Handicapping Contributions by Packers Rookies in 2016

Can the Packers count on on or two of their rookies to be significant contributors in 2016? We take a look at each drafted player and their chances.

Hope is a wonderful thing. And thus it follows that The NFL Draft is a wonderful thing. For 32 teams, the NFL Draft represents an opportunity for that team to instantly improve. Or does it? The short answer is, it depends.

For a struggling team, the chances of their draft helping them improve right away would be much higher than that of a team like the Packers. Poor teams have poor players that are more easily (and quickly) replaced by new blood. They also draft higher and thus get first crack at the better talent more likely to contribute sooner.

When it comes to the Packers, it's well known Mike McCarthy doesn't take throwing rookies into the fire lightly. Looking at their drafts the last several years, however, there has generally been one player that broke through that mental wall in Mike McCarthy's brain and became an instant contributor or even starter. For example:

2015 - Damarious Randall

2014 - Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Corey Linsley

2013 - Eddie Lacy, Devid Bakhtiari

2012 - Casey Hayward

2011 - Randall Cobb

2010 - Bryan Bulaga

Who will be that player this year? Well, I'm not a professional oddsmaker like William Hill, for example, but I'm going to do my best to give you my predictions on which of the 2016 rookies can break through and to what extent: 

 

DL Kenny Clark - Thanks to BJ Raji and his sabbatical, semi-retirement, extended vacation or whatever you want to call it, Clark has a fantastic opportunity to come in and take a majority of the defensive snaps at nose tackle in the base 3-4. With Mike Pennell missing the first four games and Letroy Guyon not as athletic or versatile, I also expect to see Clark being paired up with Mike Daniels in nickel or dime sub-packages as well. 

Chances of him being a...

Starter/Major Contributor: 80%
Rotation player/primary substitute: 100%
Emergency substitute/ mostly inactive. 10%

 

OT Jason Spriggs - Spriggs was undoubtedly a pick for the future, with four Packers' offensive linemen in the last year of their contracts. Really, the only way Spriggs would end up a major contributor in 2016 would be a major injury to a starter - either DBak or Bulaga go down, or even possibly Lang or Sitton, where the Packers might consider moving Bulaga inside with Spriggs stepping in for Bulaga.

Chances of him being a...

Starter/Major Contributor: 20%
Rotation player/primary substitute: 80%
Emergency substitute/ mostly inactive. 10%

 

OLB Kyler Fackrell - With Clay Matthews officially moving back to his normal outside linebacker slot, Julius Peppers still there, Nick Perry back, newcomer Larentee McCray in the picture, and Datone Jones being groomed as Peppers replacement at the "elephant" spot, it's quite a crowd at outside linebacker for the Packers. Fackrell will be battling McCray and Jayrone Elliot for a roster spot. At most only two of those three will make the team.

Starter/Major Contributor: 10%
Rotation player/primary substitute: 25%
Emergency substitute/ mostly inactive. 90%

 

ILB Blake Martinez - Martinez is one of those guys who if you listen to comments from different "experts", you might think they're talking about two different players. Regardless of who is more accurate, Martinez walks into a very good spot where he figures to immediately be at worst the #3 ILB on the team. He just has to be better than Joe Thomas (who the Packers cut and then brought back when the need arose), and that shouldn't be a major challenge. I can see him taking some of Barrigton's snaps in passing situations, assuming he is assignment-sure enough for Dom Capers. The Stanford education should help in that regard.

Starter/Major Contributor: 50%
Rotation player/primary substitute: 90%
Emergency substitute/ mostly inactive. 10%

 

DE Dean Lowry - Lowry, the first DL Ted Thompson has drafted with the traditional 3-4DE hight/weight body type,  could be a real sleeper in this draft for the Packers, but it's going to take a year or two before he's ready to make an impact. With the lack of quality depth on the DL for the Packers, he makes the team and could see a few snaps when someone needs a rest.

Starter/Major Contributor: 10%
Rotation player/primary substitute: 30%
Emergency substitute/ mostly inactive. 90%

 

WR Trevor Davis -  Jordy, Cobb, Adams, Montgomery, Janis, Abbrederis, - another crowded position for the Packers. Every one of these players  belongs on an NFL roster, but they can't all be on the Packers. Davis' flat out speed, leaping ability and hands trump his weight and route-running deficiencies. WR injuries will be his best chance for getting on the field.

Starter/Major Contributor: 10%
Rotation player/primary substitute: 25%
Emergency substitute/ mostly inactive. 90%

 

OT Kyle Murphy - I became enamored with Murphy when doing my research for the CheeseheadTV Draft Guide. He may not be as athletic as some of the other OT prospects in this draft, but on film, he always gets the job done. Good balance, strength, positioning, intelligence, agressiveness - there wasn't much I didn't like about Murphy. I was really shocked the Packers were able to land him in the sixth round. Murphy adds quality depth to the Packers OL group, where some tough decisions will have to be made.

