2014 Draft Digest – Vol. 11

mosley 1Every Tuesday between now and the NFL Draft, we’ll take a look around the Internet at what some of the experts are saying about the Packers’ first round prospects. Here’s what they’re saying this week.

WalterFootball.com (two mock drafts)

  • Calvin Pryor – S – Louisville
  • Analysis: Everybody knows the Packers need safety help. With the play-making receivers in Chicago, Detroit and Minnesota, Green Bay has to fix this need. 

    The 5-foot-11, 207-pound Pryor is big, physical and has some ball skills. He made some big plays for Louisville in 2013 with 75 tackles, three interceptions, four passes broken up and two forced fumbles. Pryor has speed to go along with his size and can cover a lot of ground in the middle of the field. 

    Pryor notched 100 tackles and five forced fumbles in 2012. He was a Second-Team All-Big East selection for that performance. Pryor broke into the lineup as a freshman in 2011 with 43 tackles, two forced fumbles and two interceptions.
  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
  • Analysis: The Packers could address the defensive end, linebacker or safety position at No. 21. Of those positions, C.J. Mosley is the best player available despite Charlie Campbell’s report in the draft rumor mill that says Mosley is expected to go much later than most think. Green Bay just needs more speed in the middle of its defense to combat the scrambling quarterbacks it hasn’t been able to stop. 

CBSSports.com (four mock drafts)

  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama (predicted by Pat Kirwan)
  • Analysis: A couple of good linebackers to choose from at this point in the draft. Mosley can line up at a number of spots in Dom Capers’ package and be effective. Last week it was Ryan Shazier at this spot and it might very well be him again before May.
  • Ryan Shazier – OLB – Ohio State (predicted by Pete Prisco)
  • Analysis: Where is the speed on that defense? Shazier has it.
  • Jimmie Ward – SS – Northern Illinois (predicted by Dane Brugler)
  • Analysis: Green Bay has a need at free safety and although it would be somewhat uncharacteristic for Ted Thompson to go safety in the first round, Ward gives the Packers an instant upgrade in the secondary.
  • Calvin Pryor – FS – Louisville (predicted by Rob Rang)
  • Analysis: Given how the Packers’ lack of speed was exposed by San Francisco’s Colin Kaepernick to end each of the past two seasons, GM Ted Thompson is likely to target a back-seven defender here. Pryor has excellent read and react skills which allow him to close quickly and deliver thunderous hits.

DraftTek.com

  • Ryan Shazier – OLB – Ohio State
  • Analysis: In this week’s DRAFTSIM, the Packers are faced with a “Sophie’s Choice” dilemma. Shazier, Pryor or Beckham, Jr. Yes, I’m including a WR because I firmly believe if the right one is there, the Packers would pull the trigger. Having said that, Shazier, who had 144 tackles, seven sacks, and 23.5 TFL in 2013, is the perfect antidote to the Packers’ defensive playmaking woes. Whether he would play outside or inside in the Packers’ 3-4 is up for debate. One thing that can’t be argued, however, is that having a guy like Shazier who can make plays from sideline to sideline would be a huge boost to the Packers’ Defense. 

FFToolbox.com (two mock drafts)

  • Ha’Sean Clinton-Dix – S – Alabama (predicted by Mark Niemi)
  • Analysis: The lack of a playmaker at S was a huge problem for Green Bay last season. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama would give the Packers some much needed range and ball-skills in the back end of their defense.
  • Eric Ebron – TE – North Carolina (consensus)

SBNation.com

  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
  • Analysis: The Green Bay defense needs help, whether it’s linebacker, safety or even cornerback. Mosley could be the much-needed partner for A.J. Hawk in the middle of the defense. He can drop in coverage, get upfield, and has the athleticism and instincts to stop the run sideline-to-sideline.

