Boston College Eagles quarterback Chase Rettig Greg M. Cooper-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Green Bay Packers undrafted free agents get a shot

Mississippi State Bulldogs running back LaDarius Perkins Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Mississippi State Bulldogs running back LaDarius Perkins
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports photograph

 

The Green Bay Packers have had a busy weekend, pulling in nine new players through the 2014 NFL Draft and signing 16 undrafted free agents in the past 20-plus hours.

That’s a lot of adding and expect to see even more changes in the coming days, weeks and months as the Packers and every team in the NFL move players in and out in their search of the perfect 53.

There are hundreds of story lines with all of these undrafted players as they take the next avenue available to land a spot on an NFL team.

And while the Packers have added just a single quarterback (UDFA Chase Rettig, Boston College), added a trio of wide receivers and four offensive linemen (three undrafted signings), what’s most interesting to me at this point is the addition of running backs Rajion Neal (Tennessee),  LaDarius Perkins (Mississippi State)  and James Sims (Kansas). Neal and Perkins are the #3 and 4 rated running backs by Gil Brandt in his top rated undrafted free agents listing

Coming to a team with an already burgeoning depth chart at running back, one should certainly believe that they could add a healthy level of competition. Given the fluidity of rosters at this time of year, one wonders if any or all of these signings might even make it to training camp before a roster move affects them. We shall see.

Ahead of the these two UDFAs on the Packers depth chart are Eddie Lacy, James Starks, DuJuan Harris and Johnathan Franklin. That’s a tough bunch to crack and it’s very unlikely the Packers will carry more than four running backs.

But in the meantime, what would these guys bring to the Packers? Each of them are interesting prospects in their own right. I just want to throw out there that any of these guys could take a step forward and push for some playing time.

Here’s brief information about each of these free agent running backs – guys that define the effort to rise from the bottom ranks.

Tennessee Volunteers running back Rajion Neal
Randy Sartin-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Rajion Neal (5-foot-11, 229 pounds)

Strengths and weaknesses as per nfl.com:

STRENGTHS

Very good size, muscularity and physical development — has an NFL body. Good feet and agility to get to and through the hole. Surprisingly quick to the corner for a big back and flashes some creativity. Nifty in tight quarters and will drop his shoulder and consistently fall forward. Very natural, effortless catcher. Willing blocker effective chipping ends. Solid pro-day showing, when he registered a 38-inch vertical jump and bench-pressed 225 pounds 28 times.

WEAKNESSES

Average power and tackle-breaking ability. Does not churn out a lot of yardage after contact and much of his production is blocked for him. Not a fiery competitor. Lacks elite, finishing speed and can be tracked down.

BOTTOM LINE

A nifty, instinctive zone runner who made his senior season his best and showed very well at his pro-day workout, adding nine pounds since the East-West Shrine Game but still showing fluid movement skill.

Mississippi State Bulldogs running back LaDarius Perkins
Spruce Derden-USA TODAY Sports photograph

LaDarius Perkins (5-foot-7, 195 pounds)

STRENGTHS

Compact and muscular. Strong hips. Quick-footed and shifty. Good acceleration from static start. Short-area burst is best asset. Stops and starts quickly. Darts through holes. Hits another gear when he gets into the second level. Competitive speed. Willing blocker. Led team in all-purpose yards as redshirt freshman. Well-respected team captain with outstanding football and personal character.

WEAKNESSES

Lacks ideal bulk to handle a heavy workload week to week. Has some hip tightness. Average eyes and instincts. Not a pile mover. Tends to pitter patter instead of pressing the hole. Gears down to cut. Did not put the ball on the ground often, but carries loosely and at times in the wrong hand.

BOTTOM LINE

Undersized, competitive, change-of-pace back who was bothered by an ankle injury as a senior, but offers enough of a balanced skill set, including good acceleration, to be a better pro than college player. Evaluators would benefit to revisit junior tape for best indication of his ability.

Kansas Jayhawks running back James Sims (29)
Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports photograph

James Sims (5-foot-10, 206 pounds)

STRENGTHS

Very light on his feet with great balance and body control. Shifty navigating through traffic and has a natural feel for following his blocks and finding open running lanes. Can pick and slide and find creases inside. Strings some moves together and makes defenders miss. Plays faster than his timed speed and can finish runs. Very good career production. Solid hands-catcher.

WEAKNESSES

Very thinly built. Runs a bit upright for his size. Limited run strength and power to run inside and drive a pile. Gets overwhelmed in pass protection. Needs to take better care of the football — flags it too carelessly.

