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Do Packers Undervalue Athleticism?

You might by now be getting sick of my favorite mantra: athleticism matters in athletics. Anyhow, I decided to rate the primary players on the Green Bay Packers as to their athleticism – relative to other NFL players at those positions. I counted as athletic traits: size (height and weight), strength, speed, agility and spring (vertical jumping ability).

In almost all cases, I based the ratings on players’ NFL Combine marks (or similar pro day marks). I was unable to find sufficient data on such players as Don Barclay, Joe Callahan, Mike Daniels, Letroy Guion, and Marwin Evans, and I didn’t bother with many brand new players on the team’s current roster, whose names few would recognize.

I noted traits of players who were among about the top third of their peers with an up arrow and those in the bottom third with a down arrow. Where there are no notations, players are generally in the middle third or about average.

Offensive Player Ratings

Superior Athleticism

  • Jeff Janis (Speed ↑ – Size ↑ – Strength ↑ – Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)
  • Jared Cook (Speed ↑ – Size ↑ – Strength ↑ – Spring ↑)
  • Jason Spriggs (Speed ↑ – Strength ↑ – Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)
  • Brett Hundley (Speed ↑ – Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)

Above-Average Athleticism

  • Aaron Rodgers (Arm Strength ↑ – Speed ↑ – Size ↓)
  • Ty Montgomery (Strength ↑ – Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)
  • Christine Michael (Strength ↑ – Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)
  • JC Tretter (Speed ↑ – Strength ↑ – Agility ↑)
  • David Bakhtiari (Speed ↑ – Strength ↑)

Average Athleticism

  • Davante Adams (Jumping ↑ – Speed ↓)
  • Brian Bulaga
  • Randall Cobb (Size ↓ – Speed ↑ – Agility ↓)
  • Trevor Davis (Speed ↑ – Size ↓ – Strength ↓)
  • Eddie Lacy (Size ↑ – Strength ↑ – Speed ↓)
  • Corey Linsley (Strength ↑ – Size ↓)
  • Kyle Murphy
  • Jordy Nelson (Size ↑)
  • Aaron Ripkowski (Size ↑ Speed ↓)

Below-Average Athleticism

  • Geronimo Allison (Speed ↓ – Strength ↓ – Agility ↓)
  • Richard Rodgers (Speed ↓ – Strength ↓ – Agility ↓)
  • Lane Taylor (Size ↑ – Speed ↓ – Agility ↓ – Spring ↓)

Defensive Player Ratings

Superior Athleticism

  • Clay Matthews (Size ↑ – Speed ↑ – Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)
  • Nick Perry (Strength ↑ – Speed ↑ – Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)

Above-Average Athleticism

  • Julius Peppers (Size ↑ – Speed ↑)

Average Athleticism

  • Kentrell Brice (Speed ↑ – Agility ↓)
  • Morgan Burnett (Speed ↑ – Agility ↑)
  • Kenny Clark (Size ↑)
  • Kyler Fackrell (Size ↓ – Spring ↓ – Agility ↓)
  • Demetri Goodson
  • LaDarius Gunter (Speed ↓ – Size ↑)
  • Josh Hawkins (Speed ↑ – Size ↓ – Spring ↑)
  • Micah Hyde (Speed ↓ – Agility ↑)
  • Blake Martinez (Speed ↓)
  • Jake Ryan
  • Damarious Randall (Agility ↑)
  • Jordan Tripp (Agility ↑ – Spring ↑)

Below-Average Athleticism

  • Quinten Rollins (Speed ↓ – Agility ↓)
  • Joe Thomas (Speed ↓ – Size ↓ – Agility ↓ Spring ↑)
  • Jermaine Whitehead (Speed ↑ – Size ↓ – Strength ↓ – Spring ↓)

Are Packers Trending Toward Athletic Players?

I did this analysis primarily to see whether that old dog Ted Thompson was increasingly realizing the need for highly athletic players. I took all the ratings and compared three time frames: players acquired by the Packers in 2014-16, in 2011-13 and before 2011.

