The addition of Davon House will help the Green Bay Packers’ beleaguered pass defense, but they’ll still enter this year’s draft needing to bolster their cornerback corps.
After losing Micah Hyde to Buffalo, the Packers’ focus could be in the slot. Where do the Packers turn? The in-house candidates are third-year players Quinten Rollins and Damarious Randall. Looking toward the draft, here are some names to consider, provided by an NFL scout, NFL Draft Scout’s Rob Rang and Optimum Scouting’s Eric Galko.
Gareon Conley, Ohio State (6-0 1/4, 195; 4.44 in 40): While teammate Marshon Lattimore might be the first corner off the board, Conley is a favorite among scouts. Conley was second-team all-Big Ten as a junior in 2016 with four interceptions, including the clincher vs. Michigan State, one vs. Wisconsin and another in the playoff loss to Clemson. He added eight breakups for a total of 12 passes defensed. Forget about passing his way: According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a passer rating of 13.6 and a completion rate of 32.6 percent. He didn’t play often in the slot, but when he did, he gave up five completions and had two interceptions for a passer rating of 25.4.
Chidobe Awuzie, Colorado (5-11 3/4, 202; 4.43): Based on what he was asked to do at Colorado, Awuzie seems like a perfect fit for the Packers. He played cornerback, safety, slot and even outside linebacker. Thus, he has the unusual combination of ranking fifth in school history with pass deflections (35) and first among defensive backs with nine sacks and 26 tackles for losses. As a senior, he had one interception, 13 pass breakups, four sacks and two forced fumbles to earn first-team all-Pac-12 honors. According to Pro Football Focus, he allowed a passer rating of 84.3 and completion rate of 55.4 percent. Of the 23 players who had at least 130 coverage snaps in the slot, he ranked third with one reception for every 13.6 coverage snaps.
Tre’Davious White, LSU (5-11 1/4, 192; 4.47): White had a tremendous senior season, earning consensus first-team All-American honors and being a finalist for the Jim Thorpe Award, which goes to the nation’s top defensive back. He registered two interceptions and 14 additional breakups for a total of 16 passes defensed, including a pick-six against Wisconsin at Lambeau Field. According to PFF, he allowed a passer rating of 61.0 and a completion rate of 42.6 percent. Of the 23 players with at least 130 coverage snaps in the slot, his rate of 11.7 snaps per catch ranked ninth. The four-year starter finished his career with six interceptions, 34 breakups, 11 tackles for losses and 10.0 yards per punt return. The PBU count ranks fifth in LSU history — a noteworthy stat considering LSU bills itself as “DBU.”
Quincy Wilson, Florida (6-0 5/8, 211; 4.54): Wilson was second-team all-SEC as a junior in 2016 with three interceptions, six additional pass breakups and 3.5 tackles for losses. According to PFF, he allowed a passer rating of just 29.9 and a completion rate of 32.7 percent. Wilson, whose father played cornerback at Miami, didn’t play in the slot at Florida but his size and physicality make him a potential fit for a role that demands playing run defense. Can he handle the quickness possessed by some slot receivers? That’s the question. Where there is no question is Wilson’s taste for the physical game — a key at a position that demands hard-nosed run defense. "He's like a Cover-2 linebacker," a scout said.
Teez Tabor, Florida (6-0 1/4, 99; 4.62): At his Combine media session, Tabor made the case that he should be the No. 1 cornerback off the board. Then he ran one of the slowest 40s among the defensive backs. Unless he tests much better at pro day and individual workouts, he might have to move into the slot. Speed wasn’t a big issue in the speed-is-king SEC, though. Tabor picked off nine passes — including three pick-sixes — during his three seasons. As a sophomore, he had four interceptions and 18 passes defensed. As a junior, he intercepted four more passes with six additional breakups. According to PFF, he yielded a passer rating of 41.3 and a completion rate of 50.0 percent.
Cam Sutton, Tennessee (5-11, 188; 4.52): As a four-year starter, Sutton intercepted seven passes and broke up 30 others for a school-record 37 passes defensed. Plus, he had 13 tackles for losses, forced three fumbles and averaged a sizzling 14.6 yards per punt return with three touchdowns. Sutton missed half of his senior year with a broken ankle sustained in a September game against Ohio but returned late in the season. He yielded a passer rating of 68.4 and a completion rate of 60.0 percent.
An important note: Josh Hawkins is the shortest cornerback the Packers have had during Ted Thompson’s tenure at 5-foot-10 1/2. Sam Shields was the shortest who actually played at 5-foot-10 3/4. Damarious Randall is the shortest drafted at 5-foot-10 7/8. So the Packers likely won’t consider a few of the better prospects, including Michigan’s Jourdan Lewis (5-10), San Diego State’s Damontae Kazee (5-10 1/4) and Iowa’s Desmond King (5-10 1/4).
Bill Huber is publisher of PackerReport.com and has written for Packer Report since 1997. E-mail him at firstname.lastname@example.org or leave him a question in Packer Report’s subscribers-only Packers Pro Club forum. Find Bill on Twitter at www.twitter.com/PackerReport.