Going into the 2015 season it was pretty obvious that the Packers had to address two main needs on defense. Inside linebacker and safety. Some argued that Morgan Burnett was sufficient as one of the starters, but the safety position opposite him certainly needed to be addressed. As it turns out, both inside linebackers needed to be replaced as well.
Unfortunately for the fans that were excited about the inside linebackers both CJ Mosley (stud) and Ryan Shazier (we’ll see) were gone before the Packers drafted at 21. The Packers chose to select Davante Adams in the second round over Chris Borland (freaking stud). They were, however, able to select a safety. HaHa Clinton-Dix was widely regarded as the top safety in the draft leading up to Thursday night. In part because of the rise of inside linebackers and the Jets
reaching taking Calvin Pryor he fell to the Packers.
The team was able to select the best player at their #1 position of need without using anything more than the 21st overall pick. Clinton-Dix was solid all season long but flashed his superstar potential in the NFC Championship game.
Class Strength: 3/10
Woof. Yet another reason that I’m excited that HHCD was selected last year. I really don’t like this class. Even it’s premier player, Landon Collins (also of Alabama) might be shoe-horned into a strong safety role. There’s nothing wrong with that, but in today’s passing leage, the elite cover safety is more valuable than the thumper/run support safety. From what I can tell Collins is the only safety prospect that will even sniff the first round, compared to last season when 4 safeties were gone in the first 30 picks.
The free safeties in this class are unimpressive. My two favorite guys are Cody Prewitt from Ole Miss and Chris Hackett from TCU. Both guys are tall (6’2″) which is a quality that I prefer in free safeties, especially in the Packers system where they are often playing in the middle of the field in cover 1 or 3. Neither player should be selected on Thursday but I wouldn’t be surprised to see them go on Friday night.
Later round targets that interest me are Durell Eskridge out of Syracuse (6’3″, probably shouldn’t have left school early) and Adrian Amos of Penn State. Guys that project at strong safety include Jordan Richards out of Stanford and UCF’s Clayton Geathers
Packers Positional Situatoin: B+
That sure seems like a pretty big rise, doesn’t it? HaHa Clinton-Dix, should he continue to improve, projects as a Pro Bowl caliber player. As I’ve said before Morgan Burnett is a fine safety as long as he’s playing next to someone who’s not a liability. When he’s not worried about MD Jennings causing a whole bunch of issues he can focus on the things he does well, namely run support.
Beyond the starters are jack-of-all-trades Micah Hyde, who was able to play a hybrid corner/safety position last season, Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo. Richardson is a big athlete that played a little bit on running downs. Banjo is an effective special teamer that may or may not be capable of contributing on defense.
Contractually, the top 3 guys are about as locked up as you’re going to get in today’s NFL. Clinton-Dix is signed on his rookie contract through 2017, and the team holds his 2018 option. Burnett’s signed at reasonable money through 2017 as well. Hyde’s contract dictates that he too will be here for two more seasons. Burnett is the “oldest” of these players at 26. With all of these young players locked up for a while the Packers are in a pretty good spot.
Packers Level of Need at S: 2/10
This is the one position that I would be the most surprised to see the Packers address early in this draft. As I stated above, the team has young and talented players signed up for reasonable money for a reasonable length of time. Depending on your opinion of Sean Richardson and his potential the team goes 4 deep at the position, which is plenty from the safety position.
As with any position, depth is important. I wouldn’t mind another player that’s capable of starting should HHCD or Burnett miss significant time. I’m not 100% sure Richardson is that guy and if the Packers don’t re-sign Davon House OR Tramon Williams Micah Hyde might be needed at cornerback. Green Bay is going to need to address other positions, though, to win a championship so I’m not that concerned with backup safety.
Round to Start Targeting S: Round 6
As I’ve said, I just don’t believe safety is that much of a priority this season. You can see here that when I talked about QBs I mentioned that the Packers are capable of finding starters anywhere from round 1 to round 5. Based on that I’d prefer to give the green light to take a safety after all the potential starters have been selected. If it’s going to be a raw, developmental player at a position that isn’t a need, I’d prefer it be later (hard hitting analysis, I know).
My Favorite Fit for the Packers: Clayton Geathers, UCF
Geathers is big. At 6’1″ 212 he’s got a great frame for an NFL safety. Most importantly for me, as a late round guy he’s a good tackler. He would be able to contribute on special teams as he learned the defense and developed. He also brings something that none of the other safeties on the team brings and that’s violence. For all the nice things that I’ve said about HHCD and Burnett thumpers they are not.
The reason he won’t go higher than he probably should is a lack of top end timed speed and occasional lapses in coverage. Geathers finished 3rd in school history with 383 tackles.
Other options: Jordan Richards, Anthony Jefferson, Durrell Eskridge