WHO ARE THESE GUYS?
by Jerry Gilbert
PROFILES OF THE "LONG SHOT" PROSPECTS
Every year The Green Bay Packers sign twenty or more young free agents, most of whom will never earn a living playing football. They are playing for the love of the game, and the dream, which is realistically shared by very few of them, that this year or next, they may actually stick with an NFL team. We will add players as training camp progresses.
WIDE RECEIVERS AND TIGHT ENDSWith the loss of Javon Walker, Terrence Murphy and Antonio Chatman, the 2006 Green Bay Packers begin the season with holes to fill on the roster. Donald Driver, with his lucrative contract extension, remains the number one receiver, but there are questions as to the other members of the 5 or 6 wide receiver group who will compose part of the final 53. Returning veterans Robert Ferguson and Rod Gardner along with free agent Mark Boerigter are in the mix along with draft choices Greg Jennings and Corey Rodgers. An injury or poor play by any of the favorites could create an opportunity for an unknown to step up.
At tight end, the 3 incumbents, Bubba Franks, David Martin and Donald Lee, are favored to keep their jobs. However, with Martin's injury history, at least one the other prospects may at least make the practice squad. Donald Lee himself was a "camp body" who finally made a roster, and his story may give hope to the contenders for this season.
CHRIS FRANCIES WR TEXAS ELPASO 6-1 193The Packers had to compete with other teams to sign Francies and reports from the first minicamp indicated that he showed some promise. A consistently productive college receiver, Francies played in 43 consecutive games with at least one catch. At his pro day workout, he displayed 4.53 speed, along with a 36" vertical and 10-6 long jump, which cemented his status as an NFL quality athlete. He was also productive in his senior season, with 44 catches for 744 yards and 5 touchdowns, which culminated in his selection as most valuable player on offense. His career yards per catch average was an impressive 15.8. If Chris Francies proves that he can get open, and he shows something on special teams, he has a shot to make the squad as a possession receiver.
LEO BOOKMAN WR KANSAS 6-2 212Leo Bookman's story is the complete opposite of Chris Francies. Bookman played cornerback in college and was not particularly successful. He quit the team on 2002 to concentrate on track. He is intriguing because of the size speed combination. A top level NCAA competitor in the sprints, Bookman has repeatedly run under 4.3 in the forty, and was reported to have run the fastest forty ever in the Hutson Center. The Packers, one of the few teams to evaluate this player, hope to teach him to be a wide receiver.
CALVIN RUSSELL WR TUSKEGEE 6-0 190Calvin Russell has about average speed at 4.54 and showed a vertical of 36" with 22 bench press reps at his pro day. A late bloomer, Russell did not start until his senior season and began to show some promise. As a senior, he hauled in 42 passes for 668 yards and 5 touchdowns in addition to returning 13 kicks for 234 yards. Russell was also a sprinter on the track team at Tuskegee. Hanging on to Brett Favre passes will be his greatest challenge.
RUVELL MARTIN WR SAGINAW VALLEY STATE 6-4 217Ruvell Martin is a street free agent who was in camp with San Diego in 2004. He was first or second team all conference as a junior and senior at the Division II level. Martin runs a 4.6 forty with a 37" vertical jump. In 2003, he totaled 54 passes for 632 yards and 5 touchdowns. Selected to play in the 2004 Cactus Bowl, Martin caught 5 passes for 98 yards and touchdown, which was an outstanding performance in an all star game. Despite getting some press for acrobatic catches in the minicamps, Martin remains a long shot to make the squad. On the other hand, Martin is learning to be a holder for the eventual Packer place kicker. That is another way to become valuable to a team.
GARRETT CROSS TE CALIFORNIA 6-4-245One of the favorite receivers for Aaron Rodgers at Cal, Cross was with the Packers briefly last summer before being injured and returns for another shot. He has not had much chance to show what he can do at the pro level and lacks ideal size. However, in his senior season, he had 28 receptions for 339 yards including 5 touchdowns. He has goo d hands and can work himself open. Cross will probably lose out to more athletic tight ends.
ZAC ALCORN TE 6-4 260 BLACK HILLS STATEThough playing against low level competition Alcorn has long been recognized as a player with the size and skills to play at nearly any level. Following an All Conference senior season in which he caught 58 passes for an impressive 809 yards with 7 touchdowns. Alcorn is also a stud in the weight room with a 490# squat and a 355 # bench press. He was selected for the Magnolia Bowl and has been called the best small school tight end prospect coming out of college this year.
TORY HUMPHREY 6-2 257 CENTRAL MICHIGANA player who stood out after he joined training camp last season and who hung around long enough to spend some tome with the team, Humphrey is probably the leading free agent tight end candidate because he has worked successfully in the offense. Following a senior season featuring 14 catches, 212 yards and 2 touchdowns, Humphrey signed with Indianapolis and joined the Packers after he was cut by the Colts. Most recently, Humphrey played for the successful Amsterdam Admirals in NFL Europe. We will see how he hold up after having already played an entire season.