5 most underrated and overrated Packers players

Every year on every team there are certain players that receive an undue amount of praise, whether it be for accolades of the past, premier position, or otherwise. Conversely there also seem to be a good number of players that, no matter how well they play, there is never any praise bestowed on them. Whatever the reason, today I’m setting the record straight on 10 players. 5 overrated and 5 underrated.

In terms of how I made my determination, I started with my own subjective memory of how players performed but the final determinations were backed by Pro Football Focus.

I know some people have issues with PFF but I have yet to find one person tell me a better way to objectively ascribe a value to a player. I’m sure you’ve watched every Packers game, as I have, maybe even watched them multiple times but did you watch every player on every snap of every play of every game and grade them objectively? Probably not.

That said, PFF provides support for what I have to say, but not proof. Feel free to call me an idiot at any time.

Overrated

As an “in Ted we trust” type fan, I try to keep things positive. With that, I’ll get the ugly part out of the way first. To be clear, though, overrated and untalented are different things. I’m not saying anyone is garbage (necessarily), just that there is more praise or optimism in a player than is warranted based on their performance.

5. Damarious Randall

It seems odd to add a player that nobody is very happy with the to “overrated” category. The reason I did, however, is due to the fact that the assumed starting roster will be Kevin King, Davon House, and Damarious Randall, with King and House occupying the boundary.

I understand the confidence with Randall is low but the fact that he is given place over Rollins, Gunter, Goodson, Hawkins, Waters, Rivers, Brown, and Pipkins tells me there is at least more confidence with Randall than 8 other corners currently with the team.

That’s where I have an issue. I hope more than anything Randall lives up to his first round draft status but there is nothing I can look at objectively that would give me a reason to believe he is the third best corner on the team.

Of the 6 players currently with the Packers that were graded by PFF, would you like to guess who was dead last? It was Randall. Of the 47 players on the Packers roster that have grades, can you guess where Randall was ranked. Dead last. The worst player on the entire team in 2016.

In 2015, Randall had a slightly better year but he was still the worst of the three rookie corners (Randall, Rollins, Gunter).

I’m with you 100% if we assume he will have a better year in 2017 but I find it outright strange that Randall is given such high status with nothing to show for it.

4. Davante Adams

Adams is difficult, only because it’s hard to put my finger on the pulse of the fan base. Clearly Adams was a marked man in his first two years. The guy was pushed to the front of the line in front of fan favorites like Abbrederis and Janis and was unable to produce.
In 2016, Adams made a massive leap, which largely quieted the anti-Adams sentiment among the fans. Still, the consensus seems to be that Adams is the de facto number two in Green Bay. That’s nonsense.

First, there’s Jordy Nelson and Randall Cobb, and then there’s everyone else. Those two are on another level. Adams may currently be the best option to line up wide, opposite Jordy Nelson, but his talent doesn’t separate him from the competition by any serious margin.

To help make my case, without giving away specific grades, Davante Adams was graded as average and was sandwiched between Terrance Williams and Kendall Wright.
Adams may be a number 1 receiver in Chicago but in Green Bay with Geronimo nipping at his heels, Trevor Davis going into his second year and two WR’s getting drafted, there is no reason for Adams to feel secure as the #2.

That said, if Adams makes a similar leap from 2016 to 2017 that he did from 2015 to 2016, there is little doubt Adams will be the number 2 guy.

3. Nick Perry

If I haven’t upset you yet, this will probably do it. I personally am extremely excited about Perry. He was a force in 2016 and did it wearing a cast. The optimist in me sees nothing but greatness ahead.

That said, looking a little closer at the situation, Nick Perry was barely graded in the average range for all 4 years he was with the Packers from 2012-2105. In 2016, a contract year, Perry makes a leap. That sentence alone should worry you a little, especially considering the amount of money the Packers paid out to him.

Perry, to date, has had 1 good year and it really wasn’t a mind-blowing year. Again, I can’t give out exact grades or rankings but he barely broke the top 20 as an edge rusher.
I truly hope the optimist in me is correct but the pessimist in me is worried. With the lack of depth at the position if Nick Perry were to regress to his previous numbers, the Packers may be in legitimate trouble at a prime position.

