Beneath The Surface
Could cornerback be an underlying need for the Packers?
Green Bay Packer fans everywhere are screaming for the green and gold to select a linebacker, maybe an offensive lineman and for sure a wide receiver or two in the upcoming NFL Draft. Why is hardly anybody talking about cornerback? With only two corners under contract beyond the 2020 football season, it would be smart of Gutekunst and Co. to think about looking to the future sooner rather than later.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if the Packers see cornerback as a bigger priority in this draft than inside linebacker.” — Zach Kruse (@zachkruse2) April 1, 2020https://twitter.com/zachkruse2/status/1245417746227224576?s=20
Currently on the roster is rising star Jaire Alexander who is under contract through the 2022 season, Josh Jackson who is under contract through the 2021 season, Kevin King, whose deal expires after this season, Chandon Sullivan whose deal also expires after this season and then a couple of guys on the roster bubble with Ka’Dar Hollman DaShaun Amos. Of that group, only Alexander is really guaranteed to be part of the team in 2021 and beyond. Josh Jackson is a question mark. We’ll have to wait and see if he’s part of the team’s plans in the future. Kevin King is a pretty good corner when healthy, leading the Packers last season with five interceptions.
But will the Packers give King a second contract? Trae Waynes just got $14 million per year. Will a team offer that type of cash to King? If so, he is probably in his last season with Green Bay. Chandon Sullivan looked good when given the chance last season, expect to see more of #39 on the field this year. Hollman could also see an increased role if no major moves are made the rest of the offseason, but that is highly unlikely and frankly unwise in the interest of the team.
“The #Packers tendered DB Chandon Sullivan today. He only played on 33% of snaps in 2019 but I expect that number to spike in 2020. In limited action, @showtimesully10 has proven he can be relied upon in the secondary and down around the line of scrimmage.” – Eli Berkovits (@BookOfEli_NFL) March 17, 2020https://twitter.com/BookOfEli_NFL/status/1239932981449457664?s=20
Free agent options are still there at cornerback. Dre Kirkpatrick is definitely a player to keep an eye on. The former 1st round pick spent his first eight seasons in Cincinnati, playing well enough to earn a second contract. Set to earn about $11 million dollars next season, the Bengals released Kirkpatrick. The Packers would be wise to take a one or two year flyer here. Kirkpatrick won’t be expensive as he only played in six games last season and he would be a great option to pair with King, Alexander and potentially Jackson. Oh yeah, Brian Gutekunst also loves former 1st round picks and high draft pedigree.
Another more obvious option currently without a team is Tramon Williams. Williams, now 37, played very well for the Packers last year. He played outside corner, slot and safety when injuries mounted in the secondary. Familiar with the system, teammates and looked to as a leader in the secondary, this move makes too much sense if nothing serious gets done in the draft.
“Our top CBs still available in free agency”https://twitter.com/PFF/status/1241802123156824066?s=20
1. Logan Ryan
2. Jimmy Smith
3. Ronald Darby
4. Tramon Williams — PFF (@PFF) March 22, 2020 – PFF (@PFF) March 22, 2020
If I had it my way, Tramon Williams would be back in Green Bay and the Packers would address the cornerback position at least once in the upcoming draft. First or second round? Maybe not. But anything after that is more than fair game. A couple mid round picks that come to mind are Jaylon Johnson from Utah and Troy Pride Jr. from Notre Dame.
Johnson is the only guy worth considering with the Packers 2nd round pick. He excels in press man and has a very high ceiling. Green Bay has been craving a consistent press man corner opposite of Jaire Alexander since he got in the league. Some weeks that is Kevin King and some it isn’t. That role could be solidified by Johnson for 2021 and beyond. Standing at 6’0, he is tall enough to be drafted by Green Bay. Posting a 7.77 Relative Athletic Score and testing above average in nearly every drill, he’s athletic enough to be drafted by the Packers. What isn’t to like about a super high ceiling guy in the 2nd or 3rd round? Especially when his production matches the athleticism.
Troy Pride Jr. is more of a mid-to-late round pick. Projected anywhere from the 3rd to 5th rounds, projections are everywhere for the Notre Dame product. Projecting as an outside corner, Pride plays well with his hands and is also better in man versus zone coverage. A similar athlete to Johnson, Pride Jr. can hold his own athletically against most wide outs and is able to make a play on the ball often. He also has decent size, standing 5’11. The downside to Pride is he is not very aggressive in zone coverage and is not that great of a tackler.
The late rounds is where we find maybe the biggest sleeper in the draft, University of Miami cornerback Trajan Bandy. Bandy is 5’7. That’s it. If he was even 5’10 he would be looked at as at least an early day three pick. Bandy plays big and shows the capabilities to cover receivers taller and thicker than him. The Hurricane product’s biggest test of the year came week one against Van Jefferson and Florida. Bandy held Jefferson to one catch the entire game. The Packers would have to make a lot of exceptions here however, as Bandy does not meet a lot of the thresholds it seems the team goes by when it comes to drafting corner. First, Bandy did not test all that well at the combine. Although most of his 2.15 Relative Athletic Score came from his poor size, he wasn’t overly fast. Bandy ran a 4.5, good enough for an average grade. Second, the Packers do not draft short cornerbacks. Should they bend the rules and take a chance on Bandy in the 7th? His tape says yes.
No matter what Green Bay does this offseason, if cornerback does not get addressed, this could be a headache that extends multiple seasons out and force the team into doubling up at the position yet again. Paging Damarious Randall/Quenton Rollins and Jaire Alexander/Josh Jackson!