GREEN BAY, Wis. – For more than a decade, we have ranked every player on the Green Bay Packers’ roster in advance of the start of training camp.
This isn’t just a rundown of the best players. Rather, it’s a not-too-scientific 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 all 89 players scheduled to be with the team for the first practice of training camp on July 27.
Part 6 of our series includes four returning players, all of whom rarely saw the field last year. In the constant churning of the bottom of the roster, they’ll have to fight to maintain their spots.
No. 69: DT Jack Heflin
Jersey No. 96; 6-3, 304; second season; Iowa
Heflin, an undrafted free agent last season, was one of the stories of training camp en route to making the roster. Making the 53 is one thing; contributing is another. Thirty players earned playing time on the defensive side of the ball. With 17 snaps, none played fewer than Heflin. By contrast, fellow defensive lineman Abdullah Anderson was elevated from the practice squad three times and played 49 snaps.
Heflin had zero scholarship offers following his career at Erie-Prophetstown High School in Prophetstown, Ill. In fact, only three Division I schools offered a walk-on opportunity. One of those was Northern Illinois. He earned all-conference honors as a sophomore and junior before transferring to Iowa to test his mettle against Big Ten foes for his final season. He started all eight games during the COVID-shortened season.
“Small-town kid from 1,900 people. A lot of people don’t go watch football in that area,” Heflin said during training camp on Aug. 23. “I don’t know if they missed anything. It is what it is. It’s the hand that God dealt me. I’m not bitter about it. It’s just life is full of adversity. It’s just another obstacle I had to overcome and I wouldn’t change it, because it wouldn’t have made me work as hard as I did to get to where I am today.”
Defensive line might be Green Bay’s deepest position with the returns of Kenny Clark, Dean Lowry and TJ Slaton, the additions of Devonte Wyatt in the first round and Jonathan Ford in the seventh round, and the signing of veteran Jarran Reed. That’s six players. The Packers might not need more than five.
No. 68: WR Malik Taylor
Jersey No. 86; 6-1, 220; third season; Ferris State
Taylor, an undrafted free agent out of Division II Ferris State, will be entering his fourth training camp with the Packers.
He dominated last year’s preseason, catching 14-of-16 targets for 185 yards. In preseason play, he was first in the league in yards and second in receptions. That was enough to get him a spot on the 53.
“You guys saw it. I thought he earned it all the way through camp,” general manager Brian Gutekunst said. “From the first day of practices to joint practices to preseason games, he just kind of earned it the whole way. I think he’s gotten continuously better from last year, took a good step. That’s a tough group to crack. There wasn't a lot of open spots in that group, but we had some guys that had some unfortunate injuries along the way so I think the competition, he kind of stood out, and certainly in the preseason games where it matters the most, he stepped up.”
However, Taylor quickly faded into the background. After catching five passes for 66 yards and one touchdown in 2020, he caught two passes for 14 yards in 2021.
Even with speed “defenses fear,” Taylor played just three offensive snaps during the final nine games of last season. Moreover, he has a career average of only 18.9 yards per kickoff return. With an unsettled receiver corps, this will be a make-or-break training camp. He might never get a better opportunity to contribute.
No. 67: OLB La’Darius Hamilton
Jersey No. 54; 6-2, 261; second season; North Texas
With Jaire Alexander sidelined by a major shoulder injury, general manager Brian Gutekunst found Rasul Douglas on the Cardinals’ practice squad. With Za’Darius Smith sidelined following back surgery, Gutekunst found La’Darius Hamilton on the Buccaneers’ practice squad.
One of those moves was a home run. The other was not. That’s not a knock on Gutekunst. A Douglas-style signing could be a once-in-a-lifetime addition for any general manager.
Hamilton went undrafted in 2020 and spent his rookie season on the Cowboys’ practice squad. Dallas released him after the 2021 draft and he was claimed off waivers by the Buccaneers. He failed to make the Bucs’ roster but was signed to the practice squad.
As a senior at North Texas, Hamilton recorded 8.5 sacks, 10.5 tackles for losses and one forced fumble. He finished his career tied for sixth in program history with 17 sacks and added 28.5 TFLs.
In 2018, North Texas unveiled a statue to honor its most famous alumni, Hall of Famer “Mean Joe” Greene. That week, Hamilton was given Greene’s retired No. 75 jersey to wear against Louisiana Tech.
