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Packers GM Ted Thompson’s Cornerback Draft History

Do the Green Bay Packers need a cornerback? Ted Thompson’s draft history points toward a large group of prospects in this year’s draft.

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 conclude this series with the cornerbacks.

CORNERBACKS (10)

2005, 5th round — Mike Hawkins, Oklahoma (6-1 1/4, 178; 4.41 40; 34 vertical; 4.20 shuttle; 6.79 3-cone; NA arms; NA hands): Tall and fast didn’t add up to a successful career for Hawkins, who played 11 games for the Packers as a rookie and seven games for the Browns in 2006 and was with but didn’t play for four other teams. Taken two picks later, Carolina selected center Geoff Hangartner, a five-year starter who remains in the league. A dozen picks after Hawkins, Tennessee picked tight end Bo Scaife, who caught 251 passes in six seasons. Hawkins was the 38th of 50 defensive backs selected. Only 11 played in fewer games. Grade: D-minus.

2006, 4th round — Will Blackmon, Boston College (6-0 1/4, 198; 4.46 40; 41 vertical; 4.23 shuttle; 6.67 3-cone; 33 arms; 8 7/8 hands): Blackmon, who played wide receiver as a senior, was the 24th of 49 defensive backs selected. He started two games in four injury-plagued seasons for the Packers (played in 32 of a possible 64 games) and zero games for the Giants the next two seasons but 28 the past four seasons for Jacksonville and Washington. Of the final 34 defensive backs selected, only Blackmon and safety Antoine Bethea played last season. Blackmon has four career interceptions. While he never panned out on defense for Green Bay, he did return a total of three punts for touchdowns in 2007 and 2008. Taken 31 picks later, Baltimore’s fifth-round choice, safety Dawan Landry, was an eight-year starter. Grade: C-minus.

2008, 2nd round — Pat Lee, Auburn (6-0, 200; 4.41 40; 31 vertical; 4.30 shuttle; 7.07 3-cone; 31 1/8 arms; 9 hands): Until a first-round pick was used on Damarious Randall in 2005, Lee was the earliest Packers cornerbacks selection in Thompson’s first 10 drafts. The No. 60 overall pick, however, was a bust due to knee injuries that cost him most of his rookie season and all of his second season. Lee came to the rescue in the Super Bowl, when Sam Shields and Charles Woodson went down, then played in all 16 games in 2011. He split 2012 with Oakland and Detroit and hasn’t played since. Of the next 53 draft picks, 14 were defensive backs. Eight started at least 20 games, including six with at least 40. Lee’s career: 47 games (eight starts) and one interception. Grade: F.

2009, 6th round — Brandon Underwood, Cincinnati (6-1, 198; 4.57 40; 36 1/2 vertical; 4.20 shuttle; 7.00 3-cone; 32 arms; 9 1/4 hands):  Underwood was the 39th of 55 defensive backs selected. He played in 23 games in two seasons. His career boils down (not so) nicely to this: On June 16, 2011, the players were given their Super Bowl rings (and their wives received necklaces). That night, Underwood allegedly yanked the necklace off his wife’s neck and threw her out of his parked car. A year earlier, he pled no contest to a prostitution charge. The next pick was Brice McCain by Houston, and he’s played in 116 games with 11 interceptions (and counting). Sixteen picks later, Tennessee took defensive back Jason McCourty, who has played in 108 games (90 starts) with 13 interceptions. Grade: F.

2011, 4th round — Davon House, New Mexico State (6-0 1/2, 200; 4.49 40; 33 1/2 vertical; 4.12 shuttle; 6.65 3-cone; 31 7/8 arms; 9 1/2 hands): House was the 25th of 53 defensive backs selected. Eight defensive backs were taken in the next 20 picks, with only Buster Skrine having more games (94 vs. 72), starts (58 vs. 34) and interceptions (eight vs. six). The next corner off the board? Richard Sherman at No. 154 — 23 selections after House. In four seasons with Green Bay, House started 14 games, intercepted two passes and broke up 27 passes. In 2015 with Jacksonville, he started 16 games, intercepted four passes and finished third in the NFL with 23 breakups. A change in coordinators and scheme put House on the bench last season and led to his release — and return to Green Bay. Grade: C-plus.

