Author Archives: Zach Kruse | About Zach Kruse: Zach is an aspiring sports journalist who loves the Green Bay Packers. He is currently working on his journalism degree and welcomes any and all advice on breaking into the world of sports writing. You can follow Zach on Twitter (@zachkruse2) or on Facebook.

13

June

Diondre Borel Catches the Eye of Aaron Rodgers on Day 1 of Packers’ Minicamp

Photo: David Dermer, Getty Images

NFL teams rarely keep six receivers on their 53-man rosters. Seven is almost unheard of.

But if the young players comprising the Green Bay Packers depth chart at receiver continue to impress as they have to start this offseason, GM Ted Thompson may have no other choice than to select more than five for his final roster.

After the first day of the Packers mandatory three-day minicamp Tuesday, quarterback Aaron Rodgers singled out one of those young receivers to heap on more praise: Second-year receiver Diondre Borel.

“Diondre Borel is a guy that gives us a different look because he plays a similar position of that of Randall Cobb,” Rodgers said in an interview with Packers.com. “Diondre has made as big of jump as anybody from year 1 to year 2. He really made the most of his reps on the scout team last year.”

The Packers signed Borel as an undrafted free agent in July of 2011. Despite catching just two passes for 35 yards during the preseason, Borel impressed Thompson and the Packers staff enough in camp to earn a spot on the team’s eight-man practice squad to start 2011.

What made Borel’s inclusion on the practice squad all the more impressive was the fact that the former Utah State Aggie was making a transition back to receiver from quarterback, a position he played during his final three seasons in college. At Utah State, Borel threw for almost 7,000 career passing yards—ranking him second in school history—after playing in eight games as a receiver during his freshman season.

Borel was impressive enough during his time on the Packers’ practice squad that he eventually received an offer from the Tampa Bay Buccaneers to be on their active 53-man roster—an invitation Borel declined for a pay bump in Green Bay and a chance to make the roster in 2012.

At just 6-0 and a little under 200 pounds, Borel doesn’t possess a unique frame or blazing speed. 6-foot-4 Tori Gurley—another practice squad receiver who will be competing with Borel for a roster spot—has the height that no other Packers’ receiver has. But Rodgers thinks Borel’s history as a quarterback gives him the mental capacity to make his mark on the receiving depth chart this summer.

26

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Jonathan Massaquoi, OLB, Troy

Troy OLB Jonathan Massaquoi

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Jonathan Massaquoi, Troy

Player information:

  • Jonathan Massaquoi, OLB, Troy
  • 6-foot-2, 262 lbs.
  • Majored in social sciences at Troy and is the cousin of both Visanthe Shiancoe and Mohammed Massaquoi.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.89 40-yard dash
  • 4.53 20-yard shuttle
  • 7.38 3-cone drill
  • 120″ broad jump
  • 33.5″ vertical jump
  • 20 bench press reps

News & Notes:

A top prep prospect in the state of Georgia, Massaquoi committed to Troy early but failed to qualify his freshman year…Spent one year at Butler Country Community College, racking up 20 sacks, before transferring back to Troy in 2008…Redshirted in 2009…Was a first-team All-Sun Belt conference selection after posting 13.5 sacks in 2010…Had five games with more than one sack…2.5 sacks against Ohio in Troy’s bowl game…Posted just 5.5 sacks his junior year after being named preseason defensive player of the year in the Sun Belt…Finished his two-year career at Troy with 31 tackles for losses…Has long arms at over 34 inches…Looks more like a developmental prospect at outside linebacker rather than an immediate upgrade/fix.

What they’re saying about him:

Frank Cooney (CBS Sports): “Some NFL teams think Massaquoi is an untapped talent who might have benefitted more if he played college at a higher level with more expectations and better competition. He has an interesting combination of strength and agility that served him well at that level without showing much technique.”

National Football Post (Wes Bunting): “An effective small-school pass rusher because of his length. However, isn’t a real flexible kid, lacks a sudden/explosive element to his game and looks more like a reserve only to me.”

NFL Combine: “He put an “above average” season on film and is a middle- or late-round prospect. He is hurt by the fact that he is such a tweener, playing defensive end in college at 250 pounds without showing the type of athletic ability that would intrigue a 3-4 team to move him to outside linebacker. Massaquoi’s stock will depend on his pre-draft workout numbers — he could be selected nearly anywhere.”

