GREEN BAY, Wis. – The Green Bay Packers used one of their first-round draft picks on Devonte Wyatt and one of their seventh-round draft picks on Jonathan Ford.
Combined with the free-agent addition of Jarran Reed, the Packers have made a big investment in their defensive line this offseason. That, however, doesn’t mean there’s not room for undrafted free agents Akial Byers of Missouri and Hauati Pututau of Utah.
That’s because, with Dean Lowry and Reed set to be free agents next offseason, only Pro Bowler Kenny Clark, 2021 draft pick T.J. Slaton, 2021 undrafted free agent Jack Heflin, Wyatt and Ford (assuming he makes the roster) are under contract for 2023.
So, whether Byers or Pututau spend the season the 53-man roster or gaining seasoning on the practice squad, the door is open for one of them to eventually make a splash.
As a fifth-year senior, Byers played in 12 games with 10 starts. He had 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses among 23 total stops. A high school All-American, he recorded two sacks and nine tackles for losses in 52 career games (20 starts).
Byers took advantage of the NCAA’s “COVID year” and played a fifth season. He changed his jersey to No. 0 and worked under former Packers defensive line coach Jethro Franklin.
“He pushes us to get better every day no matter where it's at, on the field, or just in the weight room," Byers said at SEC Media Days. “He wants us out there working together, working on our footwork, hand placement, anything, or even just learning the playbook. And I think that's a big thing. He teaches us something new every day. So, every time we go into a meeting room, it's like you're in the classroom learning new things. I take every day we're meeting seriously.”
Byers is from Fayetteville, Ark., but wasn’t recruited by his home-state team because of academics. In 2018, he scored a touchdown against the Razorbacks.
“Scoring my first touchdown against my home state was just crazy,” Byers recalled last year. “It’s been a journey. I just wanted to stay the course, always get better each day and help my team win.”
A sixth-year super-senior, Pututau played in 14 games and made eight of his 12 career starts in 2021. He had three sacks and 4.5 tackles for losses among 18 total tackles. In 57 career games (12 starts), he finished with six sacks, 11.5 tackles for losses and 13 passes defensed.
With six years on the field and his LDS mission, he is 26 years old.
“I was recruited as a linebacker, but then gained a few pounds on my mission,” he said last season. “I came back and they put me at D-line.”
Pututau is one of eight children. He was one of four Pututaus on the Utes’ roster, including brothers Fua and Tennessee, both of whom are defensive tackles.
“Tongan people are very prideful,” Pututau said. “We pride ourselves in who we are and who we portray to others who we are. As a Tongan you don’t show weakness and here at Utah that is what they stand for is you show no weakness. You work hard and the results will come. Being Tongan is what keeps me going, motivates me to be a hard worker and to develop a good work ethic each and every day we are out here on the field.”
By the measurables, Pututau is the better prospect. At 6-foot-3 1/8 and 306 pounds, Pututau ran his 40 in 5.21 seconds and put up 30 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
At 6-foot-2 7/8 and 308 pounds, Byers ran his 40 in 5.66 seconds and put up 17 reps on the bench press. He does have the advantage with 34-inch arms compared to 32 1/4 inches for Pututau.
Introducing the Packers' Undrafted Free Agents
RB B.J. Baylor, Oregon State
Measurables: 5-10, 202. 4.52 40.
Collegiate resume: Baylor redshirted in 2017 and was used sparingly the next three seasons before leading the Pac-12 with 1,337 rushing yards (5.9 average) in 2021. He scored 13 times in 2021 but had only 16 career receptions. Click here for more on Baylor.
RB Tyler Goodson, Iowa
Measurables: 5-9, 197. 4.42 40.
Collegiate resume: Goodson rushed for 2,551 yards and added 70 receptions in three seasons. He was first-team all-Big Ten in 2020, with 762 rushing yards in eight games, and added career highs of 1,151 rushing yards (4.5 average) and 31 receptions in 2021. Click here for more on Goodson.
C Cole Schneider, Central Florida
Measurables: 6-3 1/8, 309. 31 5/8 arms. 5.22 40.
