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Ranking the Packers (Nos. 77-79): Three Blockers

Late-season injuries are road blocks on the path to roster spots for Simon Stepaniak and Cole Madison.

GREEN BAY, Wis. – In a tradition that stretches more than a decade, here is our annual ranking of the 90 players on the Green Bay Packers’ roster. This isn’t merely a look at the best players. Rather, it’s a formula that combines talent, salary, importance of the position, depth at the position and, for young players, draft positioning. More than the ranking, we hope you learn a little something about every player on the roster.

No. 79: OT Cody Conway (6-6, 307, first year, Syracuse)

Conway started at left tackle for most of his final three seasons at Syracuse, including earning an honorable mention on the all-ACC team as a senior in 2018. He ended his career with 30 consecutive starts. He signed with Tennessee after going undrafted in 2019 and joined the Packers’ practice squad on Nov. 26.

As a high school freshman, he played quarterback before moving into the trenches as a sophomore. “For a little bit, I didn’t enjoy football as much personally,” Conway told the Daily Orange. “I feel like quarterback was something that I grew up playing and it was so exciting for me because you’re the guy out there, so then moving to o-line was a little bit like, I don’t know, it took the excitement out of the game. But then I started to realize it was something I could excel at and love just as much, so I bought into it, and it was something I ended up loving.”

Why he’s got a chance: An athletic big man (5.15 in the 40) who played basketball throughout high school, Conway fits what the Packers want to do offensively. Being able to practice with the team for almost two months should give him a jump-start once training camp begins.

No. 78: G Cole Madison (6-5, 308, second year, Washington State)

Madison’s story is well known.

In January 2018, Madison’s quarterback at Washington State, Tyler Hilinski, was found dead in his apartment, lying next to a gun and a suicide note. Madison already was fighting his own personal issues, and his friend’s death shot him careening down a dark and scary path. He competed with the team during the offseason practices but was a no-show for training camp and wound up skipping the entire season. Madison returned to the team last year and made the 53-man roster.

“I’ve got nothing but thanks for the Green Bay Packers and Gutey for their support during this time away and all the resources they gave me,” Madison, a fifth-round pick in 2018, said at the time. “And my family, too, and them being there for me. And all my friends, I wouldn’t be here without them. I wouldn’t have made it here without them. It was a group effort. It took everything – my ability to get where I am mentally off the field and physically on the field. I can’t begin to describe how thankful I am for everybody who was with me during the past year. It means the world.”

However, Madison suffered a torn ACL at practice in late November. That’s bad timing; even an aggressive nine-month comeback would keep him sidelined deep into training camp. Making matters worse, the Packers added three interior linemen in the sixth round of this year’s draft. In two years, he hasn’t played a single snap in the regular season.

Why he’s got a chance: Madison could be a candidate for the physically unable to perform list, which would at least buy him some time.



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No. 77: G Simon Stepaniak (6-4, 316, rookie, Indiana)

Indiana offensive line coach Darren Hiller had an apt comparison for guard Simon Stepaniak.

“The Hulk.”

Stepaniak, the third of three sixth-round picks used on interior offensive linemen, is a powerful brawler who loves knocking defenders on their butts. Off the field, he is more akin to Dr. Robert Banner.

“He’s a tough guy,” Hiller said after the draft. “He doesn’t walk around the facility being a jerk and all that stuff. He’s very humble and actually very soft-spoken. He’s almost bashful a little bit off the field. When he gets out on the football field and he gets an opportunity to play the game, that Hulk comes out in him. He likes to play the game. He goes from mild-mannered to full-go. He’s an aggressive guy. He loves to play the game. As a coach, those are the guys that you love. You love guys that, off the field, you don’t have to deal with a whole lot of issues. He’s not high-maintenance. When he gets on the field, all he does is want to work.”

Stepaniak would rank higher on this list, just as he would have been drafted earlier, had he not suffered a torn ACL in December as the Hoosiers prepped for the Gator Bowl. The injury could make this a redshirt season.

Why he’s got a chance: Stepaniak is strong. Very strong. Despite limited training due to the injury, he put up an impressive 37 reps on the 225-pound bench press. He was a quality pass protector, too, allowing only one sack and one additional quarterback hit as a senior, according to Pro Football Focus. As Green Bay trends toward a more physical brand of football, he could be a real factor in 2021.


Part 1 (87 to 90): FB Elijah Wellman, FB Jordan Jones, G Zack Johnson, S Henry Black

Part 2 (83 to 86): CBs DaShaun Amos, Will Sunderland, Stanford Samuels, Marc-Antoine Dequoy

Part 3 (80 to 82): DT Willington Previlon, RB Damarea Crockett, S Frankie Griffin

Part 4 (77 to 79): G Simon Stepaniak, G Cole Madison, T Cody Conway