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. 62: RB Patrick Taylor (6-2, 217; 23; first year; Memphis)
Taylor’s first taste of Green Bay wasn’t as an undrafted free agent in 2020. Rather, it was foot surgery with the renowned specialist Dr. Robert Anderson between the 2020 Scouting Combine and draft. The surgery, which turned his rookie season into a redshirt year, is why the talented and versatile back went undrafted.
Taylor was a star at Memphis 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. However, he suffered a dreaded Lisfranc foot injury in the 2019 opener. He had surgery and returned after missing about half the season, but the surgery needed to be redone. Hence, the trip to Green Bay in March 2020.
After signing with Green Bay, Taylor told The Houston Chronicle that he had a “chip the size of a boulder” on his shoulder.
“I feel like I can bring a number of things to contribute to a team,” said Taylor, who rushed for 2,884 yards and caught 55 passes in 42 collegiate games. “I’m able to catch the ball out of the backfield, run inside and outside of the tackles, line up wide in the slot or run wide receiver routes. I feel like I’m a big contributor in the passing game and able to protect the quarterback.
“I have leadership ability and an unselfish mentality. When I got hurt, I had to choose how I would react. It was unfortunate what happened, but other guys stepped up. I had to be a leader and have that unselfish mentality and see the game from a different lens and be a leader on and off the field.”
That unselfish mentality started at home. In 2005, his family opened their Texas home to family members following the carnage of Hurricane Katrina. At one point, nearly 50 people were living at the house. At Memphis, Taylor was active in the community, including spending time at children’s hospitals.
“I was always taught to care for others (because) my parents were so giving toward others and had an open door for anyone,” Taylor told The Memphis Commercial Appeal.
His studious nature has made an excellent impression on running backs coach Ben Sirmans.
"You’ve got a guy that’s really, for such a young player, is as professional as somebody who’s played in this league for six or seven years," Sirmans said during OTAs. "I mean, his notes that he takes are outstanding. His recall to what we’re doing on offense and understanding defenses are great. So, from that standpoint, you already have really good trust in him. So now, it’s just a matter of physically him getting out there on the field. I’ve been pleased with everything he’s done so far. But, really, you won’t know until we get to the preseason when he actually starts playing."
No. 63: RB Dexter Williams (5-11, 212; 24; second year; Notre Dame)
It will be Williams and Taylor challenging rookie Kylin Hill in the battle to be the Packers’ No. 3 running back.
"The No. 3 spot is wide open," Sirmans said.
A sixth-round pick in 2019, Williams got his big chance at San Francisco last season. With AJ Dillon sidelined with COVID and Jamaal Williams out after being deemed a high-risk contact, Dexter Williams was elevated from the practice squad. He carried twice for 8 yards before suffering an injury that ended his night. He never saw the ball the rest of the season.
In seven career games, he’s carried seven times for 18 yards. To push for a roster spot, he’ll need to be much better in the passing game – as a receiver and protector – than he was last summer.
Williams’ mother, Cheryl, was diagnosed with myasthenia gravis in 2006. Born and raised in Orlando, Fla., Williams has brought his mother along for his NFL ride to Green Bay. Last season, they helped promoted “A Mystery to Me,” the first documentary series about myasthenia gravis. It reveals the hidden toll of the unpredictable illness by following three people who live through it every day.
No. 64: TE Isaac Nauta (6-3, 246; 24; third year; Georgia)
The Packers signed Nauta to the practice squad in December.
A seventh-round pick out in the 2019 draft by the Detroit Lions, Nauta has three catches for 16 yards in 13 career games. That includes one catch for 3 yards in 2020, when he was twice elevated from the practice squad before being added to the 53-man roster for five more games.
At the 2019 Scouting Combine, he measured 6-foot-3 and 244 pounds. He ran a plodding 4.91 in the 40 to sink his draft stock after a solid career at Georgia. Nauta’s 29 catches as a freshman and 30 catches as junior bookended a three-year career in which he caught 68 passes for 905 yards (13.3 average) and eight touchdowns.
Nauta’s is a riches-to-rags story. His father was a wildly successful financial planner until the market collapsed. Gone were the new cars and private plane. In was a new reality, including depending on a food pantry for about nine months when Nauta was 10 and 11.
“Riding my bike to McDonalds to get a $1 McDouble was like a Ruth’s Chris steak. It was to that point. We lost all of our cars. I was riding to football practice on my Dad’s motorcycle. I had my pads and my helmet and I’m sitting on the back of his motorcycle.”
Nauta will have to use his blocking grit to win a job at a crowded position group that features Robert Tonyan and Marcedes Lewis, former third-round picks Josiah Deguara and Jace Sternberger, and late-season revelation Dominique Dafney. Another former third-round pick, who was a stud pass rusher in college, will be in the mix, as well.