Ultimately, Perry was added to the list due to the assumption that, with Perry we will have at least 1 top tier player at OLB.  I’m not sure that’s ever been the case with Perry and even if it is, there is as much reason to believe he will regress as there is to believe he will be able to maintain or improve.

2. Martellus Bennett

My issue with Bennett is similar to my issue with Perry but is to a much higher extreme. The fans especially have lost their collective minds with the idea that Bennett is not only an elite tight end on or near par to the best in the NFL, but is way better than Jared Cook. I’m not sure either of those claims are true and I know they shouldn’t be assumed.

First, the comparison between Cook and Bennett seems simple but as I’ve mentioned before, the chemistry Cook and Rodgers had in the post season was unbelievable. If you take the production of Cook in the post season and extrapolate it over 16 games, the numbers are almost identical to Jordy Nelson’s 2016 numbers. Call me crazy but I’m not thrilled with losing that amount of production, even if he is being replaced with someone that is thought to be a better talent.

For that matter, Bennett was graded higher but by only one place. Best as I can tell it was because the receiving grade is weighted so heavily by PFF. Cook was a well-rounded tight end in his abilities as a receiver, as well as a run and pass blocker. Bennett is nearly identical to Cook in his receiving and pass blocking grade but was abysmal as a run blocker.

Moving on to him being regarded as a top tier tight end… I just don’t know why. To keep it concise, Bennett has 2 bad years, 3 good years, and 4 average years. Contrast that with Rob Gronkowsky who has had 3 good years and 4 elite years and you start to understand my confusion.

To put it even more concisely, Martellus Bennett’s best year was graded lower than Gronk’s worst. I think we need to temper our expectations a bit.

1. Clay Matthews

Matthews seems to be the low hanging fruit of the bunch. Everyone understands Clay has lost a step and have been quite vocal about it. Still, Clay was just ranked #82 in the NFL top 100 list. That’s absurd. Beyond that, although the fans see a decline, I’m not sure the magnitude of just how bad Clay was has really come to light.

First, Clay Matthews barely broke the top 100 list of edge rushers. JUST edge rushers. Forget top 100 players in the NFL… just pass rushers. Clay was the lowest graded edge rusher on the Packers roster, even below the oft-mocked Jayrone Elliott. In fact, the only player he was graded higher than was Damarious Randall. Letroy Guion, Blake Martinez, Kentrell Brice, Ladarius Gunter, Don Barclay, all better than Clay Matthews. I love Clay, but just let that sink in for a moment.

Having said that, can we all just come together and admit that Matthews belongs inside? I really enjoyed watching him play there. He’s incredibly fast, he’s a more effective blitzer from the inside, he’s a sure tackler, let’s just call it what it is.

Underrated

Now that the ugliness is out of the way, let’s give some guys a little credit. Again, I’m just looking to highlight some guys that deserve more love than they’ve gotten up until now.

5. Corey Linsley

If I were to list the names Bakhtiari, Sitton, Linsley, Lang, and Bulaga and asked you to tell me which name is not like the others, more than likely Linsley is the name most people would select. Although I can’t say I’ve heard a lot of hatred directed at him, there is nowhere near the level of appreciation shown toward Linsley that was shown toward the other 4 I listed above.

To be fair, all 4 graded higher than Linsley in 2016 but not by a lot. To put it in perspective, Linsley graded in the same range as Jordy Nelson, Morgan Burnett, and Nick Perry. That’s 3 more names of people that get a ton more love than Linsley for those of you keeping score.

With Lang and Sitton long gone, Linsley is a man among boys on the interior of the Packers line. It’s time to start showing him some love.

4. Jake Ryan

Nothing about Jake Ryan in 2016 warrants a parade. He was an average linebacker that ranked outside of the top 32. What I’m more impressed with was his jump from year 1 to year 2.

