One of the most interesting pieces of news that came out of the NFL owners meetings a few weeks ago was Packers coach Mike McCarthy stating that cornerback Micah Hyde could see some time at safety this season. McCarthy’s comments were less about Hyde moving to safety and more about Hyde getting the opportunity to be an every down player, whether it was at corner, nickleback, or safety. But with the Packers so desperate for safety help, the fact that McCarthy was even considering the possibility of moving Hyde to safety was enough to cause a lot of excitement among Packer fans.
The rookie corner out of Iowa played well this past season, playing 448 snaps, mostly out of the slot where he was filling in for an injured Casey Hayward. Hyde wasn’t the playmaker that Hayward was in 2012, where he had 6 interceptions and a Pro Football Focus grade of +21.2, but Hyde’s +3.2 Pro Football Focus grade was better than any of the Packers safeties, who all had negative grades for the season.
Immediately after last year’s draft there were draft analysts such as Mike Mayock who suggested that Hyde may make a better safety than corner at the NFL level due to his size and relative lack of straight line speed. But as the 2013 season went on and the Packers continued to have issues at the safety position, McCarthy never wavered on his stance that Hyde would continue to play corner.
But after a year of witnessing some of the worst safety play in the league, McCarthy’s change of heart is not a huge surprise. And with Sam Shields and Tramon Williams entrenched as the Packers starting corners, and the return of a (hopefully) healthy Hayward, finding playing time for Hyde at corner could prove difficult.
Moving Hyde to safety is not without its complications. Although Players like New England’s Devin McCourty and New Orleans’ Jairus Byrd, have made very successful transitions from college cornerback to NFL safety, it doesn’t mean that Hyde can make the same transition. Both McCourty and Byrd have elite coverage skills, while Hyde was only average in coverage last season. Hyde would surely would be an improvement over the safeties currently on the roster, but I didn’t see anything out of him last year that made me think he could be a playmaker at safety.
And while the Packers would be strengthening their safety position, they would be weakening their depth at corner, and with Williams, Jarrett Bush and Davon House all hitting free agency next year, and Hayward’s injury issues; doing so would be a bit risky. Do the Packers want to take the chance of possibly stunting Hyde’s growth as a corner when they may need him to contribute at the position sooner rather than later?
The fact that the Packers showed no interest in any of the available free agent safeties could mean that the they are already planning on moving Hyde to safety, or it could mean they know they can find a starting caliber safety in the draft. Louisville’s Calvin Pryor could be available in round 1, and Washington State’s Deone Bucannon, or Florida State’s Terrence Brooks could both be options in round 2. But with so many teams in need of a starting safety, some are bound to be overdrafted.
In my opinion moving Hyde to safety is a fine backup plan in case the Packers’ draft board does not align with the quality of safety available when they pick, but if the Packers have the opportunity to get a top tier safety in the early rounds of the draft, they should not hesitate to do so.