At Cornerback, It’s a Short List

The Packers' long-standing philosophy at a major position of need has decreased the talent pool available in next month's draft. (Scott Olmos/USA TODAY)

With the Green Bay Packers losing Tramon Williams and Davon House in free agency, cornerback has become a pressing need in next month’s draft.

On the bright side, cornerback is one of the deeper positions in this draft. Take a look at this inviting list of playmakers:

Florida Atlantic’s D’Joun Smith intercepted seven passes and ranked second nationally with 20 passes defensed as a senior. Mississippi’s Senquez Golson was a consensus first-team All-American as a senior after intercepting 10 passes. TCU senior Kevin White earned a decisive victory in his one-on-one matchup with West Virginia’s star receiver with the same name. Oregon senior Ifo Ekpre-Olomu is a two-time All-American. Ohio State’s Doran Grant picked off five passes as a senior. Oregon State’s Steven Nelson, who was tutored by Green Bay’s Casey Hayward, intercepted eight passes in his two seasons. Tulane’s Lorenzo Doss had 15 interceptions in his three seasons. Texas’ Quandre Diggs started 49 games and is the brother of Quentin Jammer. Memphis’ Bobby McCain picked off five passes as a senior.

And none of them will go to Green Bay.

That’s because none of those prospects measure up in the eyes of the Packers’ scouting department.

The Packers don’t draft short players, in general, and they don’t draft short cornerbacks, in particular. It’s a long-standing philosophy that dates to Ron Wolf’s first first-round draft pick. Armed with the No. 5 overall selection in 1992, Wolf grabbed playmaking Florida State cornerback Terrell Buckley. The 5-foot-9 Buckley bombed and Wolf vowed he’d never take a short corner. For almost a quarter-century, the no-short-cornerbacks mantra has been etched in granite. There’s been just one notable exception, when Mike Sherman took 5-foot-10 Ahmad Carroll with the first-round pick in 2004. Carroll bombed, too, and the Packers haven’t touched a short cornerback since. Whether it’s the draft or college free agency, the Packers haven’t touched a cornerback who isn’t taller than 5-foot-10 1/2.

Recent drafts have delivered Davon House (6-foot 1/2), Casey Hayward (5-11 3/8), Micah Hyde (5-11 7/8) and Demetri Goodson (5-11). Sam Shields is the shortest corner on the roster (5-10 3/4). The longest-tenured cornerback heading into free agency was Jarrett Bush (6-foot 1/2). Ted Thompson also has drafted Mike Hawkins (6-foot-1 1/4), Will Blackmon (6-foot 1/4), Pat Lee (6-foot) and Brandon Underwood (6-foot-1).

With such an established trend — and with receivers not exactly shrinking — there’s little reason to believe the Packers are going to break from their history.

All of the college prospects listed above are 5-10 3/8 or shorter. That means six of the top 14 corners in this draft, based on rankings provided by the NFL’s head scout, Dave-Te’ Thomas, before the Scouting Combine are out of bounds. (Smith is fifth, Golson is seventh, White is eighth, Ekpre-Olomu is 10th, Grant is 12th and Nelson is 14th; those rankings will be updated after league meetings in New York this weekend.)

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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