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Ranking the Roster: Nos. 1-5: Rodgers, Bakhtiari, Adams, Alexander, Love

Arguably the best quarterback, offensive lineman, receiver and cornerback in the NFL top our annual rankings.
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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.

(Quick note from me: I’ve been diagnosed with Lyme disease. It’s OK and life will go on once the antibiotics fully kick in. Between feeling like hell and the maple tree that split and fell during a recent storm, this admittedly is not the best part of this long series of stories. I do hope you’ve enjoyed learning about everyone on the roster.)

No. 1: QB Aaron Rodgers (6-2, 225; 37; 17th season; California)

This hardly needs an explanation. He’s the three-time and reigning MVP. He is coming off a season in which he became only the second quarterback over the past 80 years to lead the NFL in completion percentage, touchdown percentage and interception percentage.

He had the entire world eating out of his hand, even while he offered nothing but the occasional crumb during a drama-filled offseason. And, hey, he (allegedly) has the power to bring back Randall Cobb for this season, then fetch multiple draft picks should he want out next offseason.

Let’s not forget what Rodgers accomplished last season. He wasn’t very good in 2018 under Mike McCarthy and 2019 under Matt LaFleur. He was all-time great in 2020. Despite attempting 47 fewer passes than the year prior, Rodgers had 19 more completion, 297 more yards and 22 more touchdowns. His completion percentage went from 62.0 to 70.7, his yards per attempt soared from 7.0 to 8.2, and his passer rating rocketed from 95.4 to 121.5. His 48 touchdown passes weren’t far off from his combined total of 51 in 2018 and 2019.

No. 2: LT David Bakhtiari (6-4, 310; 29; ninth season; Colorado)

The Packers probably would have gone to the Super Bowl had Bakhtiari not suffered a torn ACL late last season. There’s no way the Buccaneers would have sacked Rodgers five times if it were Bakhtiari at left tackle and Billy Turner at right tackle instead of Turner at left tackle and Rick Wagner at right tackle.

Before the injury, Bakhtiari was having a brilliant year. He earned All-Pro honors for the fifth consecutive season. In November, he signed a contract extension that made him (briefly) the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history.

Clearly, there is prestige with being No. 1 in anything, and that includes No. 1 in contract.

“Yeah, that was something that I’ve been chasing for a while,” Bakhtiari said shortly after signing. “Having the talks with my family, to have that monetary validation for all the work that I’ve put in really meant a lot. That was something that I can hold onto and have that title for the rest of my life. That is something that is special, that I’ve been chasing really ever since I got in the league. I have goals, very lofty, lofty ones. I always wanted to say that I was the highest-paid offensive lineman in NFL history and today I get to say that.”

Bakhtiari will be on the sideline to start training camp but he seemed well ahead of schedule judging by his on-the-field workouts in June.

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“Very humbling,” he said after one of those practices. “The biggest thing that jumps out for me is don’t take things for granted. I really appreciate just walking. I appreciate being able to jog again. I appreciate being able to walk up and down stairs by myself. It was very humbling. It can get very dark for individuals who’ve experienced it. I am a very prideful individual and, for me, asking someone to help me to the bathroom, that weighed on me. But through these humbling experiences, you find a way. For me, it helped me understand to not take things for granted and really appreciate even the littlest of things.”

No. 3: WR Davante Adams (6-1, 215; 28; eighth season; Fresno State)

Adams is coming off one of the great seasons in NFL history. He caught 115 passes for 1,374 yards and the 18 touchdowns. He became the only player in NFL history with 110-plus receptions and 18-plus touchdowns. Add in the playoffs, he scored 20 touchdowns over 16 games. Everybody knew where the ball was going; nobody could stop it. And it wasn’t as if the Packers were force-feeding Adams to the detriment of the offense. Passes to Adams were rewarded with a 136.9 passer rating (No. 1) and 78.8 percent completion rate (No. 3).

Not only did Adams lead the NFL in touchdowns, but he led the NFL with 98.1 receiving yards per game and 8.2 catches per game. Had he not missed the two games, he might have joined Jerry Rice (1990), Sterling Sharpe (1992) and Steve Smith (2005) as the only players in the Super Bowl era to win the receiving triple crown of most receptions, yards and touchdowns in a season.

This is Adams’ final season under contract. On Christmas Eve, he’ll turn 29. Adams is a brilliant player. It will be interesting to see how much of the vault the team is willing to offer to a player who, at some point, might be on the downturn. Worth noting: Over the last decade, only seven receivers age 32 or older had a 1,000-yard season. No receiver 32-plus has scored 10-plus touchdowns since Randy Moss in 2009.

No. 4: CB Jaire Alexander (5-10, 196; 24; fourth season; Louisville)

At some point, Alexander is going to be a very, very rich man. If he’s not the best cornerback in the NFL, he’s right up there at the top. He dominated just about every week last season, no matter the matchup. Because of his brilliance at a premium position, he’s going to get paid a king’s ransom. He’ll play this season under the final year of his rookie deal. His salary? A laughably low $2.12 million. Next year, it will be under the fifth-year team option of $13.29 million. Presumably, at some point over the next year, the Packers will want to lock him with a long-term extension.

“I don’t get caught in the hype of players,” Alexander said. “I think the first battle starts within and it starts with myself. If I focus on myself more, I will ultimately be able to (beat) my opponent because I’ll know what I need to do. Just know what I have to do and know where I need to improve and know where my strengths are, that allows me to be dominant with no hesitation. I don’t even look that way during warmups because I don’t care. It starts with me and that’s just the mentality I have to approach the game.”

He had only one interception but recorded two in the NFC Championship Game. According to Sports Info Solutions, Alexander gave up a paltry 40.6 percent completion rate. That was the lowest in the NFL among starters, according to SIS. In his 17 games, he allowed 10 yards or less seven times. The end of the season was a master class on cornerback play. According to PFF, Alexander allowed 1-of-5 passing for 10 yards against Tennessee in Week 16, 3-of-5 passing for 7 yards against Chicago in Week 17, 1-of-3 passing for minus-3 yards in the divisional win over the Rams and 1-of-5 passing for 19 yards and the two picks against Tampa Bay.

No. 5: QB Jordan Love (6-4, 219; 22; second season; Utah State)

Had the “beautiful mystery” of Rodgers’ future been solidified a week earlier, I think I would have slotted Love at No. 12 on the list.

Regardless, Love’s importance to the team is obvious. He’s one injury away from being the Packers’ quarterback this season, and perhaps one season away from being the Packers’ quarterback, period.

He had one absolutely spectacular practice during minicamp that was legit great. And that’s not grading on a curve. Had Rodgers been that good, I would have said the same thing. He completed a series of deep balls and hit his receivers in stride. Judging by the increasing volume on the practice field that day, he earned some believers among his teammates.

“Going into my second year, it’s definitely been a different year,” Love said in June. “My first year, I didn’t get to experience a lot of things that would go on in a normal year. (Including wearing a uniform on gameday, amirite?) So I still, like a lot of rookies, we’re still unsure of what it’s like during a normal year. But getting back to a little bit of a normal year this year, it’ll be good to see some different things. But last year I was able obviously be behind Aaron, be behind Tim and just grow my game and understand the offense and grow in a lot of areas that you might not have been able to see, but just get better off the field and obviously I wasn’t able to get a lot of reps but my mental game and the knowledge I was able to get last year, I think it’s going to help me a lot.”