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. 37: RB Tyler Ervin (5-10, 192, fifth season, San Jose State)
One good turn deserves another. Or, in this case, several good returns.
The Packers rescued Ervin from the unemployment line in December. Ervin, in turn, rescued the Packers’ historically bad punt-return game. The team repaid the favor by re-signing Ervin in free agency, a one-year deal worth $1.047 million.
Through the first 12 games of last season, Green Bay’s nine punt returns produced minus-8 yards. It had two positive returns for 4 yards, one of which ended with a fumble. No team had ever finished a season with negative punt-return yards.
With that, Ervin saved the team from infamy, with his first punt return going for 10 yards. In the final four games, Ervin’s 11 returns produced 106 yards. He averaged 9.6 yards per punt return and 26.7 yards per kickoff return in regular-season action. Magically, the blocking improved, almost as if the blockers blocked better because they had faith that Ervin would reward them for their efforts.
He wasn’t perfect – he mishandled a punt at Minnesota in Week 16 and a kickoff at San Francisco in the championship game – but the addition of Ervin was one of a handful of understated transactions made by general manager Brian Gutekunst.
“I was really excited to get him back,” special teams coordinator Shawn Mennenga said during an offseason Zoom call. “I know when we did the postseason evaluations, he did provide a great spark. He’s great for our room. He’s a great veteran. He’s got the veteran presence to him and has played in big games and played in playoff games. He did provide that spark for us. I was excited to get him back and hopefully continue to build on what we started last year.”
With the offense desperate for weapons, Ervin got some run on offense – a role that could expand, even with Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams and rookie AJ Dillon in the backfield. Between regular season and postseason, he carried three times for 35 yards and caught three passes for 18 yards.
“We’ve got to find ways to get him on the field,” quarterback Aaron Rodgers said during an offseason conference call.
The spark provided by Ervin was unexpected, and not just because of how poorly Green Bay’s punt-return unit had performed. In six games with Jacksonville, he averaged 21.4 yards per kickoff return and 1.8 yards per punt return. A fumble against the Jets ultimately led to his release. It marked the second time he had been released in 2019.
“I think about it constantly,” Ervin said during the playoffs. “It’s just a blessing. Sometimes I feel like a door gets opened and it’s just the right timing. I try not to look back and talk about the things that didn’t happen for me. I’m just focused on what’s happening now.”
Why he’s got a chance: While other players will get a chance, Ervin is the only player on the roster who has done anything as a returner on a Sunday. Can he help on offense, too? That answer isn’t so obvious. A fourth-round pick in 2016, Ervin had career totals of five rushes for 15 yards and 14 receptions for 91 yards until landing in Green Bay. So, the track record says no but his 4.41 speed in the 40 is hard to ignore.