Nor did they select an inside linebacker.
And they didn’t trade out of the round.
In a first-round shocker, the Packers selected Arizona State safety Damarious Randall – who will be moved to cornerback.
“We felt fortunate that we were able to draft Damarious Randall that late,” Packers general manager Ted Thompson said afterward. “A lot of names have to come off and that’s a hard thing to go through, but we’re glad to be where we are.”
Randall, who measured in at 5-foot-10 7/8 and 196 pounds, took a winding road to Thursday’s first round. He tried following in his brothers’ baseball footsteps.
“I had a brother that was drafted back in ’06 to the Royals, a brother back in ’99 played for the Cincinnati Reds, and my dad is actually still playing in an adult men’s league now,” Randall said in a conference call. “So, it was just kind of like a baseball type family.”
To get his baseball career rolling, Randall enrolled at Butler Community College, a junior college powerhouse located in El Dorado, Kan., to play shortstop. An injured shoulder, however, forced Randall to reconsider his athletic options. He transferred to Mesa (Ariz.) Community College, where he was an All-American cornerback with nine interceptions, a 28.2-yard average on kickoff returns, an 18.4-yard average on punt returns and five total touchdowns (two receiving, two punt returns, one interception return). That got him to Arizona State, where he was a two-year starter at safety. He had three interceptions in each of the seasons. As a senior, he earned third-team All-American honors from the NFL Draft Report, which is headed by the NFL’s head scout, Packer Report contributor Dave-Te’ Thomas. He became the first ASU safety in more than a decade to top 100 tackles (106), with his 87 solo tackles ranking fourth in school history.
“If I didn’t hurt my shoulder, where am I today? I really couldn’t tell you. I really don’t even know,” Randall said.
Where it will get him in Green Bay is a move to cornerback. He had a formal interview with the Packers at the Scouting Combine, he said at the time, but thought he had fallen off the team’s radar after that.
“We think he’s a very versatile player,” Thompson said. “We’ll probably line him up as a corner. But in Dom’s system, those defensive backs are all over the place. It’s hard to keep up with who’s playing what.”
According to Randall, “probably 12 teams” considered him a cornerback while “seven or eight” liked him better at safety. Even at safety, he played plenty of man coverage in the Sun Devils’ blitz-heavy scheme.
“I was coming in as a corner,” Randall said. “Me, coach (Todd) Graham and the coaching staff sat down and was like, ‘We need you at safety because we have some corners that could hold their own out there and we just do not have a safety.’ So they just asked me to play that role and I would do whatever I can to help the team win.”
It was an out-of-left-field choice by Thompson, who had no need for a safety with highly paid veteran Morgan Burnett, 2014 first-rounder HaHa Clinton-Dix and pricy backup Sean Richardson. Eric Rowe, who starred at cornerback at Utah after moving from safety, was still on the board. Also on the board were Texas defensive lineman Malcom Brown, a potential three-down defender, and all of the inside linebacker prospects.
Instead, Thompson took Randall, who will work behind Sam Shields, Casey Hayward and Micah Hyde while challenging Demetri Goodson for the fourth cornerback. Randall was an electric punt and kickoff returner at Mesa, so could be in the mix there as the Packers try to upgrade their woeful special teams.
“For some time now, we’ve had him pretty high up on our board,” Thompson said. “The more you go back and look, he’s a good football player. We were talking about amongst our scouts today. You have so long to sit around in angst about everything, you have a tendency if you’re not careful you start worrying about things, and I’m adamant that’s the wrong thing to do. Never worry about stuff. So we looked back at it and said at the end of the day, if we get just a good football player, it doesn’t matter where we have to take him. If we have to take a guy higher than you want to take him, it doesn’t matter. We just wanted a football player. In this case, we took a good football player in our opinion and we took him at a place where it was very reasonable in terms of cost.”
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Arizona State University Sun Devils
Butler Community College; Mesa Community College
Pensacola High School
Randall hopes that all of his recent road travels earns him a resting place on a National Football League roster. The Florida native left the Atlantic Coast for the corn fields of Kansas, where he first donned a baseball uniform at Butler College. One season on the diamond and the “football bug” again bit, as he left for Arizona, where he enrolled at Mesa College in 2011.
It was not until 2012 that he would get his opportunity to play on the gridiron. The long wait was worth it, as he was named a junior college All-American, enticing major college recruiters to be regular visitors at the Mesa campus. Liking life in Arizona and not looking to do any more sports “globe trotting,” he accepted a scholarship offer from the Sun Devils staff to join the Arizona State program.
Randall was a two-sport participant at Pensacola High School, helping the football team to a 14-1 record and a ninth place ranking in the state during his senior season, but had much better success as an infielder for the baseball team. He batted .313 and stole fifteen bases through 23 games during his senior season, finishing his prep career with a .247 average through 67 contests.
Randall enrolled at Butler College in 2010, joining the baseball program during the 2011 spring semester. He appeared in ten games, but managed just a .156 batting average while committing three errors. Realizing that his path to the professional ranks would not be as a baseball player, he transferred to Mesa College, but did not play football in 2011.
The 2012 All-American at Mesa started at cornerback, in addition to playing as a receiver and return specialist. He finished second on the team with 69 tackles, as he broke up eight passes and intercepted nine others. He averaged 28.21 yards as a kickoff returner and ran back fourteen punts for an 18.36-yard average and two scores. He also reached the end zone twice from eight receptions for 152 yards.
Joining the Arizona State Sun Devils, Randall started twelve games at free safety in 2013. He tied for third on the team with 71 tackles (48 solos), picking off three tosses and knocking down three other throws. Two of his 5.5 stops behind the line of scrimmage caused fumbles and one of his pass thefts was good for a touchdown.
Randall took over “boundary” safety chores as a senior, as the Sun Devil received All-American and All-Pac 12 Conference recognition. He led the team with 106 tackles, marking the first time a defensive back reached the “century” mark in tackles since Jason Shivers (104 in 2003). He was also the first defensive back to lead the Sun Devils in tackles since Josh Barnett (82 in 2006). He also had three interceptions and nine pass break-ups.