Sports Illustrated

  • C.J. Mosley – LB -Alabama
  • Analysis: Mosley’s spending most of his public time these days trying to convince NFL minds that he is fully healthy. Green Bay would be fine if the perception that Mosley is fragile lasts right up until draft day. Capable of attacking the football or dropping in coverage, Mosley has the type of game the Packers are badly missing in their linebacking corps.

 

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Prospect Proffile: Jimmie Ward – S – Northern Illinois

jimmieOther than linebacker and defensive end, scouts most commonly peg the Packers as drafting a safety in the first round. While high profile prospects Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Calvin Pryor could be there at 21, the Packers may also be interested in a more under the radar – but equally talented – option in Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois.

This wouldn’t be the first time the Packers have looked to capitalize on a small school safety. Nick Collins blossomed into one of the league’s best safeties after his career at Bethune-Cookman, and Ward could make a similar jump.

The biggest question could be how he fits with potential running mate Morgan Burnett, who is not a particularly big or fast safety to begin with. Ward would have to be especially gifted to make up for those deficiencies. Can he do it? Let’s look at the breakdown.

Jimmie Ward – S – Northern Illinois – 5’11″ – 193 pounds

Strengths

  • Athleticism - Intense, active and energetic. Zooms around the field and stands out on tape.” (NFL.com)
  • Versatility –  “Often lined up as a slot cornerback to take advantage of his lateral agility while also seeing time at both safety spots.” (Bleacher Report)
  • Aggression - “Physical, competitive defender who doesn’t back down from the challenges of bigger opponents.” (CBSSports.com)

Weaknesses

  • Intelligence – “Can be a tick late diagnosing pass, gaining depth and digesting route combos.” (NFL.com)
  • Tackling - “Leaves his feet to tackle, creating some impressive collisions but occasionally failing to wrap up securely. Misses tackles against the bigger, stronger athletes.” (CBSSports.com)
  • Measurables - “Lacks NFL size, with his weight and frame being a concern. With how he hits and how often he spends time in the box, his durability is a concern.” (Bleacher Report)

Video

Further Reading

2014 NFL Draft Scouting Report – Jimmie Ward

The Book on Jimmie Ward

Official Northern Illinois Bio

Twitter Profile

 

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Prospect Profile: C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama

C.J. Mosley could be moving to Green Bay if the internet's draft experts have their way.

C.J. Mosley could be moving to Green Bay if the internet’s draft experts have their way.

The internet’s draftnik’s seem to believe that the Packers are bound and determined to draft someone on the defensive side of the football, and for those in the prediction business that see the Packers taking a linebacker, there are two obvious choices.

There’s Ryan Shazier, who we talked about a couple weeks back, and then there’s C.J. Mosley, one of the leaders on Alabama’s vaunted defense.

Mosley sparks two obvious trains of thought. First, that he’s the reason Alabama’s defense is successful. Or, alternatively, that Alabama’s defense is the reason that Mosley is successful. One gives him the credit for the system’s success. The other gives the system credit for his success. Which is correct? Let’s look more in depth at Mr. Mosley to find out.

C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama – 6’2″ – 234 pounds

Strengths

  • Intelligence – Exceptional instincts — triggers fast downhill. Outstanding urgency.”(NFL.com)
  • Run defense - Mosley also plays with tremendous leverage, showing an excellent base on contact. (SBNation.com)
  • Fluid tackler - “Mosley does a nice job using his length and lower body fluidity to keep himself clean through a crowd and finishes at the ball, wrapping and driving through his target.” (CBSSports.com)

Weaknesses

  • Questionable medical history - Has been slowed by elbow, hip and shoulder injuries throughout his career and long-term durability will require thorough inspection by medical examiners.” (NFL.com)
  • Inconsistent technique - “Isn’t always fundamentally consistent as a tackler, at times opting to throw himself at his target or drop his head on contact.” (CBSSports.com)

Video

Further Reading

C.J. Mosley Scouting Report

Alabama LB C.J. Mosley could be NFL draft’s silent star

Twitter

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2014 Draft Digest Vol. 10

 

"Another

Every Tuesday between now and the NFL Draft, we’ll take a look around the Internet at what some of the experts are saying about the Packers’ first round prospects. Here’s what they’re saying this week.

