank Zombo (OLB) -
There is only so high that I can rank a guy that was recently added to the active roster from PUP but assuming that Zombo is in fact healthy, I see Zombo finishing at least in the low 30's in my final rankings based on what Zombo can potentially do as a rush outside linebacker in the base 3-4 defense.

#41 (43) Ryan Taylor (TE) - The Packers finally identified a special team maven that doesn't even need to play snaps on offense to justify his roster spot.  That is particularly important for Taylor because the Packers are again carrying five tight ends on their 53-man roster, which I've noted many times I think is excessive.

#40 (35) Jamari Lattimore (MLB) - A hybrid inside/outside linebacker is a rare commodity, which makes Lattimore very valuable commodity for the Packers in 2012, especially considering all the linebackers (Bishop, Perry, and Smith) lost for the season.

#39 (33) John Kuhn (FB) - As if playing fullback in a high octane offensive doesn't marginalize Kuhn enough, injuries have further marginalized Kuhn than playing fullback in 2012.

#38 (27) Mason Crosby (K) - When the Milwaukee Brewers were contemplating building Miller Park next to County Stadium or downtown, I got in a number of arguments with my buddy Sug.  I was firmly in the downtown camp while Sug wanted the stadium built next to County Stadium to cater to suburban Brewer fans.  A similar argument started when Crosby signed a five-year, $15 million contract before the 2011 season.  I hated the contract while Sug agreed with paying Crosby.  While the Miller Park argument took a number of years to settle in my favor, less than two years later I've won the Crosby argument as well so whenever I see Crosby I think of Miller Park being built in no man's land.  Sorry Sug, you are 0-2 on those arguments, which ironically is a standard outing for Crosby theses days.

#37 (29) Alex Green (RB) - I thought Green was the perfect back for the Packers' no-huddle offense.  With Benson out of the lineup, Green's play has been sub-par.  Chalk some of that up to Green being less than a year removed from a serious knee injury though, so we might not know till the end of 2013 whether Crosby is the perfect back for the Packers' no huddle offense.

#36 (45) Brett Goode (LS) - The Packers wisely recently extended Goode for a few more years since Goode has been nothing short of great (funny pun right) as their long snapper.

#35 (38) Mike Daniels (DL) - The ideal third down pass rusher needs to add some strength in the off-season if he wants to see the field on 1st or 2nd down.

#34 (37) Tom Crabtree (TE) - The recipient of two of the most notable touchdown passes of the season (fake punt against the Bears on 4th & 26 and 72-yard reception against the Cardinals) deserves to be targeted more than nine times through nine games.

#33 (36) Dezman Moses (OLB) - Looks like a potentially violent situational pass rusher for the Packers in 2012 but let's not forget that Vic So'oto looked poised to fill a similar role in 2011 but flopped.

#32 (NR) Mike Neal - After serving his four game suspension, Neal has shown flashes of the dominate player the Packers thought they were drafting in the 2010 Draft.

#31 (48) Brad Jones (MLB) - I listed Jones as an outside linebacker in my original rankings, which is how the Packers viewed Jones at the start of the season.  After losing both Bishop and Smith, the Packers slide Jones inside where he has preformed as well if not better than Smith so far.

#30 (23) Donald Driver (WR) - Probably the most beloved current Packer is having a disappointing season on two fronts.  Not only has DD not played that much despite all the injuries to their wide receivers but when DD has been on the field, he's struggled.  As much as it would pain me to see DD play for another team, if he truly wants to play for a few more years, I hope he plays for a team that can harness his leadership qualities for the betterment of their organization.

#29 (16) Jerel Worthy (DL) -
After a strong start to the season, an ability to properly time his pass rush combined with a concussion stunted Worthy's impressive start to the season.  Hopefully a few weeks off allowed Worthy to not only heal but watch some tape that will help him cut down on the offsides penalties.