2012, 2nd round — Casey Hayward, Vanderbilt (5-11 3/8, 192): 4.57 40; 34 vertical; 3.90 shuttle; 6.76 3-cone; 30 1/4 arms; 9 hands): Thompson traded the team’s third- and fifth-rounders to move to No. 62 of the second round to get Hayward. It looked like an inspired choice when Hayward grabbed six interceptions as a rookie. Hayward added three more interceptions in 2014 but had none while making a career-high 11 starts in 2015. Thompson let Hayward sign with San Diego, and he led the NFL with seven interceptions last season. Hayward was the eighth of 50 defensive backs selected. Taken three picks later, the Rams landed Trumaine Johnson, who is one of the top corners in the league. Hayward and Johnson lead the draft class with 16 interceptions. Grade: B-minus.

2013, 5th round — Micah Hyde, Iowa (5-11 3/4, 197; 4.56 40; 33 vertical; 4.20 shuttle; 6.78 3-cone; 31 1/2 arms; 9 3/8 hands): Hyde was the 38th of 52 defensive backs selected. Too small to be a safety, too slow to be a corner, Hyde turned “tweener” into “jack of all trades.” He is tied for fourth in the draft class with eight interceptions and returned three punts for touchdowns. Hyde parlayed that into a five-year, $30.5 million contract with Buffalo. Of the 28 defensive backs taken in Day 3 of the draft, Hyde unquestionably was the best of the bunch. Grade: A-minus.

2014, 6th round — Demetri Goodson, Baylor (5-11, 194; 4.52 40; 37 vertical; 4.34 shuttle; 6.80 3-cone; 31 3/4 arms; 9 1/4 hands): Goodson was the 42nd of 53 defensive backs selected. Last year could hardly have gone worse, with a suspension to open the season and then a devastating knee injury in Week 11. Goodson, the former Gonzaga point guard, has played in 26 games; seventh-round defensive backs Andre Hal (Houston) and T.J. Carrie (Oakland) have started 22 and 21 games, respectively. However, of the 11 defensive backs taken after Goodson, five were out of the league last year. Grade: C-minus.

2015, 1st round — Damarious Randall, Arizona State (5-10 7/8, 196; 4.46 40; 38 vertical; 4.07 shuttle; 6.83 3-cone; 30 1/4 arms; 8 5/8 hands): With House and Tramon Williams exiting following the 2014 season and Hayward after the 2015 season, the Packers needed corners. They used the 30th overall pick on Randall, the former safety and baseball player. After a promising rookie season, he took a big step backward last year, due in part to a groin injury that required surgery and sidelined him for six games. Is he not good enough? Or was he not healthy enough? Hayward was the fifth of 46 defensive backs taken. Only Marcus Peters (14) has more interceptions than Randall (six). The first four corners taken in the second round have combined for six interceptions. Grade: C-minus.

2015, 2nd round — Quinten Rollins, Miami (Ohio) (5-11 1/8, 195; 4.57 40; 36 1/2 vertical; 4.28 shuttle; 7.10 3-cone; 30 1/4 arms; 9 hands): Without House, Williams and Hayward, Thompson drafted Randall in the first round and took out a second-round insurance policy with Rollins. The insurance hasn’t paid off. It’s the same story as with Randall: After showing plenty of promise in four starts as a rookie, he took a big step backward during his second season. Is he not good enough? Or was he not healthy enough, with Rollins battling his own groin injury? Rollins was the 12th of 46 defensive backs taken after spending four seasons as Miami’s point guard and just one at cornerback. None of the corners taken in the final five rounds, however, have more than Rollins’ 14 starters. Rollins’ three interceptions are as many as the final 34 defensive backs combined. Grade: C-minus.

