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Packers GM Ted Thompson’s Safety Draft History

The Green Bay Packers are set with the top-notch safety tandem of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Morgan Burnett, but safety could be considered an area of need. If so, history points to these targets.

This will be Ted Thompson’s 13th draft running the Green Bay Packers. Dusting off a series we wrote in 2015, we look back on his previous 12 drafts and try to find trends that might be worth remembering as we look ahead to this year’s draft. We continue this series with the safeties.

SAFETIES (7)

2005, 2nd round — Nick Collins, Bethune Cookman (5-11 1/8, 206; 4.49 40; 40 vertical; 4.16 shuttle; 6.94 3-cone; 8 1/2 hands): Collins was the 11th of 50 defensive backs taken and selection No. 51 overall. Collins was selected for three Pro Bowls in a career prematurely cut short by a neck injury. Only cornerback Antrel Rolle (No. 8 overall) can match that achievement. None of the 39 defensive backs taken after Collins reached a Pro Bowl, and only the Rams’ O.J. Atogwe (23 interceptions as the 66th pick) can top Collins’ total of thefts. Collins ranks fourth in the draft class with 21 interceptions.  An incredible 17 of those came from 2008 through 2010, so the injury struck right at the height of his playmaking prowess. Grade: A.

2005, 4th round — Marviel Underwood, San Diego State (5-10 1/4, 205; 4.55 40; 38 vertical; 4.21 shuttle; 7.12 3-cone; 9 1/2 hands): Underwood played in all 16 games as a rookie but tore up his knee in the 2006 preseason. He spent that season on injured reserve and was released during training camp in 2007. Later in 2007, he had short stints with Green Bay and Denver but didn’t play, and he spent training camp with the Raiders in 2008. Underwood was the 28th of 50 defensive backs selected. Three taken after Culver in the fourth, Kerry Rhodes, James Sanders and Matt Giordano, combined to start 202 games. Rhodes had 23 interceptions and 13 sacks. Underwood had zeroes in both categories. Grade: D-minus.

2006, 6th round — Tyrone Culver, Fresno State (6-0 3/4, 200; 4.62 40; 39 1/2 vertical; 4.35 shuttle; 7.25 3-cone; NA hands): Culver lasted just one season in Green Bay, when he played in 14 games, but carved out a nice career by lasting four-plus seasons at Miami. Both of his career interceptions and all six starts came with the Dolphins.  Culver was the 37th of 49 defensive backs selected. Antoine Bethea, a three-time Pro Bowl safety, was taken 22 picks later in the sixth round. He’s got 18 career interceptions. Grade: D.

2007, 3rd round — Aaron Rouse, Virginia Tech (6-4, 223; 4.64 40; 35 vertical; 4.19 shuttle; 6.81 30-cone; 9 hands): While Thompson hasn’t taken short defensive backs, he hasn’t taken tall ones, either. With Rouse the towering exception. He was the 16th of 49 defensive backs selected but was released after starting the second game of the 2009 season. He also played for the Giants in 2009 and spent part of camp with Arizona in 2010. The highlight of his career was a 99-yard pick-six against Peyton Manning — one of four career interceptions. Taken 17 picks later, Tampa Bay grabbed a four-year starter in Tanard Jackson, who posted 10 career interceptions. Taken 37 picks after Rouse, San Francisco selected Dashon Goldson, who was selected for two Pro Bowls. Grade: D-minus.

2010, 3rd round — Morgan Burnett, Georgia Tech (6-1 3/8, 4.51 40; 39.5 vertical, 3.92 shuttle; 6.87 3-cone; 209; 9 hands): Burnett was the 16th of 53 defensive backs taken and, with the exception of Kam Chancellor (fifth round), Burnett is arguably the best among those taken in the last five rounds. While a disappointment as a ballhawk with nine career interceptions — he had seven as a sophomore and 14 in three seasons at Georgia Tech — he’s been a solid all-around player and a defensive leader. He’s been a far better pick than Major Wright, who was taken four picks later by Chicago. Despite missing almost all of his rookie season with a torn ACL, he ranks 13th among defensive backs with 90 starts. Of the entire draft class, only linebacker NaVorro Bowman has more tackles than Burnett. Grade: B.

2012, 4th round — Jerron McMillian, Maine (5-11 1/8, 203; 4.56 40; 36 1/2 vertical; 4.22 shuttle; 6.69 3-cone; 9 3/8 hands): McMillian was the 21st of 50 defensive backs selected. He was a bust, failing to survive two seasons with the team. McMillian played in 28 games with two starts and bagged only one career interception. For added insult: Ten picks later, Carolina grabbed cornerback Josh Norman, a premier player and Pro Bowler. Taken 34 picks later in the fifth round, George Iloka is a four-year starting safety with eight interceptions and a $30 million second contract. The Packers badly needed a safety at the time. Perhaps Iloka’s size (6-3 5/8) worked against him after Rouse bombed. McMillian, meanwhile, was an elite athlete. Listed are McMillian’s Combine results. At his pro day, he ran his 40 in 4.35 seconds and improved his vertical to 39. None of that translated to the field, though. He spent camp with the Chiefs in 2014 but didn’t make the team. Grade: D-minus.

