Draft History Narrows Field at Cornerback

Green Bay's draft history at cornerback is remarkably cut and dried under Ted Thompson. In the first of several similar features that will take us to the draft, we examine the team's preferences to tell you who will be considerations in the first three rounds.

Will the Green Bay Packers draft a cornerback?

Based on history, yes. In Ted Thompson's nine drafts, he's taken a cornerback in seven of them.

The Packers, however, have taken a deep crop of cornerbacks into the offseason. They've re-signed Sam Shields and retained Tramon Williams. Casey Hayward should be past the hamstring problems that sabotaged his 2013 season. Throw in Davon House, who's played well at times, veteran Jarrett Bush, who is coming off his best season, and intriguing young defenders Jumal Rolle and James Nixon, and the Packers will take a quality group of cornerbacks into training camp.

Because of that depth, the Packers have the flexibility to move promising second-year defender Micah Hyde to safety, where there is a glaring need to improve.

While there might not be a short-term need, the long-term need is there, with Williams, House and Bush heading into their final seasons under contract.

If Thompson decides to bolster the competition, either with a potential starter early in the draft or a developmental prospect late in the draft, it's a relatively simple process to eliminate a large chunk of the prospects.

Of the seven cornerbacks drafted by Thompson, a mere 1 1/8 inch separates the shortest from the tallest.

At 5-foot-11 3/8, Casey Hayward is the shortest cornerback selected by Thompson. Thus, TCU's Jason Verrett (5-foot-9 1/2), a possible first-round pick, and Florida State's Lamarcus Joyner (5-foot-8), a potential second-rounder, probably are not on the Packers' draft board. Same goes for a bunch of mid-round prospects, including Auburn's Chris Davis, Utah State's Nevin Lawson, Oregon State's Rashaad Reynolds and Missouri's E.J. Gaines (all 5-foot-10), as well as South Carolina's Victor Hampton and Purdue's Richardo Allen (both 5-foot-9).

Given the copycat nature of the NFL and Seattle's success with towering cornerbacks Richard Sherman and Brandon Browner, Utah's Keith McGill (6-foot-3 3/8) and Nebraska's Stanley Jean-Baptiste (6-foot-2 5/8) should be in high demand around the league. And with skyscraping receivers like Calvin Johnson, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Cordarrelle Patterson roaming the NFC North, adding a tall cornerback seems to make sense.

"Big, fast guys are the fewest people around," Seahawks coach Pete Carroll said at the Scouting Combine. "Everybody would like to get longer, taller guys that run 4.4. But there are just not very many humans like that in the world, you know? So, it's rare when you find them and then you have to develop the guys. The perfect guys are not there because there are not tall, exceedingly fast guys other than Calvin; there are a handful. So, you have to make those guys come to life in your coaching and how you adapt your style and your ability to fit it. We've been doing it for a long time and always been looking for longer guys because we have such a commitment to bump-and-run corners. This is nothing new — this goes back 20 years. But it's just rare that you can find them. When we had Brandon and Richard playing, you can't get any longer. Those are the two tallest cornerbacks to play together arguably in the history of the league. So, it's 'Well, let's go do that.' But there are no players like that. Look at this draft. There are only a couple of guys over 6-1 at corner."

Carroll's math, in essence, is true. Other than Hampton's Courtney Bridget Jr., who is considered a fringe free-agent prospect, there are no other cornerbacks taller than 6-foot-1 1/8 in this draft.

Tall cornerbacks are as rare as gold in a desert oasis. So, it's impossible to say if Thompson's preference is limited to cornerbacks who are 5-foot-11 and 6-foot tall, or if he'd prefer to find a 6-foot-1 or 6-foot-2 cornerback but simply hasn't been in position to grab one.

(For what it's worth, the Packers skipped McGill's pro day at Utah.)

Still, the history is impossible to ignore. Hyde (2013 draft) was 5-foot-11 3/4. Hayward (2012) was 5-foot-11 3/8. House (2011) was 6-foot 1/2. Brandon Underwood (2009) was 6-foot-1. Pat Lee (2008) was 6-foot. Will Blackmon (2006) was 6-foot 1/4. Mike Hawkins (2005) was 6-foot 1/4. The shortest on the current roster is Shields, who measured 5-foot-10 3/4 at Miami's pro day in 2010.

Based on that history, who might the Packers consider in the first two days of the draft? The list is unbelievably short. Virginia Tech's Kyle Fuller (5-foot-11 3/4) and Ohio State's Bradley Roby (5-foot-11 1/4) in the first round, Lindenwood's Pierre Desir (6-foot-1) and Florida's Jaylen Watkins (5-foot-11 1/2) in the second round, and Clemson's Bashaud Breeland (5-foot-11 3/8) in the third.

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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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