Best Packers In Past 40 Years

It’s that time of the year again. Here’s my updated list of the top 25 Green Bay Packers since 1980. Take a few minutes and enjoy the stroll down memory lane. Feel free to leave a comment.

25-tie] CB Tramon Williams (2006-2014, 2018-2020) – His last two full seasons in Green Bay got him onto this list. After enjoying multiple Pro Bowl-caliber years in his first stint with the Packers, he returned at age 35 and provided almost 2,000 quality snaps in his encore. Finished his career with 34 INTs, including a pair in the 2010 playoffs that will live forever in team lore.

25-tie] RT Mark Tauscher (2000-2010) – He was one of the most underrated right tackles of his time. The former Wisconsin star was a lowly seventh-round draft pick who looked like the Pillsbury Doughboy but played like a Pro Bowler for over a decade. Surprisingly quick feet and the ability to recover made him very difficult to beat in pass protection.

24] C Corey Linsley (2014-2020) – His final season in Green Bay was without question his best, and it pushed him onto this list. The former fifth-round pick from Ohio State was named All-Pro in 2020, becoming just the third Packers’ offensive lineman to receive this honor in the past 50 years. In 99 starts, he consistently got the better of players who often outweighed him by 30 pounds. The Chargers recently made him the highest-paid center in the league.

23] TE Paul Coffman (1978-1985) – He was signed as a free agent after a scout went to Kansas State to work out another player before the 1978 draft. He was small and slow for the position even back then, but that didn’t stop him from being a solid positional blocker and a legit threat as a receiver (12.8 yards per catch). Scored 39 TDs in eight seasons with Green Bay. Despite his humble beginnings, he’s still the team’s best all-around tight end since the Lombardi era.

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22] FB William Henderson (1995-2006) – Many were critical when Ron Wolf drafted this unknown player from North Carolina in the third round in 1995, but they weren’t complaining a few years later when he blossomed into the best fullback in the league. It’s difficult to believe he went to just one Pro Bowl in 12 seasons. It’s even harder to believe John Kuhn – an inferior player – went to four.

21] LB John Anderson (1978-1989) – Because of all the losing the Packers did in the 80s, many good players from that era tend to be underappreciated. The former Michigan star is a perfect example. He overcame injuries early in his career to start 77 straight games between 1981 and 1986. Scouts compared him to Hall of Famer Jack Ham before the 1978 draft, and while he was never quite that special, he was one of the top all-around outside linebackers of his time.

20] LB Bryce Paup (1990-1994) – One of Tom Braatz’s and Lindy Infante’s best picks, the sixth-rounder from Northern Iowa had 32.5 sacks between 1991 and 1994. But he was more than just a pass rusher. He also played the run effectively and was surprisingly comfortable in space. He was a better “elephant” than Julius Peppers. He signed as a free agent with the Buffalo Bills in 1995 and was named Defensive Player of the Year that same season.

19] OT Chad Clifton (2000-2011) – He started 160 games for the Packers and went to a pair of Pro Bowls despite not blocking a soul in the run game. That’s how special he was in protection. Blessed with great size, remarkably quick feet, and terrific balance, he made even the best pass rushers disappear on a weekly basis.

18] WR Greg Jennings (2006-2012) – Yet another unpopular high draft pick who went on to achieve great success. He didn’t have ideal size or speed, but he just knew how to play the position. Understood how to set up defensive backs and open their hips before snapping off his routes. He caught over 400 passes as a Packer.

17] LB Tim Harris (1986-1990) – He hated playing for the woebegone Packers every minute, but that didn’t keep him from producing 55 sacks in six seasons, including 19.5 in 1988. Stopping the run was always an afterthought, but he was a terrific pass rusher. The former fourth-round pick from Memphis was a natural knee bender with an outstanding closing burst and short-area explosion. He eventually forced a trade to the San Francisco 49ers in 1991 and earned a Super Bowl ring three years later.

16] WR Jordy Nelson (2008-2017) – Many fans scratched their heads when Ted Thompson drafted the former Kansas State star in the second round in 2008, but he eventually developed into one of the 10 best players at his position in the league. The offense struggled without him in 2015 and not coincidentally came back to life upon his return from knee surgery the next season.