“When they first told me [Greene] said I could wear the jersey I was like, ‘This has got to be a joke, right?'” Hamilton told North Texas Daily. “We get to the game and I put it on and I’m wearing the jersey just standing there like, ‘This is crazy.’ So, I go out and I see he’s sitting there by the gate and he tells me, ‘Man, just relax, I’ve had a lot of good games in that jersey and I also had some bad ones, just go out there and play.’ So, that kind of eased the nerves and the tension of the game but at the same time, this is Mean Joe’s jersey so it was definitely a great experience and a huge honor to wear that jersey.”
For Green Bay, he played 64 snaps on defense in six games and contributed three tackles (all against the Rams), two quarterback hits and three pressures in 36 rushes. With major depth issues at outside linebacker behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith, there is a golden opportunity.
No. 66: S Innis Gaines
Jersey No. 38; 6-1, 202; first season; TCU
Gaines had a knee to rehab, a dream to chase and bills to pay.
“Besides rehabbing, I would work out and do DoorDash to make money, make ends meet,” Gaines said during training camp last summer. “Because you get your own schedule, basically. You work when you want to work, so I worked out, then I’d get time to do DoorDash, do a couple hours of that and then do a couple hours in the evening and then hang out with my family and stuff; try make ends meet. So, that was perfect, really, the way you make your own hours. That was fun.”
Gaines went undrafted and unsigned in 2020 following torn ACLs that ended each of his final two seasons at TCU. He worked out for the Packers in August 2020 and was signed to a futures contract in January 2021. In between is when he picked up the DoorDash gig, delivering burgers and whatnot in the Dallas area.
Last summer, he had a strong training camp but failed to crack the roster. He was elevated off the practice squad for the Cleveland game, when he played a handful of snaps on special teams.
As it stands, the No. 3 safety is Shawn Davis. In fact, behind starters Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage, there isn’t a safety on the roster who played a snap of defense in the NFL last season.
So, the door is open for the man nicknamed “Thump.” It was name given to him by a high school coach and mentor.
“I would say about ninth grade, 10th grade, I was making some splash plays on the field,” Gaines recalled. “He was saying I need a nickname to go by because people had a hard time saying ‘Innis.’ People will say, ‘Ennis’ sometimes. So it was like, you need a nickname. He was like we should call you Thump-Thump. Then everybody started changing it from Thump-Thump to just a single Thump. And I stuck with it ever since.”
More Packers Roster Countdown
No. 89: DT Chris Slayton
Jersey No. 60; 6-3, 307; first year; Syracuse
The Packers signed Slayton off waivers from the 49ers in May. A seventh-round draft by the Giants in 2019, he has not played in a regular-season game. He’s served stints on practice squads with the Giants, Bills, Falcons, Steelers and 49ers.
At Syracuse, Slayton played in 49 games, including 42 starts. He tallied 107 tackles, including 32.5 tackles for losses and 9.5 sacks, and added five forced fumbles. He finished his career ranked ninth in school history in TFLs. As a senior captain, he was third-team all-ACC with 3.5 sacks and eight TFLs.
Slayton didn’t play football until high school. When he first tried the sport, he wanted to play quarterback. Already a big guy, the coaches pointed him to the defensive line.
No. 88: DT Hauati Pututau
Jersey No. 79; 6-3, 306; R; Utah
Pro Bowl defensive tackle Kenny Clark, who is entering his seventh NFL season, is 26. So is Pututau, an undrafted free agent from Utah.
As a senior at Cottonwood High School in Salt Lake City in 2013, Pututau was an all-region linebacker who also played receiver. He chose Utah, then went on his two-year Mormon mission to Florida.
“I gained a few pounds on my mission,” he said last season.
Pututau redshirted in 2016 and made his first starts in 2019 (one) and 2020 (three). In 2021, he took advantage of the NCAA’s COVID year. He played in 14 games with eight starts, tallying three sacks and 4.5 tackles for losses among 18 tackles.
Pututau is one of eight children. Two of them, Fua and Tennessee, also played on the Utes’ defensive line.
He is proud of his heritage.
“Tongan people are very prideful,” Pututau said. “We pride ourselves in who we are and who we portray to others who we are. As a Tongan you don’t show weakness and here at Utah that is what they stand for is you show no weakness. You work hard and the results will come. Being Tongan is what keeps me going, motivates me to be a hard worker and to develop a good work ethic each and every day we are out here on the field.”
The Packers gave him an $8,000 signing bonus, tied for tops on the team. He missed most of the offseason practices with an undisclosed injury.
