Ranking the Packers (Nos. 73-75): New Role for Looney
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. 75: RB Patrick Taylor (6-2, 217, rookie, Memphis)
Taylor got off to a rumbling start with 546 rushing yards as a freshman, 866 yards and 13 touchdowns as a sophomore and 1,122 yards and 16 touchdowns as a junior. His senior season got off to a rousing start with 128 rushing yards and four receptions for 25 yards in the opening game against Ole Miss. However, he suffered a Lisfranc foot injury in that game. He had surgery on Sept. 16, returned for the stretch run and finished the season with 350 yards in six games.
Renowned specialist Dr. Robert Anderson, whose office is based in Green Bay, told Taylor he could work at the Scouting Combine but recommended a second surgery on the foot. So, Taylor ran a 4.57 in the 40 and had surgery on March 10.
“This injury is not bigger than my why I started playing the game of football,” Taylor told the Houston Chronicle before the draft. “This will come to pass, and I will be fine. People usually don’t come back from injuries like this but Dr. Anderson has had a lot of players who have gotten the surgery, who have come back from it. I’m hopeful.”
His four-season totals were 2,884 yards (5.4 average), 36 touchdowns and 55 receptions.
Taylor was born in New Orleans but moved to Texas. When Hurricane Katrina struck, the family opened the door to their house. At one point, nearly 50 family members lived in the house, according to the Commercial Appeal.
Why he’s got a chance: The Packers are loaded in the backfield with Aaron Jones, Jamaal Williams, rookie AJ Dillon, running back/returner Tyler Ervin and 2019 sixth-round pick Dexter Williams. However, Jones, Jamaal Williams and Ervin will be free agents at the end of the season. Without the second surgery, Taylor probably would have been drafted. Instead, Green Bay grabbed him with a $7,000 bonus.
No. 74: TE Evan Baylis (6-5, 250, first year, Oregon)
Baylis served a couple stints on the 53-man roster last year, playing in five games and logging 12 snaps on offense and 53 on special teams.
Baylis caught 44 passes for 511 yards and three touchdowns in four seasons at Oregon. As the Ducks reached the national championship game to cap the 2014 season, he caught six passes for 73 yards in the Rose Bowl vs. Florida State and five passes for 25 yards in the title game vs. Ohio State. After running a 4.87 at the Ducks’ pro day in 2017, he went undrafted and signed with Houston. As a rookie, he played in one game for the Texans and served practice-squad stints with the Texans, Colts and Panthers. After failing to make Carolina’s roster in 2018, he was out of football until the Packers added him to the practice squad for the final week of the season.
At Grandview High School in Aurora, Colo., Baylis was an all-state linebacker and got recruiting offers in lacrosse. “When I started to get contacted by recruiters from big schools for football, that’s when I decided to concentrate more on that sport,” he told the Denver Post.
Why he’s got a chance: There are no sure things in a tight end room featuring unproven Jace Sternberger as the favorite to start, ageless veteran Marcedes Lewis, third-round pick Josiah Deguara and third-year player Robert Tonyan.
No. 73: TE James Looney (6-3, 256, second year, California)
In 2018, the Packers used a seventh-round draft pick on James Looney, a defensive lineman a bit short on size but long on athleticism.
One day late in the 2019 season, general manager Brian Gutekunst and coach Matt LaFleur pulled Looney aside with a bold idea. On Dec. 6, Looney showed up practice with a new position (tight end), a new jersey number (49) and a new lease on his professional life after spending most of his first two seasons on the practice squad.
“I feel like I’m a pretty athletic guy,” Looney told Packer Central in May. “They put me at tight end for certain teams that we played and certain looks that they wanted. It just worked out from there. I guess Gutey and Coach LaFleur seen something that they really liked in me. They called me over and changed me midseason.”
Looney is an intriguing prospect at tight end for the same reason he was an intriguing prospect as a defensive lineman. At the 2018 Scouting Combine, Looney ran his 20-yard shuttle in 4.37 seconds. That would have tied for seventh-fastest of the 13 tight ends to do the shuttle at the 2020 Scouting Combine. Of the 15 tight ends to do the vertical jump at this year’s Combine, Looney’s leap of 35.5 inches would have tied for fourth. And remember, Looney was 287 pounds at the time.
“I grew up playing a lot of skill positions and then I found the refrigerator later on going into high school, and that’s when I started making the transition to O-line/D-line,” he said.
Why he’s got a chance: As was stated about Baylis, there are no sure things at tight end. Maybe the move to tight end was Hail Mary to salvage a draft pick. But maybe it’s something more and he’s got a real future at the position.