The Green Bay Packers are a draft and develop team. They rely on the draft as their main avenue of acquiring talent, therefore, the best way for the Packers to improve from season to season is by drafting talented players and developing them into starters and impact players.
While many fans still get caught up in the whirlwind that is NFL free agency, the truth is that most teams get better by good drafting then by signing high-price free agents. So as we get closer and closer to the start of the 2014 season, here are five young Packers that need to step up for Green Bay to once again contend for a Super Bowl championship.
1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix – Clinton-Dix was regarded as the top safety available in the 2014 NFL Draft and the Packers were lucky enough to have him fall to them at no.21. Yet, now that he is in the fold, the former Alabama standout needs to deliver on his promise. Green Bay needs an impact player at safety for the defense to improve and if Clinton-Dix can be that guy, the Packers defense will be a forced to be reckoned with.
2. J.C. Tretter – Outside of Clinton-Dix, no Packers’ youngster has more on his plate then Tretter, who is slated to take over as Green Bay’s starting center for the 2014 season. The former college left tackle from Cornell, spent the end of the last season working at the center position and appears comfortable during offseason workouts but the real test will come when the live bullets starting flying in August and September. Tretter must be up to the task of replacing Evan Dietrich-Smith or the Green Bay offense could face some setbacks.
3. Datone Jones – Jones was the Packers first round selection in the 2013 NFL Draft and despite posting 3.5 sacks in his rookie season, Jones did not live up to the hype. He did play through an injured ankle that likely affected his play last season but Jones has refused to allow that to be an excuse. He says that he is stronger entering the 2014 season and that he is going to play stronger. If the Green Bay defense is going to dominate the way it did during its Super Bowl season in 2010, Jones needs to be a force on the defensive line.
4. Brandon Bostick and Richard Rodgers – The closer we get to the start of the regular season, the less likely it is for Jermichael Finley to return to Green Bay. At this point, it would be foolish to count on him being in Green and Gold again, so the Packers must move on and focus on who is currently on the roster. Andrew Quarless will be the likely starter at tight end but the players best suited to replace Finley in creating mismatches for opposing defenses are Brandon Bostick or Richard Rodgers. Rodgers has impressed with his hands and route-running during OTA’s, while Bostick has steadily improved since his arrival in Green Bay two years ago. It will be an interesting battle between these two but one of them needs to turn into a consistent pass-catching threat for Aaron Rodgers.
5. Morgan Burnett – In 2011-2012, Burnett established himself as core player on the Packers’ defense, which is why he was rewarded with a four-year contract extension last offseason. Yet, his play was not up to par and he failed to notch even one interception last season. The Packers still believe he can be an impact player and for his sake, he better deliver in 2014. With Micah Hyde shifting to safety and Clinton-Dix now in the fold, Burnett is one thin ice. If he does not produce in 2014, expect him to lose his starting spot and possibly even get cut. He makes too much money to play so poorly and if he doesn’t improve in 2014, his time in Green Bay will come to an end.