Thursday, April 24, 2014

2014 NFL Draft: Grading The Safeties

The big news of the day was that the Green Bay Packers drew just about the worst assignment possible; kickoff the NFL season with a game at Seattle. It's not an automatic loss, but I can't think of a bigger challenge to start 2014. But first comes the draft:
Kiper focused on four positions of need for the Packers, and the first one is safety. It is the single biggest unit on either side of the ball that needs to improve next season. They have other question marks on the roster, but S Morgan Burnett took a step back in 2013 and S M.D. Jennings was a complete non-factor. I'm sure their first order of business is to get Burnett's promising career back on track; they just gave him a big multi-year extension so they're certain not to give up on him yet. DB Micah Hyde might be the answer at free safety and he played well last season at cornerback. But they don't have any depth and/or other options at safety other than those two players. They need a better Plan B than Sean Richardson and/or Chris Banjo.

The big problem is that there aren't a lot of safeties with a first round grade. Combined with the league wide focus on safeties (T.J. Ward and Jarius Byrd signed big free agent contracts), probably due to the fact that Seattle's defense dominated last season, in part, because of their great safety tandem, the Packers might not find a worthy player available at No. 21 overall. Here are their small list of options:

Alabama's Hasean Clinton-Dix. He compares to Seattle's Earl Thomas and is almost universally regarded as the top safety in the draft. Unfortunately that means he's certain to be gone by the time the Packers are on the clock. In the CBS Sports mock draft, he goes as early as No. 8 to the Vikings and remains on the board no later than the Ravens at No. 17.

Louisville's Calvin Pryor. Just like Clinton-Dix, he's fast, though he's a little shorter and more of a big hitter, which isn't such a good thing now since the refs are calling more personal fouls for leading with the helmet. He's more likely to last until No. 21 than Clinton-Dix, but there are so many teams in the No. 8 to No. 20 overall range that could use safety help that I just don't think he'll last that long. Though LB Clay Matthews is a notable exception, GM Ted Thompson isn't known for trading up.

And that's about it. I've seen Northern Illinois's Jimmie Ward as a mock draft selection for the Packers, but he's a little undersized and has a 2nd round grade at CBS They could trade down and draft Ward later, such as they did a few years ago when they drafted WR Jordy Nelson, but that's the only time they've traded down. The Packers usually stand pat, and they probably won't draft a safety early unless Clinton-Dix or Pryor slide down to them. Assuming they like either of them.

That doesn't mean they'll ignore their defensive backfield. While the class of safeties looks thin, it does appear to be a deep draft class for cornerbacks, and that's where they found Hyde last season. If they miss the top two safeties, hopefully they draft at least two other defensive backs to add some depth next season.

1 comment:

Jack Niemuth said...

I don't get how the Packers got that first game instead of the 49ers or Panthers. They were 8-7 last year.