No. 87: DT Akial Byers
Jersey No. 98; 6-3, 308; R; Missouri
Byers is an undrafted free agent who might have some untapped potential. At Fayetteville (Ark.) High School, he was an Under Armour All-American, a four-star recruit and a top-20 defensive lineman.
As a fifth-year senior in 2021, Byers played in 12 games with 10 starts. He had 1.5 sacks and 3.5 tackles for losses among his 23 total tackles. In 52 career games, he registered two sacks and nine TFLs. He scored a touchdown vs. his hometown Arkansas Razorbacks when he pounced on a fumble in the end zone in 2018.
Byers took advantage of the NCAA’s “COVID year” and played a fifth season. He changed his jersey to No. 0 and worked under former Packers defensive line coach Jethro Franklin. Headed into his final season, he called himself a “great” run-stopper.
“(Franklin) pushes us to get better every day no matter where it's at, on the field, or just in the weight room," Byers said at SEC Media Days. “He wants us out there working together, working on our footwork, hand placement, anything, or even just learning the playbook. And I think that's a big thing. He teaches us something new every day. So, every time we go into a meeting room, it's like you're in the classroom learning new things. I take every day we're meeting seriously.”
The Packers gave him an $8,000 signing bonus, tied for tops on the team.
No. 86: T/G George Moore
Jersey No. 77; 6-6, 312; R; Oregon
Moore won’t be fazed by going up against the likes of Rashan Gary or Kenny Clark during training camp. At Oregon, he battled Kayvon Thibodeaux, who was selected fifth overall by the Giants in this year’s draft.
“(Former Oregon coach Mario) Cristobal is a big believer in the whole ‘iron sharpens iron’ mentality,” Moore told SI.com’s The Spun. “Our front seven was amazing with Kayvon Thibodeaux and several others. All those guys are amazing football players, have high IQs, and made practices tough. We would go head-to-head every single day because we knew that’s what we needed to do to give ourself an opportunity on Saturdays. We knew that we’d need to be physical throughout the week to make sure it helps us have success during games.”
Moore started his college career in 2015 at The College of San Mateo. He missed that first season with a torn ACL but was a star in 2016, which made him the top-ranked offensive tackle in junior college. That opened the door to Oregon. After sitting behind Tyrell Crosby and Penei Sewell, Moore wound up starting 20 of a possible 21 games for the Ducks in 2020 and 2021. During his final season, Moore started six games at left tackle and seven games at left guard. According to PFF, he allowed three sacks at each position.
“I’m really proud of George Moore,” Cristobal said. “He didn’t play much high school football before he got to junior college, and when he got here, that’s a baptism by fire because he went into a group with some really seasoned upperclassmen that held themselves to a high standard, and George just kept at it. He allowed us to push him, and he’s really become a good football player.”
With seven years of college ball under his belt, Moore will turn 26 during the first week of training camp. He was older than the Ducks’ graduate assistant line coach last year, and he’s older than last year’s starting interior trio of Jon Runyan, Josh Myers and Royce Newman.
The Packers gave him an $8,000 signing bonus, tied for tops on the team.
No. 85: C/G Cole Schneider
Jersey No. 64; 6-3, 309; R; Central Florida
Asked which of the Packers’ undrafted free agents had the best chance of making the team and developing into a contributor, one team’s college scouting director pointed to Schneider.
Schneider started 47 games in four seasons at UCF, with 46 of those appearances at guard and one at center.
“He can play any of the inside positions whether it be right guard, left guard, or center,” UCF offensive line coach Herb Hand told The Fort Myers News-Press. “I think that's been invaluable, that's going to pay dividends because you're bringing great value to an organization to be able to play multiple positions.”
Lucas Patrick can attest to that. An undrafted free agent in 2016, he started 28 games at the three interior positions the last two seasons. Patrick signed with the rival Chicago Bears in free agency.
With an eye on getting a ready-made utilityman, the Packers used a fourth-round draft pick on Wake Forest’s Zach Tom. Like Schneider, Tom spent the offseason practices shifting between center and guard. So, it might be a tall order for Schneider to make the 53-man roster. He could be up for the challenge. As a senior, he did not allow a sack, according to Pro Football Focus, and ranked No. 1 among guards in its pass-blocking efficiency, which measures sacks, hits and hurries per pass-protecting snap.
At Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, Fla., he was a two-time state heavyweight champion in wrestling. A dominant two-sport star, he was voted the News-Press’s athlete of the decade. Among the athletes he beat out for the award was Packers receiver and fellow Fort Myers native Sammy Watkins.