#28 (21) Jeff Saturday (C) - So far Saturday as been a substantial downgrade from former starting center Scott Wells.  At the very least the Packers need Saturday to stay healthy because they have razor thin depth along the offensive line.

#27 (34) Evan Dietrich-Smith (C) - As I said in my initial rankings: "If any of the starting five offensive lineman are hurt, EDS is the first off the bench that could have a chain reaction of moving a few players around on the offensive line since EDS could really only fill in at guard or center."  Please don't blame me for Bulaga's injury, which forced the Packers to move T.J. Lang from left guard to right tackle and insert EDS is Lang's place.  Let's hope that is the end of the offensive line shuffle because although EDS is a borderline NFL starter, the rest of the offensive line backups (Barclay and Van Roten) are currently below average NFL offensive lineman at best.

#26 (32) Jerron McMillian (S) - After a few games it looked like McMillian was going to be the Packers rookie of the year but a few games does not make a season since McMillian's play has leveled off as the season progresses.  Usually the bye week helps players get healthy but for rookies like McMillian from small college programs, the bye week gives them a chance to relax outside the limelight of the NFL to get ready for a playoff push.

#25 (30) C.J. Wilson (DL) - There is only so many times that I can reiterate how valuable base 3-4 defensive ends are in the NFL, which Wilson continues to excel so although 24 feels high, may be it is not high enough.

#24 (40) M.D. Jennings (S) - Just when I started to forget about the Packers "losing" to the Seahawks, I ran some playoff scenarios and my disdain for that game came roaring back.  The Packers better win the NFC North because if it comes down to tie-breakers, you might see all Cheesehead football fans go Postal on the NFL.

#23 (25) Tim Masthay (P) - For how horrible Crosby has been place kicking, Masthay has been the bizarro Crosby with a 44.5 yard gross punting average and 40.7 yard net punting average in 2012.

#22 (24) Sam Shields (CB) - Shields had a great 2010 and lackluster 2011, which has been a microcosm for his 2012 season because he got off to a good start but then an injury left hm inactive for the last three games.  The Packers need the healthy 2010 version not the unhealthy 2011 version of Shields.

#21 (22) Jarrett Bush (CB) - As always, Bush continues to thrive on special teams and struggle when he plays defensively.

#20 (26) Davon House (CB) - Shoulder injury aside, House has shown flashes of being a poor man's Al Harris, which is great for the Packers since they most likely envision House as their 4th cornerback if everyone is healthy.

#19 (4) Jermichael Finley (TE) - Oh how the mighty have fallen.  Finley has essentially turned into an expensive decoy.  I still don't believe that will lead to the Packers declining what amounts to a team option for 2013 but Finley better pick-up his play if he wants to get in line behind Rodgers, Matthews, and Raji for a mega contract extension.

#18 (NR) Erik Walden (OLB) - With Perry out for the rest of 2012 look for Walden to put up big numbers for the rest of the season since it looks like he will get all the snaps opposite Claymaker instead of sharing them with Perry.

#17 (10) Bryan Bulaga (T)  - I would bet Bulaga is put on injured reserve before December but with the lack of depth on the offensive line around the NFL, even a hurt Bulaga is a valuable commodity.

#16 (9) Greg Jennings (WR) - Injuries are the worst thing that can happen for both a player and their club in a contract year because it muddies their market value.  With Jennings set to be a free agent this off-season, the Packers should still give the franchise tag to Jennings, despite him struggling with injuries throughout 2012 because of otherwise Jennings will leave for nothing ala Aaron Kampman.

#15 (14) Marshall Newhouse (T) - I mentioned that if Newhouse struggled in 2012: "Chad Clifton's agent might be getting a phone call" but it looks like even though Newhouse has played relatively well this season, Clifton's agent might still get a call to give the Packers an actual backup offensive tackle with some NFL experience under his belt.

#14 (28) A.J. Hawk (MLB) - Trust me, I am the last guy that wants to praise Hawk, but he has played very well in 2012.  In the preseason I was calling for the Packers to cut Hawk but luckily they held onto him because without Hawk the Packers would not have even one healthy, NFL tested middle linebacker on the roster despite needing at least two.

