Ranking the Packers most important 10 players
June 29, 2010, by Brian E. Murphy
~In the National Football League, it goes without saying that the quarterback is the position that captains the ship.
However, one needs to look no further than Pittsburgh to see how important their superstar safety Troy Polamalu is. Troy is the quarterback, the point guard of their Blitzburgh defense, and without him, they were a shell of their former selves, despite still having bookend OLB studs James Harrison and Lamar Woodley.
On the flip side, the running back position has shown to be less important, on many occasions. The Colts had injuries to Joseph Addai, and rookie Donald Brown, and they still almost went undefeated because of quarterback Peyton Manning. And Manning was MVP brilliant despite the retirement of Hit Man Marvin Harrison and losing another starting WR in Anthony Gonzalez.
Could the Packers survive and prosper without Ryan Grant, or Greg Jennings, or Nick Collins? Well a lot depends, but here are my rankings of the 10 most valuable Packers.
- QB Aaron Rodgers
Nothing against Matt Flynn or even Graham Harrell, but this team will only go as far as Rodgers takes them. He’s entering his 6th season on the team and 3rd as a starter, and he knows this offense inside-out. When he gets time to pass, he’s as good as anyone in the NFL from Manning to Brady to Favre.
- CB Charles Woodson
Like Polamalu in Pittsburgh, Woodson is the leader of the Pack on defense. He’s the only guy who can cover well, but better than that, he makes plays and makes big plays. Remember the Dallas game last year on the goalline covering Pro Bowler Jason Witten? He not only covered him, he picked off the pass and saved seven points. Remember his strip-sack on Tony Romo that led to a fumble recovery by Clay Matthews and an easy touchdown? Those plays are priceless. So his Charles.
- WR Greg Jennings
Now the rankings get tougher, but I believe that Jennings’ deep threat ability and the respect he commands from the opposing defense is very underrated in terms of importance to the Packers high-octane offense. Fortunately, he’s been durable so far in his career. But without him, I think the safeties would move in a few steps and begin to clog the middle of the field, taking away some of Driver and Finley’s effectiveness, as well as bottle up Ryan Grant.
- OLB Clay Matthews
We saw how atrocious the Packers pass defense was last year when they weren’t getting any pressure on the QB. Favre, Roethlisberger, and finally Warner made it pretty obvious. Matthews was the only guy who offenses schemed to keep out coming down the stretch last year. He applied more pressure than any next-two guys for the Packers. If they were to lose Matthews, fans would see a lot of opposing QBs have their career best days again like Big Ben, Warner, and Favre did.
- S Nick Collins
Nick is another guy who has been remarkably durable in his career so far. He’s been bumped and banged up many times, almost every tackle it seems. But he keeps getting up and he’s rarely missed a game, unlike his thicker counterpart Atari Bigby. I believe the Packers pass coverage would look terrible if they were to lose Collins for any amount of time, especially with a rookie being the next best safety back there.
- OT Chad Clifton
Despite the high draft pick Bryan Bulaga, I think we’ve seen enough evidence the past two years of how important old Clifton is, especially to Aaron Rodgers health. It seems in the past two seasons, Jared Allen has gotten to feast on backup LTs and has earned his Pro Bowl births both years because of those games. When Clifton has been healthy and in, it’s a different story as the 2008 opening game showed. That game, the 2008 Kickoff game, had the Vikings at Packers in Rodgers first game, on primetime for the world to see. Jared Allen did a lot of talking the week of the game about taking Rodgers out. Well when the game ended, Clifton had pitched a shutout on Allen. No sacks, not even a single tackle, and the Packers beat the Vikings. Since then, Clifton has not been fully healthy against Minnesota, and the Packers have lost all three games to the Vikings since then. It’s no coincidence.
- NT/DE Ryan Pickett
One of the most underrated players in the Packers, if not the whole league, is the Big Pickett Fence. Everybody remembers the Packers pass defense getting torched in Arizona, Pittsburgh, and Minnesota last year. But what people forget is that the run defense was the best in the league last year, and Pickett was the biggest reason, literally. He’s got the bulk, the movement, and the intelligence in there. He’s a great team player as well. BJ Raji might be moving to the middle this year, but regardless of who’s where, Pickett is a big key in the Packers continuing to slow down the Adrian Peterson’s of the world.
- WR Donald Driver
Quickie has been unbelievably durable and reliable for the Packers since being drafted in the 7th round in 1999. While he may have lost a half-step by now, he’s still fast enough, and very savvy. He knows the routes like the back of his hand and he runs every route the same way, with DBs clueless as to which way #80 is going to go. I do like, actually love, the depth that the Packers have with Jordy Nelson and James Jones, but Driver is like glue at that position.
- TE Jermichael Finley
Finley has been getting a little too much press lately, perhaps. His play coming down the stretch last year was Tony Gonzalez-like, and he has a chance to become a superstar this year. But he hasn’t done it yet. That being said, he does have the ability to make this offense go to a whole other level. He’s a mismatch on slower and shorter LBers, and he’s too tall for any safeties to cover. As long as his knee is good, he’s going to have a big season for the Packers and Rodgers to Finley might become a patented line this year. And the drop-off from Finley to the #2 TE is more dramatic than any other #1-#2 spot other than QB.
- ILB Nick Barnett
The former Beaver came back strong following his torn ACL. He’s the emotional leader on the defense, the Packers version of Ray Lewis. Now I have to admit, I think Desmond Bishop might be a hidden diamond, but he’s not nearly as versatile as Barnett is. I think the Packers could survive some lengthy missed time to AJ Hawk, but not Barnett. Nick will have some opportunities for some sacks this year on Capers’ A-gap blitzes, and Barnett needs to ring some bells.
Scott Wells, Ryan Grant, Mark Tauscher, Josh Sitton, Cullen Jenkins
Wells and Grant are the most underrated players in this team. Grant simply gets the job done, doesn’t screw up, doesn’t fumble, and doesn’t miss time. His availability and durability have been crucial to the offense.
Wells is solid anchoring the O-line. While some people have tried to push Scottie out the door in favor of the larger Jason Spitz, Wells just keeps answering the bell and helping pave the way for Ryan Grant and protecting Rodgers from the big guys like the Williams Wall, Jay Ratliff and Shaun Rogers.