A few months ago, Packers fans marveled at the spectacle of their team “running the table,” in finishing the season winning all but the final of their last 9 games of the season. During the 8 game win streak which extended to the NFC Championship Game, the offense (specifically Aaron Rodgers) looked completely electric. The revitalized offense showed fans of Green Bay success which they had not seen since 2014. The team was far from flawless during this span of games however. While the Packer’s run defense preformed quite well throughout the season, the team’s pass defense was anything but championship caliber.
It all started week one of last season, when former Pro-Bowl cornerback Sam Shields sustained a concussion which sidelined him for the remainder of the 2016 season. I considered Shields to be an excellent cover corner, but more of an average run supporter. With the loss of Shields, the Packers were left with a lackluster group of second-year cornerbacks featuring LaDarius Gunter, Damarious Randall, and Quinten Rollins. Despite showing a lot of promise in their rookie years, Randall and Rollins regressed in 2016, quite possibly due to groin injuries the two suffered. Gunter showed a great deal of improvement from the season prior, but still showed he was not capable of being the true #1 corner the Packers needed in their defense. So far this offseason, the team has already bolstered the position by signing the familiar Davon House in free agency. House is best in press man coverage which makes him a good fit in Dom Capers system in addition to the fact that he played in it for four years. The packers will count on development from their 3 third-year corners and the veteran presence of House at the position, in addition to anyone they may acquire in the draft or free agency.
With dime cornerback Micah Hyde headed to the Bills next season, and Sam Shields likely headed towards retirement, the Packers will likely look to this year’s extremely talented draft class at cornerback to find their next great cornerback. Given that assumption, I decided to compile a list of 6 corners (in no particular order) who have potential to go in the first 3 rounds of the NFL Draft this season. This area of great need would be well filled by any of these prospects.
Marlon Humphrey: 6′ 197Lbs. – Alabama
He is a fantastic prospect, and a realistic possibility to fall to the packers at no. 29 or later. While I mentioned earlier that I was not planning on putting this list in a particular order, I’d like to start with Marlon Humphrey because I am a huge fan of his. Packer’s fans, I think you should be overjoyed if you hear Humphrey was drafted by your team come next month. He is an outstanding athlete, running a 4.41 40 yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine. In addition to his strait line speed, he finished fourth best in the 3-Cone Drill at 6.75 seconds. Humphrey started 2 seasons at Alabama earning Freshmen All-SEC honors following a redshirt year.
Scouting Analysis: His game features good short distance acceleration. Marlon is a very aggressive corner in press coverage. You may see him drive his man out of bounds from time to time given the receiver takes them to close to the boundary. His zone coverage is outstanding, and his man coverage could become similar with a little coaching. He does not allow himself to get blocked by anyone, and therefore could be utilized in stopping the run. Outside of his press, his footwork could use some work at times. You will see him use his athleticism to catch make up for being beat in man coverage at times. He reminds me a little of Sam Shields earlier on in his career in that respect. With Joe Whitt Jr. being the fantastic coach that he is, I have little doubt Humphrey has potential to be a big time play maker in Green Bay.
Sidney Jones: 6′ 186Lbs. – Washington
If you’re unfamiliar with Jones, you wouldn’t know that he suffered an achilles tear during the final drill of his pro day recently. Prior to the injury, I expected Jones not to escape the first round. It is now anyone’s guess where he will go, although I have heard speculation of a market somewhere in the late second to third round. It is estimated that his injury will take 6 months to heal, so he would miss the entire offseason and at least part of the regular season. With that being said, barring injury issues down the road he is a steal where the packers pick in the third round, if he makes it there.
Scouting Analysis: Jones is a great fit on the outside of Green Bay’s defense because he excels at press man coverage, and he’s a great all around competitor. Great footwork. Fantastic ball skills in breaking up passes as well as making interceptions. In the rarity that he does get beat in press, he is able to display a quick burst to recover. Decent combine performance including a 4.47 sec. 40 time, a 33.5 inch vertical, and a 7.02 sec. 2-Cone Drill time. It is unknown yet how his injury will truly affect his athleticism. He could benefit from adding some upper-body strength. He gets beaten badly against run blocking and physical receivers in coverage. If Sidney Jones can overcome this injury, he has the ability to become a big time player in the NFL.