Starter/Major Contributor: 10%
Rotation player/primary substitute: 30%
Emergency substitute/ mostly inactive. 90%

__________________________

"Jersey Al" Bracco is the Editor-In-Chief, part owner and wearer of many hats for CheeseheadTV.com and PackersTalk.com. He is also a recovering Mason Crosby truther.  Follow Al on twitter at @JerseyalGBP

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Comments (16)

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 06, 2016 at 04:29 pm

I think the instant starter/major role player will be Kenny Clark. Clark fills an immediate need and also is a very good player. I think he will start and rotate in all the sub packages.

The surprise player that I think could come in and start right away in the base defense is Dean Lowry. He offers great size that the DL hasn't really had. I think he will be a run defender early in his career. I wouldn't be surprised if he would start at least in the base defense.

I think the players that will start the season playing little but earning more playing time as the season wears on are Kyler Fackrell and Blake Martinez. I think both will start the season as role player/backups and special teams players, but as the season moves along I can see both earning more reps. Similar to rookies in the past years.

I don't think either Spriggs or Murphy sees the field unless there is an injury.
And Davis if he plays early will likely be a return specialist early. He could be a guy to watch later in the year as a player to emerge a bit. As he learns the offense he might be a guy that gets on the field. And with his speed he could offer something to the offense.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 06, 2016 at 07:23 pm

All seems highly likely RC but I guess we shall see. I just hope MM plays most of the new talent at least a few times and not make them sit out almost the whole year, like Rip etc. Since most are on D, maybe he will. Going to be an exciting year to see what we have. Like this draft.

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 07, 2016 at 06:14 am

yeah, its all speculation at this point. I'm just speculating on what I saw from these guys in college.

I completely agree about hoping MM plays them. Another example was Elliott last year. Early in the season he was used heavily in rotation. He made plays when he was on the field. Then whatever reason he didn't play as much.

I am really excited for this year. I thought the draft wasn't 'exciting' but is exactly the what you need to win championships. It was filled with big guys that instantly make our team better.

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croatpackfan's picture

June 07, 2016 at 08:39 am

RCP I think I read that Elliot had some problems with injury (quadriceps or similar)....

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RCPackerFan's picture

June 07, 2016 at 11:01 am

Thanks, I don't remember reading that or hearing it anywhere.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 07, 2016 at 07:02 pm

Quad injury is a tough one. That would explain it.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 09, 2016 at 04:49 pm

Yes but well thought out, and grounded in reality speculation.

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Teflon Ted's picture

June 06, 2016 at 04:43 pm

I also think Kenny Clark will be the only starter of this group. The rest will have to wait their turn unless injury. Having said that I think this is a great draft by Ted. I think Kenny Clark is going to be everything B.J. Raji wasn't. I see greatness written all over this guy and he'll have an immediate positive impact. Ted hit it out of the park with this pick.

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DrealynWilliams's picture

June 06, 2016 at 05:57 pm

I don't think Fackrell is battling anyone for a roster spot. Unless he comes in and looks like Ricky Elmore - his pass rush moves (only Matthews and Peppers have more) and coverage abilities (just might be one of our Top 3 best in coverage) will secure him a spot. Elliot and the FA guy are battling.

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RobinsonDavis's picture

June 06, 2016 at 07:17 pm

Agreed on all 3 points. His role may be minimal to start, but will be expanded...much the same as Ryan last year. OLBs look to be an area of real strength this year!

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 07, 2016 at 12:11 am

If CM3 indeed does move to OLB, say 2/3rds of the snaps, then OLB is in good shape, assuming father time hasn't caught up with Peppers. Behind those two are a lot of names, even quite a bit of potential, but really very little production, or guys who can do some things but not other things.

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Ibleedgreenmore's picture

June 06, 2016 at 06:03 pm

I know its early but to me the Rookies are going to make more of an impact than many think.

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Tundraboy's picture

June 06, 2016 at 07:20 pm

Got the same feeling. Can't wait to find out.

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dobber's picture

June 06, 2016 at 08:02 pm

I have a hunch you might be right. I just pray it's because they're playing well and not because starters are spending too much time in the training room.

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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 06, 2016 at 08:23 pm

Jersey Al's list of past instant contributor or even starts is solid. I would suggest (but my memory isn't that great) that more players could be added to that list: Burnett, Hyde (40% of snaps in his rookie year), Davonte Adams (70%), and RR (45%) come to mind.

Absent injury, Spriggs and Murphy hardly see the field except in garbage time. GB might want a look at Spriggs in real action at some point. Clarks plays 40% of snaps. REst of the rookies depend on how good they look. Most of them play positions that could use an upgrade.

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MarkinMadison's picture

June 06, 2016 at 09:43 pm

Too soon to say much. Kenny Clark could stink and he would still be at worst a rotational player for the season and possibly a starter for the first four weeks. Martinez has the opportunity right in front of him. If he doesn't play you have to assume he is not ready. I think the odds of Spriggs starting at least one game this year are 50/50.

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