WalterFootball.com

  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
  • Analysis: The Packers could address the defensive end, linebacker or safety position at No. 21. Of those positions, C.J. Mosley is the best player available despite Charlie Campbell’s report in the draft rumor mill that says Mosley is expected to go much later than most think. Green Bay just needs more speed in the middle of its defense to combat the scrambling quarterbacks it hasn’t been able to stop.

CBSSports.com (five mock drafts)

  • Jimmie Ward – SS – Northern Illinois (predicted by Will Brinson)
  • Analysis: For as dangerous as the Packers are, they’ve got plenty of needs. (Not that Ted Thompson drafts for need; there are plenty of high-end talents.) One of those is shoring up the back end of the secondary. Ward’s got the necessary skills to be a versatile piece in the Green Bay defensive backfield.
  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama (predicted by Pat Kirwan)
  • Analysis: A couple of good linebackers to choose from at this point in the draft. Mosley can line up at a number of spots in Dom Capers’ package and be effective. Last week it was Ryan Shazier at this spot and it might very well be him again before May.
  • Ryan Shazier (predicted by Pete Prisco)
  • Analysis: He would add some much-needed speed to the linebackers.
  • Jimmie Ward – SS – Northern Illinios (predicted by Dane Brugler)
  • Analysis: Green Bay has a need at free safety and although it would be somewhat uncharacteristic for Ted Thompson to go safety in the first round, Ward gives the Packers an instant upgrade in the secondary.
  • Louis Nix – DT – Notre Dame (predicted by Rob Rang)
  • Analysis: The aggressive and somewhat surprising addition of Julius Peppers certainly diversifies Green Bay’s pass rush but further reinforcements may be needed on the interior, where the team appears ready to move on from veterans Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. Nix is built similarly to holdover B.J. Raji, who was brought back on a one-year deal but plays with a more consistent motor.

NFL.com (two mock drafts)

  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama (predicted by Mike Huguenin)
  • Analysis: The Packers could use a thumper at inside ‘backer in their 3-4. He’s the best ILB in this draft.
  • Austin Sefarian-Jenkins – TE – Washington (predicted by Daniel Jeremiah)
  • Analysis: Seferian-Jenkins needs more polish, but his combination of size, catch radius and high-point skills will make him an immediate impact player in the red zone.

DraftTek.com

  • Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State
  • Analysis: If the draft were to fall this way, I have little doubt Ted Thompson would be looking for a trading partner to drop back and still get the guy they want. If unsuccessful, they’ll just take the guy they want anyway: Shazier. The Packers coaches have not been quiet about their desire for more impact players on defense. Shazier, who had 144 tackles, seven sacks, and 23.5 TFL in 2013, is the perfect antidote to the Packers’ defensive playmaking woes. Whether he would play outside or inside in the Packers’ 3-4, having a guy like Shazier who could run down their recent nemesis, Colin Kaepernick, would be a huge boost to their playoff aspirations. 

FFToolbox.com (two mock drafts)

  • Jace Amaro – TE – Texas Tech (predicted by Matt De Lima)
  • Analysis: Green Bay re-signed Andrew Quarless, yet they still may need a full-time replacement for Jermichael Finley. Amaro can certainly fulfill that role due to his above-average athleticism and great receiving skills.
  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama (consensus)

SBNation.com (two mock drafts)

  • Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State
  • Analysis: Shazier’s speed and athleticism give him the ability to cover tight ends and slot receivers, which is a critical factor for the Packers as they like to keep their inside linebackers on the field in sub packages. Though his size is frequently cited as a concern, Shazier bulked up from around 228 to 237 pounds in the offseason and showed no loss of athleticism or speed at the combine or his pro day. Shazier works best when kept clean of blockers, so the Packers’ defensive line will need to occupy their opposing linemen; if they can do so and keep them off of Shazier, his ability to find the ball carrier and close quickly would be a big boost for the Packers’ run defense. (excerpted)
  • Calvin Pryor – S – Louisville
  • Analysis: Safety and inside linebacker are the two biggest needs in Green Bay. Ted Thompson is traditionally a value drafter, so it’s going to be tough to ignore some of the Packers’ needs on defense. Thompson could pass Louisville safety Calvin Pryor off as a best player available pick, though. Pryor is an old-school player in that he is constantly trying to obliterate the ball carrier or receiver when he tackles. The Packers’ defense could use an element of intimidation. But he’s not just a hitter. Pryor has ball skills, too.

Sports Illustrated

  • Calvin Pryor – S – Louisville
  • Analysis: There are a lot of teams ahead of the Packers who could spoil this almost-perfect scenario for Green Bay, but Pryor would be a draft-night gift for a secondary that has lacked a consistent playmaker in the deep middle since Nick Collins‘ exited the lineup in early 2011 with a serious neck injury.
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The Dead Zone

Orwin Smith is not interesting, so I will not write about Orwin Smith.

Orwin Smith is not interesting, so I will not write about Orwin Smith.

By Jon Meerdink

I don’t care how good of a writer you are, you can’t make Orwin Smith interesting.

If for some shocking reason you don’t know, Orwin Smith is currently the sixth running back on the Packers’ roster. Orwin Smith has zero carries for zero yards in his career. He has also caught zero passes for zero yards. As far as I can tell, Orwin Smith has been involved in zero meaningful plays in his NFL career, which includes a few weeks worth of work on the Packers’ practice squad last season and just about nothing else.

But despite his completely negligible impact, I was going to write about Smith for today just in case. He is, after all, on the Packers’ roster today, which means he could have a chance to be a contributor at some point this season. It’s a long shot, but it’s possible.

However, I’ve decided against it, because I’ve discovered an ax to grind: the NFL off-season is getting way too long.

Yes, I know, the off-season is the same length it’s always been. But the structure is different. Instead of April, the NFL Draft is now in May, which is a completely transparent move by the NFL to control a longer chunk of the sports calendar. Previously, NFL off-season events were scattered between February and April, with the whole league now more or less going dark from the draft to minicamps and training camp. Now, the league has the draft in May, minicamps in June, training camps in July and into August, then the preseason and regular season from August through January and into February. Following the Super Bowl, the league obviously hopes that free agency, the Combine, and regional combines will bridge the gap between the end of the season and the Draft, at which point the whole cycle begins again.

It’s certainly the NFL’s prerogative if it wants to monopolize as much of the sports calendar as it wants, but it makes me wonder if Mark Cuban was onto something with his “pigs get fat, hogs get slaughtered” statement. (Side note: I think he was getting his idioms confused. He was probably trying to say “bulls make money, bears make money, pigs get slaughtered“, although that really wouldn’t make sense in this context.) Certainly there’s only so much effort a fan can put into following the NFL. By trying to make every day of the year a big deal for the league, I think the NFL runs the risk of burning out its fans.

For that reason, I’m going to try to fight the system. No, I won’t write about Orwin Smith just to fill time in the dead zone between free agency and the draft. No, I won’t manufacture controversies or dig up dirt on people in the off-season. If I have nothing to say, we’ll say nothing.

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Nostalgia Friday – Rodgers > Houston

Remember when Aaron Rodgers eviscerated the Houston Texans?

Good times, those. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh.

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Pre-season Breakdown

 

The Packers squared off with Kansas City in last year's preseason. What will happen this year?

The Packers squared off with Kansas City in last year’s preseason. What will happen this year?

