It is becoming clear that the Green Bay Packers will draft a free safety early in this year’s draft. After signing Julius Peppers in free agency, Green Bay added another piece to their defensive line. In 2013, the Packers finished in the top 10 for sacks. By bringing in Peppers and re-signing Mike Neal and B.J. Raji, the Packers will have a good front seven in 2014. Although Clay Matthews regressed in 2013, I am very optimistic that he will bounce back this season.
Peppers has always wanted to play in a 3-4 defense, and he will have the opportunity to do so in Green Bay. With the defensive line becoming a strength in the past few weeks, there are a few more holes the Packers could patch in the coming months. After Charles Woodson signed with the Oakland Raiders at the end of the 2013 season, the Packers lost their best defensive player in the secondary. In May, the Packers will have a chance to draft a free safety who could immediately make an impact on this team.
The Packers could do themselves a big favor by drafting Calvin Pryor in the 2014 NFL Draft. There were rumors that the Packers would sign Nick Collins in free agency — after all, Collins did play with the Packers for a total of seven seasons — but that was before the Bethune-Cookman product has a career-threatening neck injury. Instead of risking it with Collins, Pryor would be a much better fit for this defense.
At 6-feet, 210 pounds, Pryor has the prototypical size to be a hard-hitting safety in the NFL. He is not afraid to make the big hit, and he does a good job at reading the eyes of the quarterback. He has great balls to go with his frame, and he can make tackles behind the line of scrimmage. NFL coaches want safeties who can make plays across the gridiron, which is something Pryor can do for many years in Green Bay.
The Packers’ starting safeties in 2013 were M.D. Jennings and Morgan Burnett. The latter is a solid starting strong safety, but Burnett needs an impact-player opposite of him in the defensive backfield. In fact, Jennings left for the division rival Chicago Bears in free agency. All signs are pointing to the Packers taking a free safety in free agency. If Pryor is on the board, there should be no question on who to pick.
Pryor would be an immediate starter in this secondary, and he could be an annual Pro Bowler for many years at the next level.