The Green Bay Packers secondary underwent major overhaul this offseason. After losing Tramon Williams to the Browns and Davon House to the Jaguars, the Packers drafted Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins with their first two picks of the 2015 draft.
The team already had options on the team that could step into the roles voided by Williams and House. Casey Hayward has really only played as a slot corner over his three year career, but he has made significant contributions at that position and appeared ready to take on a larger role. Micah Hyde played both cornerback and safety, but the emergence of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix at safety would allow Hyde to play more cornerback.
Yet the Packers still saw it fit to add Randall and Rollins to the roster. Both players will have the opportunity to prove they are deserving of their respective first and second round picks. They have the natural athletic ability to succeed at the professional level, and could provide an immediate boost to a secondary that lost two of its main contributors from last season.
Randall will have to go through the season with the lofty expectations that come with being a first round draft selection. He is an incredibly versatile player, having played both safety and slot corner in college. He displayed good ball skills and can develop into a game-changing defensive back for Green Bay.
One of Randall’s bigger issues is his below-average tackling ability, but that is something that can be fixed if he puts in the time during training camp and the preseason. Since Hayward is likely to step into the role vacated by Williams as the outside cornerback—at least at the beginning of the season—it would not be surprising to see Randall step into the familiar role of slot cornerback that Hayward would be leaving open.
Rollins could have the highest ceiling of any player that the Packers selected in this year’s draft. He only played one year of college football at Miami of Ohio, but he won the MAC Defensive Player of the Year in that season. Like Randall, Rollins is a ball-hawk in the secondary. He was a basketball player throughout college, and that is clearly evidenced by his ability to seek out the ball and go after it at its highest point.
Rollins’ relative inexperience playing football, combined with the degree of success that he has had in that short time, bodes well for his future in the NFL. Obviously, his fundamentals will require some development. Some of the smaller intricacies of the sport that come with experiences will take a little more time for Rollins to learn. But if he shows the commitment to improving himself as a player, he should become a valuable piece of the Green Bay secondary.
It is unlikely that Randall or Rollins will be starters at the beginning of the season. Hayward appears to be the early favorite to start opposite Sam Shields at cornerback, and Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix will be the starters at safety. But both rookie defensive backs will have opportunities to prove themselves in nickel and dime defensive packages.
Randall and Rollins have very high expectations heading into the 2015 season. Just because they will likely start the year as backups does not mean they will end the year in the same place. It would not be surprising to see one of them step into a more prominent role by season’s end.
The potential is definitely there for both of the Packers’ first two draft picks. It is up to them to make the most of training camp, the preseason, and their opportunities once the season starts to prove that Green Bay made good decisions by drafting them. The Packers are ready for the presence of two more ball-hawking defensive backs, and Randall and Rollins fit the bill to be long-term answers for Green Bay in the secondary.——————
Sean Blashe is a Packers fan who grew up in Bears territory and is currently a journalism and history major at Marquette University. Sean is a writer with PackersTalk.com and you can follow him on twitter at @SeanBlashe .