The Packers have tried to prioritize cornerbacks in past drafts. In 2018 they drafted Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson with their top two picks. Packers General Manager Brian Gutekunst definitely had cornerback as his priority and correctly read the draft board, allowing him to trade down and then back up to get Alexander. The most interesting side note to his focus was that the Packers had drafted two defensive backs in 2017, Kevin King and Josh Jones. For a team to focus on the defensive secondary, or any specific position group, with their top two picks in consecutive drafts is rare. Add to that the second first round pick of Darnell Savage in 2019 and in three consecutive drafts the Packers invested over 83% of their top two draft choices on the defensive secondary. Any time first or second round draft picks fail to become competent starters, the draft pick must be judged as a failure. The failure of Josh Jones required the Packers to sign free agent Adrian Amos. The failure of Josh Jackson to succeed on the field and injury history of Kevin King now make the corner position a potential Packer draft priority in 2021.
While offensive tackle is being lauded for the depth of talent in the 2021 draft, cornerback is more limited. CBS Sports lists 5 offensive tackles that are worthy of being drafted in the top of the first round and five more that could be drafted in the bottom of the round or top of the second. They only list two cornerbacks who should be drafted prior to the Packers 29th selection; Caleb Farley (6’2”/207lbs.) of West Virginia and Patrick Surtain II. (6’2”/202lbs.) of Alabama.
Surtain II. is projected to be the second cornerback taken with the 15th selection. The next corner is projected to be selected with the 42nd pick. Because cornerback is a high value position, there will undoubtedly be a third cornerback chosen before the 42nd pick. Between picks 42 and 100 there are seven cornerbacks CBS lists as draft worthy.
Asante Samuel Jr. (5-10/184) FSU
Jaycee Horn (6-1/205). S. Carolina
Shaun Wade (6-1/195) Ohio St.
Thomas Graham Jr. (5-11/196) Oregon
Tyson Campbell Jr. (6-2/185) Georgia
Eric Stokes (6-1/185). Georgia
Paulson Adebo (6-2/192) Stanford
Samuel Jr. comes with NFL pedigree, his father being four time pro bowler Asante Samuel. Samuel is 5-10 on a good day. He is a willing tackler but is prone to occasional misses. He has lots of experience in man coverage and has played both boundary and slot well. He is praised for quick hips and his recovery speed. A question for the Packers is even if Samuel Jr. is a legit cover cornerback can the Packers win in the NFL with two corners under 5’11”? Alexander is here to stay and it might be better to find a taller corner to match up with big receivers. If that is the Packer strategy it will limit their draft options.
Horn also carries NFL Pro Bowl pedigree from his father Joe Horn. Horn also has an abundant amount of tape. He started ten games as a freshman and received all SEC honors. He is a three year starter and received second team SEC honors in 2020. The one thing lacking in Horn’s stat sheet is interceptions. Only two picks in over 30 games/29 starts. He did pick off two in 2020 in the first seven games, then shut down his season to focus on the NFL. Will quitting in his team in 2020 affect his draft status? Doubtful, his tape is too good. If there is a cornerback who goes higher than CBS’ rating, it will probably be Horn. Concerns are he is too physical for the NFL game and his tackling needs improvement.
Wade had a great year in 2019 as a slot cornerback for the Buckeyes. Pundits listed him as a potential first round pick. He stayed in school and converted to a boundary corner with very mixed results. Multiple draft pundits use the word , “plummet” to describe his fall in 2020. Much of that is based on his being beaten multiple times by Alabama receivers in the college playoffs. Not only was he beaten, but his body language looked defeated which is the ultimate misstep for a cornerback prospect. Still, he had a respectable season of tape without that game. How much will that one game cost him on the draft boards is anyone’s guess.
Graham Jr. led the nation in passes defended in 2019 but opted out of the 2020 season. He did attend the 2020 Senior Bowl. The Packers are reported to have already interviewed him. Multiple pundits following the Senior Bowl raved about his practice performance. If he runs well in the 40, his draft position will be pointed straight up.
Campbell Jr. is rated a top 5 corner in the draft by SI and PFF. That is noteworthy because Stokes was supposed to be the “lockdown” cornerback for Georgia but Campbell Jr. is being rated above him on some websites. Campbell Jr. started 11 games as a freshman, nine in an injury plagued sophomore year and started all of Georgia’s games in 2020 including their bowl game that Stokes opted out of playing. Campbell has real track speed, he ran a 10.39 one hundred meter time in high school.
