General manager Ted Thompson and coach Mike McCarthy seem to make room for a few undrafted free agents every year, so the odds are pretty good that at least one of the 14 rookies signed on Saturday night will still be around when the final 53-man roster is set in early September. The most intriguing player from that group might be offensive lineman Jaymes Brooks, who started 42 games at right guard for Virginia Tech.
The Packers are set on the interior of the offensive line with starters T.J. Lang, Jeff Saturday and Josh Sitton, but the depth behind them is questionable. Evan Dietrich-Smith did a decent job filling in for Sitton late last season, but he’s a very limited athlete who figures to get exposed the more he has to play. Second-year man Ray Dominguez has size and athletic ability, but he’s still learning how to play inside after lining up at tackle in college. And while Sampson Genus flashed some potential on the practice squad, he’s barely six-feet tall. That leaves the door wide open for someone to emerge and win a job in training camp. It just might be Brooks.
A lack of size and inconsistent play are the two biggest knocks against Brooks. He’s not terribly undersized (6’2, 298), but general managers prefer bigger players on the interior of the offensive line. The top 10 guards and centers selected in this weekend’s draft were on average two inches taller and 25 pounds heavier than Brooks. But that’s not what kept him from being drafted. What kept him from being drafted were his uneven performances as a senior. I watched a handful of Virginia Tech games last season and I rarely saw the same player twice. That’s because his technique tends to get sloppy at times, and when it does, he can’t compensate for his short arms (32) and average strength.
In an effort to improve his strength, Brooks spent the months prior to his pro day working at the TEST Football Academy in Florida. According to the Daily press, “he went through a training regimen that helped him improve his flexibility and lower body explosiveness… characteristics that could benefit at either guard or center.” That brings up another thing to like about Brooks – his versatility. He played center in the Players All-Star Classic. “I had about 30 plays in the actual game at center,” the second team All-ACC selection told the Daily Press. “I played pretty well.”
While Brooks was obviously disappointed about not being drafted, there was never any doubt that he’d get an opportunity to play in the NFL. Denver, Minnesota, Washington, Jacksonville, Houston, Philadelphia, Cleveland, and yes, the Packers spoke to him in the past few weeks. He received over a dozen offers on Saturday night, but chose to sign with Green Bay. The lack of proven depth at center and guard and Thompson’s well-deserved rep for giving undrafted free agents a legitimate opportunity in training camp were probably the reasons he made that decision.