Class of 2012 Dealt Blows

For a variety of reasons, Ted Thompson hasn't gotten much bang for his buck from last year's defense-heavy draft and his selections at safety, in general. Tuesday's release of Jerron McMillian amplified that fact.

Over the past five drafts, Green Bay Packers general manager Ted Thompson has added 20 players in the first four rounds.

Eighteen of those players remain on the payroll. Thompson released safety Jerron McMillian, a fourth-round pick in 2012, on Tuesday after jettisoning running back Alex Green, a third-round pick in 2011, after training camp.

The release of McMillian is the latest blow to the 2012 draft. Thompson's first six selections were used on defensive players, though it hasn't paid enough dividends for a unit that ranks 24th in yards allowed and 23rd in points allowed.

First-round pick Nick Perry has been in and out of the lineup. In seven games, he's fourth on the team with four sacks and tied for first with three forced fumbles.

Second-round pick Jerel Worthy tore his ACL in Week 17 of last season, made his 2013 debut against Minnesota in Week 12 but was inactive for last week's game against Detroit.

The other second-round pick, Casey Hayward, injured a hamstring before training camp, aggravated the injury during the preseason, returned for three ho-hum games, aggravated the injury again and is on injured reserve.

The first of the fourth-round picks, Mike Daniels, has provided the most impact. He is second on the team with 5.5 sacks and 13 quarterback hits. He's been at his best as a situational pass rusher but hasn't been quite as impactful since playing more in the base defense the past couple weeks.

McMillian, an athletic, hard-hitting safety who was taken one pick after Daniels, was supposed to challenge M.D. Jennings for a starting job. That big battle never got close to developing, though McMillian retained his key role as the dime defensive back. McMillian, however, had the confounding ability to make a play on the ball one minute and lose sight of it the next. When McMillian inexplicably fell in coverage to allow the Ravens to convert a fourth-and-21 late in the game — then botched coverage as the Ravens scored on the next play — he was dropped from the defensive rotation.

"As far as his individual performance, it just wasn't quite what it needed to be this year." coach Mike McCarthy said.

According to ProFootballFocus.com, McMillian averaged 38.1 snaps per game as a rookie and 37.8 in the first five games of this season. In the last seven games, however, McMillian played just seven snaps. He was passed on the depth chart at dime by rookie Micah Hyde and at safety by Chris Banjo and Sean Richardson. Banjo went undrafted in 2012 and was out of the league last year; Richardson went undrafted in 2012 and only recently returned to action after needing neck surgery.

The sixth player in Thompson's defense-heavy draft was fifth-round linebacker Terrell Manning. Manning was edged out of a roster spot by rookie Sam Barrington, claimed off waivers by San Diego and is toiling on the Chargers' practice squad.

Safety, as it was entering this year's draft, remains a major problem for the Packers. Thompson hit a home run with Nick Collins in the second round in 2005 but a neck injury sustained early in 2011 ended his career. Otherwise, Thompson's picks at safety have been more miss than hit: Marviel Underwood in the fourth round in 2005, Tyrone Culver in the sixth round in 2006, Aaron Rouse in the third round in 2007, Morgan Burnett in the third round in 2010 and McMillian in 2012.

All told, Thompson has drafted six safeties in nine drafts. Only Burnett remains on the team. The Packers made a sizable investment in Burnett, extending his deal through 2017 with an $8.25 million signing bonus. Burnett is third on the team with 81 tackles. He's recovered two fumbles but not intercepted any passes. In his last 41 regular-season games, Burnett has an interception in just one of them — his two-pick game against the Vikings last season. He's broken up five passes this season after 13 last year and 14 in 2011. He's been used frequently as an in-the-box defender, since Jennings is too small to fill that role, which has impacted his ability to make plays in coverage.


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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.


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