15] OG Marco Rivera (1996-2004) – Despite watching every game he played at Penn State, I still thought the sixth-round draft pick would be a career backup. Needless to say, I was wrong. He was one of the best guards in the NFL before injuries slowed him down. At his best, the 300-pounder used strength and technique to move bigger men in the run game and slow down faster men in pass protection.

14] OG Josh Sitton (2008-2015) – His long and distinguished career with the Packers came to a shocking end when he was abruptly released along with 17 other players only days before the start of the 2016 season, but that won’t keep him from being remembered as one of the best guards in franchise history. That’s how good he was from 2010 to 2015. The three-time All-Pro was powerful in the run game and almost impossible to beat in pass protection.

13] FS Nick Collins (2005-2011) – It took a while for the former Bethune-Cookman star to find his way in the NFL, but when he did, boy was he fun to watch. The rare safety who could tackle at the line of scrimmage and cover receivers down the field. Inducted into the Packers Hall of Fame a few years ago. If not for an injury that ended his career at 28, he might’ve wound up in that other Hall.

12] LB Clay Matthews (2009-2018) – The former No. 1 pick from USC racked up 83.5 sacks in 10 seasons with the Packers and was named to six Pro Bowls. When healthy, he was a talented and tenacious player who put up impressive stats despite lining up opposite and alongside quite a few stiffs during his time in Green Bay.

11] WR Donald Driver (1999-2012) – I valued performance over longevity while compiling this list, but sometimes playing really well for a really long time was impossible to ignore. This former seventh-round pick from tiny Alcorn State is the perfect example. Jennings and Nelson were better receivers, but they simply can’t be ranked ahead of the franchise’s all-time leader in catches (743) and yards (10,137).

10] WR Davante Adams (2014-present) – Moved up nine spots from a year ago. He’s caught 58 TDs in the past five seasons, the most by any Packer in a similar stretch of time. The former second-round pick from Fresno State isn’t the biggest or the fastest receiver in the world, but his route running is a thing of beauty. He was named All-Pro for the first time after last season, and only 28, he’s well on his way to becoming the most prolific pass catcher in team history.

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9] RB Ahman Green (2000-2009) – He’s one of the most underrated players ever to wear a Packers uniform. From 2000 to 2004, the former Nebraska star was as productive as any running back in the National Football League. He amassed five consecutive seasons with over 1,000 yards, including a franchise-record 1,883 in ’03. He was also a dependable blocker and a legitimate threat in the passing game. It’s hard to believe he was acquired from Seattle for corner Fred Vinson.

8] WR Sterling Sharpe (1988-1994) – The team’s No. 1 pick in 1988 would be in the Pro Football Hall of Fame had it not been for a neck injury that ended his career at age 29. In seven seasons, the former South Carolina star caught 595 passes for 8,134 yards and 65 touchdowns. He was selfish, but his talent and his toughness can never be questioned. He couldn’t practice, and he could barely run due to a painful toe injury in 1993, yet he still managed over 100 receptions.

7] OT David Bakhtiari (2013-present) – Moved up one spot from a year ago. Forget being one of the 10-best Packers of the past 40 years; the former Colorado star could be on his way to a much bigger honor. If he can add a few more All-Pro seasons to the five he’s already collected, it’ll be tough to keep him out of the Hall of Fame. Not too shabby for a former fourth-round pick whose name most fans couldn’t pronounce or spell until well into his rookie season.

6] SS LeRoy Butler (1990-2001) – You can make an argument for Sharpe, but no Packer in the past 40 years is more deserving of a yellow jacket than this all-everything safety from Florida State. He played the run and rushed the quarterback like a linebacker, and he covered like a cornerback. He finished his career with 20.5 sacks, 38 interceptions, and a place on the 1990s All-Decade Team. And oh yeah, he invented the Lambeau Leap for good measure.

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5] WR James Lofton (1978-1986) – Had it not been for a serious off-the-field issue that led to his trade to the Raiders in 1987, he might well be regarded as one the 10 greatest Packers ever. He had over 1,000 yards receiving in five of his eight seasons in Green Bay, and he didn’t get to play with a QB like Brett Favre or Aaron Rodgers. The former Stanford star was big, fast, and as graceful as a ballerina.