2014, 1st round — Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Alabama (6-1 3/8, 208; 4.58 40; 33 vertical; 4.16 shuttle; 7.16 3-cone; 9 hands): Clinton-Dix, coming off a Pro Bowl season, was a home run. After intercepting only three passes in his first two seasons (but three more in the playoffs), Clinton-Dix had five picks last season. He was the second of four first-round safeties, with Calvin Pryor going at 18 to the Jets, Clinton-Dix at 21, Deone Bucannon at 27 to the Cardinals and Jimmie Ward at 30 to the 49ers. Clinton-Dix has the only Pro Bowl among that group, and he’s got more interceptions than the other three combined (five). In fact, Clinton-Dix leads the entire draft class in interceptions and is fourth in tackles. Tightening up his game is the only thing keeping him from being an elite player in the league. Grade: A-minus.

Overall grade: Thompson has either hit a home run or struck out at safety. His seven picks resulted in two Pro Bowlers (Collins and Clinton-Dix) and one just a notch below that elite level (Burnett). Those three success outweigh the costly misses on Rouse and McMillian. Grade: B-plus.

What it means (if anything) for 2017: How will Thompson view the safety position? Is he so confident in last year’s impressive undrafted free agents, Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans, that he won’t draft a safety? Is he concerned about having to potentially replace Burnett, who is entering his final season under contract? Does he need someone in the mold of Hyde? Or someone who can play as a safety/linebacker hybrid?

The Scouting Combine averages, according to MockDraftable.com, are 4.57 in the 40, 4.20 in the 20-yard shuttle, 6.96 in the three-cone drill and 35.6 inches for vertical leap. The Packers’ seven safeties under Thompson have averaged 4.56 in the 40, 4.17 in the shuttle, 6.98 in the three-cone drill and 37.4 for vertical. As is the case at almost every position, the shuttle appears to be key. While the team’s seven-pick average is barely faster than the Combine average, Culver skews it with his 4.35 clocking. Everyone else ranged from Burnett’s startling 3.92 to McMillian’s 4.22. In the 2014 draft, four safeties went in the first round. Pryor, who was off the board, had a 4.30 in his shuttle. Thompson took Clinton-Dix (4.16) over Ward (4.24) and Bucannon (4.26).

Size matters, too. At 5-foot-10 1/4, Underwood is the shortest defensive back ever selected by Thompson. Since then, Thompson’s hadn’t picked a defensive back shorter than 5-foot-11 until grabbing cornerback Damarious Randall (5-10 7/8) in 2015. So, to give you a list of most likely picks, we’re going with standards of 5-10 1/2. 4.60 in the 40 and 4.25 in the shuttle. Of the big names, that takes Washington’s Budda Baker (5-9 5/8), North Carolina State’s Josh Jones (4.40 shuttle), Louisville’s Josh Harvey-Clemons (4.59 shuttle) and Colorado’s Tedric Thompson (4.36 shuttle) out of the equation. Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu, who might not be on the board anyway, posted a 4.30 shuttle but he also ran a 4.40 40 with a 44-inch vertical at 6-foot-3 7/8.

Here are options at No. 29 and beyond:

Michigan’s Jabril Peppers (5-10 7/8, 213; 4.46 40; DNP shuttle)
Connecticut’s Obi Melifonwu (6-3 7/8, 224; 4.40 40; 4.30 shuttle)
Texas A&M’s Justin Evans (5-11 5/8, 199; 4.60 40; DNP shuttle)
Utah’s Marcus Williams (6-0 5/8, 202; 4.56 40; 4.20 shuttle)
Alabama’s Eddie Jackson (6-0 3/8, 201; no tests due to broken leg)
Florida’s Marcus Maye (6-0, 210; 4.47 40; 4.18 shuttle)
Clemson’s Jadar Johnson (6-0 3/8, 206; 4.60 40; 4.20 shuttle)
Michigan’s Delano Hill (6-1, 216; 4.47 40; 4.27 shuttle)
Michigan State’s Montae Nicholson (6-2 3/8, 212; 4.42 40; DNP shuttle)
Washington State’s Shalom Luani (5-11 3/8, 202; 4.53 40; 4.21 shuttle)
Auburn’s Rudy Ford (5-11, 205; 4.38 40; DNP shuttle)
Virginia Tech’s Chuck Clark (6-0, 208; 4.54 40; 4.07 shuttle)
Louisiana Tech’s Xavier Woods (5-11 1/8, 197; 4.54 40; 4.13 shuttle)
Miami’s Rayshawn Jenkins (6-1, 214; 4.51 40; 4.20 shuttle)

Bill Huber is publisher of 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 www.twitter.com/PackerReport.


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