Several strong pieces looking back on the 2013 NFL draft hit the web this week, including Mel Kiper's regrading of the entire class of rookies and Don Banks' redrafting of the first round. Both are strong pieces worth checking out, although Kiper's is behind the ESPN Insider paywall.
Looking back on the Green Bay Packers' class of first-year players was something I've been wanting to do since the season ended, so I'll add my thoughts to the crowded mix already out there. Here's my look back at the Packers' rookies in 2013.
Note: Grades are determined by impact, playing time, expectations and draft position. All snap counts provided are via Pro Football Focus.
DE Datone Jones (1.26)
When the Packers selected the 6'4", 285-pound Jones in the first round last April, it was easy to envision his frame and experience in the 3-4 defense allowing the possibility of Jones becoming an every-down player right away. That didn't happen in 2013. Jones suffered an ankle injury early in training camp and then became nothing more than a situational player as a rookie. He finished with 3.5 sacks and 18 quarterback disruptions—both second among the Packers defensive linemen—while playing just 263 snaps, including less than 10 per game over the final five weeks. The Packers rarely trusted him in the base defense, likely because his weight still isn't at a level where he could consistently anchor at the five-technique. Filling out his frame should be on Jones' to-do list this offseason. He did show flashes of pass-rushing ability in subpackages, but he'll need to beef up to handle a significant uptick in snaps. Looming losses along the defensive line might force an acceleration of his development. The Packers need a lot more from him in 2014. Grade: C-
RB Eddie Lacy (2.61)
Lacy joined Nick Collins, Greg Jennings, Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb as second-round home runs for Ted Thompson. While 60 players went in front of him, Lacy had few rivals in terms of impact or production. The former Alabama back spearheaded Green Bay's rushing revival, carrying 284 times for 1,178 yards (eighth in the NFL) and 11 touchdowns (third) to fuel the league's seventh-best rushing offense. He broke 61 tackles, averaged 2.28 yards after contact, caught 35 passes and allowed just three quarterback disruptions. He's the complete package. His production would have been even greater had he not suffered a concussion that cost him most of two games or an ankle injury that slowed him down late in the season. A second coming of Marshawn Lynch, Lacy and his impact were good for two or three wins. There may not be more than a handful of NFL backs you'd want over Lacy during the next five or six seasons. Grade: A+
OT David Bakhtiari (4. 109)
A total of seven offensive tackles were drafted ahead of Bakhtiari in April. Of the seven, zero played more snaps than Bakhtiari's 1,138 and zero started more than five games at left tackle, which he did 16 times. D.J. Fluker and Lane Johnson had strong opening campaigns, but both played primarily at right tackle, the less stressful of the two tackle positions. Bakhtiari held down the blindside for the Packers and was arguably one of the two best rookie tackles. In fact, he got my vote as an All-Rookie tackle on both my B/R and PFWA award ballots. There were a few hiccups from Bakhtiari—most notably in San Francisco, Cincinnati and Detroit—but he handled himself well in an emergency situation and against a litany of top pass rushers. Now, the Packers have the option of developing him on the left side and repositioning Bryan Bulaga back at right tackle. Can't ask for much more from a fourth-rounder who wasn't expected to play in 2013. Grade: A
OL J.C. Tretter (4.122)
Tretter's season all but ended before it ever got started, as he broke his ankle during a May minicamp and was later placed on the PUP list to start the season. He eventually returned to the active roster but never saw the field. There was never an expectation that he'd play in 2013 anyway. If free-agent Evan Dietrich-Smith leaves, there's a possibility that Tretter could be the opening day starter at center in 2014. The Packers are grooming him there. His college experience came at left tackle and tight end. We'll reserve judgment until Tretter gets a healthy training camp. Grade: Incomplete
RB Johnathan Franklin (4.125)
A jitterbug back with receiving chops and crazy college production, Franklin had some thinking early on that he could challenge Lacy as the Packers' go-to rookie. That perception suffered a swift death in camp and the preseason, when the pro game initially looked a little too fast for Franklin. He ran hesitantly and his ability as a receiver was all but voided when the Packers found out they couldn't trust him in pass protection. Buried as the No. 3 back to start the season, Franklin exploded in Cincinnati when injuries decimated the Packers backfield. He ran for 103 yards on just 13 carries, with 79 coming after contact and a long run of 51 yards. But his fumble on fourth down late in the game cost the Packers a win. The special teams unit got almost nothing from him as a returner, too. He landed on injured reserve with a concussion in late November. The Packers will expect a jump during his sophomore season, when he could help replace free agent James Starks. Grade: C-
CB Micah Hyde (5.159)