Stokes came in as a lesser heralded recruit than Campbell but he developed into a top college cornerback. As a red shirt freshman he only started the last few games of the season but he led the team in pass breakups including big stops in the end zone against Alabama and Auburn. On special teams he blocked a punt, returning it for a touchdown. Voted most improved, he continued to ascend. In 2020 two of his four interceptions were pick sixes. Stokes also relies on speed. He was a high school state champion in both the 100 and 200 meter dashes.
Adebo is a two time Pac-12 selection. He was on many award watch lists before opting out of the 2020 Covid season. He is still a two year starter with good tape, especially his 2018 season. Adebo plays smart with good vision and makes plays, 8 interceptions in two seasons. The only question is his long speed. Words like, “adequate” are used to describe his speed. He does possess loose hips and short area quickness to go along with “great” ball skills. More than one site lists him as a “boundary only” corner, meaning he does not have the quick twitch to play in the slot.
There are nine more listed cornerbacks in the CBS top 150. They are ranked in the following order:
Marco Wilson, (6-1/191) Florida
Ambry Thomas, (6-0/183) Michigan
Deommodore Lenoir (5-11/195) Oregon
Shakur Brown (5-11/190) Michigan ST
Elijah Molden (5-10/191) Washington
Kary Vincent Jr. (5-10/189) LSU
Israel Mukuamu. (6-4/205) S. Carolina
Camryn Bynum (6-0/200) California
Rodarius Williams (6-0/195) Oklahoma
At the 2020 Senior Bowl Elijah Molden received praise from practice on the National team and played a very good game. He is projected as a slot corner due to his size. Thomas from Michigan also was praised but is a completely different player. Thomas’s recovery speed was questioned and he seemed to rely on his strength.
On the Senior Bowl American team two players not listed by CBS received praise. Ifeatu Melifonwu of Syracuse and Aaron Robinson of UCF took advantage of the week, although Robinson’s tackling was described by one pundit as, “suspect.”
While there are a good number of options in the draft at cornerback, fewer stand out as franchise players than the offensive tackle options. The cornerback options seem close in talent level and picking the one or two that will excel could define the 2021 NFL Packer draft’s success and the team’s success going forward. The real strategy is when do you pick a cornerback and do you pick a corner over an offensive tackle? Only when Roger Goodell takes the stage for the 29th pick will that question finally be answered.
Well….the Packers have drafted 8 def. backs in the 1st or 2nd round 8 (EIGHT) times in the last 6 drafts. Why stop now?
In comparison…in the last 25 drafts, the Packers selected 8 WR’s in the 1st or 2nd round.
Side note: They hit on 7 of them.
Well, obs, the Packers hit on most the WRs so they didn’t need to keep going back to the well. Different story on DBs. Also, DBs generally take longer, even if they work out. PFF claims to expect little or nothing, a liability, until yr 3. Some of these guys the Packers are just too impatient and wait until they have open holes (like King will be this year) to start to fill them. Already too late unless you get lucky or fill via FA which the Packers can’t due to poor cap management.
Also, you compare all DBs taken to WR. There are 4 DB spots and 2 WR in the starting lineups or, if you want to go 3WR, fair, then it is 5 to 3. Not a level comparison. Just wanted to point out the deceptive math there. (Piffle! For shame! Haven’t we discussed your deceptive math issues already?)
Hey, how about that J.J. Watt pipe dream? All those Packers fans so sure they’d get Watt. Watt the F?
Then I see Packers fans saying they’ll still keep Corey Linsley and Aaron Jones. Watt the F? Then I see others saying they can only be successful in the Packers system and as soon as they leave Green Bay they’ll be no good. Watt the F?
Then I see Packers fans thinking they are going to get a windfall by trading Preston Smith. A way far way overpaid mediocre player? You can get a guy off the streets and overpay him! Why would anyone give up picks to get Preston? Packers would need to package picks with him to get rid of him!
Watt the F?
Good job Rob….After reading the article…
Maybe instead of the draft… it’s in the Packers best interest to get someone like Gilmore (i can dream).
Or…find a veteran for 2 seasons. The player doesn’t need to be a Pro Bowler.
He just needs to be a better answer than King, for the next two seasons
Rob did not write this article.
