General manager Ted Thompson will have to use an early draft pick on a safety with the possibility of even taking one in the first round. I personally believe Thompson will still select a pass rusher with his first pick in the draft, considering that is Green Bay’s highest priority, but without Collins in the secondary the Packers are going to need some serious help at defensive back.
The one thing Green Bay has going for them is 12 draft picks, which means Thompson can move throughout the draft and select a solid safety when he believes the time is right. In my Packers Mock Draft article, I have Green Bay selecting strong safety Brandon Taylor out of LSU in the third round. If Thompson wanted to pick someone before then his best bet would be Mark Barron out of Alabama, but he will most likely go in the middle of the first round. Another solid choice would be Harrison Smith out of Notre Dame who will be taken off the board somewhere in the second round.
What is good about safeties is they typically do not go early in the draft. That means Thompson can still select his highly scouted pass rushers in the first couple rounds and still get a quality safety in rounds 3-5.
The Packers depth chart is weak at the two safety positions. Currently, Charlie Peprah is listed as the strong safety and Morgan Burnett is the free safety, with M.D. Jennings as the backup for both positions. I can tell you right now Green Bay’s coaching staff was not happy with the way Peprah played last season. In fact, the entire secondary did not tackle well which is why the Packers ranked 32nd in the NFL with 299.8 passing yards per game.
Burnett has been a solid player in the 20 games he has played in his career. He has 121 tackles, 1.0 sack, two forced fumbles, two fumble recoveries and four interceptions. Green Bay has high hopes for him as he was a third-round pick in the 2010 draft. Burnett plays more as a strong safety then a free safety. In Peprah’s last two seasons with the Packers he has 157 tackles, one forced fumble, 15 passes defended and seven interceptions. There is no reason why he cannot be the starting strong safety as long as he learns how to wrap up this season. This will of course Burnett to play free safety, a position he played well last season.
This reason alone is why the Packers will select a couple safeties throughout the draft. One will come off the board relatively early, while Thompson will attempt to hit on a late-round pick as he usually does. Green Bay knew they were going to release Collins weeks ago so they have been planning accordingly. Their first priority will still be to select talented pass rushers, but they will have their eyes on the top safeties in the draft at all times.
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