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. 61: ILB Curtis Bolton (6-0, 228, second year, Oklahoma)
An undrafted rookie last year, Bolton was well on his way to earning a roster spot – and perhaps more – until he suffered a torn ACL in the third preseason game.
When presumed starter Oren Burks sustained an injury in the preseason opener, it was Bolton who lined up alongside Blake Martinez with the No. 1 defense at the next practice. It wasn’t a by-default designation. With athleticism and a nose for the football, Bolton had been a standout dating to the offseason practices.
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Bolton had written himself quite a story. In his first three seasons, he had only 16 tackles. Not much was expected of him as a senior, either, but he surprisingly won the starting job and wound up piling up 139 tackles, 4.5 sacks and 12 tackles for losses. He ran a 4.59 at pro day.
He went undrafted; the Packers signed him with a $7,000 signing bonus.
“I think I’ve shown how rangy I am,” Bolton said during training camp. “I’m able to man cover out of the backfield and I feel like I’m an excellent blitzer from off the edge or the interior. I think I’ve got a good combination of speed and power. I know this is a team that likes playing a lot of DBs and a lot of DBs in the box. If I can show I can run like a DB and hit like a linebacker, I think I can make a home for myself here. That’s the mentality I had coming in. That’s what I think the coaching staff is starting to see, with how rangy I am and how athletic I am.”
Why he’s got a chance: If Bolton returns with the same athleticism he continually showed last summer, he’ll have a chance to contribute. His position group is shrouded in mystery due to the injury histories of Christian Kirksey, Oren Burks and fifth-round draft pick Kamal Martin.
“He was a guy that we were very pleased to sign as an undrafted free agent,” defensive coordinator Mike Pettine said last summer. “Going back to look at his college tape, he was very productive. It’s not a surprise to us that he’s done some of the things he’s done. He was productive at one of the country’s top programs at Oklahoma, so he’s done it on a big stage. You know, just not having the measurables, you can see why he kind of fell and didn’t get drafted, but the kid’s a football player. He’s very instinctive. He knows how to slip blocks. He’s done a real nice job of being able to soak in what we’re doing, and then apply it on the field.”