Collegiate resume: Schneider was a four-year starter, with 46 starts at guard and one as a senior. According to Pro Football Focus, he did not allow a sack and was penalized three times as a senior. Among guards with 250 pass-protecting snaps, Schneider ranked No. 1 in PFF’s pass-blocking efficiency, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-protecting snap.
G George Moore, Oregon
Measurables: 6-5 3/4, 312. 33 7/8 arms. 5.25 40.
Collegiate resume: Moore spent two years in junior college before redshirting with the Ducks in 2017. After playing off the bench for two seasons, he started seven games at left tackle in 2020. As a sixth-year senior in 2021, he started six games at left tackle and seven at left guard. According to PFF, he allowed zero sacks in 2020 but six in 2021.
OT Jahmir Johnson, Texas A&M
Measurables: 6-4 3/8, 290. 33 7/8 arms. DNP testing.
Collegiate resume: A graduate transfer, Johnson started 11 games at left tackle for the Aggies in 2021. He started his career at Rhode Island in 2016 and Arizona Western in 2017 before spending three years at Tennessee. With the Vols, he started 11 games at left guard in 2018 and five games at left tackle in 2020. According to PFF, he allowed one sack but was penalized 10 times in 2021.
OT Caleb Jones, Indiana
Measurables: 6-8 7/8, 370. 36 arms. 5.59 40.
Collegiate resume: The enormous Jones was a three-year starter at the offensive tackle slots, including 12 games at right tackle as a senior. He allowed seven sacks, according to PFF.
WR Danny Davis, Wisconsin
Measurables: 6-0 3/8, 188. 4.59 40.
Collegiate resume: Davis caught 131 passes for 1,642 yards and 14 touchdowns during his Badgers career. As a senior, he caught 32 balls for 478 yards (14.9 average) and a pair of scores with just one drop, according to PFF.
DL Akial Byers, Missouri
Measurables: 6-2 3/4, 308. 34 arms. 5.66 40.
Collegiate resume: A full-time starter for the first time in 2021, Byers had 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses among his 23 total tackles during his super-senior season. He had nine tackles for losses in 52 career appearances. PFF credited him with 17 pressures but eight missed tackles.
DL Hauati Pututau, Utah
Measurables: 6-3 1/8, 306. 32 1/4 arms. 5.21 40.
Collegiate resume: Pututau started 12 times in 57 career games. During his super-senior season, he had three sacks and 4.5 TFLs among 18 stops in 14 games (eight starts). Two of his brothers play on the team. PFF credited him with 20 pressures but 10 missed tackles.
LB Caliph Brice, Florida Atlantic
Measurables: 6-1 1/2, 233. 4.50 40.
Collegiate resume: In nine games, Brice had 58 tackles, including 3.5 for losses. He broke up one pass and forced one fumble. A junior-college transfer, his only interception with FAU came in 2019. He missed nine tackles (14.8 percent), according to PFF.
LB Ellis Brooks, Penn State
Measurables: 6-1 3/8, 226. 4.77 40.
Collegiate resume: Brooks broke 100 tackles for the 2021 season (the 23rd player in school history) en route to second-team all-Big Ten and 200 for his career. During his final season, he missed 14 tackles (11.7 percent), according to PFF.
OLB Chauncey Manac, Louisiana
Measurables: 6-2 7/8, 246. 34 1/8 arms. 4.77 40.
Collegiate resume: Manac had a big-time super-senior season with 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses in 2021. Among edge rushers in this draft class, he ranked 41st with 40 pressures (only two fewer than Boye Mafe and David Ojabo).
CB Raleigh Texada, Baylor
Measurables: 5-10 1/4, 191. 4.40 40.
Collegiate resume: Texada started 37 games during his four seasons. He had one interception and three passes defensed in 2021. According to PFF, he gave up a 63.4 percent completion rate and three touchdowns and was guilty of five penalties. He missed a total of seven tackles the last three seasons.
S Tre Sterling, Oklahoma State
Measurables: 5-11 5/8, 205. 4.70 40
Collegiate resume: Sterling was an honorable mention on the all-Big 12 team as a sophomore and junior. He missed most of his senior season due to injury. In 40 games (22 starts), he finished with 161 tackles, including 22.5 for losses, three sacks and three interceptions. His career missed-tackle rate was 14.3 percent, according to PFF.
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