Chicago Sun-Times

A closer look at my 30 best players under 30 in the NFC North

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Really had a blast working on my package in today's newspaper, the best 30 players under 30 in the NFC North. I'm always amazed at how scouts and coaches view players. They're not solely obsessed about statistics, and they see and value things that casual observers just don't.

Here's a link to the package.

But let's take a closer look at the entire list.

The Packers have 11 - Aaron Rodgers (1st), Greg Jennings (5th), Clay Matthews (8th), Jordy Nelson (10th), B.J. Raji (16th), Tramon Williams (17th), Jermichael Finley (18th), Josh Sitton (20th), Desmond Bishop (23rd), Bryan Bulaga (24th), Mason Crosby (27th),

The Lions have 8 - Calvin Johnson (2nd), Matthew Stafford (5th), Ndamukong Suh (7th), Cliff Avril (11th), Chris Houston (19th), Brandon Pettigrew (21st), Stephen Tulloch (22nd), Louis Delmas (30th)

The Bears have 6 - Jay Cutler (4th), Matt Forte (9th), Devin Hester (13th), Henry Melton (15th), Stephen Paea (26th), Johnny Knox (28th)

And the Vikings have 5 - Adrian Peterson (3rd), Percy Harvin (12th), Chad Greenway (14th), John Sullivan (25th), Brian Robison (29th).

As I mentioned on Twitter, the 31st player would have been T.J. Lang, the offensive lineman from the Packers. He's a fourth-round pick, and scouts and coaches tell me he's been absolutely dominant, of late. That he's got Pro Bowl potential.

This package, though, underscores the importance of building through the draft. The Lions have gotten quickly fast, because they have had several very high draft picks. And, ultimately, those three (Johnson, Stafford and Suh) are cornerstone players for them.

But the Packers are in this position because of their talent evaluation and development. Of the 11 players on my list, four of them (Rodgers, Raji, Matthews and Bulaga) are first-round picks. The others are not.

Greg Jennings and Jordy Nelson are second-round picks. Jermichael Finley is a third-rounder. Josh Sitton is a fourth-rounder. Mason Crosby and Desmond Bishop are 6th rounders.

But no player underscores the Packers scouting skills than cornerback Tramon Williams.

He was undrafted out of Louisiana Tech, and he was first signed by the Houston Texans. At the time, the Texans had one of the worst secondaries in the NFL.

But they let him go, after the preseason, and Williams was unsigned for a while. That means every NFL team had a chance to get him.

But the Packers didn't sign him until Nov. 29. Then, he didn't play in a single game.

In 2007, he played in all 16 games, mostly on special teams, and he made one start. In 2008, he started nine games. In 2009, he started 10 games.

In 2010, he was a full-time starter, and he intercepted six passes and defended 20 others.

The Packers are one of the league's youngest teams. And as they prepare for another championship run, the Vikings and Bears -- since the Lions are still in it -- need to figure out how they're going to close that sizeable gap. It doesn't happen overnight, but both these teams need to have a strong offseason if they're going to keep up.

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4 Comments

Great article Sean that underscores the Bears and Vikings woes as they battle for the NFC North going forward. Great work.

Who made this list? A bunch of fairweather fans with their heads up the Packers rear? Where's Earl Bennett? Gabe Carimi? Chris Conte? Lance Louis? Chris Williams? Edwin Williams? Etc...etc......

"Really had a blast working on my package"

Sean we call that an over shear in the buisness, keep what you do with your package to yourself.

Don't take this the wrong way but your list seems a bit, off, like maybe you were trying to find a way to get some Bears on the list outside of Cutler and Forte. But really Paea and Melton over Robinson who had 47 QB disruptions and 27 stops and played 890 snaps, Melton and Paea are not even true starters, they rotation players, combined they have about 890 snaps between them. I don't really think the 3 of them are much to begin with they only make plays off the back of Allen or Peppers. But without those guys these guys are situational players. What am I saying according to the snaps Paea and Melton are situational players.

Isn't this the last year Hester can make this list? Wow that's scary, time flys.

I would have Tolluch over Houston and Pettigrew, In fact how is Pettigrew even on the list? Young or Durant are better than Pettigrew.

Oh and Johnson over Cutler. I have seen both teams without either player, clearly losing Cutler is the bigger impact, by far.

Greenway over Erin Henderson, Greenway shouldn't even be on the list.

Wait a sec no way Sean Jensen wrote this, Louis, Webb and Conte are not on the list, those are Seans boys. Also I hate to say it but Knox is a pretty huge question mark right now. Oh and you know what Matt Spaeth over Pettigrew, at least Spaeth can block and he is damn good at it, Pettigrew is not good at anything, plus 9 damn penalties from a TE.

Oh and I am glad you mentioned Lang, I didn't think much of him coming out of college as a Tackle but he is turning into a solid guard, he needs to cut back on the penalties.

Oh and the Bears will do what they usually do. Get FA happy for cheap FA, if they have the cap room they will go for a more expensive FA. Why scout, let other teams scout and then get their cast offs. Oh maybe a crazy head coach will want to trade away a franchise player again, that would help. God the way Angelo secretly tricked McNugget into trading Cutler, what a GM, what a move. Then Angelo turned around and fired the guy that actually did most of the real work on that trade to try and cover all of Angelo's draft mistakes. hell of a GM.

Can you imagine Orton the human sculpture playing in the Martz offense in 2010? He would have been dead, it would have been like 150 sack season.

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This page contains a single entry by Sean Jensen published on December 29, 2011 10:33 AM.

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