For the championship season of 2010, the Packers loaded up on young talent, adding several immediate rookie contributors both via the draft and free agent signings. In the first round, Ted Thompson took Iowa tackle Bryan Bulaga who became a starter at right tackle when veteran Mark Tauscher was lost to injury in game four. Thompson also drafted Purdue defensive end Mike Neal in round two, Georgia Tech safety Morgan Burnett in round three, Penn State tight end Andrew Quarles in round five, Buffalo runner James Starks in round six and East Carolina defensive end C.J. Wilson in round seven.
Of this group, Neal and Quarles spent six years as role players in Green Bay, and C.J. Wilson spent four. Morgan Burnett moved right into the starting lineup as a rookie and suffered a season-ending knee injury in game four, but has been a solid starter ever since. James Starks appeared in three of the last five games of the 2010 season and then started all four post season games, gaining 315 yards and giving the Packers a viable rushing threat for the championship run. He remains a valuable second running back seven years later.
Thompson picked up seven more rookies as either undrafted free agents or waiver wire signees. Runner Dmitri Nance, defensive back Josh Gordy and linebacker Maurice Simpkins only lasted one year each in Green Bay, but tight end Tom Crabtree and linebacker Frank Zombo both lasted three, and Zombo had four sacks as a rookie. Tim Masthay gave the team a reliable punter for six years before becoming a salary casualty in 2016. Undrafted cornerback Sam Shields, though, became a star. He started several games in the slot as a rookie and worked his way up to becoming the team’s top corner and a Pro Bowl performer, whose career sadly is now threatened by concussion issues seven years later.
It was a potent collection of first year talent, and my selection for the best in 2010 is Bulaga. As a 21-year old rookie, he slid seamlessly right into the right tackle slot, manned skillfully for a decade by the underrated Tauscher, and solidified the team’s line in a season marked by an unusual number of injuries; Bryan Bulaga was the Packers’ top rookie in 2010.
Custom Cards in 1960 Topps style.