Three Under the Radar Packers Players Who Made a Good Impression During OTAs

The Green Bay Packers have held several OTAs over the past few weeks as the team officially begins preparations for the 2021 NFL season. While most of the attention was given to Aaron Rodgers’ holdout, the progress of Jordan Love and David Bakhtiari’s rehab, there were several lesser known players who made an impression on the coaching staff during OTAs.

Here is a look at some of those players, what made them stand out and what their early prospects are for making the team.

1. OL Ben Braden

Braden got attention when he was lining up at left tackle with the first team offensive line in the second week of voluntary OTAs after Elgton Jenkins was placed in the Covid-19 protocols.

Few people expected Braden to be in the mix at left tackle, let alone to get time with the first unit. The former University of Michigan star is entering his fourth season in the NFL after spending 2018 and 2019 with the New York Jets before signing with the Packers last October.

Braden played in four games in 2020 with Green Bay but took only four snaps on offense while taking 19 snaps on special teams.

At 6’6” and 329 pounds, Braden has the size you look for from an offensive lineman. He was projected to play mostly guard in the NFL but started at both guard and tackle at Michigan.

Braden has impressed offensive line coach Adam Stenavich so far at OTAs. “I’m really excited about Ben, to see what’s going to happen with him,” Stenavich said last week. “If he gets a whole offseason under his belt, a couple of preseason games, I think he’s really going to compete for a starting job at guard or tackle.”

“Ben is a very big guy. He has strength. He has good athleticism. He’s very versatile,” Stenavich added. “Last year, his role, he was kind of a swing guy for us at guard and tackle. Now it’s a matter of him being around this offseason, learning the system from installation on forward.”

Because he has the versatility that the Packers like in their offensive linemen and has been on the practice squad and active roster for parts of the last two seasons, Braden will have a chance to compete for a roster spot and possibly to start at guard or at tackle until Bakhtiari is ready to return.

At 27, he has more experience than the draft picks the Packers added over the last two years. Those are the players he will be competing with for a roster spot along the offensive line.

2. WR Juwann Winfree

Like Braden, Winfree is a player who spent time on the Packers practice squad last year and the third-year man out of Colorado was even active for two games playing eight snaps on offense and 21 on special teams.

Winfree was originally drafted by the Broncos in the sixth round of the 2019 draft and played three games for Denver in his rookie season.

At 6’3” and 215 pounds, Winfree has the size the Packers tend to look for in their wide receivers. He is also known as a precise route runner which is something a certain holdout quarterback certainly would value if he rejoins the team this season.

With the top five veterans not taking part in voluntary OTAs, Winfree was able to get more reps and was able to impress the coaches.

While it was only OTAs without pads, Winfree made some big plays during the camp including a 30-yard touchdown pass from Love on a corner route and a 50-yard scoring play from Kurt Benkert during a two-minute drill.

The Packers have a deep receiving corps in training camp so Winfree will have to show what he can do on special teams if he hopes to make the final 53-man roster. He is far from a lock to make the team, but he certainly made a big first impression and is worth watching once training camp gets under way.

3. OL Royce Newman

With the departure of Corey Linsley and the temporary absence of Bakhtiari, there are openings along the Green Bay offensive line this summer.

Fourth-round pick Royce Newman has also made a positive impression during OTAs and it wasn’t just for his mullet although that got some attention on social media.

Newman is a versatile lineman and he lined up with the first unit at both right tackle and right guard during OTAs over the past few weeks.

The former Mississippi star stands 6’6” and at 310 pounds. He has demonstrated good technique for scouts and can make blocks on the second level. He may need to add more upper body strength to become a starter in the NFL and may struggle against bull rushers at times as a result.

Newman should be in the mix for one of the starting positions along the offensive line if he continues to impress in training camp and during the preseason.

You can follow Gil Martin on Twitter @GilPackers

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16 points

Comments (23)

Fan-Friendly This filter will hide comments which have ratio of 5 to 1 down-vote to up-vote.
Rebecca's picture

June 12, 2021 at 12:11 pm

I hope one or more of them perform well enough in preseason games to make the regular roster. If one becomes a starter that would be excellent. It’s all about talent and desire to be best.

3 points
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jont's picture

June 12, 2021 at 12:29 pm

Positive report, good news.
2 on the OL; you can never have too many versatile linemen.

10 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 13, 2021 at 08:25 am

We might this year. Versatility is wonderful, but the prerequisite to start is excelling at at least one position first.

1 points
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PatrickGB's picture

June 13, 2021 at 11:34 am

True. And apparently the team feels that it can never have too many offensive linemen either.

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Alberta_Packer's picture

June 12, 2021 at 01:48 pm

Three intriguing players - with Braden being the biggest surprise. He reminds me of a racehorse - a long shot - that comes out of nowhere to take the lead at the head of the stretch. The only question now is can he hang on for the finish line?

It's apparent that the Packers think highly of Newman - with all the early work that he's receiving. Is he being groomed as Billy Turner's successor? It may be an ideal situation for him - allowing a year to work on his strength and technique - while being a potential depth player. What also strikes me is how big these lads are. I remember hearing Gutekunst saying that he likes a big, physical o-line. He wasn't kidding - Braden at 6’6” and 329 pounds - Newman at 6’6” and at 310 pounds and Myers at 6'5" and 312 lbs.