Here are those results:

  • 2014-16: 4 superior, 3 above-average, 15 average and 5 below-average athletes
  • 2011-13: 1 superior, 2 above-average, 3 average, and 1 below-average athletes
  • 2010 & before: 1 superior, 1 above average, and 3 average athletes

There does seem to be a recent mini-trend in acquiring more athletic players on the offense (Janis, Cook, Spriggs).

On the defense, however, the two defenders I rated athletically superior, Clay Matthews and Nick Perry, were drafted in 2010 and 2012. Julius Peppers was certainly a superior athlete when drafted in 2002, though not so much by the time he was acquired by Green Bay in 2014. Morgan Burnett, drafted in 2010, has above-average, but not great size and speed, so I don’t feel that overall he merits the “above-average” label.

The inside linebacker group is a particularly ordinary bunch of athletes, as reflected by their play.

While a couple of speedsters, Brice and Hawkins, have recently been added to the stable of defensive backs, none of the eight who I rated are above-average athletes overall.

Bottom line: since being named general manager in 2005, Ted Thompson has shown little tendency or desire to stock Green Bay’s roster with exceptional athletes – especially on the defensive side. If nothing else, Thompson is consistent – some might say stubbornly opposed to change – so don’t expect anything different when Green Bay makes its selections in the upcoming draft, or for that matter as long as he’s the GM.

Rob Born

Smart drafters don’t select the best available players, they fill a team’s positions of greatest need.



  1. Howard March 3, 2017

    Good info Rob. The real thing is are the guys athletes or football players. Can they translate their superior athletic qualities into being football players, or should they try to enter the olympics and win a medal in track and field.

    A couple of good things about the combine is a lot of players are not usually listed properly by their schools as to height or weight. For example I have seen corners listed at 5-11 or 6-0, but when finally measured are 5-10 or less. That would take a corner off my list unless he blows you away in his on field production and you need a slot corner. The other thing is if you have a couple of players rated the same based on their college on field production some of the drills or measurements may help in making the correct decision. Medicals and interviews are also important. Otherwise it is best to select players that have shown on the field, against good competition, that they are superior against their competition playing football.

    One guy I want to point out again is Spriggs. Spriggs played against top competition and really did totally stop Bosa (NFL DROY) to the point that Ohio moved Bosa to the other side of the field, then Spriggs did the same to the next guy up. The team will be forced to find a starting spot for Spriggs after this off season increases his strength and refines his skills.

    No Datone Jones again? ;-).

  2. Robster March 3, 2017

    Datone Jones gets an up arrow for size and strength. Speed is only slightly above average. Overall, he falls short of being rated above average. His position is DE/LB, which is part of the problem – at a weight 283 or 285, he’s too small for one position, too large for the other. On the other hand, it gives him versatility, as he can fill in at either position when necessary.

  3. PF4L March 3, 2017

    Datone Jones….Jack of all trades, master at none? Unfortunately he’s not versatile enough to cause a fumble in 4 years. Spin it how you want, he’s a bust.

    22 tackles and 1 sack is not getting it done, especially for a 1st round guy.

    As i’ve said before, fuck metrics, fuck combine numbers…who gives a shit.

    Show me a player with a 4.75 40 that gets 10 sacks. Or a guy that runs a 4.50 40 and gets 1 sack.

    I’ll take the slow playmaker. Metrics don’t mean jack shit!

    Arm length, arm strength, spring, agility, athletiscism.

    Now……How did any of that translate into making a play from ANY defensive player on the Packers against the Falcons?

    Why do i bring up that game? I don’t know…..aren’t those the kind of games where winners…..make plays to EARN a spot in the Super Bowl?

    Don’t mind me, i’m just……being real.

  4. Cheese March 3, 2017

    Jordy Nelson is just average and doesn’t have an up arrow for speed? Most cornerbacks in the league joke about being caught off guard by how fast he is because they didn’t expect to get left in the dust by a white dude.

    1. Robster March 3, 2017

      Jordy’s 40-yard dash time is shrouded in mystery. I’ve most often seen it listed as 4.50 or 4.51, but it doesn’t say if it was at NFL combine, a Pro Day event, or what. Assuming 4.51, that is 61st percentile for wide receivers, so not in the top third. Doesn’t matter though, he has become on e of the league’s top deep threats.

      1. PF4L March 5, 2017

        Exactly, it doesn’t matter.