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. 16: WR Marquez Valdes-Scantling (6-4, 206; 26; fourth season; South Florida)
Last year’s overtime loss at Indianapolis sort of encapsulated Valdes-Scantling’s career. Facing a critical third-and-10 from the 6, Aaron Rodgers went deep to Valdes-Scantling for a gain of 47.
“He’s so damned fast,” Rodgers said afterward.
That play helped give the Packers a chance to win in overtime. Instead, Valdes-Scantling’s fumble set up the Colts’ victory.
“This is the ultimate team sport and I don’t think there’s anybody in that locker room that doesn’t have Marquez’s back,” coach Matt LaFleur said a day later. “He did so many good things. We wouldn’t even have been in a position to win the game without his efforts. There were so many assists. I think of the touchdown pass to Davante on the bubble screen that we threw to him. It was great blocking by both Marquez and by Allen. His effort was definitely there throughout the entire game, just clearing stuff out for underneath receivers. There was so much good and, you know, he had one bad play. And like we say to all our guys, it never comes down to one play. I have more confidence in Marquez because of the game, just because all of the little things he’s been doing.”
Valdes-Scantling can be a maddening player. Of the 70 receivers targeted at least 60 times last season, he had the second-highest drop rate. On the other hand, since entering the NFL as a fifth-round pick in 2018, the speedster leads the NFL with his 17.8-yard average and is second in 40-yard touchdowns (seven) and 40-yard catches (15). In 2020, among all players with at least 32 receptions, he led the NFL with a 20.9-yard average. Of his career-high six touchdowns, four covered 40-plus yards. He added a 50-yard touchdown in the NFC Championship Game.
Valdes-Scantling was the 19th of 34 receivers selected in 2018. He is seventh in yards and receiving touchdowns and ninth in receptions.
With another season filled with big plays, he’ll set himself up for a big payday as a free agent next offseason.
“It’s all about growth,” he said after the Indy game. “It’s all about getting better and being better every day, being the best version of yourself. As long as I’m a better version than I was the day before, that’s all I care about.”
No. 17: WR Allen Lazard (6-5, 227; third season; Iowa State)
At Iowa State, Lazard set school records for career receptions and yards. Nonetheless, despite production and great size, Lazard went undrafted in 2018 and failed to make Jacksonville’s roster. Green Bay swiped him off the Jaguars’ practice squad near the end of the season. A strong training camp, which started in backups-vs.-backups periods, put him in position to make the roster in 2019.
“It was every day we were watching the gold reps, and you’re saying, ‘Who’s 13?’” Rodgers recalled last season. “I’m like, ‘Get him down on the green side, at least for a couple days. I need to see this guy against some ones and twos down here.’”
To some extent, Lazard is still a projection. He started the 2019 season on the practice squad before getting his chance. Stuck on the bench, it was at Rodgers’ urging that Lazard get a chance to save the Packers from an upset loss against Detroit. Spurred by those four catches for 65 yards and one touchdown during the fourth quarter of that game, Lazard finished that season with 32 receptions for 477 yards and three touchdowns. All of that came over 11 games. Projected to 16 games, that works out to 51 receptions, 694 yards and four touchdowns.
Highlighted by his six catches for 146 yards and two touchdowns with Davante Adams out vs. New Orleans, Lazard posted 13 receptions for 254 and two scores in the first three games of last season. That’s a 16-game projection of 69 receptions for 1.355 yards and 11 touchdowns. However, he suffered a core muscle injury during that New Orleans game, had surgery and missed the next six games. Over the final seven games, Lazard had 20 receptions for 197 yards and one touchdown. That’s fewer yards in the last seven games than the first three.
At 6-foot-5, Lazard is a security blanket for the quarterback. He’s big and physical – an asset in the passing game and as a blocker – and he’s got sneaky speed. During the playoffs, he scored a 58-yard touchdown to clinch the victory over the Rams and added a pair of 23-yard catches vs. Tampa Bay. The next step is consistent production.
“I just try to be the same person every single day,” Lazard said in 2019 of a habit that started at Iowa State. “I try to wake up at the same time. One thing I try to focus on is making my bed every single morning. That way, I start off with the same routine and I finish the day the same way. It’s just little things like that – cleaning up my room, doing the dishes. I try to stay clean around my house. If I can keep my house clean, I can keep here and my mind a lot more clean, as well.”
No. 18: CB Kevin King (6-3, 200; 26; fifth season; Washington)
Here’s what you know: Former general manager Ted Thompson made a monumental blunder during the first round of the 2017 draft when he bypassed Wisconsin outside linebacker T.J. Watt, traded back and landed cornerback Kevin King.
Here’s what you may not know: In four seasons, King has broken up 27 passes while playing a position that is paid to break up passes. Watt has broken up 25 passes while playing a position that is paid to sack the quarterback.
Injuries have ruined a promising career. King has played about 52 percent of the defensive snaps in his four seasons. In 2019, when he played in 15 games with 14 starts and 77 percent playing time, he ranked among the NFL leaders with five interceptions and 15 passes defensed. Last season, he missed five games and logged 65 percent playing time. He had zero interceptions and five passes defensed.
Watt, meanwhile, had one interception and seven passes defensed last season, not to mention a league-leading 15 sacks and 23 tackles for losses. For the second consecutive season, he was voted first-team All-Pro.
King gave up two touchdowns in the NFC Championship Game and was guilty of the killer penalty during the final moments that sealed the Packers’ fate. Due to injuries and performance, King found no market in free agency and returned with a one-year deal worth $5 million. The Packers drafted his challenger, Eric Stokes, in the first round.
“I think a lot of good football players have to go through something in order to become great,” defensive backs coach Jerry Gray said during OTAs. “When I talk to Kevin, I talk to him about ‘Where do you want to go?’ The good thing is that Kevin is healthy, he’s ready to go this offseason. He’s actually here when he doesn’t have to be here, which is a good sign that he wants to work. He’s trying to get the thing that he wants to get done. We set some goals down and hopefully he’s working to that. Just with him being here has given us to a chance to say, ‘OK, he’s serious about what he’s trying to get done.’”
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Note: This feature was published on Aug. 24 and was updated on Sept. 24 with the possibility Yosh Nijman will start at left tackle for the Week 3 game against San Francisco on Sunday.