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • Not much explosion to his game
  • Looked lost in run support
  • Motor always appears to be running
  • Shows some bend/ability to get skinny
  • Very quick off the edge on sacks vs. Ohio
25

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Chris Rainey, RB/WR, Florida

NFL Draft Profile: Florida RB/WR Chris Rainey

Florida RB/WR Chris Rainey

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Florida RB/WR Chris Rainey

Player information:

  • Chris Rainey, RB/WR, Florida
  • 5-foot-8, 180 lbs.
  • A world-class track athlete who can do far more on a football field than just run.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.45 40-yard dash*
  • 3.93 20-yard shuttle*
  • 11.06 60-yard shuttle*
  • 6.50 3-cone drill*
  • 120″ broad jump
  • 36.5″ vertical jump
  • 16 bench press reps

* =Top performer

News & Notes:

Won two straight USA Today high school National Championships while at Lakeland (Fl.) High School…Played in four games his freshman season but received a medical hardship waiver after hurting his shoulder…Ran for 682 yards and four scores during his redshirt-freshman year, earning SEC All-Freshman honors…Finished his college career with 2,393 rushing yards and 13 touchdowns, plus 66 catches for 764 yards and six more scores…Returned 25 punts and 18 kickoffs…Lost seven fumbles during his four years…Was charged with aggravated stalking in 2010 after sending his ex-girlfriend a threatening text message, later suspended by the school…Those charges were dropped when he completed a program of community service and anger management…Has experience playing running back, receiver and special teams…He’s been one of the nation’s most productive punt blockers over the last four years, as his six blocked punts set a SEC record…Struggles blocking out of the backfield but has a solid, compact frame…Most compare him to Percy Harvin, his former teammate at Florida and current Minnesota Viking…If used right at the next level, could have Darren Sproles like impact…Given his versatility and rare athleticism, the Packers could realistically afford to use a roster spot on him as another Swiss Army knife type player.

What they’re saying about him:

CBS Sports: ”Perhaps the most explosive cutting ability and straight-line speed of any athlete in the 2012 draft. Can make defenders look silly due to his lateral agility and sudden acceleration. Versatile. Saw time as a running back, receiver, punt returner and kick returner for the Gators … Looks natural catching the ball out of the backfield and has shown the ability to track the ball over his shoulder and snatch passes outside of his frame …”

24

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

Georgia CB Brandon Boykin

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia

Player information:

  • Brandon Boykin, CB, Georgia
  • 5-foot-9, 182 lbs.
  • Broke his leg during the Senior Bowl, which robbed him of the opportunity to compete at the combine and Georgia Pro Day.

NFL Combine (DNP, leg):

  • N/A 40-yard dash
  • N/A 20-yard shuttle
  • N/A 3-cone drill
  • N/A broad jump
  • N/A vertical jump
  • N/A bench press reps

News & Notes:

A prep star in Georgia, Boykin stayed home and went to school in Athens. He appeared in 13 games his freshman season before going on to start 38 of the next 40 games for the Bulldogs. A jack-of-all-trades, Boykin registered nine interceptions, 19 tackles for losses and 18 passes broken up on defense, plus five return scores and three offensive touchdowns. He became the first player in SEC history to score three or more touchdowns of 100 yards. While Boykin is definitely on the short side (5-9) for cornerbacks, players his array of skills are hard to find. Boykin represents good value in the second round or later at a position that has three good players but struggled in 2011.

What they’re saying about him:

Frank Cooney (CBS Sports):  “Boykin may have a small frame, but he came up big to win the Paul Hornung Award as the nation’s most versatile player in 2011. He is a formidable athlete as both a cornerback and a kick returner. Boykin, who may run 40 yards under 4.4 seconds, had three touchdowns on kickoff returns as a sophomore, two for 100 yards each and then added another in 2010 to become the only player in SEC history with three plays of at least 100 yards. He is hardly bashful as a corner, where he surprises bigger opponents by getting right in their face as much as he can rather than playing off and using his speed to catch up.”

National Football Post (Wes Bunting): ”Plays much bigger/strong than his frame would indicate. Has the ability to press on the edge, but might be better suited to play as a slot guy in the NFL. Either way can play a role on a defense in either a man or zone scheme.”

19

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Janzen Jackson, S/CB, McNeese State

S Janzen Jackson, McNeese State

Green Bay Packers 2012 NFL draft prospect profile: Janzen Jackson, McNeese State

Player information:

  • Janzen Jackson, S/CB, McNeese State
  • 5-foot-11, 188 lbs.
  • Impressive athlete who transferred out of Tennessee after run-ins with the law and a clash with new coaching staff.

NFL Combine:

  • 4.64 40-yard dash
  • 4.15 20-yard shuttle
  • 6.90 3-cone drill
  • 125″ broad jump
  • 36.5″ vertical jump
  • 9 bench press reps

News & Notes:

A five-star recruit and one of the more heavily recruited players coming out of high school…Started in the second game of his freshman year at Tennessee and went on to start nine more in 2009…As a sophomore, led Tennessee with five interceptions…Was only Volunteer to earn All-SEC honors in 2010 as a second-teamer…Numerous character concerns, including an arrest for armed robbery and charges of substance abuse…Left UT in the spring of 2011, was welcomed back by coach Derek Dooley in July and then dismissed at the end of August…Transferred to McNeese State, in his hometown, where he started at both cornerback and safety. Intercepted three passes…Might be in the hybrid cornerback/safety mold at the next level…Red flags will knock Jackson down many boards…Far from “Packers People”—would be interesting to see if GM Ted Thompson even has him on his board—but talent and ability to play a hybrid role (i.e. Charles Woodson) makes him an intriguing prospect for Green Bay.

