Making roster predictions is an inexact science.
Last-minute trades are known to happen, and there’s nothing stopping the Packers from cutting below 53 players to make room for a waiver claim cut loose from another team.
Assuming the Packers keep 53 players currently on the roster, here’s my official prediction…
Aaron Rodgers, Vince Young
The Packers are stuck with Young, for better or worse. Even if they think they’re better off claiming another quarterback off waivers or trading for one, they still have to keep Young on the roster, because no outside quarterback is going to be able to run the Packers offense in time for Week 1.
Running Backs (5)
Eddie Lacy, John Kuhn, Alex Green, James Starks, Johnathan Franklin
With the injury to DuJuan Harris that has landed him on injured reserve, the door has been opened to both James Starks and Alex Green, although Green would get my nod over Starks if the Packers were to keep only one. Franklin doesn’t appear as if he’s ready for primetime, but the Packers aren’t going to want to cut a fourth round draft choice and risk losing him. He’s likely to be a game day inactive until he improves and the Packers can trust him on the field.
Wide Receivers (5)
Randall Cobb, Jordy Nelson, James Jones, Jarrett Boykin, Jeremy Ross
Beyond the top three, Boykin has established himself as the fourth wide receiver. Ross has more value as a receiver/returner, which gives him the edge over fellow receivers like Tyrone Walker and Myles White. It didn’t help that both Walker and White fumbled in the final preseason game while Ross had the best game of his professional career. The only reason the Packers would keep a sixth wide receiver like Walker or Charles Johnson would be because they fear they’ll lose them after being cut. It’s not a big deal they don’t keep six, because there’s probably not room for a sixth to be active on regular season game days unless there’s an injury higher on the depth chart.
Tight Ends (4)
Jermichael Finley, Andrew Quarless, Matthew Mulligan, Ryan Taylor
Without a doubt, tight end is the toughest position to predict on the roster. Ted Thompson is probably trying to trade either or both of D.J. Williams and Brandon Bostick. If he fails to trade either of them, at least one of them is likely to be cut.
Offensive Linemen (7)
David Bakhtiari, Josh Sitton, Evan Dietrich-Smith, T.J. Lang, Don Barclay, Marshall Newhouse, Greg Van Roten
Going with only seven offensive linemen is certainly a low number, but there probably isn’t eight linemen worth keeping currently on the Packers roster. This is the one position where the Packers could look for a waiver wire pickup from another team. Van Roten hasn’t exactly impressed during training camp, but he looks to be the top backup at center for the time being. The Packers might get some needed depth at midseason if Derek Sherrod is finally ready to come off the PUP list.
Defensive Linemen (6)
Datone Jones, B.J. Raji, Ryan Pickett, C.J. Wilson, Johnny Jolly, Mike Daniels
Once Johnny Jolly proved himself over the course of the summer, the defensive line was pretty cut and dried. Only Josh Boyd stands as a question mark, and he’s simply a victim of good depth at the position. There’s a good chance he’ll be asked to stick around on the practice squad.
Outside Linebackers (5)
Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Mike Neal, Dezman Moses, Andy Mulumba
Mike Neal is counted among the outside linebackers, because it would appear that’s his primary position now. There are probably two roster spots available between three players: Moses, Mulumba and Nate Palmer. For the time being, Palmer is the odd man out, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any one of those three players cut.
Inside Linebackers (6)
A.J. Hawk, Brad Jones, Robert Francois, Terrell Manning, Jamari Lattimore, Sam Barrington
The four backups don’t figure to see much playing time on defense as long as Hawk and Jones are healthy, but they’ll make up the core of the Packers special teams.
Tramon Williams, Sam Shields, Casey Hayward, Micah Hyde, Davon House, Jarrett Bush
Cornerback is another position that’s pretty much set in stone. Bush makes the roster on the strength of his special teams acumen.
Morgan Burnett, M.D. Jennings, Jerron McMillian, Chris Banjo
Had it not been for an injury to Burnett, the Packers may have went with only three safeties on their final roster, but they need an insurance policy. Banjo earned the final spot on the roster with solid play during training camp and could be an asset on special teams if nothing else. This could be another position the Packers look for help on the waiver wire.
Special Teams (3)
Mason Crosby, Tim Masthay, Brett Goode
Even though Crosby’s job was in jeopardy as little as a week ago, he’s locked in for now after accepting a restructured contract with less guaranteed money.
Practice Squad (8)
B.J. Coleman, Tyrone Walker, Charles Johnson, Brandon Bostick, Patrick Lewis, Josh Boyd, Nate Palmer, Brandon Smith
It’s highly unlikely the Packers keep eight of their own players on the practice squad. It’s inevitable they’ll fill at least one or two spots from outside the organization, but a few of these players are likely to stick around.
Note: When in doubt, look for the Packers to keep the fourth-year players on the roster: James Starks, Andrew Quarless, Marshall Newhouse, C.J. Wilson, Mike Neal.
At the very least, they’re experienced and will be highly motivated by their upcoming free agency to earn a lucrative new contract.
And even if the Packers aren’t the ones to offer them a new contract, it’s possible they can get draft-choice compensation if they leave as free agents next year.
Brian Carriveau is the author of the book “It’s Just a Game: Big League Drama in Small Town America,” and editor of Cheesehead TV’s “Pro Football Draft Preview.” To contact Brian, email email@example.com.