Overall grade: The Packers have fielded superb pass defenses for most of defensive coordinator Dom Capers’ tenure. The big-play production, however, was built almost entirely from free agency with veteran Charles Woodson and undrafted free agents Tramon Williams and Sam Shields. Thompson has drafted four cornerbacks in the first or second round. Subject to change, obviously, as Randall and Rollins enter their third years in the league, but Thompson has almost nothing to show for his efforts. Grade: D.

What it means (if anything) for 2017: It seems like a foregone conclusion that Thompson will draft a cornerback (or two) early to, A, upgrade the position and, B, take advantage of a deep class of prospects. But this is worth remembering: Thompson’s best three cornerback draft picks were House, Hayward and Hyde. Not only did he let all of them walk in free agency, but Thompson made little to no effort to retain any of the three. Maybe Thompson just doesn’t put a great deal of value in this position until backed into a corner, as was the case in 2015. Does Thompson feel like he is backed in a corner again? Or does he have faith in Randall, Rollins and House to rebound.

What does Thompson look for? First and foremost, it’s “Goldilocks” size — not too small or not too tall. Hawkins was the tallest at 6-foot-1 1/2 and Randall the shortest at 5-foot-10 7/8. The height of the last five corners has been separated by less than 1 inch. Thompson has taken corners with long arms and short arms, and he’s taken corners who rank near the top and bottom of their draft classes in vertical jump.

Speed, surprisingly, makes little difference to Thompson. Of his 10 corners, five ran a 40-yard dash between 4.52 and 4.57. The 20-yard shuttle is key at almost every position group, but not so much at cornerback. The Combine average is 4.18, according to MockDraftable.com; seven of Thompson’s ran between 4.20 and 4.34. The three-cone drill, however, is key. The Combine average is 6.94. Seven of Thompson’s picks ran in 6.80 or faster.

However, Rollins’ tests were 4.57 in the 40, 4.28 in the shuttle, 7.10 in the 3-cone. Those are below-average numbers and throw a real wrench into unraveling Thompson’s history. The attraction with Rollins? Seven interceptions during his one and only season of college football. With Thompson’s cornerbacks all over the map from an athletic standpoint, we relied mostly on height to come up with this list, with no corner shorter than 5-10 3/4.

Only one cornerback, Ohio State’s Marshon Lattimore, is certain to be gone at No. 29. Here are the best of the rest, in our order of preference:

— Ohio State’s Gareon Conley (6-0, 195; 4.44 40; 6.68 3-cone)
— Colorado’s Chidobe Awuzie (5-11 7/8, 202; 4.43 40; 6.81 3-cone)
— Alabama’s Marlon Humphrey (6-0 1/4, 197; 4.41 40; 6.75 3-cone)
— Washington’s Sidney Jones (6-0, 186; 4.47 40; 7.02 3-cone)
— LSU’s Tre’Davious White (5-11 1/4, 192; 4.47 40; 6.90 3-cone)
— Clemson’s Cordrea Tankersley (6-1 1/4, 199; 4.40 40; 7.00 3-cone)
— Florida’s Quincy Wilson (6-1 1/2, 211; 4.54 40; 6.86 3-cone)
— Tennessee’s Cameron Sutton (5-11 1/4, 188; 4.52 40; 6.81 3-cone)
— UCLA’s Fabian Moreau (6-0 1/2, 206; 4.35 40; 6.94 3-cone)
— Houston’s Howard Wilson (6-0 5/8, 184; 4.57 40; 6.68 3-cone)
— West Virginia’s Rasul Douglas (6-1 5/8, 209; 4.59 40; 6.97 3-cone)
— UCF’s Shaquill Griffin (6-0 1/8, 194; 4.38 40; 6.87 3-cone)

Here are the big guys. Thompson’s never drafted a tall corner; then again, there usually aren’t a lot of tall corners who can move to choose from.

— Washington’s Kevin King (6-3, 200; 4.43 40; 6.56 3-cone)
— Utah’s Brian Allen (6-3 1/8, 215; 4.48 40; 6.64 3-cone)
— Colorado’s Ahkello Witherspoon (6-2 3/4, 198; 4.45 40; 6.93 3-cone)
— Michigan’s Jeremy Clark (6-3, 206; no tests due to torn ACL)

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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