What they’re saying about him:

Rob Rang (CBS Sports): “Lean, athletic build with plenty of room for additional muscle mass. Legitimate NFL-caliber athlete. Possesses good straight-line speed, fluid hips to turn and run and explosiveness out of his breaks. Good vision and anticipation as a free safety. Reads the quarterback’s eyes and gets an excellent break on the ball. Is a considerably bigger hitter than his slight frame would lead you to believe. Closes quickly and generates an explosive collision on impact that can separate the football.”

National Football Post (Wes Bunting): “A talented kid who can run, track the football and can be a violent striker on contact. However, isn’t the most sound of wrap-up guys, is raw with his footwork and has character concerns. Nevertheless, has the talent to play in the NFL and should get a shot because of his ability to run and strike.”

18

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Mark Barron, S, Alabama

Alabama safety Mark Barron

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: S Mark Barron, Alabama

Player information:

  • Mark Barron, S, Alabama
  • 6-foot-1, 213 lbs
  • Underwent double hernia surgery but still projects as the draft’s top safety

NFL Combine: (injured, did not participate):

News & Notes:

Barron stepped onto campus his freshman year and tallied 11 special teams tackles, the third most on the Alabama roster. From there, Barron took over the starting safety position and proceeded to rattle off three-straight first-team All-SEC selections. Arguably his most productive season came in 2009, when Barron intercepted seven passes as a sophomore. Two years later, Barron is the unquestioned No. 1 senior safety in the 2012 draft class. Most project him in the top-30 picks.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post): Has the makings of a heck of a special teams player who can also attack downhill vs. the run game, play inside the box and drive on the football in front of him in the pass game. Isn’t going to be a major threat turning and tracking the football, but his improved instincts makes me think he can start in the league early on.

Frank Cooney (CBS Sports): If his feet were as quick as his instincts he would be a great free safety, but Barron is built like and plays like an outstanding strong safety. He has exceptional read-and-react skills, gets a quick jump on passes and has great hand-eye coordination going for the ball. All this somewhat compensates for his lack of great speed. On run support, Barron plays with a good balance of patience and aggression that keeps or puts him in the middle of plays that others might overrun. While he does make the occasional big hit, Barron is more of a text book tackler.

NFL.com (Combine): Barron is an imposing defender on the back end for Nick Saban’s Crimson Tide. He screams “professional defensive back” from preparation, to warm-ups, to in-game productivity and presence. A stalwart at the position, he has the size and athletic ability to contribute right away in the NFL. He is a safety with great range and ball skills to make big plays, and also is a contributor in run support to use his size and instincts to be an active defender. Barron’s combination of size, speed, production and football instincts project him to be a top-50 pick.

17

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: Chris Polk, RB, Washington

RB Chris Polk, Washington NFL Draft Profile

RB Chris Polk, Washington (Photo: SI.com)

Green Bay Packers draft prospect profile: Chris Polk, Washington

Player information:

  • Chris Polk, RB, Washington
  • 5-foot-11, 215 lbs.
  • Tougher to bring down and overall more explosive, but Polk compares favorably to Packers’ RB Ryan Grant

NFL Combine:

  • 4.57 40yd dash
  • 4.21 20 yard shuttle
  • 7.13 3-cone drill
  • 111″ broad jump
  • 31.5″ vertical jump
  • N/A bench press reps

News & Notes: 

Stepped onto the campus at the University of Washington ready to contribute immediately. Polk started the Huskies’ first two games of his 2008 but injured his shoulder and was granted a medical redshirt. From there, Polk began his climb up UW’s career rushing ranks. Three-straight 1,000-yard seasons placed Polk No. 2 on the school’s all-time rushing leaderboard behind only Napoleon Kaufman. Was a Three-time All-Pac-12 selection and semi-finalist for the Doak Walker award in 2011. Increased his draft stock at UW’s Pro Day, trimming down to just 212 pounds and running the 40-yard dash in 4.45 seconds. Polk might now be a lock to be drafted within the top-60 picks, which could be out of the Packers’ range for a running back.

What they’re saying about him:

Wes Bunting (National Football Post): A strong, well put together back with natural girth through his lower half and a well defined upper body. Has experience running both from the gun and I-formation sets and showcases good patience when asked to decipher information. Looks natural diagnosing the action around him and never seems to be in a rush. Allows his blocks to set before accelerating through the hole… Is a big kid with a good feel inside, runs hard and will break some tackles. However, pad level, initial burst and lack of great change of direction skills make me think he’s potential NFL starter only.

Rob Rang (CBS Sports): An incredibly physical ballcarrier who rarely goes down to initial contact, Polk is among the runners vying to follow Alabama’s Trent Richardson as the second running back drafted in 2012.