By Jon Meerdink

Now that the Packers’ preseason schedule is all but set, it’s time to take a look at each game in excruciating detail! But since it’s April, that could be a problem, because teams could turn over virtually their entire roster by then. No matter! We’ll still give you the exact details of what will happen in ever preseason game. Please note that these outcomes could be subject to change.

Week 1 – Tennessee Titans
Key Match-up – Dom Capers vs. Packers’ fans crippling sense of self-doubt
Analysis: Packers fans will continue to question Dom Capers’ chops as defensive coordinator and the judgement skills of the Packers’ front office for keeping him aboard. The questions continue right up until the first drive of the first preseason game, at which point (insert name of defensive rookie drafted in May) will step up and make a big play, restoring fans’ confidence in the defense. All problems being solved, the Packers will cruise to an easy victory.
Final Score – Packers: 27 Titans: 4 (nine Mason Crosby field goals and two safeties for Tennessee. The annual questions about the Packers’ offense return.)
Did You Notice? - Fans in the parking lot burn Scott Tolzien in effigy after the game, demanding Graham Harrell‘s return. A mysterious, heavily bearded man wearing sunglasses is seen lurking outside the Titans’ stadium.

Week 2 – St. Louis Rams
Key Match-up – The Packers’ offense vs. expectations
Analysis: Driven into a fury by the Packers’ lack of offensive production, Packers fans take to internet message boards, Twitter, and bars across both the internet and Green Bay, ranting and raving about the predictable nature of the Packers’ offense. Mike McCarthy, in a moment of weakness, reads the message boards, and decides to rework his entire offense around trick plays involving Randall Cobb lining up at quarterback. I don’t know if you know this, but Randall Cobb played quarterback at Kentucky once.
Final Score – 43-6, but I won’t tell you who wins
Did You Notice? - Graham Harrell, having caught wind of last week’s calls for his return, follows the Packers to St. Louis, despite not being offered a contract by the team. Vince Young, having caught wind of last week’s calls for Harrell’s return, follows Graham Harrell to St. Louis, despite not being offered a contract by Harrell.

Week 3 – Oakland Raiders
Key Match-up – James Jones/Charles Woodson vs. Nostalgia; C.J. Wilson vs. Reality
Analysis: Returning to Green Bay for the first time, James Jones and Charles Woodson are greeted by powerful cheers and murmured whisperings about Ted Thompson‘s uncaring attitude toward “some of the greatest players we’ve ever had.” Meanwhile, in the all-important third preseason game, Charles Woodson is beaten badly by both the fleet-footed Randall Cobb and the not so fleet-f00ted (rookie wide receiver). James Jones is held without a catch because Matt Schaub lol. C.J. Wilson also returns to Lambeau Field. No one notices.
Final Score – Packers: 17 Raiders:3
Did You Notice? - Datone Jones has two sacks, adding to his previous total of three in the first two preseason games. Unnamed AFC scouts praise his length and athleticism. The heavily bearded man is spotted again, this time in the Packers Pro Shop gazing tenderly at a Brett Favre Fathead. He turns when he feels you staring. You catch a glimpse of a green jersey with a faded number four on the front. A crowd of boisterous fans moves through your line of vision. The bearded man disappears.

Week 4 – Kansas City Chiefs
Key Match-up – Unnamed back-up quarterback vs. Chiefs third string defense
Analysis: An as yet unknown Packers’ back-up quarterback striving to make the roster as a third string quarterback posts a valiant but flawed effort against defensive players who will be serving pizzas inside a week. He is instantly adored by Packers fans, but cut two days later. Aaron Rodgers stands on the sidelines wearing a baseball hat. C.J. Wilson stands next to him, wearing a Raiders uniform. No one notices.
Final Score – Packers: 6 Chiefs: 6 (game is rained out in the 3rd quarter because rain is scary and dangerous.)
Did You Notice? - Jarrett Bush plays the entire fourth quarter on his own time because that’s just the kind of guy he is. Datone Jones injures an ankle. Unnamed NFC scouts criticize his “desire for the game.” Graham Harrell sits in uniform at the end of the Packers’ bench. No one knows how he got there. After the stadium lights dim, the bearded man, now wearing a Nike Golf hat, walks slowly to midfield. He looks first to the south end zone…and then the north. He sighs deeply. It’s been so long.

