Green Bay Rookie Reviews, Dev Predictions, And Player Comps Part 2
Part 1 consisted of Green Bay’s first 5 draft picks, Part 2 has their second 5 picks, and their undrafted free agent signing. These Players are all later picks with more to prove and less hype surrounding them, no matter where they went to college or how they performed then or in the current preseason. They all have high chances of being rotational pieces or just simply sitting safely on the bench for depth on the Packers but none of them are instant starters or were even competing for that except for strong safety Lannden Zanders who earned a job in the big nickel set that Green Bay runs frequently as he impressed with his do-it-all skillset.
TE Malcolm Epps- Texas: Normal
There’s less to say about Epps because he suffered a Torn Labrum in the second quarter of week 1 of the preseason, but the second Texas product that the Packers took looks better than a late 4th round pick. The Longhorns have never produced an elite tight end as Jermichael Finley is the only recognizable name to play for them in college but Epps has the potential to be great. He is taller than new teammate Mayer and way faster, too, but he struggles with blocking and route running more. His pure athleticism was able to get him 2 catches for 58 yards and a touchdown. He is clearly a vertical threat fitting the Packers’ scheme as his two catches were for 19 yards and a 39-yard catch and run touchdown respectively. If only he could have played out the preseason, he could have possibly stolen the show and become a star, but if Michael Mayer doesn’t get it, then Epps definitely should. His player comparison is Kyle Pitts as both are supremely athletic tight ends who don’t have blazing speed but make big plays and are always a threat. Both aren’t amazing at blocking but can get to the second level to help his team break off a big run. If the Packers choose to spotlight Malcolm Epps, he can be a dark horse for a great season. He should pass Josiah Deguara by the end of the season in the depth chart, most likely earlier than that, and he’ll make for a great 1-2 tight end punch will Michael Mayer despite their playstyle differences.
SS Lannden Zanders- Clemson: Star
An absolute steal at the beginning of the 5th round, Zanders has made an instant impact as a starter in the big nickel set for Green Bay and showed flashes in his time with the second unit when he played the traditional strong safety spot throughout the preseason. A truly dynamic and amazing wildcard of a player, Zanders comes from the star-studded Clemson defense that won the national championship and is known for producing elite-level talent. Zanders can do it all from coverage to run support, he flies around the field making plays in every aspect of the game. Zanders racked up 16 tackles, 3 of which being for a loss, 1 pass deflection, and 1 interception in his time in the four preseason games. He fits what the Packers desperately needed as they like having a capable third safety to fill in nickel and dime sets and Reed Blankenship was just not cutting it and Zanders looks to be the solution to Adrian Amos’s expiring contract. He is pure athleticism with the skills to match, could be a dark horse for the NFC’s defensive rookie of the year. His player comparison is Troy Polamalu as they are both incredibly unpredictable players who play by their own rules to help their team. They both have a wide variety of skills and fly over the gridiron making game-changing plays. Zanders looks to mimic Troy P’s playstyle and not to mention they both have cool names. No glaring weaknesses on either player and the sky could be the limit.
DT Jowon Briggs- Virginia: Normal
The second defensive tackle taken by the Packers, Briggs was a depth pick not meant to compete for the starting job, but be a reliable option in the case of injury and he’s done that well. He’s currently 3rd on the depth chart in a 3-4 defensive scheme, Briggs comes from the University of Virginia, a good but not great football school. He also doesn’t fit Green Bay’s scheme all that well as the nose tackle is supposed to be a stout run stuffer and Briggs specializes in pass rushing, specifically agile rushing so he also isn’t as strong as the typical middle of a defensive line and he isn’t fast enough to be moved to a defensive end spot. Briggs got solid playing time throughout the preseason but played the least amount of snaps among Green Bay’s rookies. He achieved just one tackle in all four games, but that tackle was a sack. Maybe he develops over time, but most likely is a solid backup option capable of playing in case of an injury or if the Packers are up big. His player comparison is Jurrell Casey as they are both finesse pass rushers who are good team leaders. Briggs is a very raw prospect so Casey is more like his ceiling because Casey is stronger, better against the run, and has more variety in his pass-rush skills. Time will tell if Briggs can be more than a backup, but it doesn’t look great so far.