4] CB Charles Woodson (2006-2012) – The former Heisman Trophy winner from Michigan signed with Green Bay as the last resort in 2006, and he played like he wanted to be anyplace else in his first summer with the Packers. But instead of turning into the next Joe Johnson, he wound up becoming one of the greatest and most beloved players in franchise history. While his skill level at corner was extraordinary, his leadership was every bit as important to the team’s success.

3] DE Reggie White (1993-1998) – At 31 years old, he wasn’t in his prime when he famously signed with Green Bay as a free agent in 1993, but he was still one of the best defensive players in the league. More importantly, he made a team that hadn’t won a thing in a quarter-century believe it could be great again. And while it was a treat to watch the “Minister of Defense” play for the Packers, if you really want to see him at his best, check out his work with the Eagles. It’s difficult to imagine any defensive lineman ever being so dominant in all phases of the game.

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2] QB Brett Favre (1992-2007) – While his ill-timed interceptions in the playoffs were upsetting and his departure in 2008 was a fiasco, there’s no denying what No. 4 meant to the Packers. After being acquired in a trade with the Falcons in 1992, he quickly became the face of a franchise that hadn’t had an identity since Lyndon Johnson was in the White House. Along with White, Wolf, and former head coach Mike Holmgren, he put the “title” back in Titletown.

1] QB Aaron Rodgers (2005-present) – It’s hard to imagine putting anyone ahead of Favre on this list, but his successor at quarterback definitely deserves the honor. In fact, No. 12 has a chance to someday be at the top of another list – the list of greatest signal-callers in the history of the NFL. He’s already there based on talent and statistics alone, but he’ll have to win at least one more Super Bowl to leapfrog the likes of Tom Brady, Joe Montana, and John Elway. Won his third MVP award in February after throwing 48 TDs and leading Green Bay to the NFC title game at age 37.

(NOTE: The following players received strong consideration for a spot on this list: tight end Mark Chmura; wide receiver Antonio Freeman; offensive linemen Bryan Bulaga, Earl Dotson, Mike Flanagan, Ron Hallstrom, T.J. Lang, Larry McCarren, Ken Ruettgers, Mike Wahle, and Scott Wells; defensive linemen Gilbert Brown, Mike Daniels, Kabeer Gbaja-Biamila, and Aaron Kampman; outside linebackers Tony Bennett and Mike Douglass; inside linebackers Brian Noble and Johnny Holland; cornerbacks Al Harris, Sam Shields, and Mark Lee; safeties Darren Sharper and Mark Murphy; punter Craig Hentrich and placekickers Mason Crosby, Chris Jacke, and Ryan Longwell)

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Michael Rodney

Packers Notes is the creation of Michael Rodney, who has been writing about the Green Bay Packers for over 30 years. His first blog, Packer Update, hit the internet in 2004. Before becoming a public educator, Rodney worked as a journalist for a couple of newspapers in his home state of New Jersey and covered the Philadelphia Eagles for WTXF-TV. He's had numerous articles on the Packers published, and he's been featured on both television and radio over the years.

5 thoughts on “Best Packers In Past 40 Years

  1. I loved watching D-Bak, Sitton, Linsley, T.J. Lang and Bulaga playing alongside. Also remember Big B.J. Raji. Not that he was one of the best, but that INT against CHI brings me good memories.

    1. Raji walking away from football at age 29 is still so surprising. If Dom Capers played him at his proper position, I think he would’ve made this list.

  2. It’s a shame Eddie Lee Ivery had such bad injury luck or he’d probably be on here, I thought he was going to be special.

  3. Agree about Ivery. The Packers finally drafted the right player in the first round, and then he gets hurt in two of his first three seasons. Pretty much epitomized Packers football in the 80s. Even the few good things turned to crap.

  4. As somebody who followed the Packers in the 80s, no player symbolizes that time period better than Bruce Clark, who would’ve been on this list had he not preferred playing in the CFL to playing in Green Bay.

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