BOTTOM LINE

An instinctive, slippery weaver with enough creativity, vision and short-area burst to be effective as a change-of-pace back, possessing the hands and open-field running skill to make a mark on screens and in the short perimeter passing game.

DE/OLB

Mississippi State Bulldogs defensive lineman Denico Autry (90). Derick E. Hingle-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Denico Autry, Mississippi State (6-4 3/8, 273)
Autry played on a NJCAA national championship team at East Mississippi Community College and was an All-American before transferring to Mississippi State. Started 23 of 26 games in two years and finished with 73 tackles (16 for a loss) and six sacks. He also forced three fumbles. Autry was second on the team with 9½ tackles for a loss last season in starting in all 13 games. Ran a 5.07 time in the 40 at his March pro day with 29 ½ vertical, 9-7 broad jump and 14 bench reps. 


Utah State Aggies linebacker Jake Doughty
Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports photograph

LB Jake Doughty, Utah State (6-0, 227)
Doughty, who started 27 consecutive games to finish his collegiate career, was the defensive MVP in the Poinsettia Bowl. His 148 total tackles (including 30 for a loss) last season were second in NCAA Division I FBS and fourth-most in history of the Mountain West. Ran a 4.56-second time in the 40-yard dash at his pro day with a 33-inch vertical and 24 bench reps. 

LB Jayrone Elliott, Toledo (6-3, 255)

Toledo Rockets defensive end Jayrone Elliott (15)
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports photograph

Will convert from a 4-3 defensive end to outside linebacker in Packers’ 3-4. A one-year starter, Elliott led the Rockets in sacks the past two seasons (15 total) and was third on the team with 70 tackles, including 14 for a loss. Ran a 4.75 time in the 40 with 31 vertical and 18 bench reps. 

Washington State Cougars offensive linesman John Fullington
Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports photograph

OL John Fullington, Washington State (6-5, 301)
Although the Cougars haven’t been known for their offensive linemen, Fullington was a versatile component of Mike Leach’s air-raid offense. He’s started at both tackle spots during his college career and played right guard during his sophomore year. Likely projects interior in pros. Ran a pedestrian 5.39 time in the 40 at his pro day, but countered with 30 bench reps.

North Carolina State Wolfpack linebacker D.J. Green and defensive tackle Carlos Gray (70) defend during the second half at Carter Finley Stadium.
Rob Kinnan-USA TODAY Sports photograph


DL Carlos Gray, North Carolina State (6-3, 296)
Surprised many by coming out for the draft after his redshirt sophomore year with the Wolfpack. Mainly a rotational reserve during his collegiate career, Gray had 23 tackles and 2½ sacks in 11 games with four starts as a redshirt junior. He ran a 5.20 time in the 40 at his March pro day with only 21 bench reps, a 27 1/2 vertical and 9-2 broad jump.

Alabama Crimson Tide linebacker Adrian Hubbard (42)
Nelson Chenault-USA TODAY Sports photograph

LB Adrian Hubbard, Alabama (6-6, 252)
A junior entrant into the draft who received his degree. Hubbard started 26 of his last 27 collegiate games at “Sam” linebacker for the Crimson Tide with 74 tackles (including 16.5 for a loss) and 10 sacks. He ran a 4.69 time in the 40 with 34½-inch arms and 9¼ hands. He didn’t press, run shuttles or 3-cone drill at the combine because of a deltoid strain. Seen as inconsistent. Described by draft pundit Nolan Nawrocki as having “a quirky personality, inflated opinion of his ability and carries a sense of entitlement that could be difficult to manage and require a patient position coach. … Has upside if the light bulb comes on.”

UCF Knights offensive linesman Jordan McCray
Kim Klement-USA TODAY Sports photograph

 

OL Jordan McCray, Central Florida (6-3, 322)
Ran a 5.49 time in the 40 at his pro day with 33 bench reps and a 27½ vertical. Started 27 games over his last two seasons (18 right guard and nine at right tackle) and was a first-team selection to the All-American Athletic Conference first team. Same school that produced Josh Sitton in 2008.

Penn State Nittany Lions tight end Matt Lehman (84) is unable to catch a pass in the end zone against Iowa Hawkeyes player Tanner Miller (5) in the second quarter at Kinnick Stadium. Reese Strickland-USA TODAY Sports photograph

S Tanner Miller, Iowa (6-1, 211)
A three-year starter at free safety and former teammate of Packers cornerback Micah Hyde and defensive lineman Mike Daniels at Iowa. Miller finished his career with 222 career tackles and 10 turnovers generated (seven interceptions, three forced fumbles). He also tied Iowa record with a 98-yard interception return for a touchdown in a 2011 win over Northwestern. Ran at 4.59 time in the 40 at his March pro day with 35 ½ vertical and 10-3 broad jump. Had 13 reps on the bench press. 

