By: Chris Terlop
Charles Woodson has left. We all knew this day was coming, he is getting older and Ted Thompson is not one to overpay for old players, regardless of what they have done to help the Packers in the past. Morgan Burnett appears ready to step up and take a bigger role in the secondary, MD Jennings was a solid replacement, though made mistakes while Woodson was hurt, Jerron McMillian has some talents that could perhaps develop him into a NFL starting safety one day. If you read that last sentence and feel secure with the combination of any of the two of those players locking down the back third of your defense, you are one of the few.
Safety is a high need position, not saying that Burnett, Jennings, and/or McMillian cannot turn into reliable starting safeties; it’s just that they are not there quite yet. Ted Thompson’s goal is to improve the team; safety is a position that can be improved. This year’s draft has quite a bit of talent at the safety position and I believe the Packers will take on early on in the draft, and possibly in the first round.
S Kenny Vaccaro, Texas
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 214 lbs 40: 4.59 Bench: 15 reps
Notes: Vaccaro is the top safety prospect in this year’s draft. Most have him going in the teens, much before the Packers would have a crack to take him. He has the right size you want to see in a safety, good coverage skills and phenomenal around the line of scrimmage and supporting the run. His numbers don’t suggest that he is a ball hawk with only five interceptions in over 50 games. That will be where he needs to improve, I don’t see that being a problem.
Projected: First Round
S Eric Reid, LSU
Ht: 6-1 Wt: 213 40: 4.49 Bench: 17 reps
Notes: What you’re getting with Reid is an All-American heavy hitter. Reid throws his 6-1 215 frame with reckless abandon. He has great closing speed and has shown the ability to cover bigger, stronger tight ends consistently, a job that the Packers have an opening for. He needs to work on his coverage of wide receivers and may have to peel back the aggressiveness in order to not hand his paycheck over to the NFL for illegal hits.
Projected: Late First-Second Round
S Jonathan Cyprien, Florida International
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 217lbs 40: 4.56 Bench: 18 reps
Notes: Cyprien has jumped up draft boards since an impressive showing at the Senior Bowl after a solid 2012 campaign that included a first-team selection to the All-Sun Belt team. Has the size of a prototypical safety, he eased some concerns with his straight line speed with a 4.56 at his senior day. Has as good if not better ball skills than either of the two previous mentioned, but may not have the tackling skills. He takes good angles, yet shows a tendency to tackle ball carriers high. He may have been ok doing this in the Sun Belt, but he will find himself hitting the turf often if he tries that on the likes of Adrian Peterson.
Projection: Late First to Second Round
S, JJ Wilcox, Georgia Southern
Ht: 6-0 Wt: 213 lbs 40: 4.51 Bench: 17
Notes: Wilcox intrigues me, as he came to Georgia Southern as a wide receiver and switched to safety his senior year and he has experience as kick returner. Wilcox, like Cyprien, impressed at the Senior Bowl with his athleticism. He shows a good ability to make open field tackles and has good ball skills, being a wide receiver for most of his career. He isn’t ready to start in the NFL, as his technique needs work, but could contribute in special teams coverage and be a good option to return in the place of Randall Cobb right away. I could see the Packers make this pick in the third if the feel Jennings and Burnett can hold it down and they can give Wilcox and year to develop.
Projected: 3rd to 4th Round
Others to Watch: S Matt Elam, Florida; S Phillip Thomas, Fresno State; S Shamarko Thomas, Syracuse