This isn’t necessarily a list ranking the 11 best Green Bay Packers heading into 2019, but instead the 11 most important Packers. That said, there’s a massive, obvious overlap.
However that distinction is, well, important, because most people can see that this team has enough talent to be quite competitive. But this team’s ultimate success doesn’t boil down to talent, it boils down to how certain players produce and how, and if, this team gels together.
If this team comes together and wants to be a legitimate contender, it needs these 11 players, more than the rest of the roster, to have big seasons.
11. Marquez Valdes-Scantling, WR
Prior to Training Camp “MVS” was getting a lot of praise and seemed poised to take over the WR2 spot. Well, it seems as though working out with Randy Moss has done well for the young man. The early response from Training Camp has been that MVS really has taken that next step. All signs point to him being not only a solid WR2, but a part of the next dangerous Packers WR Duo (Think Nelson and Cobb, Driver and Jennings).
That’s a big deal for this offense, as some question the weapons surrounding Rodgers — we don’t.
However all along, for it to really be dangerous, this offense needed to find a bonafide WR2. MVS’ 15.3 Y/R as a rookie is an element in the passing game this team has lacked since Jordy Nelson in his prime. Valdes-Scantling, as a deep threat, should only get better in year two.
10: Aaron Jones, RB
The player that gets the biggest boost from Matt LaFleur’s new run-heavy offense could very well be Aaron Jones (duh). Plus, look for more dump-off passes this year from Aaron Rodgers. With that said, we have three questions for Jones heading into 2019:
- Can he sustain his historic yards per attempt when he’s the bonafide number one back? (Yeah, literally historic… his 5.5 Y/A after his first 200 NFL carries are higher than Barry Sanders’ 5.3 Y/A after his first 200 NFL carries. Just saying. Is he Sanders? Hell no, but still it deserves mentioning.)
- Going along with question one, can Jones adjust to defensive coordinators specifically scheming to stop him?
- Will he be the next NFL running back to post 80+ receptions in this new offense? We hope the answer to those questions are a unanimous yes, but all we can do is sit back and watch. The Packers postseason hopes, we’d say, coincide with the answers to these questions.
We see Jones on the receiving end of 15-18 carries and 4-5 passes per game. That puts him right around 20 touches per game. Compare that to Melvin Gordon, one of the NFL’s most productive backs in both the running and passing game. Gordon averaged 18 touches in 2018. Yeah, it could be a huge year for Jones.
9: Corey Linsley, C
Linsley is not only one of the most important Packers, he’s one of the most underrated players on the team. Also, unrelated but, he’s one of the more interesting Twitter follows. The dude’s smart as hell and quite funny. But as a player he doesn’t get much recognition, despite the fact that he’s been a stabilizing factor for this team.
Linsley is the type of player that fans won’t mention often, unless he’s hurt (knock on every piece of wood you can find) and the Packers’ depth gets challenged, or he racks up a few penalties — which I wouldn’t count on. The dude’s just steady. Maybe that’s why he’s so often overlooked. But we believe that this is the year that Linsley will finally start getting recognition as an All-Pro lineman like teammate David Bahktiari. The years of this offensive line leading this team to new heights are upon us and he’s, quite literally, in the middle of it.
8: Adrian Amos, SS
In our opinion, and the opinion of most I suppose, the biggest newcomer to this team is Adrian Amos. He is exactly the player the Packers thought they were getting. This team hasn’t had a real impact safety since Nick Collins in 2011. Think about that. Amos has the ability to not only restore respect to the position, but he has the ability to elevate the entire defense in doing so.
Amos, although versatile enough to play deep, is a true strong safety and we’re excited to see what he can do near the line of scrimmage. Perhaps we’ll get a glimpse of a player made in the mold of LeRoy Butler. (Okay, we know we’re getting ahold of ourselves, but that’s what training camp is for right?) Put him down for 3-4 interceptions and a less quantifiable number of “less big passing plays allowed” all year.
7: Bryan Bulaga, RT
From the middle to the end of the 2018 season Bulaga was an elite right tackle in the NFL, as far as keeping his quarterback’s jersey clean. Throughout his career he’s been incredibly reliable, despite his substantial injury history. Now at the age of 30, fingers are crossed that he can start 16 games for just the second time in his career. GOOD GOD, STAY HEALTHY MAN.
Plus, if the success of the team depends on No. 12 staying healthy (which it does), the offensive tackle position goes a pretty long way in ensuring that. Here’s to hoping the end of 2018 is a sign of what’s to come from Bulaga in 2019. But beyond health, the Packers’ new offense of getting the ball out of Rodgers’ hands quicker and running the ball more plays directly to Bulaga’s strengths. Since he’s 30 this is probably one of his last best years, so this change in offensive philosophy should pay dividends immediately.
