Ted Thompson has a reputation of opting for the best player available rather than reaching for positional need in the NFL draft. With the Packers often picking in the final quarter of the first round during Thompson’s tenure that strategy typically is a sound one. The Packers first pick is scheduled to roll around at number twenty-one and the top player available could well fill a gaping need for Thompson’s squad. It would be a boost for the squad if the Packers could find a safety to pair with Morgan Burnett.
The Packers only have three safeties on their current roster; Morgan Burnett, Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo. Burnett is the mainstay in the group and has four more years remaining on his contract. He may not have performed up to fans’ expectations given his salary but is the cream of this crop. Richardson fought his way through a serious injury to play in six games during the 2013 season but has to prove he can be counted on through an entire season. Banjo meanwhile made the team as a street free agent and managed 19 tackles last season.
Perusing the pantheon of NFL mock drafts the top three players at the safety position are free safeties Ha-Ha Clinton-Dix of Alabama, Calvin Pryor of Louisville, and strong safety Jimmie Ward of Northern Illinois. The consensus among draft sites is Clinton-Dix is the crème de la crème of the position. Scouting reports on Clinton-Dix call him an all-around athlete with great ball skills and big play potential. He’s slated to go somewhere in the teens to low twenties so it would be a surprise if he was still available for the Packers to take.
Louisville’s Pryor is seen as a heavy hitter and intimidating presence for the back half of the defense. The Packers haven’t had the type of player at safety for the past few seasons. Pryor is listed at 5-11 and 207 pounds and is often referred to in scouting reports as a pro-typical safety and is seen as someone who could become an elite secondary player. Pryor, the consensus number two safety in the draft comes in somewhere between the late teens to early twenties in most mock drafts.
The other safety with a first round grade is Jimmie Ward who’s listed as a strong safety. Ward is listed at 5-11 and 193 pounds. He played extensively for four years with Northern Illinois. He original made a name for himself as a special teams difference maker as a freshman. He evolved into a ball hawk, intercepting seven passes as a senior. The scouting reports at various draft sites see Ward as more of a jack of all trades as opposed to someone likely to make the flash play like Clinton-Dix and Pryor.
These three are the only safeties with a first or second round grade so if the Packers miss out on drafting one of them they’ll most likely miss out on drafting a player who will be able to start game one of the regular season. The veterans remaining in free agency aren’t awe inspiring so the Packers need to hit on a safety pick in the draft. How thin is the safety position in the remaining free agent pool? Rotoworld actually has former Packers safety Nick Collins ranked as the second best safety still available. This is the same Collins who has missed more than two entire seasons due to a neck injury. Some of the other names out there include Michael Huff, Jim Leonhard, Quintin Mikell, and Kerry Rhodes.
Ted Thompson needs to find a way to stabilize the safety position and picking one in the first round would certainly fit the bill.