Part 9 in a position-by-position analysis of where the Packers stand going into the draft.
Ha Ha and Morgan are two high picks that are both living up to their draft status.
Ha Ha earned his first Pro Bowl berth last season and Burnett moved around the field a lot more, adding more possibilities to a defense built on multiples.
They aren’t perfect. They aren’t Reed and Palamalu. They are, however, a top tandem in a league where that is a luxury. This is the most complete starting position group on the defense.
Kentrell Brice showed a lot of speed, good change of direction instincts, and the ability to lay the lumber in his first year as an UDFA. He worked his way into a larger role and by the end of the season, was in on 50 to 75% of the defensive snaps, allowing Morgan Burnett to play more in the box and adding flexibility to the defense. In the playoffs, his willingness to hit led him to a Chuck Cecil, where he knocked himself out of the Falcons game early on. You can’t teach speed or tenacity and he has them both. I like his chances to develop into a valuable role player.
Marwin Evans and Jermaine Whitehead round out the position, but aren’t known commodities.
Evans played only 18 defensive snaps last year, but was in on almost half of the special teams plays. This is how a lot of Packers secondary players have grown, though, cutting their teeth on special teams as they learn the defense and adjust to pro game speed. He’s S4 right now, but a lot remains to be seen if he will rise past this level. Usually, the guys who do show a spark early, like Brice did. His ceiling appears to be a Chris Banjo type of special teamer.
Whitehead saw no action on defense and just a handful of snaps on special teams.
Talent on Roster
The position is solidly three deep, assuming Brice plays at anywhere near the level he did last year. Damarious Randall also has the ability to play safety and some think it’s his best position. Given the state of the cornerback position, the preference would probably be to not move him (barring a rookie corner having a smoking camp or some other unforeseen development).
The loss of Micah Hyde (who we should not have signed at Bills prices, but thanks for the comp pick), takes away a bit of the versatility of the group, but he played mostly slot corner last year anyway.
With two very good starters, a promising backup, and a corner who could shift back in a pinch, the position has pretty solid depth. Still, as the last few years have proven, you can never have too much depth.
Low-ish, not quite medium. I have faith in Brice and safety just plain is not a premium position. After ILB, it’s probably the least valuable on defense. I understand having a great pair of safeties is a good thing, but it’s not critical if the rest of your defense can hold their own. I would prefer to focus on that in the draft and, unless some amazing prospect drops, wait until day 3 or sort through the UDFAs to find another developmental prospect. For the love of everything holy, please don’t use a first-rounder on Jabril Peppers. Now, if he falls to our second round pick, we may have a Lacy-like situation on our hands.
Other parts in the series
Part 1: Quarterbacks
Part 2: Defensive Line
Part 3: Wide Receivers
Part 4: Cornerbacks
Part 5: Tight Ends
Part 6: Running Backs
Part 7: Linebackers
Part 8: Offensive Line
Part 10: Specialists