“He pulls with ill intentions and tries to kill people,” UCF right tackle Marcus Tatum, who signed with the Jaguars, told The News-Press at pro day. “You couldn’t ask for a better guard than that. I knew when he was pulling in front of me that the (defender) was going to get moved. He’s willing to put his body on the line for anybody and is an all-around good person. He’s always been there for me, always helped me. He let me lean on him the moment I got here.”
The Packers gave Schneider an $8,000 signing bonus, tied for tops on the team.
No. 84: OT Caleb Jones
Jersey No. 72; 6-9, 370; rookie; Indiana
Caleb Jones, if he ever plays in a game for the Packers, would be the biggest player in franchise history.
Here is the story on Jones, a man so big he deserves his own headline.
No. 83: TE Eli Wolf
Jersey No. 48; 6-4, 238; first year; Georgia
Wolf is used to taking the challenging route.
Wolf was a walk-on at Tennessee in 2015. That’s where his brother, Ethan, who served a couple stints on the Packers’ practice squad in 2018 and 2019, was also a tight end.
When Wolf arrived on campus, he tipped the scales at merely 205 pounds. But he took his shot in the SEC rather than grabbing the scholarship offer to Eastern Michigan.
“I remember sometimes waking up middle of the night, setting an alarm, eating a peanut butter sandwich or something quick, and drinking protein shakes three times a day,” Wolf recalled in September 2019. “The weight room was huge, too. And since I’ve gotten here, the weight room has done nothing but help me put that weight on and keep that weight on.
“It took a while, and it was hard mentally and physically to get there, but I never looked at my weight and said, ‘Hey, if I’m 220, I’m not going to be able to perform’. I always looked at it if I’m 220, I’m still going to be able to do what everybody at 240 can. I may not be as heavy but I’ll be just as strong as every tight end in the country, and I took that as a personal challenge.”
Wolf worked for two seasons on his own dime before getting a scholarship in August 2017. Coach Butch Jones found a unique way to break the news.
In 2019, Wolf transferred to Georgia for his final season. He caught 13 passes for 194 yards and one touchdown, giving him career totals of 21 receptions for 272 yards and two touchdowns. He spent all of 2020 on the Ravens’ practice squad and the second half of the 2021 season on the Colts’ practice squad. The Packers added him in May.
No. 82: RB Tyler Goodson
Jersey No. 39; 5-9, 197; rookie; Iowa
The dynamic duo of Aaron Jones and AJ Dillon are the obvious leaders of the pack at running back. If Kylin Hill isn’t back from his torn ACL, Patrick Taylor is the front-runner to earn the third (and what could be final) spot in the backfield.
The Packers didn’t draft a running back but did sign Goodson and Oregon State’s B.J. Baylor as undrafted free agents. Whether it’s the 53-man roster or practice squad, one of them figures to stick around. It will be an interesting battle because of their differing skill-sets.
Goodson was a three-year standout at Iowa, capping his career with 2,551 rushing yards and, most impressively, 70 receptions. It’s that pass-catching ability that makes him so intriguing given how coach Matt LaFleur has used his backs in the passing game. That skill was obvious during the offseason practices.
Goodson has always loved football. In fact, as a kid, he slept with a football. His youth team in Suwanee, Ga., was coached by longtime NFL defensive lineman and assistant coach Brentson Buckner.
“I want the ball,” Goodson told The Daily Iowan, as opposed to his brother, a linebacker at Mercer.
Of the 72 backs with 150-plus rushes last season, Goodson ranked 12th with 1.30 yards per pass route but 70th with 2.35 yards after contact on runs, according to Pro Football Focus. Can he run with enough toughness?
The Packers gave Goodson an $8,000 signing bonus. For what it’s worth, during the final OTA that was open to reporters and with Jones, Dillon, Taylor and (obviously) Hill not practicing, Goodson ran with the second unit.
No. 81: RB B.J. Baylor
Jersey No. 35; 5-10, 202; rookie; Oregon State
Baylor started his collegiate career lost on Oregon State’s crowded depth chart. He redshirted in 2017 and had only 89 touches the next three seasons. He could have transferred – that’s what college athletes do these days – but he stuck it out.
“I take loyalty serious,” Baylor told The Oregonian. “I feel like loyalty is better than anything else. Because when you’re loyal, you always feel like you have someone’s back.”