I didn't realize that Winfree was so big. But in the NFL, bigger is better. It also seems that he has a little chemistry with Love - which could help his chances a little. Still I think what (bubble) WR performs the best on special teams - will be last receiver standing.

8 points
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dobber's picture

June 12, 2021 at 02:23 pm

"I didn't realize that Winfree was so big. "

He was 6'1", 210, at the Combine, so unless he grew 2 inches at age 21-23, he isn't 6'3".

I think you hit the bullseye with your comment: the WR room is pretty crowded and he'll need something to stand out to keep him on the radar. Every team keeps a couple ST specialists.

6 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 12, 2021 at 06:45 pm

Touch wood, injuries can happen. We also seem likely to have the PS squad of last year so depth there is a must. I wonder if he can be a gunner.

3 points
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Alberta_Packer's picture

June 12, 2021 at 07:23 pm

So fast-acting human growth hormone?

3 points
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dobber's picture

June 13, 2021 at 08:21 am

I gotta get me some of that!

1 points
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DrMixerGED's picture

June 13, 2021 at 02:18 am

Dobber, I'm a long time reader here but rarely comment. What is the name of the fellow you used to banter with? I can't recall his username. Anyhow, a commenter here somewhat reminds me of him.

2 points
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dobber's picture

June 13, 2021 at 08:16 am

Good to know you DrMixer!

Good chatter or snippy chatter?

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DrMixerGED's picture

June 14, 2021 at 02:10 am

Good. Was a very witty fellow.

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Since'61's picture

June 12, 2021 at 01:30 pm

It would be great if Braden could move into the LT spot until Bak is ready to return. Then Jenkins could reamin in the LG spot and solidify the interior of the OL.
Also would like to see Newman at least make the team. The more big bodies the better for the OL.

If Winfree has good hands perhaps he can knock MVS down or even out of the depth chart. He has good size and sounds like he may already be a better route runner than MVS. If he's got the hands he could evolve into a legit NFL WR. Thanks, Since '61

4 points
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dobber's picture

June 12, 2021 at 02:30 pm

I think it's a credit to Stenavich and Luke Butkus that they've been able to find--or maybe, build--OL who can play. Braden had a remarkable athletic profile coming out of a power conference school. Somehow he didn't get drafted, but sometimes you catch a break and a developmental prospect falls into your lap.

https://relativeathleticscores.com/2019/12/21/ben-braden-ras/

I don't want to get ahead of myself on him, but if he's someone who becomes a contributor on the depth chart or even a quality player, that's a huge win.

7 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 13, 2021 at 08:31 am

Braden had great size, good athleticism and relatively fast feet. All the check boxes for potential. Unfortunately his technique was dire in pretty much every aspect. That’s why he’s bounced around the back of rosters and mostly on PS/Futures contracts for so long (including here previously). If it has clicked then he’s now, at 27, finally got to a point where his attributes can come in to play.

4 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 12, 2021 at 06:46 pm

Unlikely to touch MVS. This gets old and he’s not that fast. EQ could be a casualty.

8 points
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DrMixerGED's picture

June 13, 2021 at 02:13 am

I think MVS is FIRMLY our number two receiver, but like you hope Winfree can push for that next spot and improve our overall depth.

4 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 13, 2021 at 08:34 am

Yes. I’m looking to see what Gaither can do in camp. He’s a guy who may surprise too once camp gets underway. Winfree would be an upgrade on EQ of last year I think. Let’s see if that lights a fire.

3 points
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Thegreatreynoldo's picture

June 13, 2021 at 02:40 am

As a fourth round pick, it would be shocking if Newman didn't make the team.

7 points
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Coldworld's picture

June 13, 2021 at 08:35 am

But it would be a huge plus if he actually where a competent starter from day one, even if only due to Bakh not being back.

2 points
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fastmoving's picture

June 13, 2021 at 05:26 am

No chance MVS gets knocked down from anyone. He only goes up. Already more than a legit NFL receiver. Fast, tall, smart.......route running was never that bad and gets even better and his hands good too. You can always improve and he did that every season.....
Highter ceiling tha Adams and I still remember when everyone doubt him, to become the number 4 receiver of the Packers. Must guys thought Adams was to slow, bad hands....same with Jordy.

St. Brown can follow him as well.

We rather have too many good to great WRs and even the RBs and the TEs can catch. There is only one ball and wideout was never a problem in the last 15 years......

1 points
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packer132's picture

June 12, 2021 at 01:33 pm

Packers have done a nice job of managing the OL the last few years. I knew Linsley was gone when they drafted 3 linemen in 2020 and 3 more this year. You can't pay a center $12 million a year when you are strapped for cash. It will be the most exciting group to watch in training camp, and 3 guys could end up on the practice squad. I am glad to see the 4th round draft pick (Newman) standing out so far. Maybe the 2nd round pick (Myers) can earn a starting spot, even if its not right away. I see this as one of the deeper rosters in many years, and despite a tough schedule, think the Packers will have an exciting and good year.

13 points
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Archie's picture

June 13, 2021 at 10:31 am

Good to hear Stokes shined in mini-camp. If he beats King out as starter that would be important upgrade. OTOH, if JA goes to star, maybe King & Stokes can be starters at boundary corners.

2 points
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