As the 2014 NFL Draft is under a week from getting underway, a number of holes and needs for the Green Bay Packers will either be exposed or improved upon on both sides of the ball. Most notably, the free-safety position for defensive coordinator Dom Capers‘ defense needs a reliable starter, especially in pass coverage. M.D. Jennings has since departed for the rival Chicago Bears, and his flawed stats suffice for his release this past offseason. According to Pro Football Focus, his -5.8 pass coverage and -4.7 overall grades placed him 74th and 63rd in the NFL, respectively.
With any decision on personnel at this point in the offseason, there are generally two school of thoughts: in-house or the draft. There is an in-house option for GM Ted Thompson with Sean Richardson, who is solid in pass coverage and tackling in space, but he is better in a secondary role.
This year’s class of safeties is certainly filled with talent at the top of the draft, led by Louisville‘s Calvin Pryor and Alabama‘s Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, who excel at the line of scrimmage and in the back end of the secondary. I’ve been personally adamant about the prospect of the Packers drafting Pryor, as I believe he is the best safety in the draft.
Yet, as Thompson noted in his Thursday press conference with reporters, he and the organization are keen on taking the best available talent, and there are a handful of talented prospects that will be there when Green Bay selects at No.21. While there has been nothing formally reported, a former Packers great revealed as to who might man down the free safety position for the 2014-15 season.
I would not be adversed to Micah Hyde resorting from his days as a slot cornerback to taking over the free-safety position aside from Morgan Burnett. If you think about the move in a grand scheme, it makes sense. Without a doubt, Sam Shields is the cornerstone of the secondary, given his new contract this past offseason. Tramon Williams is still a serviceable option in the other corner position, but Casey Hayward easily has the talent to take over for the Miami (FL) alum, who isn’t getting any younger at age 31. However, for at least next season, with Williams being an unrestricted free agent in 2015, Hayward will settle as the third cornerback.
This leaves us with Hyde. He proved during his rookie campaign he can hold his own against NFL wide receivers and tight ends, posting 55 tackles with two pass deflections on 448 defensive snaps. That’s a big contribution for a former fifth-round pick, whose biggest expectation was centered around his role on special teams.
Granted this overwhelming production, one should be increasingly confident Hyde can make a smooth transition to free safety, deviating Green Bay’s draft attention elsewhere in the first round. On Thursday, it will be apparent of the franchise’s draft strategy: Thompson will select the best player possible to help the Packers reach the pinnacle of the sport, no matter the position. More so, if need be, depending on the scout department’s big board, this will further allow Thompson to select another diamond-in-the-rough prospect to find the secondary’s fourth reliable cornerback.