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2014 Draft Digest – Vol. 9

Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU makes his first appearance on the mock drafts this week.

Odell Beckham Jr. of LSU makes his first appearance on the mock drafts this week.

Every Tuesday between now and the NFL Draft, we’ll take a look around the Internet at what some of the experts are saying about the Packers’ first round prospects. Here’s what they’re saying this week.

WalterFootball.com

  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama
  • Analysis: The Packers could address the defensive end, linebacker or safety position at No. 21. Of those positions, C.J. Mosley is the best player available despite Charlie Campbell’s report in the draft rumor mill that says Mosley is expected to go much later than most think. Green Bay just needs more speed in the middle of its defense to combat the scrambling quarterbacks it hasn’t been able to stop.

CBSSports.com (five mock drafts)

  • Odell Beckham Jr. – WR – LSU (predicted by Will Brinson)
  • Analysis: It’s weird to peg the Packers for a wideout in the first round with Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb on the roster. But Ted Thompson puts value in the best player available and Beckham surprisingly fell through a group of wideout-needy teams above. Nothing wrong with adding weapons for Aaron Rodgers.
  • Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State (predicted by Pat Kirwan)
  • Analysis: Shazier is a sideline-to-sideline player and would line up on the weak side as well as being the nickel middle linebacker. He is always around the ball with nine forced fumbles, 40 tackles for a loss and 13 sacks.
  • Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State (predicted by Pete Prisco)
  • Analysis: They looked so slow at times at linebacker. Shazier can run.
  • Jimmie Ward – SS – Northern Illinois (predicted by Dane Brugler)
  • Analysis: Green Bay has a need at free safety and although it would be somewhat uncharacteristic for Ted Thompson to go safety in the first round, Ward gives the Packers an instant upgrade in the secondary.
  • Louis Nix – DT – Notre Dame (predicted by Rob Rang)
  • The aggressive and somewhat surprising addition of Julius Peppers certainly diversifies Green Bay’s pass rush but further reinforcements may be needed on the interior, where the team appears ready to move on from veterans Johnny Jolly and Ryan Pickett. Nix is built similarly to holdover B.J. Raji, who was brought back on a one-year deal but plays with a more consistent motor.

NFL.com (two mock drafts)

  • Calvin Pryor – S – Louisville (predicted by Bucky Brooks)
  • Analysis: Safety has been a huge weakness in the Packers defense since Nick Collins‘ injury. Pryor would give the Pack a thumper between the hashes to discourage opponents from taking shots down the middle.
  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama (predicted by Matt Smith)
  • Analysis: hey addressed their need at OLB/DL with the Julius Peppers signing, but they desperately need ILB help/depth.

DraftTek.com

  • Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State (consensus)

FFToolbox.com

  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama (consensus)

Sports Illustrated

  • C.J. Mosley – LB – Alabama (predicted by Chris Burke)
  • Analysis: Mosley’s spending most of his public time these days trying to convince NFL minds that he is fully healthy. Green Bay would be fine if the perception that Mosley is fragile lasts right up until draft day. Capable of attacking the football or dropping in coverage, Mosley has the type of game the Packers are badly missing in their linebacking corps.

FoxSports.com

  • Ryan Shazier – LB – Ohio State

 

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Last Time at 21

barry smith

By Jon Meerdink

The Green Bay Packers have a rich and illustrious history, but they’ve only held the 21st pick in the NFL draft one other time.

In 1973 they used it to select Florida State wide receiver Barry Smith.

