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 ahead of the start of training camp on July 27. 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. 90: K JJ Molson (5-11, 180; first season; UCLA)
The Packers have three young specialists on the roster: Molson, punter Ryan Winslow and long snapper Joe Fortunato. While Winslow and Fortunato have fighting chances to knock off underperforming former draft picks, Molson practically is facing Mission Impossible with veteran standout Mason Crosby coming off another strong season.
Molson joined the team just before Christmas. Because of the arduous COVID-19 testing regimen, the Packers brought kickers into town for tryouts just about every week. That way, in case there was a game-day emergency, there would be a kicker who had jumped through all the hoops. Molson’s tryout came in November, and the Packers signed him to the practice squad on Dec. 22 to have a permanent insurance policy with the playoffs on the horizon.
In four seasons at UCLA, Molson made 51-of-74 field-goal (68.9 percent). He made just 8-of-14 as a senior. As a sophomore, he made 17-of-21 for a career-high 81 percent. As a junior, he made a career-long 50-yarder. While his accuracy declined as a senior, he blasted 53 of his 61 kickoffs for touchbacks. That leg strength is what got him invited to the 2020 Scouting Combine.
In case you were wondering, yes, the Montreal native has ties to the famous beer empire.
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“Yes sir. That’s my family,” he said at the Scouting Combine. “The first John Molson that came to Montreal that founded the brewery in 1786, I’m his eighth-generation descendant. So, my real name is John Molson. I just go by JJ. My grandfather (J. David Molson) owned the Montreal Canadiens from 1964-71, so he won five Stanley Cups in eight years. So, we’ve kind of got the hockey side and the beer side. I’m just trying to add the football side now.”
Naturally, he grew up playing hockey.
“Both of my parents (John and Miriam Molson) were very involved with my life and both were very athletic,” he said. “I played a bunch of sports growing up, and football actually was the last sport I took up, in my junior year of high school (at Selwyn House School). My coach Mike Maurovich just told me to come try out. And Gerry McGrath, who played in the CFL for a long time, he was my coach and my mentor and fine-tuned my kicking abilities and helped me get down to the States.”
Molson was drafted by the CFL’s Hamilton Tiger-Cats in the seventh round last year. He declined the invite, though, to focus on getting his shot in the NFL.
Now, assuming he sticks on the roster deep into August, he’s got a shot to put his game on tape for the rest of the NFL to see. There is a 0 percent chance Molson is going to unseat Crosby. That’s not a knock on Molson but simply acknowledging the performance and financial realities. First, Crosby made all 16 field-goal attempts last season and is 38-of-40 the past two seasons. At 36, he remains a high-quality kicker. Second, a contract restructure in March basically ensures Crosby will be the Packers’ kicker for the 15th consecutive season.
“I love football so much,” Molson said at the Combine. “If the NFL doesn’t work out, I’ll definitely try to play in the CFL for as long as possible. That’d be a cool story to play for the [Montreal] Alouettes in the Molson Stadium. That would be fun. But any chance to play pro ball, whether it’s in the U.S. or Canada, I’d be super-grateful. Because you’re only young once. And I have the opportunity to be an athlete now so I’ll definitely try to play as long as possible.”