With training camp 20 days away, we’re in the throes of the dogs days of summer. The Packers have 83 players on their roster. The limit is 80, but the four unsigned draft picks don’t count until they’re officially under contract, and restricted free agent safety Atari Bigby doesn’t count until he signs his tender.
Like we did last year, we’re ranking the players from No. 1 to No. 83. This list doesn’t necessarily list the players from best to worst, but we take into account the players’ importance on the roster and other factors such as contracts and potential.
Packer Report Ranking: 66 (tie)
— Frank Zombo and John Russell: The Packers signed three outside linebackers after the draft, with only Zombo and Russell on the roster heading into training camp. Barring the addition of a veteran, one of these guys has a good shot at landing a roster spot.
They couldn’t have more different football backgrounds. Zombo was a star defensive end at Central Michigan of the Mid-American Conference, finishing with 25.5 sacks in his career. Russell played defensive tackle at Wake Forest of the ACC, finishing with a modest 10.5 sacks. Both are making the move to outside linebacker, though Russell’s transition from interior lineman is much more difficult. Russell, who played in the mid-270s at Wake but wants to get down to no more than 260 by training camp, appeared to have the edge after the minicamp. He just looked more physical, which is what the Packers value at that position more than the glory of rushing the passer. The padded practices — and special teams — will tell the story.
Packer Report Ranking: 68
— Chris Campbell: Campbell is the type of under-the-radar player that gives scouts fits. With just four starts entering his senior season, Campbell was on nobody’s prospects list. But by midway through the year, scouts were flocking to Eastern Illinois. Campbell blossomed into a 12-game starter who earned second-team honors in the Ohio Valley Conference. At 6-foot-5 and 328 pounds, he’s a big man with pretty good feet. With veteran Mark Tauscher not getting any younger, the Packers need to develop some young depth.
Packer Report Ranking: 69
— Nick McDonald: Of all the Packers’ undrafted rookies, McDonald is the most intriguing. After starting at right guard in 2008, McDonald developed into a Division II All-American at left tackle last year while helping Grand Valley State reach the national title game. McDonald (6-4, 316) has settled in at guard and center, where his no-nonsense approach seems like a good fit.
Packer Report Ranking: 70
— Anthony Toribio: Toribio (6-1, 315) latched on with the Packers as a rookie in November 2008 and made his NFL debut in the meaningless regular-season finale at Arizona last year. A popular player in the locker room, “Rib” is a backup nose tackle but, considering how little base defense the Packers actually play, the Packers probably don’t need more than B.J. Raji as the starter with Ryan Pickett able to fill in. He could spend another year on the practice squad.
Packer Report Ranking: 71
— Charlie Peprah: Peprah spent 2006 through 2008 with the Packers, playing in 37 games with one start. When he was waived off injured reserve in September, Peprah had two choices: Wait for six weeks and hopefully re-sign with Green Bay or take another opportunity. That opportunity came with Atlanta, where he played in two games. He re-signed with the Packers in April. Considering his value on special teams in the past and considering how poorly the special teams performed last season, Peprah has a chance — but he’ll probably have to beat out another safety/special-teamer, Derrick Martin.
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Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org, or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport and Facebook under Bill Huber.