The Green Bay Packers' emphasis on improving its defense remains evident with their pre-draft visits.
Packer Report, through Scout.com NFL senior analyst Ed Thompson, has learned that the Packers will be hosting Ohio University safety Michael Mitchell on April 17.
That makes four confirmed pre-draft visits for the Packers, and all four are defensive players. Packer Report was the first to report that Western Illinois linebacker Jason Williams had a visit with the Packers, and we featured speedy Rutgers cornerback Jason McCourty and Division II cornerback Greg Toler.
The interest in Mitchell — along with their conversations with several top safety prospects at the Scouting Combine in February — signals the Packers aren't satisfied with the position. Pro Bowler Nick Collins and Atari Bigby return as the starters, but both are scheduled to be unrestricted free agents following the 2009 season and there was a major drop-off in the secondary during Bigby's on-again, off-again absence in 2008. Top backup Aaron Rouse hasn't been consistent enough, Charlie Peprah hasn't been healthy enough and newcomer Anthony Smith has a lot to prove after falling out of favor in Pittsburgh.
"He's a nice player," Scout.com draft analyst Chris Steuber said of Mitchell. "He's a borderline draftee, but he has nice skills. He has solid measureables and quickness, and is a good tackler. He has to work on his ball skills a little more, although he had three interceptions this past year. He's a high-effort player, who could work his way onto a team if he excels on special teams."
The Packers were one of the teams in attendance at Ohio's pro day in March. The 6-foot-1, 221-pounder ran a pair of 40-yard dashes in less than 4.5 seconds, had a vertical jump of 37.5 inches and posted 21 reps on the 225-pound bench press during the on-campus workout last month.
As a senior, Mitchell played in 11 of 12 games, finishing fourth on the team with 62 tackles, including 4.5 for losses. He led the team with three interceptions and tied for the team lead with two forced fumbles. He had two interceptions in both his junior and sophomore seasons, giving him seven for his career.
The combination of strength and production makes him a late-round prospect, even though he was not invited to the Combine.
Mitchell's defensive coordinator and safeties coach at Ohio was Jimmy Burrow, who was an eighth-round draft choice by the Packers in 1976 and a two-time CFL all-star.
Mitchell's former Ohio teammate, Joshua Abrams, was signed to the Packers' practice squad in December. He was a special-teams whiz, setting school records for blocked punts and kickoff returns.
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