The Packers secondary was the team’s achilles heal for the 2016 season. The loss of Sam Shields in week one and injuries to practically every other corner were just a few reasons the Packers ranked 31st in passing defense. Fixing these problems starts at cornerback and likely through the draft.
When the Packers released Sam Shields it created a void for a veteran presence. Now, the current group of corners are in desperate need of a leader. Damarious Randall, Quinten Rollins, and LaDarious Gunter are entering their third seasons. Inexperience in Dom Capers 3-4 scheme caused the Packers top three corners to experience a lot of growing pains. Grasping hand signals and zone coverage adjustments plagued this group the entire year.
Many people think adding a veteran free agent would relieve these issues, but that is easier said when Ted Thompson is not your GM.
Free agency means nothing to a guy who lives and dies by the draft and develop method. Well all know the Packers will draft at least one corner in the 2017 draft. Here are some potential targets for each round.
Round 1 29th Overall:
Sidney Jones, CB, Washington
6’1″ 170 pounds
The Packers need a cover corner and Jones is every bit of that. He finished with nine interceptions in three seasons while earning first-team All-Pac 12 honors twice. Jones’ eyes could be the best in the draft. He batted away 14 passes his sophomore year displaying great speed and audacity to challenge any receiver. His ball skills are incredible and allowed him to force two fumbles last season. Experts have him as the second or third best corner in the draft. Jones would be a steal at 29.
Round 2 61st Overall:
Adoree’ Jackson, CB, USC
5’11” 185 pounds
Jackson won the 2016 Jim Thorpe Award for the nation’s best defensive back. He accumulated five interceptions while returning two kickoffs and two punt returns for touchdowns. Jackson was one of the most exciting players in the NCAA last season and would add much needed speed to the Packers secondary.
Round 3 93rd Overall:
Rasul Douglas, CB, West Virginia
6’2″ 200 pounds
Douglas led the nation with eight interceptions in 2016. His size and ball skills make him an ideal press coverage corner. He was a junior college product who played only one collegiate season leaving a question mark over his head. However, he may be worth a third round gamble.
Round 4 134th Overall:
Howard Wilson, CB, Houston
6’1″ 185 pounds
Wilson is entering the draft as a sophomore, but shows a lot of promise. He missed all of 2015 because of a knee injury yet he bounced back with five interceptions last season. Wilson has great burst to the ball and can hang with any vertical receiver he faces. His limited experience will keep him out of the early rounds, but adding strength could help him pan out into a great pro.
Round 5 174th or 184th Overall:
Corn Elder, CB, Miami
5’10” 180 pounds
Elder is a rare four year player out of Miami. He was a leader on defense given his competitiveness and feel for the game. He may of only had three career interceptions, but he was a productive tackler. Elder plays bigger than his size tells and makes unexpected plays. He had 4.5 tackles for loss and three sacks in 2016. His lack of size will keep him from playing outside in the NFL and his durability is also a concern. His potential as a return man and slot corner could have teams eyeing him in the later rounds.
Round 6 214th Overall
Brendan Langley, CB, Lamar
6’0″ 200 pounds
Langley started his career at Georgia but transferred to Lamar after being moved to receiver. He intercepted six passes last year and returned two punts for touchdowns. He is still very raw, but works harder than everyone else. Langley’s willingness to become an elite corner is something Capers would love to cultivate.
Round 7 247th Overall:
Des Lawrence, CB, North Carolina
6’0″ 190 pounds
Lawrence improved his coverage skills every season for the Tar Heels. As a Sophomore he had 71 tackles and three pass breakups. Over the next two years he broke up 24 passes. He lacks the speed to play consistent man coverage, but he is a great plug in for a zone system in the NFL.
___________________Brandon Carwile was a Cheesehead at birth. His dad grew up attending games at Lambeau and passed on the legacy. Brandon graduated from Longwood University in 2016 with a degree in mass media. He has covered the Packers for over two years and currently works with packerstalk.com. Find him on twitter at @PackerScribe.