With Jermar Jefferson and Artavis Pierce off to the NFL, Baylor got his chance in 2021. The fifth-year senior fully capitalized. He led the Pac-12 in rushing with 1,337 yards (5.9 average) and 13 touchdowns.
Of the 72 backs with 150-plus rushes last season, Baylor was 53rd with 0.65 yards per pass route but 27th with 3.48 yards after contact per carry. He had 29 fewer carries than Goodson but forced 17 more missed tackles, according to Pro Football Focus.
A proven runner with tackle-breaking ability, can he catch?
“Yeah, you can see he’s got glimpses of when he can put his hands around the ball,” running backs coach Ben Sirmans said at the start of OTAs. “
As with Goodson, the Packers gave Baylor an $8,000 signing bonus. For what it’s worth, during that final OTA, Baylor ran with the “starters.”
No. 80: WR Danny Davis
Jersey No. 20; 6-1, 188; rookie, Wisconsin
The NFL is a tough business. That’s the reality for Davis, an undrafted rookie from Wisconsin.
Davis had a solid career with the Badgers with 131 receptions for 1,642 yards (12.5 average) and 14 touchdowns in a run-first offense. He’s got decent size and below-average athleticism (4.62 in the 40 and a 31.5-inch vertical leap), but good route-running ability and excellent hands (six career drops, including only one in 2021).
But, even with the trade of Davante Adams and the free-agent departures of Marquez Valdes-Scantling and Equanimeous St. Brown, it will be an uphill climb to crack a roster headed by veterans Allen Lazard, Randall Cobb and Sammy Watkins, 2021 third-round pick Amari Rodgers and three draft picks.
Davis certainly didn’t look out of place during the four weeks of offseason practices.
“This is my dream, and this is one thing that I’ve wanted to do my whole life, so I’m thankful but at the same time I know that I can’t just keep thinking about that,” he told Madison’s Channel 3000. “I’ve got to continue to move forward and continue to… I’ll do anything. Special teams, I’ll get on there and make a tackle, I’ll do anything for this team and anything to make the team, so I’m looking forward to it and just show(ing) everybody what I can do.”
At Springfield (Ohio) High School, Davis scored a school-record 1,774 points during four seasons on the basketball team. Like it did for Adams, basketball skill translated to the football field for Davis.
“It's just like going to get a rebound and blocking the DB out,” Davis told UWBadgers.com after catching eight passes for 99 yards vs. Penn State in September. “It really is just like boxing somebody out. It definitely transitions. I'd say basketball has helped me tremendously with football in attacking the ball in the air and being physical with DB's.”
The Packers gave him a $5,000 signing bonus.
No. 79: C/G Michal Menet
Jersey No. 65; 6-4, 301; first season; Penn State
Menet, a three-year starting center at Penn State, was drafted in the seventh round last year by Arizona.
“I'm going to outwork people," Menet said upon being drafted. "I've always prided myself on doing that, just being able to outwork people and compete. ... It's a childhood dream come true. It definitely goes to show that if you put in the hard work... and love the game, the game will love you back. I'm just so thankful to the Arizona Cardinals for giving me a chance.”
Menet failed to make the Cardinals’ roster and served two stints on their practice squad before joining Green Bay’s practice squad in December.
For years, Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers has noted that being the No. 2 center is a sure-fire ticket to the roster. Menet will compete with 2020 sixth-rounder Jake Hanson, 2022 fourth-rounder Zach Tom and 2022 undrafted rookie Cole Schneider to be that player.
“Michal Menet is a special football player who has the ability to be a starter in the NFL because of his intelligence and durability," Penn State offensive line coach Phil Trautwein said. "He started 34 games for us and was a proven leader that guys in the offensive line room were able to learn from. His toughness and physicality will allow him to have a long and successful NFL career.”
No. 78: S Tre Sterling
Jersey No. 45; 6-0, 205; rookie; Oklahoma State
Sterling didn’t stand out at any point in the offseason practices. It will be interesting to see if it’s a different story when the pads go on and the physical work starts in training camp.
As a sophomore in 2019 and junior in 2020, Sterling recorded 144 tackles, including an intriguing 20 for losses. He led the Cowboys with 12 tackles for losses in 2020 but torn ligaments in his wrist, an injury that required surgery, limited him to only five games in 2021.
Between the injury and a 4.71 in the 40 at pro day, Sterling went undrafted. The Packers signed him with a $2,500 bonus.