Drafted into a loaded position, Hyde stepped on the field for the first day of Packers training camp and immediately looked like he belonged. An injury to Casey Hayward and the inconsistent play of Davon House ensured Hyde would play a significant role in 2013. He saw 428 snaps and finished second in overall grade and third in total stops among Green Bay's defensive backs, per PFF. Hyde also brought stability to the Packers return game, averaging 24.1 yards per kick return and 12.3 yard per punt return, fifth-best in the NFL. His 93-yard punt return for a touchdown was the third longest in franchise history and the team's longest since 2007. He nearly tied the game against Pittsburgh with a late 70-yard kick return. He also made seven tackles covering kicks and punts. Most will remember his dropped interception in the Wild Card round, but Hyde was asked to do more than almost every other fifth-rounder in this draft, and he handled each of those roles without much of an issue. Grade: B+
DL Josh Boyd (5.167)
By the end of the season, Boyd was playing more snaps than Green Bay's first-round pick. That was partly due to injuries and positional fit, but also because Boyd earned the opportunities. He's big, quicker than expected and a handful up front when he played low and understood his gap responsibilities. Over his 117 snaps, Boyd produced five quarterback disruptions and three stops. With a full offseason ahead of him, there's a chance he could make a Mike Daniels-esque jump in 2014. In fact, it wouldn't be at all surprising if he plays more snaps than Datone Jones next season, especially if the Packers lose any combination of Ryan Pickett, B.J. Raji and Johnny Jolly. Dom Capers likes the wide-bodied Boyd against the run. That guarantees he'll see more of the field as a second-year player. Grade: C+
OLB Nate Palmer (6.193)
The Packers gave Palmer a long look at outside once Clay Matthews and Nick Perry both suffered injuries mid-way through the season. The sixth-rounder played all 200 of his defensive snaps between Week 6 and 11, but the results were marginal. He produced just four quarterback disruptions and eight stops, and by the end of the season, undrafted free agent Andy Mulumba was receiving the defensive reps instead. Six times over the last seven games, the Packers declared Palmer inactive. That was somewhat telling for a team so banged up at outside linebacker. He couldn't even find a role on special teams. Kevin Greene pounded the table for Palmer back in April, but he'll likely be fighting for a roster spot come this summer. Grade: D
WR Charles Johnson (7.216)
A rare combination of size, straight-line speed and jumping ability, Johnson dealt with injuries throughout training camp and eventually wound up on the Packers practice squad, where the Cleveland Browns poached him in early October. It was later discovered that Johnson had a torn ACL and he missed the rest of the season. He would have been an interesting player to see develop in the Packers receiver-friendly system, but that's life for a seventh-rounder who couldn't make it through his first camp healthy. Grade: N/A
WR Kevin Dorsey (7.224)
Like Johnson, Dorsey dealt with a hamstring injury in camp that all but eliminated the chance of him making the roster. He was later placed on injured reserve, which gives the Packers a chance to get a second look at him this summer. He has the size and speed to challenge for a roster spot. We'll see how much he gained from a redshirt year. Grade: Incomplete
LB Sam Barrington (7.232)
The Packers gave Barrington just one snap on defense, which came against Cleveland in Week 7. In the meantime, he instead started entrenching himself as a core special teams player before a hamstring injury struck in Week 8. The Packers put him on injured reserve in early November. He was one of Green Bay's more active defensive players during the exhibition season. He'll still enter 2014 behind several inside linebackers. But if the Packers don't tender restricted free agent Jamari Lattimore, it could telling for how highly they think of him. Grade: C
As is the case every year, Thompson managed to pluck a few college free agents who eventually made the Packers 53-man roster. Andy Mulumba, Chris Banjo and Lane Taylor all earned initial roster invites in Green Bay after originally going undrafted. Mulumba played over 300 snaps at outside linebacker but was a non-factor as a pass-rusher. He competed against the run but needs significant development getting to the quarterback. Banjo received a handful of snaps for a bad safety group but eventually became one the team's better special teams players, registering nine total tackles with zero misses. Taylor played 14 total snaps over three games, including nine during the Detroit debacle. Myles White eventually played 125 snaps at receiver but caught just nine passes for 66 yards. He's limited because of his size. Tight end Jake Stoneburner was active for 11 of the final 12 games, but he played just nine snaps on offense and eventually became a liability on special teams. There obviously wasn't a Sam Shields in the group, but getting contributions from five college free agents isn't bad for a team that made the postseason. Grade: C+
Zach Kruse is a 25-year-old sports writer who contributes to Cheesehead TV, Bleacher Report and the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. He also covered prep sports for the Dunn Co. News. You can reach him on Twitter @zachkruse2 or by email at [email protected].
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