Packers' pre-draft analysis: Defensive backs

Expect Packers to select a cornerback high in NFL draft

The Green Bay Packers have to add quality depth to their secondary, especially the cornerback position because of the age of their starters, and also because the people that played the nickel back position last year were so inconsistent.

Al Harris and Charles Woodson are two of the best corners in the NFL, but father time is catching up to them as Harris is 33 and Woodson is 31.

The backups are Jarrett Bush, Tramon Williams and Will Blackmon. All tried to be effective in the nickel, but because of inconsistent play, or injuries, the jury is still out on those players. All three, however, were special team demons for the Packers. Williams and Blackmon were mostly effective because of their return ability, and Bush was because of his coverage unit prowess.

The safety situation is more settled, but still has questions. Atari Bigby played very well overall in the first year he ever started. Bigby was the NFC's defensive player of the month in December 2007. Nick Collins, however, appeared to take a step back last year. Collins still has great ability, but seems to make mistakes that should have been corrected by now.

Aaron Rouse played very well in limited playing time as a rookie last year. He seemed to always be around the ball, and he should push for a starting job this training camp. Charlie Peprah was more of a special teams guy last year. The Packers also have Tyrone Culver who was on injured reserve last year.

General Manager Ted Thompson will surely look to upgrade the Packers secondary, especially with this draft having so much depth at the position. The NFL has become a pass-happy league, and it's very important to have a solid secondary in passing situations, especially in nickel and dime situations.

I think the following players would fit in well with the Packers, not only in the secondary, but also on special teams.

CB Brandon Flowers (Virginia Tech)
Round most likely selected - 1st or 2nd. Flowers (5-10, 200) is a physical press cover corner who tackles very well and plays the ball effectively. He would get a chance to join former Hokies' teammate Aaron Rouse in the defensive backfield, and will only get better as he studies Al Harris and Charles Woodson. Flowers can be a vicious tackler and he also is very patient in terms of reading patterns by the receivers.

CB Antoine Cason (Arizona)
Round most likely selected - 1st or 2nd. Cason (6-0, 190) had 15 career interceptions at Arizona. With his size, he is natural in press coverage, plus has nice ball skills. Great route awareness, as he has the instincts to jump or alter routes. Cason would be perfect in the type of coverage that the Green Bay defense employs. He also tackles well in the run game, which is an important attribute.

CB Mike Jenkins (USF)
Round most likely selected - 1st or 2nd. Jenkins (5-10 and half, 200) can be a definite shut down corner. Sometimes Jenkins freelances and will shy away from contact, and that will have to change if he wants to be a Packer CB. Jenkins has great closing speed and good man-cover skills. Better coaching will help his progress in the NFL.

CB Aqib Talib (Kansas)
Round most likely selected - 1st or 2nd. Talib (6-1 and a half, 205) has excellent size and great instincts. Talib returned two interception for TDs in 2007, and picked off 13 passes in his career at Kansas. Talib also scored 5 touchdowns playing receiver. Talib may fall a little in the draft after reports had him testing positive for marijuana several times at Kansas. Needs better focus on and off the field.

CB Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie (Tennessee State)
Round most likely selected - 1st or 2nd. Nobody has moved up the draft board at corner more than Rodgers-Cromartie (6-2, 185). Rodgers-Cromartie had a great Senior Bowl and moved futher up the charts after the combine. Needs to play as consistent as he looks in workouts. Is a natural ballhawk with great hands and excellent leaping ability.

CB/S Reggie Smith (Oklahoma)
Round most likely selected - 1st or 2nd. Smith can help out at either CB or S. Smith has nice size and has the versatility to help the Packers out wherever he is needed. He also is an excellent tackler and very experienced with over 30 career starts. Good ball skills and good instincts. Would be an asset to special teams.

CB Tracy Porter (Indiana)
Round most likely selected - 2nd or 3rd. Porter is a natural ball hawk, as he had 16 career interceptions at Indiana. Porter also has decent size, but is exceptionally quick and has pure speed. Would be able to adapt in the press coverage scheme utilized by the Packers, and he has good return ability.

CB Terrell Thomas (USC)
Round most likely selected - 2nd or 3rd. Thomas (6-1, 197) has played press coverage very effectively. Thomas has good instincts and works well with his secondary teammates. Thomas has good awareness and plays the deep ball well. Also has the ability to play safety and has the skills to play special teams.

S Kenny Phillips (Miami of FL) Round most likely selected in- 1st or 2nd. Phillips plays the run well and is also getting better in pass coverage. Has the versatility to play cornerback. Phillips is not as talented as former Hurricane greats Ed Reed or the late Sean Taylor, but is still very solid. Would be a good special teams performer. S Tyrell Johnson (Arkansas State) Round most likely selected in- 2nd or 3rd. Johnson (5-11, 200) is from a small school, but played very well in big games against big schools like Texas. Johnson is a very good tackler and can hit with a message. Seems to make plays all over the field, and had 13 interceptions in his college career. Would be excellent on the coverage teams. S Tom Zbikowski (Notre Dame) Round most likely selected in- 4th or 5th. Zbikowski (5-11, 209) might be a natural in Green Bay with his name. Zbikowski is a very physical safety that plays with a swagger. Is very confident in his abilities, but needs to know his speed limitations. Also can be a nice punt returner with his vision and balance, and would also be an asset on coverage units. S Dominique Barber (Minnesota) Round most likely selected in- 4th or 5th. Barber (6-0, 211) is the brother of Dallas RB Marion Barber. Dominique Barber is a tackling machine, and also has improved in terms of his ball skills. He has decent speed and can lay the leather. Also can blitz well and would do well on special teams.


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