However, if his Big 12 playmaking ability shows up on Ray Nitschke Field and in the preseason, he could be in a good position to win a roster spot at a position group in which the candidates to back up Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage played a not-so-grand total of zero defensive snaps in the NFL last season.
“At the end of the day, if you want someone that is going to make plays and get wins and who cares about getting wins for the team, and at the end of the day cares about each other, that is the type of guy that I am,” Sterling, a new father, told Ocolly.com.
Sterling is a product of both of his parents. His father played football at North Texas. His mother is an interior designer. At Oklahoma State, Sterling was a marketing major with an eye for graphic design. In high school, he put together his own highlights package to help him get recruited. Some of his work can be found on his artistic Twitter profile.
“He's just always been inquisitive and curious about new things,” his father, Ron, told The Oklahoman.
“And he's not afraid to take risks, and so he plays a lot like that as well, too. He loves playing the game, trusts his teammates, but he's also one that's willing to gamble a little bit and take a few risks, and it's paid off for him, both inside the football arena and outside, as well.”
No. 77: CB Kiondre Thomas
Jersey No. 43; 6-0, 186; first season; Kansas State
The Packers signed Thomas, who played 28 snaps on special teams last season for the Chargers, to a futures deal in September.
Thomas spent his first three collegiate seasons at Minnesota before transferring to Kansas State for his senior year. He started the final four games of the 2020 season and broke up four passes. He had one career interception, which came while at Minnesota in 2019. He went undrafted last year, competed in training camp for the Browns and spent the entire season on the Chargers’ practice squad.
Officially 5-foot-11 3/4 and with 4.44 speed in the 40, he’s got the size and athletic goods to compete for a backup spot at cornerback. The Packers didn’t draft a cornerback and have precious little depth behind the Big 3 of Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes.
“Kiondre is strong on the line of scrimmage,” said Kansas State cornerbacks coach/defensive passing game coordinator Van Malone, a former NFL starting cornerback. “He uses his hands well in coverage. He has good overall instincts and has a favorable size/speed ratio. Kiondre was a hard worker and a valued member of our CB unit. We were grateful to have his leadership in the room for the short time that we did.”
In May 2021, he was given the key to the city of his hometown of Fort Smith, Ark.
“That was quite a surprise when they called me a couple of days ago and let me know I was receiving this honor,” Thomas told The Times Record. “It's a blessing because I grew up here and everywhere I go, I take Arkansas with me; that's the first thing I let somebody know is that I'm from Arkansas, and Fort Smith to be exact.”
No. 76: CB Raleigh Texada
Jersey No. 34; 5-10, 191; rookie; Baylor
The Packers have perhaps the best trio of cornerbacks in the NFL with Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas and Eric Stokes. But Keisean Nixon is the only backup with any real NFL experience, and the Packers didn’t supplement the group during the draft. In fact, lured by a $3,000 signing bonus, Texada was the only player signed in college free agency.
At Baylor, Texada was primarily a perimeter cornerback. He finished his career with three interceptions, 15 passes defensed and 6.5 tackles for losses. He started 37 games, including eight of his 14 appearances as a fifth-year senior in 2021, when he had one interception and four passes defensed.
According to PFF, he allowed a 63.4 percent completion rate and three touchdowns (114.1 passer rating) in 2021. He was guilty of five penalties but didn’t miss any tackles. He ran a 4.43 in the 40 at pro day. Baylor coach Dave Aranda called Texada “a scrappy dude, a guy who will punch you in the face.”
Texada grew up playing cornerback. Trained by their father, Ranthony Texada was an all-Big 12 cornerback for TCU and Ridge Texada will be a junior cornerback at North Texas.
“They’re all natural corners, so when they walk into a program they know how to play,” his father told The Waco Tribune. “My oldest son was the more natural corner of the three, but Raleigh was always the hardest worker of all of them. He built himself into a cornerback through hard work.”
No. 75: ILB Caliph Brice
Jersey No. 42; 6-2, 233; rookie; Florida Atlantic
At juco powerhouse Hutchinson Community College, Brice played alongside Devonte Wyatt. While Wyatt went to Green Bay as a first-round pick with a $6.53 million signing bonus, Brice went undrafted and landed in Green Bay with a $2,000 bonus.
At Florida Atlantic, Brice came off the bench in 2019 before starting his final two seasons. His first career start came in the 2020 opener vs. Charlotte. Brice recorded 10 tackles, then broke down on the field after the victory when thinking about his brother, who died in May 2020.