RB Rajion Neal, Tennessee (5-11, 212)
Ran a 4.57 time in the 40 at his pro day with a 38-inch vertical and 9-11 broad jump. Started games in each of his last three seasons before jumping into the role full-time as a senior and having his most productive season (214 carries for 1,124 yards and 12 touchdowns).

Maine Black Bears tight end Justin Perillo
Jerry Lai-USA TODAY Sports photograph

TE Justin Perillo, Maine (6-4, 250)
Perillo reportedly chose the Packers over a similar offer from Detroit. He was featured on the Big Lead’s pre-draft video “Diary of a Draft Underdog” (http://shar.es/SirIF). A three-year starter for the Blackbears, Perillo caught 39 passes for 490 yards and four touchdowns as a senior. He ran a 4.76 time in the 40 at his March pro day with 30½ vertical jump, 9-1 broad jump and 19 bench reps.


RB LaDarius Perkins, Mississippi State (5-7 3/8, 195)
An undersized running back who was disappointed in not being taken. “Headed to Green Bay in the a.m. with a big chip on my shoulder,” he tweeted on Saturday night. Ran a 4.46 time in the 40 at the combine with 31 arms and 9 5/8 hands. A two-year starter at Mississippi State, he previously backed up Indianapolis RB Vick Ballard. He finished his career second in all-purpose yards at the school (4,253) and fifth-most rushing yards (2,554). He also handled kickoff returns earlier in his career and was heralded as one of the most versatile players in school history. Perkins was more productive as a redshirt junior (205-1,024-8) than a senior (137-542-2) partly due to a sprained ankle that hobbled him the entire season. Had 23 bench reps with 35½ vertical and 10-4 broad jump. Only did positional drills at his pro day.

DL Mike Pennel, Colorado State-Pueblo (6-4 1/4, 332)
A Scottsdale (Ariz.) Community College product who played five games with Arizona State in 2012 before being suspended twice in less than a month by coach Todd Graham. He was suspended indefinitely after a Twitter rant and transferred to Division II Pueblo where he had 36 tackles (six for a loss) and three sacks. Was originally listed at 363 pounds on the school’s website. Ran a 5.23 time in the 40 at the combine with 33 3/8 arms and 9 7/8 hands. Had a 27 vertical and 8-8 broad jump at his March pro day. Definitely a run-stuffer in the Packers’ two-gap scheme. 

QB Chase Rettig, Boston College (6-2, 214)
A four-year starter who played in a number of systems with a revolving door of position coaches. He competed 55.2 percent of his passes for 8,263 yards with 52 touchdowns and 39 interceptions. Rettig, who was 20-30 as a starter, ran a 4.97 time in the 40 at his pro day with 34 vertical and 9-4 broad jump. Packers reportedly sought out Northern Illinois quarterback Jordan Lynch, who opted to join the Chicago Bears instead.

 

 

South Carolina State Bulldogs linebacker Joe Thomas (48) during the first quarter at Clemson Memorial Stadium. Joshua S. Kelly-USA TODAY Sports photograph

LB Joe Thomas, South Carolina State (6-0 1/2, 227)
Thomas was honored as the MEAC defensive player of the year after registering 116 tackles and 7½ sacks last year. He was a member of FCS’ No. 1-ranked defense and second-ranked scoring defense. Ran a 4.70 time in the 40 at his April pro day with a 38 vertical, 9-9 broad and 22 bench reps. Opportunity is there with Packers’ unmet needs at inside linebacker. Had a pre-draft visit.

CB Ryan White, Auburn (5-10, 194)
White played both cornerback and safety during a collegiate career spent mostly as a reserve. He had 54 tackles with one interception in 14 games (two starts) as a senior. Played sparingly as a junior, but was the holder on field goals and extra points. Ran a 4.51 time in the 40 with 34 vertical, 10-5 broad jump and 13 bench reps. 

Other college free agents who will participate in the Packers’ rookie orientation camp next week on a tryout include: RB James Sims (Kansas) and Chris Rycraw (Ouachita Baptist), ILB Nate Dreiling (Pittsburg State), OLB Jordan Stanton (James Madison), OL Jamal Ellis (Newberry), K Vincenzo D’Amato (California), P Paul Layton (Temple) and DL L.T. Tuipolutu (Utah).

Tags: Green Bay Packers Undrafted Free Agents

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