I’m with you man! It’s obvious to me that they just can’t develop the right guy for that position opposite of Alexander. Also, I don’t think Sullivan is that guy either. Brady knew the weaknesses at CB and hybrid safety/ linebacker; and exploited it with little problem. Maybe, acquiring a dependable, experienced vet, is the way to go until they can develop a young ascending player.
Good article Paul. It will be a difficult year for scouting departments to access talent with certain players not playing in the 2020 season and most not playing complete seasons. I guess that may allow some rookies to come to NFL camps, and the 2021 season with fresher bodies?
It is no wonder with all the opt outs and reduced games that many of the prospect evaluation boards have big differences in rankings. This occurs every year, but appears to be more prevalent this year. Knowing very little about most of these players I think I will use PFF as my source, although they have been know to be wrong. However, they do look at each game.
PFF has Farley ranked #13, surtain #16, Horn #24, and Samuel #29 in their top 100 player rankings. I think Farley opted out of last season so Farley last grades were for the 2019 season.
The Packers do need to procure at least two corners this off season. One for boundary and one for the slot. It would be great to get veterans for both, but not realistic. I do think Farley and Surtain will be gone when the Packers draft. Horn has the ideal measurements and style but is going to get flagged a lot at least in his first year. I think the way Tampa’s DBs played with strong press coverage will push Horn up the board. Samuel may be available for the Packers, but may be best as a slot corner.
I do know one thing don’t draft a safety and try to convert them to CBs or ILBs as the Packers tried with Randall, Rollins, Jones, and probably King.
Yup, we’ve had enough of the safety being converted to CB / LB hybrid stuff. Jackson and Casey Hayward were 2 others I can think of. Just boggles my mind how they couldn’t fit Hayward into their schemes. He went on to SD and carved out a pretty good career for himself. A lot of those type of conversions were the plan under Capers—- the mad scientist. One would think that Gutey should take advice from Barry and Gray and pick their brains on what kind of athlete THEY WANT; for the D they want to run. I hope the player(s) they pick up, can tackle, have speed and good instincts; whether in FA or the draft.
I thought it was interesting that Barry in today’s press conference indicated one of the most important positions to him is slot corner. Barry talked like you can’t have enough of them, in part, because boundary corners may not convert as well to slot, but slot corners for the most part can play both positions. Maybe the Packers would draft Samuel in the first round?
I always thought Hayward was a very good corner when the ball was in the air. Hayward was good at making adjustments to the ball while it was in flight, and when turning his head. I think Jackson was good when he faced the ball in college, but Jackson needed to see the ball before it was thrown. Jackson loses the ball in flight and then gets grabby, or just gets beat.
Hayward also had great change of direction speed and agility. Jackson not so much. The one oddity of the bunch was King. King probably had some of the best change of direction drills at the combine. For his height they were way up there. It shows us that training really hard and mastering those combine drills is not the same as mastering your position in the game of football.
I don’t pay a lot of attention to college prospects, but when the Seahawks passed on drafting King I felt they must have known King had problems as a corner. That year the Seahawks needed a corner bad and King went to college close by the Seahawks facility. The Seahawks knew King was not a corner, but probably a safety, as King was his first two college years. The Seahawks did not need a safety.
There is a danger zone concerning players who get a lot of hype at the combine.
They may be the flavor of the day, running a fast 40, high vertical, or a quick 3 cone.
So you raise your grade on him and he moves up your draft board.
The problem is, you bumped his grade on athleticism and hype.
Not on a dressed NFL player on his playing merits.
I believe the same thing happened with Gary from what i’ve read.
This can lead to the false perception that you “outsmarted” the other GM’s. Or that you got a “value” pick based on where you had him graded compared to other teams.
The other way you can “outsmart” the other GM’s is by drafting a player out of position, then converting him.
I think most of us Packer fans seen those scenario’s brought out the last decade. nd their success rate.
There is nothing wrong with trusting your grades on your draft board.
But……make damn sure you didn’t outsmart yourself in the process.
Case in point……Rob Goldberg
King was one of the top risers in the draft process after being overshadowed through much of his college career by All-American teammates Sidney Jones and Budda Baker. However, his combination of size and athleticism could make him the best NFL prospect of the bunch.
The 6’3″, 200-pound corner turned heads at the scouting combine in Indianapolis with a 40-yard-dash time of 4.43 seconds. He put his foot speed on display by leading all players at his position in the three-cone drill (6.56) and both shuttle runs. His 39.5-inch vertical jump ranked second in his group.
