GREEN BAY, Wis. -- In his first eight drafts as the Green Bay Packers general manager, Ted Thompson picked 76 players.
Of those 76, a total of 61 played for the Packers at some point during their rookie seasons, which helps explain why they’re usually one of the youngest teams in the NFL, if not the youngest.
In Thompson’s ninth draft this past spring, he picked 11 more players. Here’s a player-by-player look at how each player has fared so far in training camp:
Datone Jones, DE, first round (26th overall): Until an ankle injury in Friday’s preseason opener against Arizona, Jones was on track to be one of the two inside rushers in the nickel package. Through two weeks of camp, Jones’ record of 11-12 in the one-on-one pass-rushing drill was tops among defensive players with five reps or more. Jones has excellent quickness and uses his hands well, two essentials for pass rushers. “Everybody can see the big-play potential that he has,” defensive line coach Mike Trgovac said. “But he’s still making some rookie mistakes out there.” His injury does not appear to be serious, but it limited him to just one snap in his preseason debut and may keep him out of Saturday’s game at St. Louis. If Jones gets back in a timely fashion, he can still push for snaps in the base defense, too.
Eddie Lacy, RB, second round (61): After an impressive showing in the Aug. 3 scrimmage, Lacy looked like a good bet to start at running back. He showed the kind of power to fight for extra yards that the Packers lacked last season. Running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said Lacy was “as good as I’ve seen, as good as (any of) our guys” at reading the play and finding a hole. “He can feel where the hole is going to be before it’s there by the flow of the defense,” Van Pelt said. “Very rarely do you see him making the wrong cut.” But a hamstring injury kept him out of the preseason opener and questions remain about his ability to stay healthy.
David Bakhtiari, T, fourth round (109): Perhaps the most impressive of the draft picks, Bakhtiari opened camp as a candidate to start at right tackle but was installed as the starting left tackle following the season-ending knee injury to Bryan Bulaga on Aug. 3. Though undersized for a left tackle at just 300 pounds -- he’s the lightest tackle on the roster -- he’s athletic and smart. Through the first two weeks of practice, the coaches noted that he made only one mental error. “He’s a student of the game and the thing about him, he’s very mature,” offensive line coach James Campen said. Bakhtiari had no obvious bad plays in a 38-snap stint against the Cardinals.
J.C. Tretter, G/T, fourth round (122): Sustained a broken ankle in the first OTA practice in May and remains on the physically unable to perform list. He likely will stay on PUP and try to make a late-season return. His injury may have opened up a spot for another rookie, undrafted guard Lane Taylor, to make the team.
Johnathan Franklin, RB, fourth round (125): Has shown some of the open-field quickness he displayed at UCLA. For example, he turned a short screen pass into a 9-yard gain against the Cardinals, but he has struggled to find a rhythm in the running game. He averaged just 2.3 yards on six carries against Arizona and has to improve his footwork, according to the coaches. “As he becomes more comfortable, finds his niche in our offense, we find how we want to use him, what personnel groupings and what style of plays we use with him, I think he’ll become more comfortable,” running backs coach Alex Van Pelt said. Franklin also has taken reps as a kick returner but doesn’t appear ready for the job.
Micah Hyde, CB, fifth round (159): With Tramon Williams and Casey Hayward sidelined because of injuries, Hyde has moved into a starting role at least for now. Although he allowed a touchdown against the Cardinals on a difficult-to-defend fade pattern, Hyde’s physical style of play has been apparent from the beginning. His lack of top-end speed may make him more suited to play in the slot, where Hayward typically plays, but he also has repped at Williams’ spot on the outside. “He still has a ways to go, but he still shows that it’s not too big for him,” cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt said.
Josh Boyd, DE, fifth round (167): At 6-foot-3 and 310 pounds, he has good size and moves well enough to be effective inside but has a ways to go in terms of footwork, hand placement and pad level. Questions remain about his ability to play hard on a consistent basis. He hasn’t shown much pass-rush ability, going 4-24 in the one-on-one drill. “He could be a good run player,” Trgovac said. “He’ll put his face and his hands in there and separate. He’s got strong hands where he can just shed a blocker.”
Nate Palmer, OLB, sixth round (193): After playing defensive end at Illinois State, Palmer was drafted to play outside linebacker, and it’s been a difficult conversion. In fact, he might even be behind undrafted rookie Andy Mulumba of Eastern Michigan on the depth chart. “Palmer has shown some pass-rush ability and like all those young guys, he’s learning the position,” defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “It’s new to him with all the dropping (into coverage) and all of that.” Palmer’s best chance to contribute might be on special teams, but he hasn’t cracked many of the top units yet.
Charles Johnson, WR, seventh round (216) and Kevin Dorsey, WR, seventh round (224): These two are grouped together because they have yet to put the pads on. Both were hurt on the opening weekend of camp, Dorsey with a leg injury and Johnson with a knee injury, and there’s no timetable for their return. They were drafted to compete for the Nos. 4 and 5 spots behind Randall Cobb, James Jones and Jordy Nelson, but their injuries have all but taken them out of the competition. “These two young men do a good job in the classroom environment, but the most important part after you’re well prepared is to now go out on the practice field and show us,” receivers coach Edgar Bennett said.
Sam Barrington, LB, seventh round (232): His ability to locate the ball and run make him an ideal candidate for a core special teams player, which at this point might be his best chance to get on the field. “He’s one of those guys who can make flash plays because he can plant his foot in the ground and go from point A to point B, and I think you’ll see those same things show up with him on special teams,” Capers said.