Barry Smith proceeded to reward the Packers by snagging 41 catches for 601 yards and four touchdowns. Over three seasons. Then he left for Tampa. Then he left the NFL.

But the numbers don’t tell the whole story on Barry Smith. Not by a long shot.

Do you see it? Do you see what’s special about him? It’s not how smartly he wears his uniform or his beautiful blonde hair.

No, Barry Smith is a mustache pioneer. And no matter how many passes you catch or don’t catch, having an awesome mustache will get you somewhere in life.

We can only assume that Smith’s brief stay in the NFL was cut short by other, manlier pursuits. Barry Smith no doubt had mountains to climb, bears to wrestle, alligators to skin alive, and wars to settle.

Barry Smith is the kind of guy who doesn’t play by the rules and prefers to let his gun do the talking and his gun only knows one very loud word.

Barry Smith has never has an awkward moment because nobody with a mustache has ever had an awkward moment. Ever.

Barry Smith’s mustache had its own contract when Smith played in Green Bay.

Barry Smith was probably just not a very good NFL receiver, in all honesty.

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Four Backs, Four Questions

franklin

Johnathan Franklin is one of the players facing the most questions heading into 2014.

By Jon Meerdink

With Thursday’s signing of John Kuhn, the Packers have more or less locked in their backfield for 2014. But that doesn’t mean no questions remain.

The good news is those questions by and large will not be directed towards the guys at the top of the running back depth chart. Eddie Lacy? Good to go, and the only question he’ll have to answer this year is if he can be more effective when he has Aaron Rodgers loosening up defenses for him. (Answer: probably yes.)

The same goes for Kuhn, who heads up the fullback portion of the depth chart. By simply lasting this long in the NFL, he’s probably answered any real questions anyone could have about him, and now all that remains is “could his beard get any awesomer?” and “will he have any more heroic moments this year?” and “why does everyone think yelling your name is fun?” (Answers – no, maybe, and I can’t imagine.)

But beyond that, everyone seems to be fair game. Here are the four returning backs on the roster and the questions associated with them.

James Starks – Can you keep up the explosive, slashing style we saw in 2013?

Even though he was never really the lead dog, James Starks had his best year as a pro in 2013. He scored more touchdowns, posted a higher yards per carry average, and was generally just better than any other time we’ve seen James Starks, showing himself to be the solid runner we saw during the 2010 Super Bowl run. But can he do it again? In 2013, Starks tied his career high for games played with 13. He’s never been the most durable player in the world, and now that he’s inked another contract, it’s incumbent on him to show that he can stay on the field and be the solid back-up he was last season.

DuJuan HarrisAre you more than the second coming of Samkon Gado?

DuJuan Harris was a nice story in 2012, but 2012 was two years ago. Posting some inspiring games down the stretch that year was nice, but now there’s a big time back in town with Eddie Lacy. Harris has to prove he belongs on this team all over again. Samkon Gado was also a nice story, but he never became anything more than a flash in the pan. Can Harris be more?

Johnathan Franklin – Which Johnathan Franklin are you?

Of all the enigmatic players on the Packers’ roster, Franklin might be the most puzzling. He has undeniable physical gifts, is one of the alleged “good guys” out there, and just seems like he really wants to succeed. And he did! At least mostly. For that one game. Or half. Until he fumbled. See what I mean? Franklin has to show that he can stand up to the pounding of the NFL and thrive under the pressure that comes from handling the football for an NFL team. He showed flashes (however brief). Now he has to show consistency.

Michael Hill – Are you more than a DII wonder?

HIll spent a little time on the Packers roster last year, but never saw duty outside of special teams. He was crazy productive in college, but at DII Missouri Western the competition isn’t quite what it is in the SEC, Big 10, or what have you, and certainly not anywhere close to the NFL. Showing he can translate his physical gifts to the NFL might earn him another crack at a roster spot, even if it is only as a special teams player. After all, you never know when someone will go down.

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