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 July 28, the first practice of training camp. 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. 55: G/T Cole Van Lanen (6-4, 305; 23; rookie; Wisconsin)
Growing up in nearby Suamico and playing collegiately at Wisconsin, Van Lanen will be one of those feel-good stories throughout his first NFL training camp.
“It’s something I always wanted to do, and I’m extremely excited for the opportunity to play for the Green Bay Packers,” Van Lanen, a sixth-round pick, said during rookie camp. “It’s something you dream of, and I got to do it today and wear the G. I’m definitely going to keep wearing it with pride and make this town proud, that’s for sure.”
Beyond than the local-boy-does-good story, Van Lanen has a shot to throw himself into the mix for a starting job at right guard or be a multipositional backup. A high school All-American, Van Lanen was a stud coming off the bench for the Badgers in 2018. He started at left tackle in 2019 and 2020, earning first-team all-conference honors as a senior. Scouts dinged Van Lanen for a disappointing junior season, which played a role in him tumbling deep into Day 3 of the draft.
“He’s a Wisconsin-ish-type lineman,” a scouting director said. “He’s nowhere near as good as the guys they’ve put out in the past.”
Asked about Van Lanen’s perceived lack of improvement since 2018, Badgers offensive line coach Joe Rudolph said Van Lanen had a big bounce-back year in 2020. There’s evidence in the numbers, with his pressure rate going from 4.0 percent in 2019 to 1.7 percent in 2020. His run-blocking improved, too, even with premier running back Jonathan Taylor off to the NFL.
“I thought he had a really good senior year, as well,” Rudolph told Packer Central after the draft. “I thought they were very comparable. I thought his ’19 year, he was coming off a hip surgery. If you haven’t been injured before and you’re coming off of an injury, it’s different. I think he learned a lot from that season. He played well but he didn’t play quite as well as 2018. I thought this last year he was back to form.”
An area scout agreed, saying he believed Van Lanen could develop into a starter. The competition will be stiff, with starting right guard Lucas Patrick returning and Van Lanen being one of six draft picks invested on the offensive line the past two years.
“I think Cole could start at tackle or guard,” Rudolph said. “Having Ryan Ramczyk and having David Edwards, those are two tackles that were pretty good here. He mirrors closer to Ram with his athleticism, his ability to change direction. It will be fun to see where they think is his best spot but I wouldn’t be surprised if he starts at right tackle.”
With his Green Bay ties, Van Lanen said he’s received “hundreds” of congratulatory texts. He wants to make the area proud, but the pressure to make it is more internal than external.
“It’s more of media or friends or family or whatever that bring it up,” he said. “I don’t think about it at all. I think about this as, ‘I have a great opportunity, I was drafted to a great team, and I am that guy that needs to learn. I need to be able to be on the field and make this team and make an impact on this team.’ That’s been my mentality from the beginning, no matter what team I got drafted to. Obviously, I’m blessed and extremely excited it’s the Packers, but that was my mentality from the beginning. And it still is.”