If ever there was a player that gives you hope for second or third year players making a leap it’s Ryan. It’s not even possible for Ryan to replicate his 2015 to 2016 leap in the 2017 season because his grade would be past the limit of 100. That’s saying a lot considering his grade was average (in the 70’s).

As the most improved player on the team, and as the guy with potentially the most promise, I think Jake Ryan is deserving of a lot more credit than he gets.

3. Dean Lowry

Dean Lowry flying under the radar is understandable. Not acceptable but understandable. First, Lowry isn’t playing a premium position. Case in point, Kyler Fackrell was drafted the same year, 1 round earlier, graded slightly worse and played 39 less snaps. How many times have you heard Fackrell brought up? Fackrell is a pass rusher which is not only a premier position, it’s a flashy position, and a position of need. Defensive interior is none of those things.

A second(ish) reason is Kenny Clark. If we want to talk about players making a jump in year two along the defensive line, everyone’s mind immediately goes to first round draft pick Kenny Clark. There’s nothing wrong with that. Clark played 200 more snaps, was the second highest grade on the line behind Mike Daniels, and clearly has the most upside. Still, the difference in grade between Lowry and Clark is negligible.

A 6’6 guy playing on the defensive line that got more and more playing time as the year went on grading nearly as well as the first round draft pick is, to me, worth some attention. Dean gets none.

2. Christian Ringo

The case for Ringo is nearly identical to the case for Lowry. Ringo is a defensive lineman that was drafted by the Packers in the 6th round of the 2015 draft. Immediate I began to like him because of his similarity to Packers skull crusher, Mike Daniels. Ringo is a powerful man that fell to the 6th round due to his lack of height and length.

Ringo didn’t get any playing time in 2015 (I don’t believe), but played 77 snaps in 2016. In that limited role, Ringo was given an average grade but was the 4th best defensive lineman beating out Letroy Guion and Brian Price.

The things listed above would put him into the, not great but deserving of more praise, category but I can’t get off the Daniels thing so I’ll bring up 1 minor point. Daniels was a 4th round pick in 2012. In his first year, Daniels grade was awful. In 2014 his grade reflects his pure dominance and he’s never looked back posting 4 straight years of incredible play.

Obviously, anyone can make a leap from one year to the next but Ringo has the raw power and leverage that has made Daniels a star. If Ringo can tap into that, the Packers are looking at a scary defensive line.

1. Quinten Rollins

If I were in a more reasonable state of mind, Rollins would probably be better suited as maybe number 4 on the list based on his production in 2016, but this is a personal vendetta. The entire reason for writing the article centers on Rollins. The fact that nobody wants to even mention his name in the cornerback conversation is making me go a little crazy.

I fully understand that the entire cornerback group in 2016 was terrible. I blame that partly on injury but mostly on the fact that these are young guys not ready to be thrust into the roles they were asked to fill. The Packers lost both Casey Hayward and Sam Shields for the 2016 season, leaving 3 second year players being asked to match up against the likes of Julio Jones. They didn’t have a chance.

With the addition of King and House, it’s reasonable to assume the corners will perform at a higher level, what isn’t reasonable is the assumption that Randall is the man and Rollins will be buried on the depth chart.

I’ve already railed against Randall so I’ll leave that alone, but for all the comments I said about Randall, Rollins is the exact opposite. For example, looking at 2016 grades for Rollins, Gunter, Randall, Goodson, Hawkins, and House. We know who the worst is, any idea who the best was? That’s right, it’s Rollins. His grade was bad, mind you, but it was still the best and by a lot.

I already spoke as to why I think 2016 was so bad but how did they play in 2015 when Randall and Rollins were behind Hayward and Shields? Glad you asked. Rollins grade was phenomenal. As a rookie, Rollins played at nearly the same level as Shields and Hayward.

Bottom line, I think Rollins is a very good corner and clearly has a ton of potential. He’s shown it in both of his first two year, yet nobody wants to give him the time of day. My prediction is simple. King and House/Gunter will occupy the boundary. Rollins will be the primary guy in the nickel and will be very very good at it.