NFL Nation reporter Rob Demovsky assesses which rookies on the Packers could earn a starting berth this season.
Why Damarious Randall could start: It did not take long for the Packers' first-round pick to get reps as one of the top two cornerbacks with the No. 1 defense. By the middle of organized team activities, Randall lined up with the starters. Casey Hayward was -- and perhaps still is -- the odds-on favorite to replace Tramon Williams (who signed with the Browns in free agency), but Hayward missed all the offseason practices because of a foot injury. That has allowed Randall, the 30th overall pick, to gain valuable reps with the starters. Although he is making the transition from safety at Arizona State, the Packers love his coverage ability. If he proves to be as fundamentally sound as they hope, he has a chance to contribute right away. The Packers also might prefer to keep Hayward in the slot, where he has played the majority of his snaps as the nickel or dime defensive back, which could open the outside starting spot up to Randall.
Why Quinten Rollins could start: If Randall doesn't, then perhaps the second-round pick will. From the beginning, Rollins has shown a nose for the ball. He had an interception in the very first practice of rookie orientation camp and has made an eye-catching play in just about every open practice during OTAs and minicamp. Rollins has split his snaps between the slot and outside positions and, like Hayward, he might be better suited to playing inside, especially given his limited experience having played only one season of college football at Miami (Ohio). Packers cornerbacks coach Joe Whitt has said he will start the best players regardless of where they were drafted or how much money they make, so Rollins shouldn't have to worry about Randall being handed the job simply because he was the first-round pick.
Why Jake Ryan could start: If the Packers decide they would rather move Clay Matthews back to outside linebacker on a full-time basis, then perhaps their fourth-round pick could start at one of the two inside linebacker spots. Ryan would be the best alternative to Matthews on the inside if they wanted to go in that direction. Sam Barrington almost certainly has the other inside linebacker spot locked down. Inside linebacker was perhaps the greatest offseason need, especially after the Packers released former starters A.J. Hawk and Brad Jones, and Ryan was the only player they drafted at that position. They think he has the ability to play the run, blitz and drop into coverage.