“That was my first game. He was looking forward to watching me play this season,” Brice said in a FAU video feature. “That was the first time [I started] and I did well. After the win, it all just came back to me. It’s like I almost felt him there, and that’s why I broke down.”
Brice recorded 54 tackles in 2020 and 59 tackles in 2021. In three seasons, he had one interception, two passes defensed and one forced fumble. He had an excellent pro day with a 4.61 in the 40, 37.5-inch vertical and 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press.
All-Pro De’Vondre Campbell and first-round pick Quay Walker are locks to make the roster, and veteran Krys Barnes probably will make it, too. But the Packers made it clear they’re not going to hand roster spots to returning backups Ty Summers and Isaiah McDuffie, so there is a path to the roster spot.
No. 74: LB Ellis Brooks
Jersey No. 41; 6-1, 226; rookie; Penn State
Brooks will bring physicality to the party when training camp begins. That was evident before he suited up for his first game at the school known as Linebacker U.
“When Ellis hit people here, it sounded different than everybody else,” Greg Lilly, Brooks’ coach at Benedictine College Prep, told The Collegian. “I can remember his freshman year, we were doing some sort of inside drill and my back was turned to a play.
“I can remember him at fullback blocking the defensive end and when he blew the defensive end up, I can remember turning around and going, ‘What did I just hear?’ The sound that he made when he hit people, the intensity with which he hit people, it made a different sound than most high school kids.”
Brooks recorded 230 tackles in his career. That includes 100 tackles as a senior, when he was second-team all-conference.
More than physicality, Brooks said his coverage ability will give him a chance to make an impact in the NFL.
“I feel like I’ve shown I can do it all in coverage,” he told The Draft Network. “I can play man-to-man, zone, Tampa 2, drops in the middle of the field, and whatnot. Something I’ve tried to emphasize throughout this entire process is how smooth and oily my hips are. I’m able to open up and run, turn, drop, and things of that nature. It allows me to drive on the football in coverage whenever the quarterback makes a throw. It’s a skill that’s going to translate to Sundays.”
Between Brooks and Caliph Brice, one of Green Bay’s undrafted linebackers will have a chance to stick as a backup and special-teamer. By resume, Brooks is the better player, but he went undrafted because of his 4.77-second clocking in the 40. The Packers gave him an $8,000 signing bonus.
Jersey No. 47; 6-4, 251; first year; Notre Dame
No. 73: TE Alize Mack
Mack, who signed with the Packers in February, was a seventh-round pick by the Saints in 2019 but has not played in a game.
Mack caught 68 passes for 716 yards and four touchdowns at Notre Dame from 2015 through 2018. As a rookie, he spent time on practice squads with the Saints, Steelers and Chiefs. In 2020, he spent time on the Chiefs’ offseason roster. In 2021, he competed with the Lions in training camp and spent one day on their practice squad.
At Notre Dame, Mack was suspended for the 2016 season for academic reasons. Then-coach Brian Kelly’s advice? “‘It’s either going to be the best thing that happens to you or the worst,’” Mack recalled.
For Mack, it was the best thing. He caught 19 passes for 166 yards in 2017 and 36 passes for 360 yards and three touchdowns – all career highs – in 2018.
“I would say that going to Notre Dame was definitely the best decision I ever made because the thing I always think about is four-for-40,” Mack said at the 2019 Scouting Combine. “They always say that the four years (at Notre Dame) are going to set you up for the next 40 years of your life. And I changed so much as a man. Not just as a football player, but as a man, as Alize. I changed as a brother, as a son, as a teammate. And I’m very proud of myself to see where I am today.”
With Robert Tonyan coming back from his torn ACL and probably limited at least for the start of training camp, there should be opportunities for Mack to show he belongs.
No. 72: OLB Kobe Jones
Jersey No. 49; 6-3, 255; first year; Mississippi State
Lynn Spruill is the official mayor of Starkville, Miss.
The unofficial mayor – and, given the nature of politics, the more popular mayor – is Jones.
Jones had seven sacks and 22 tackles for losses in four seasons at Mississippi State. He was a three-time member of the SEC Academic Honor Roll and earned his degree in business administration. He volunteered with the Starkville Cowboys youth football program as well as his alma mater, Starkville High School, to earn a spot on the SEC Community Service Team.
While at Mississippi State, Packers running back Kylin Hill set the wheels in motion for the state to pick a new flag free of Confederate symbolism. On Nov. 7, 2020, Jones became the first Mississippi State player to run onto the field with the new flag.
