Safety First (Or Second)

Historically, the safety position has largely been a later-round selection for the Packers. It's no different under general manager Ted Thompson. But if the Packers truly want an impact safety in this draft, they might want to think Round 1 or Round 2.

No position on offense or defense for the Green Bay Packers has been selected less than safety in the first two rounds of the NFL Draft.

Since 1936 — the first year the NFL held a draft — the Packers have taken a safety in either the first or second round just four times, the same number of times they have selected a center or tight end.

Will this year be any different?

Certainly the Packers — with the draft less than three weeks away — are in the market to add a center or tight end, but perhaps not to the desperation level of finding a dynamic safety. A season ago, they suffered playing with an overmatched mish-mash of safeties. Four different players took snaps alongside regular starter Morgan Burnett and two of those players — M.D. Jennings (free agent signing with the Chicago Bears) and Jerron McMillian (released by the Packers during the 2013 season) — are no longer with the team.

Only second-year undrafted player Chris Banjo (one start in 2013) and Sean Richardson (appeared in six regular season games) join Burnett as returners to the roster. In fact, the Packers have no other safeties on the roster, giving them the fewest number of players at the position of any team in the NFL (based on depth charts at Ourlads.com).

Micah Hyde, a fifth-round pick last year, could join that group. At the least, it appears he might cross-train at both safety and defensive back positions, where he played as a rookie. At the NFL Annual Meeting last month in Orlando, Fla., Packers coach Mike McCarthy spoke to reporters about Hyde being a potential every-down player in 2014.

"We've got a lot of time," McCarthy said of a safety spot being open alongside Burnett. "Could it be Micah? Chris Banjo? Free agency's still going on. We've got the draft coming up. We do a great job working with the guys when they get here. Once again, we're not going to line up with 11 guys on defense and everybody's going to play their position. I'm looking for players who can play different positions, give us more flexibility. And we've got to be, which we already have, (defensive coordinator) Dom (Capers), I mean, the scheme's there.  We're not putting a whole lot of scheme in. If anything, we're taking things out. We want to get really good at the creative things that we have and make sure we're utilizing as many of our defensive players as possible."

During Ted Thompson's general manager era in Green Bay, the safety position largely has been ignored during the first two rounds, and the Packers have paid the price over the past three seasons. After the bombshell selection of Nick Collins — a player not even listed on some draft prospect lists — in the second round in 2005, the Packers have taken just five safeties over the last 85 picks (nine drafts). They traded up in the third round with the Philadelphia Eagles to get Burnett in 2010 and got Aaron Rouse in the third round in 2007. McMillian (2012) and Marviel Underwood (2005) came in the fourth round and Tyrone Culver (2006) in the sixth.

The last time the Packers took a true safety in the first round was over 20 years ago, when general manager Ron Wolf traded for an additional pick in the first round to nab Alabama's George Teague at No. 29 overall.

In 1997, Darren Sharper was taken in the second round. And Tom Brown, of the Glory Years Packers, was also taken in the second round in 1963.

The four safeties that grace the Packers Hall of Fame all have interesting beginnings in Green Bay, though three were never drafted at all. Mark Murphy (1980) and Johnnie Gray (1975) both caught on as undrafted players and Willie Wood (1960) signed with the Packers after a free agent tryout. Fan favorite LeRoy Butler earned his way into the team's Hall with his All-Pro qualifications as a safety but began his Packers career as a cornerback after being selected in the second round in 1990.

Finding such sleepers at safety today is much more difficult. There are plenty of starters in the league who have been drafted beyond Round 2, but dynamic safeties like Seattle's Kam Chancellor (fifth round in 2010) in the later rounds are few and far between. In fact, all of last year's Pro Bowl safeties — Eric Berry, Jairus Byrd, Eric Reid, Antrel Rolle, T.J. Ward, and Eric Weddle — were all selected in the first or second rounds. The year before that, five of the seven selections (including injury replacements) fell under the same category.

This year's projections list as many as six safeties that could go in the first two rounds of the draft.

Will the Packers use one of their top two picks to secure one of them?

Scout.com's Rankings: Top 6 Safeties:

HaHa Clinton-Dix, Alabama

Calvin Pryor, Louisville

Deone Bucannon, Washington State

Jimmie Ward, Northern Illinois

Terrence Brooks, Florida State

Ahmad Dixon, Baylor


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


Matt Tevsh has covered the Packers since 1996. E-mail him at matttevsh@hotmail.com


Packer Report Top Stories