6: Blake Martinez, ILB
One of our favorite players on this team is looking to make the transition from leader and tackling machine to leader, tackling machine and play-maker. Martinez should get more blitzing opportunities in 2019 than he has had in any year in his career. This should coincide with his advanced knowledge of the defense in year two of Mike Pettine’s defense. Because of this we’re looking for a few more “splash plays” this fall.
We’re projecting at least three interceptions, seven sacks, three forced-fumbles, 150 tackles and a Pro Bowl nod for Martinez in 2019. He could end up making himself quite a bit of money this year. If he comes anywhere close to this, his bank account will be a lot healthier.
5: Jaire Alexander, CB
The subjective definition of “swagger” can vary from person to person, but regardless of how you define it — Alexander has it. He’s looking to become the league’s next true shutdown corner and trust us, that’s an elite group you can count on one hand. Alexander is the most talented cornerback the Packers have had since Charles Woodson. And no, we aren’t anointing Alexander to that level. But feel free to ask us again in 2025.
A consistent pass rush from the Packers’ defense, which is expected with their upgrades on the edge, should help deliver Alexander 5-6 INTs this fall.
4: Kenny Clark, DT
As if Clark wasn’t looked to enough on this defense, Mike Daniels is gone. Clark not only has to be the best defensive tackle for this team on every snap, he also has to step into an undisputed leadership role on the defensive line. Overnight he went from an important Packer to one of the most important Packers on the roster. If he can respond to this challenge, he’ll take a next step toward being an All-Pro level player year in and year out.
Amazingly, Clark is only 24 years old. HOW? He’s likely not even in his prime and he’s already the fourth most important Green Bay Packer. Damn. With another year of experience under his belt, Clark’s constant push up the middle will help the entire defense (he’ll make sure opposing quarterbacks can’t step up). How many sacks can he rack up this year? 7? 8? At least.
3: Davante Adams, WR
Adams is an elite touchdown producer and he has the trust of his quarterback. He runs precise routes and his burst/separation off the line of scrimmage is second to none in the NFL. If healthy, there’s just about no way he doesn’t snag 15 touchdowns and 1500 yards in 2019. How many other receivers can you say that about in this league? Two, maybe three?
He’s already a star, but Rodgers and LaFleur will be dead set on keeping his arrow pointing up.
2: David Bahktiari, LT
The best left tackle in football plays in Green Bay. The best left tackle in football plays in Green Bay. Do we need to say it again? No? Okay, well there’s nothing else to say here.
The man’s embraced the role of leader. And lead he will.
1: Aaron Rodgers, QB
This is a no-brainer. If Rodgers stays healthy a run at the Super Bowl, albeit unlikely, is definitely possible. If he gets hurt again, well, we all know how that goes. Beyond staying healthy though, the Packers need Rodgers and Matt LaFleur to genuinely mesh for this offense to flourish from game one in Chicago.
Can Rodgers adjust to a more true West Coast Offense style offense? We think yes, but he has to be okay with handing the ball off more. But as Rodgers gets older, the “less is more” adage could really come into play here. Less throws, more touchdowns. Less drop backs, more completions. Less comeback opportunities, more wins… and so on.
Hopefully Rodgers’ career ends, years from now, with less drama, more deep playoff runs.
Either way, we think this year ends in AP MVP number three and by the end of the year we’ll all be talking about how “Rodgers made everyone around him better” — yet again.
Admittedly, when this list was initially cooked up in mid-July we had Mike Daniels at number seven on the countdown. We figured with him, going into the final year of his contract, he’d respond with a big season. Alas, he’s going to be playing in Detroit in 2019 — certainly motivated and he’ll probably play well.
But with Daniels’ injury history, age, how he doesn’t quite fit the Packers’ new defensive system, his arm-length, etc., it makes sense they felt the the need to move on from him and his substantial contract. What’s unfortunate is that Dean Lowry, the defensive tackle they’ve instead invested in, doesn’t quite have enough value to make this list. But we’ll see what happens. We’ve been wrong before.
We left the “Smith Brothers” off of this list, because there’s much to be proven from them in the coming weeks. But they were right there outside the top 10 or 11 and were right in the middle of the conversation. Obviously General Manager Brian Gutekunst is, literally, banking on them being the additions this defense needs. All Packer fans are hoping they can significantly outperform the Clay Matthews/Nick Perry as edge rushers in 2019. I mean, if they don’t, this team is in trouble.
Guard Billy Turner was also considered for this list. We love this addition to the team, but not much else needs to be said. Perhaps he’ll prove his importance as the season rolls on, but it’s definitely a positive thing to hear Rodgers rave about him.
Here’s to hoping these 11 men lead the Green Bay Packers to a big 2019.