NFL Field: Jane
All the 2021 NFL prospect position rankings are going to change as the next couple of months pass. PFF has a more current top 10 for cornerbacks:
The biggest difference is Greg Newsom being at #5, and the other UCF corner, Gowan being at #6. I don’t think either of those two corners showed up in Paul’s very informative article.
Newsom is more of a zone corner. Gowan is a press corner at about 6-2, skinny (185), and may run a very fast 40, 4.3s. Gowan probably has not shown up much in the early CB rankings because he opted out last year.
After Barry’s press conference the other day discussing the importance of slot corners I wonder if the Packers would not try to sign Darius Leonard from the Rams if the Rams put in a low RFA tender for Leonard? The Robison kid from UCF played slot exclusively, and is a press corner in the mold of Horn.
Kevin King (2 round pick) basically 1st round
PFF grades of ….
Career solo tackles: 137
Career interceptions: 6
Career earnings: $7,080,884
Career receptions allowed: 122
Career games: 41
J.C. Jackson (undrafted)
PFF grades of…
Career solo tackles: 85
Career interceptions: 17
Career earnings: $1,810,000
Career receptions allowed: 94
Career games: 45
Jackson will probably get a first round RFA tender from the Patriots, unless they sign him to a long term contract. It is great that the kid got away from the group that he must have been hanging with in Florida. Many do not survive the guns and drugs. Good for him. Jackson will at least be 4 million + richer after this off season.
Jackson and Savage were in the same defensive backfield for at least one or two years at Maryland.
Yea man…always good to see someone use his 2nd chance and fly right. Somehow he was acquitted in his case. Then stayed focused for 2 plus years on football to give himself a chance
My point being, is that someone in the Patriots scouting staff saw potential in this kid and they signed him because there was zero risk in doing so, but with a high ceiling.
What’s remarkable about this kid is that he had to play on the other side of Stephon Gilmore. Are the teams going to target Gilmore’s side, or the UDFA?
“The Patriots snatched him up as an undrafted player, and it’s likely they’ll reap the benefits of that sooner rather than later.” – Sayre Bedinger (2018)
Some people whine and cry the Patriots win because they cheat. They win because of moves like this.
Just for fun, what is the current value of Kevin King?
If….the Packers could trade Kevin King for JC Jackson even up, should they?
I’ll say yes, and i’d even throw in a 2nd or 3rd round pick if i had to.
Other things the Patriots do well in is, when ever they lose players to FA or retirement, it is their top priority to fill that vacancy either in the draft or FA. They don’t take the best player available over needs on the team right now. They don’t over pay less talented players and they have an uncanny ability to move on from players that have peaked. They seem to move on from players a year early, when that said player has value; rather than releasing that player a year too late. Belichick gets it! He knows the games are won on both sides of the line of scrimmage, and that’s where most of his high draft picks are made. One of his interesting comments he made was, filling needs on your team is no different than going to the store .If you go there because you need milk; but get distracted by the bananas being on sale; if you buy the bananas (best player available), you don’t bring home the milk; (Need). Another thing Belichick believes; if players don’t develop within his 1st two years to his liking;;;;;;;; they’re gone, or relegated to being backups. He doesn’t let a dead money cap hit affect his decisions if that player isn’t productive, and he moves on. These are more reasons the Pats are almost always successful.
Again…there is a reason i liked you, from the first post i read of yours.
More generally….. i’ve written in the past that if a player can’t help the Patriots, you aren’t needed and you are sent packing. They won’t keep you around because you’re cheap, or if you’re a liability and you can’t play, or all of the above. (See Kevin King)
Plus they won’t often put themselves in the position, that they have to keep a player (that isn’t helping them) because they committed too much money to that player. They give themselves financial options ( a clear out). That is why they are so strict and immoveable in negotiations.
The Patriots philosophy is simple, here’s what we’ll pay. What is more important to you, money or winning a SB.
In other words, they won’t give you a winning lottery ticket just because you had one good season, or you had success 2-5 years ago somewhere else. They want to see future value for them, they won’t pay a guy big money because he had some good seasons with Drew Bree’s 5 years ago. They won’t be foolish and guarantee you tens of millions….no offence Green Bay Packers.
As always JP….no charge