Draft Exclusive: Replacing Woodson

OK, it's ludicrous to suggest there's anyone capable of filling Charles Woodson's shoes. He's only a Hall of Fame-worthy player. Still, the Packers must plan for that day. This cornerback, who's supposedly sliding on draft boards, could be that guy in Round 1.

A couple years ago, scouts were divided on Ohio State standout Malcolm Jenkins.

Jenkins was a brilliant cornerback for the Buckeyes, but there were nagging questions about his ability to run with NFL receivers. The New Orleans Saints used their first-round pick on Jenkins in 2009, playing him at cornerback. This past offseason, the Saints moved Jenkins to safety, and he emerged as a star.

We provide this not-long-ago history lesson because of Texas' Aaron Williams and the need to plan as Charles Woodson shows signs of being mortal. Williams is a borderline first-round prospect. He's got almost all the tools the Packers' personnel evaluators look for in a cornerback. He's a sturdy 6-foot and 204 pounds. He's a good tackler who isn't afraid of a collision. He'll take the football away. He's got the football IQ of somebody who's played five years in the league, making him a great fit with study-a-holics like Woodson and Tramon Williams. He's a good teammate and a leader.

But there's the same nagging question with Williams as there was with Jenkins a couple years ago: Can Williams run with the NFL's top receivers?

The answer at the Scouting Combine wasn't good. His 40-yard time of 4.52 seconds simply wasn't in the same league as this draft's top cornerbacks. He'll try to improve on that at Texas' pro day on March 29.

Still, at the Combine, Williams — who had a formal interview with the Packers — insisted that no teams had mentioned moving him to safety.

"I mean, whatever is going to contribute to the team," Williams said. "I don't see myself playing safety, but whatever team picks up and if they say, ‘Hey, we're going to need you to play free safety,' I'm locked in and ready to go."

For the Packers, Williams' speed might not matter as much as it might to other teams. At some point, they'll have to consider replacing Woodson. Either defensive coordinator Dom Capers will have to radically change his scheme or they could plug a player into Woodson's role as the do-it-all slot corner, as adept in coverage as attacking the run or blitzing. Williams' skill-set gives him the potential to handle those duties.

Williams had a distinguished career at Texas, starting as a sophomore and junior before turning pro. In 2009, he picked off three passes, broke up eight and forced two fumbles. Rarely tested in 2010, he had no interceptions but broke up 13 passes and forced three fumbles.

"There are some times they challenged me, they just didn't complete the play," said Williams, estimating he allowed 12 completions and two touchdowns in 2010.

Williams could help the Packers' special teams, too, and not just because he averaged 7.8 yards on 11 punt returns this past season. In three seasons, he blocked five punts. That's on top of the 12 kicks he blocked in high school.

"I guess it's a knack," he said. "I've been blocking kicks since high school. I love blocking kicks. I love being on special teams. I love doing little things to help the team win. Special teams definitely factors in winning games."

Agree or disagree?: Discuss hot Packers topics in our, free forums. Leave Bill a question in the subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum.

Bill Huber is publisher of Packer Report magazine and PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at packwriter2002@yahoo.com, or leave him a question in Packer Report's subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at twitter.com/packerreport.

Packer Report Top Stories