It was a signature moment for Jones. His youth coached called him “The Blueprint.” Teammates and fans called him “The Mayor.”
Jones started 11 games as a senior in 2020 and recorded two sacks. He went undrafted and signed with the Falcons but failed to make their roster, then spent two weeks on the Dolphins’ practice squad in November.
After the 2021 draft, he was one of 18 players trying out for a place on Green Bay’s offseason roster. Jones won that spot. Now, he has a golden opportunity on a depth chart that lacks any proven depth behind starters Rashan Gary and Preston Smith.
“Very, very smart. The guy was the ‘Mayor of Starkville,’” Packers outside linebackers coach Jason Rebrovich said. “He played with some really good players while he was there in college. When you have an opportunity and you take advantage of that opportunity, and you come to a rookie camp as a tryout and you show what you can do to the GM, the head coach and the defensive coordinator, that’s a big step for that young man. I’m really excited about having Kobe here, I really am.”
No. 71: OLB Chauncey Manac
Jersey No. 47; 6-3, 246; rookie; Louisiana
Once upon a time, undrafted free agents were a key part of the stable of outside linebackers who joined Packers star Clay Matthews. Frank Zombo played a key role in the Super Bowl championship team. He was followed by the likes of Vic So’oto, Andy Mulumba and Jayrone Elliott.
The stage could be set again with Manac. Green Bay has an excellent starting tandem with Rashan Gary and Preston Smith but little reliable depth. Last year, aside from veteran addition Whitney Mercilus, that depth consisted mostly of Jonathan Garvin, Tipa Galeai and La’Darius Hamilton. Those three and Chauncey Rivers combined to play 665 snaps and create 34 pressures. Gary, meanwhile, played 681 snaps and had 81 pressures.
So, there’s a lot of snaps up for grabs. Maybe fifth-rounder Kingsley Enagbare will fill that role. Maybe Randy Ramsey will make an impact after missing last season with an ankle injury. Maybe one of the returning players will take a big step forward. Or maybe Manac will be the next Zombo or Elliott.
A four-star prospect, Manac chose SEC powerhouse Georgia. He redshirted in 2016, transferred to Garden City Community College for 2017 and then spent his final four seasons at Louisiana. He led the Ragin Cajuns in tackles for losses in 2018 and again in 2021. He was second-team all-Sun Belt as a super-senior with 10.5 sacks and 14.5 tackles for losses among his 57 tackles.
Coming off surgery to repair a herniated disc in his back between the 2020 and 2021 seasons, he had 40 pressures last year, according to PFF. That’s only two fewer than the hyped Big Ten tandem of David Ojabo and Boye Mafe, and more than Day 2 draft picks Josh Paschal and DeAngelo Malone.
“If you would have told me three or four years ago that I have a chance to go to the league, I would have laughed,” he told The Adverstiser. “It’s crazy.”
No. 70: K Gabe Brkic
Jersey No. NA, 6-3, 201; rookie; Oklahoma
The Packers started the offseason with J.J. Molson and Dominik Eberle as potential challengers for longtime kicker Mason Crosby. By the end of the offseason, Molson and Eberle were out and Brkic was in, having been claimed off waivers from the Vikings on June 13.
During his final season at Oklahoma, Brkic was one of three finalists for the Lou Groza Award, which goes to the nation’s top kicker. In 2021, he made 20-of-26 field-goal attempts and all but one of his 58 extra-point tries.
He has a powerful, accurate leg. The leg strength: He tied for the NCAA lead with five field goals from 50-plus yards, tied the FBS single-game record with three field goals of longer than 50 yards, and booted a 56-yarder that’s the school’s longest in the no-tee era. The accuracy: The missed extra point was the only one in his three seasons as the Sooners’ kicker.
Tell this one to your boss: Golf is part of his training.
“This past summer, I improved my golf game a lot. I think, in turn, that helped our kicking game a lot. I think they go hand-in-hand,” he told The Norman Transcript in August. Part of that is picking a target line and making sure his golf swing goes right through it. “It’s the same with field goals,” he said. “I’ll pick a target in the stands and, as long as my leg swings straight through that, I’ll hit a good ball.”
A big personality and a favorite of then-coach Lincoln Riley, Brkic credits hearty breakfasts and his mustache and mullet for his success. As he told OU Daily, “Every kick, I just think, 'I’m (going to) parallel park the football through the goal post.'”