Gareon Conley: 6′ 195Lbs. – Ohio State
This is another guy I would really enjoy seeing in a Packer uniform next season. Conley has the Size and traits to be a mainstay at outside corner for the Packers. He has a chance to be available at no. 29, and would likely be an instant starter in the Packers defense.
Scouting Analysis: 2 year starter at Ohio State after a redshirt year and one year as a nonstarter. He without question has the size to play in the NFL. His best coverage is press man. Conley is a proved his is a very respectable athlete at the combine with a showing of a 4.44 40 yard dash, 37 inch vertical, and the third best 3-Cone Drill time at 6.68 sec. This past season he allowed only 14 receptions for 159 yards for an NFL passer rating of 14 (best in the nation) on throws to his coverage, according to Pro Football Focus. Struggled at times his first two years playing. Not as impressive in zone coverage. He is not a liability in run support, but has never been overly impressive.
Tre’Davious White: 5’11” 192Lbs. – LSU
This is one guy I have seen all over mock drafts, from top ten all the way to the back of the second round where Green Bay picks. White is a touch smaller than other prospects featured in this post, however there is no lack of talent in his game and he comes from a great program. He adds an element of punt returning to any team who drafts him as well.
Scouting Analysis: White played both in the slot and on the outside at LSU. Attacks the ball aggressively in the air. His combine performance featured a 4.47 40 in addition to a 32 inch vertical. Shows he is best suited to play man coverage inside or out. Good footwork. Played by far his best football in 2016. Doesn’t miss tackles very often. Aggressive playing of the ball in the air can get him in trouble at times. Struggles with focusing too much on the receiver on occasion. Some scouts have considered his play “soft” or “finesse”. White’s versatility to play in the slot could allow him to mirror one receiver in certain instances in the NFL.
Adoree’ Jackson 5’10” 186Lbs. – USC
It seems from my research that Adoree’ Jackson is primarily considered to be an early second round prospect, who could sneak into the early first, or even slip into the late second round. His height may suggest that Ted Thompson may look to shy away from him, but that is not set in stone. He would be a better fit for the Packers in the second round in my opinion. Has the potential to be the best slot corner presence in Green Bay since Charles Woodson. Along with his skills as a corner, Jackson has also shown he is quite valuable in the return game. He also saw some playing time at wide receiver early in his time at USC.
Scouting Analysis: Jackson is one of the better athletes in college football. His ability to play offense and return reminds me of Jabrill Peppers. At the combine, Jackson recorded a 4.42 40, and a 36 inch vertical. He will have no problem keeping up with NFL wideouts next season. This past season at USC, Jackson won the Jim Thorpe award and was named a first-team All-American. His most recent season featured 5 interception and 4 touchdowns on kick and punt returns. Very successful career at USC. Shows the ability to play in coverage all around the field. Great ball skills. Rarely misses tackles. Jackson is somewhat small to play outside cornerback in the NFL, and could be limited to work in the slot. Susceptible to being beaten be bigger receivers in the NFL.
Marshon Lattimore: 6′ 193Lbs. – Ohio State
In my opinion, Marshon Lattimore is by far the best cornerback prospect in this year’s draft. The man is amazing athlete, and it showed at the combine. He ran a blazing 4.36 40, and had a vertical jump of 38.5 inches. Not all elite athletes like Lattimore can play the position extremely well, but his tape certainly shows that he indeed can. Unfortunately for the Packers, I fully expect Lattimore to be picked in the top 10 picks. That’s not to say Ted couldn’t trade up, or he couldn’t fall to 29, but in spite of that I think I’ll keep this brief.
Scouting Analysis: Lattimore suffered from hamstring issues his first two years at Ohio State, and therefore struggled to get on the field. In 2016, as a sophomore redshirt season he played his only full year as a starter. His 4 interceptions led him to become a 1st team All-Big Ten selection this past season. Coupled with his outstanding athletic ability and good size, he excels in press coverage and boasts good footwork. The one knock on Lattimore is his lack of experience. He showed he can play the position well in his one year as a starter at Ohio State however.
Any one of these guys would add a degree of speed and coverage ability this defense sorely lacked in 2016. Seeing one of these players in Green Bay next season would be a major step toward fixing a broken defense. Which of these cornerbacks would you most like to see the Packers draft next month?