#13 (12) Morgan Burnett (S) - With Woodson shuffling between cornerback and safety when healthy combined with McMillian and Jennings sharing snaps at safety, Burnett has been the only constant at safety for the Packers in 2012.  Usually it is not a good sign when your safety is leading the team in tackles but in Burnett's case I take it as a positive because the Packers have been using Burnett like they used to use Nick Collins in the past.

#12 (18) Casey Hayward (CB) -
Hands down the most pleasant surprise on the roster in 2012 is actually a candidate for defensive rookie of the year thanks to his impressive coverage that has resulted in a team leading four interceptions.  Some might chalk up Hayward's play to rookie luck but I see Hayward as a long term starter at cornerback opposite Tramon Williams.

#11 (7) Charles Woodson (CB) - Lack of big plays, injuries, and the highest salary on the team means Woodson is going to have to take less money in 2013 if he wants to play for the Packers.

#10 (6) Jordy Nelson (WR) - Despite struggling with hamstring and ankle injuries, Nelson is still leading the team in receiving yardage

#9 (8) Josh Sitton (G) - A healthy Sitton in 2012 helped erase memories of his struggles in 2011 to help justify his expensive contract extension.

#8 (17) Ryan Pickett (DL) - When people talk about freak athletes in professional sports they usually talk about chiseled, muscle bound players like Jermichael Finley.  Guys like Ryan Pickett are equally freakish athletes, they are just not as impressive to look at with their shirt off, but impressive nonetheless.

#7 (11) T.J. Lang (G/T) - I had to change Lang's position from G to G/T since he is filling in at right tackle for the injured Bulaga for the rest of the season unless Bulaga makes a miraculous recovery.  Good for Lang that he got paid in the off-season because I see Lang struggling at right tackle, which is too bad because Lang was thriving at left guard this season.

#6 (5) Tramon Williams (CB) - Although Williams only has two interceptions so far in 2012, it has been a much better season than 2011 because Williams has almost full function of his injured shoulder, which makes him a bump-and-run corner for the first time since 2010.

#5 (19) James Jones (WR) - I.A.R.W.T. stands for In Aaron Rodgers We Trust.  Some franchise quarterbacks routinely give the front office suggestions but Rodgers has been selective in making suggestions. Rodgers publicly pleaded with management to resign Jones, which looks downright prophetic now.

#4 (3) B.J. Raji (DL) - The Packers have managed Raji's snap count much better this year, thanks to the emergence of some young blood (Daniels, Neal, and Worthy) along the defensive line.  Now the Packers need to focus on getting Raji signed to a long-term contract before the end of the season.

#3 (13) Randall Cobb (WR) - I compared Cobb to New Orleans Saint Darren Sproles at the start of the season.  I don't want to overreact but just a few months later, every NFL team besides the New Orleans Saints would rather have Cobb than Sproles.

#2 (2) Clay Matthews (OLB) -
Another pesky hamstring injury will most likely keep Mathews out at least a game or two.  Although Matthews is the most valuable defensive player, rushing him back is not advisable because hamstring injuries are particularly finicky.  Plus reducing stats thanks to sitting out games is the only way outside of Matthews testing positive for PED's that the Packers can gain leverage in the upcoming contract negotiations.

#1 (1) Aaron Rodgers (QB) -
It looked like Rodgers started 2012 slow but it had more to do with the opposition as opposed to Rodgers because the Packers opened against three of the best defenses in football: 49ers, Bears, and Seahawks.  Starting with Week 4, Rodgers caught fire and has been on a roll ever since.  While it is encouraging that Rodgers has been playing better as of late, he better figure out how to beat the defenses he faced Week #1-3 because those look like three of their potential playoff opponents this January.

As always, thanks for reading and please feel free to comment if you disagree with any of my rankings.

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