CB Isaac Taylor-Stuart- USC: Normal
Another depth pick, Taylor-Stuart fell to the 6th round even after a pretty impressive senior season at USC where he was in the top 10 for the Jim Thorpe Award for the best defensive back. He was the anchor of the Trojans’ defense that had a pretty solid season. He isn’t super fast and can’t jump super high but is very good in coverage and fits Green Bay’s scheme of lockdown man coverage corners. USC is pretty well represented in the current NFL and in the Hall of Fame so maybe the Packers found a diamond in the rough in Taylor-Stuart. He rotated around the second unit throughout all four weeks of the preseason as a cornerback in various nickel and dime packages and occasionally played safety in the big nickel. In his playing time, he had 7 tackles, 1 of which being for a loss, 1 pass deflection, and 1 clutch RedZone interception during the Packers’ comeback against the Lions that he returned 70 yards to set up the game-sealing score for Green Bay. He could get lucky and be a star, but not something to bet on as he most likely serves as a depth piece with minimal playing time and impact. Taylor-Stuart’s player comparison is Prince Amukamara because they are both tall, strong defensive backs who can play man, zone, and even press coverage well without being super athletic. Neither of them are ball hawks, but both cash in on the opportunities that present themselves. Taylor-Stuart will look to be a key role player in future years like Amukamara was able to do in his career.
WR Trejan Bridges- Oklahoma: Normal
This draft class’s Mr. Irrelevant, Trejan Bridges comes out of Oklahoma as a receiver that has the physicality and athletic attributes to be an actual starter in the NFL and no team was looking for a wideout like that like the Packers were. The Sooners have produced plenty of high-quality NFL talent in the past at various positions and while bridges doesn’t have the hype around him that other Oklahoma prospects have, he looks to be a role player for Green Bay already and can slide into the starting lineup with some unfortunate injuries or by next year if he progresses well. Bridges played all four weeks of the preseason but he wasn’t targeted by fellow rookie Bryce Young very often but he did well when he got his chances. He tallied just 5 receptions for 64 yards and 1 touchdown, but it was a spectacular touchdown grab over two defenders. He may not be “special” right now but he has the tools and surroundings to emerge as a great story from the last pick in the draft to a consistent threat. His player comparison is JuJu Smith-Schuster as they both are 6’1″ physical receivers who are stronger than they seem, better at contested catching than typical route running, and both are deceptively quick without being huge speed threats. Bridges will look to eventually be a player teams have to gameplan against like Smith-Schuester and become more than what he currently is: Mr. Irrelevant.
HB George Holani- Boise State: Normal
The only undrafted free agent the Packers were able to sign because of cap space problems, Holani had Green Bay interested during the draft but with Aaron Jones, Marlon Mack, and A.J. Dillon all locked in they felt it was smarter to wait until after the draft and to give Holani a smaller one year deal he could showcase himself on. The Packers were confident enough in their big 3 running backs that Holani got to take the primary position most of the preseason, getting everything besides the goalline carries after starters were subbed out. Holani had 29 carries for 116 yards which gave him a respectable 4.0 yards per carry. He broke 4 tackles and slipped away for one long run of 45 but never got into the endzone with Dillon coming in for goalline reps no matter what point in the game it was and Holani did fumble once. The former Boise State starter also put up 7 receptions for 41 yards which the majority of which came in preseason week 4 against the Lions’ fast and stingy defense. Boise State has produced a couple of stars but not consistently enough and they aren’t good enough now to expect Holani to be anything special. He might not even see the field in the regular season besides a blowout or special teams as there are 3 well-rounded running backs ahead of him. His player comparison is fellow teammate Aaron Jones as they are both quick but not super speedy, strong but not bruisers, and solid receivers who fly under the radar. Jones can take Holani under his wing and make him better than he would be elsewhere, but still don’t expect him to shine or even get snaps on a weekly basis. Don’t get attached to any progression you see either, Holani is on a one-year deal and with Dillon pending a contract, the Packers won’t bring back both most likely.