28

April

2011 Draft Prep: Green Bay Packers Needs by Position – Safety

In this next installment of our 2011 Draft Prep series looking at the Green Bay Packers’ needs by position, we are going to analyze how the safety position currently stands. Strengths, weaknesses, depth, and uncertainties will all be examined to determine the urgency of need in regards to next season.

This series is meant to help us figure out the needs of the team and how the draft could be used to improve the weaker areas. While Ted Thompson largely uses the “best player available” (BPA) approach, his decision to trade up or down the board is affected by what position players he would prefer to have. Additionally, the picking up of players in the later rounds and in undrafted free agency is often based on need, since the talent is less defined.

CURRENT PLAYERS:

#36 Nick Collins
27 yrs. old / 6 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2013

#26 Charlie Peprah
28 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2012

#42 Morgan Burnett
22 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed through 2013

#34 Anthony Levine
24 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

#43 Michael Greco
24 yrs. old / 1 yrs. exp.
Signed to reserve/future contract

#20 Atari Bigby
29 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent

#27 Anthony Smith
27 yrs. old / 5 yrs. exp.
Free Agent

* Contract information acquired from RotoWorld.com

POSITION STRENGTHS:

As I noted in the cornerback position evaluation, the Green Bay Packers have arguably the best secondary in the league. This could not be possible without a pair of safeties like Nick Collins and Charlie Peprah.

Nick Collins has been playing for the Packers since he was picked up in the second round of the 2005 NFL Draft. An unquestioned starter as the free safety, he has shown no signs of slowing down. Collins saw his third consecutive selection for the Pro Bowl in 2010, and his worth to the team was made clear during the final run of the season. His interception against the Chicago Bears in Week 17 was a game-clincher, and the interception of “Big Ben” Roethlisberger helped the Packers gain an early lead in Super Bowl XLV.

Of course, at the beginning of the season, Nick Collins was expected to do well. Charlie Peprah, on the other hand, wasn’t even expected to be a starter.

After being with the Packers for the first three years of his career, Peprah found himself with the Atlanta Falcons in 2009. The Packers ended up re-signing him on April 26, 2010, and after Morgan Burnett’s injury, he quickly found himself starting as strong safety.

And to the pleasant surprise of many, he did quite well. Though relatively slower and not really a game-changer, Peprah stepped up to the plate when he was needed most. In March, he was rewarded for his efforts and performance with a 2-year contract.

Finally, Morgan Burnett’s presence at safety is a boost of youth. Despite being on injured reserve for most of the year, Burnett displayed some good coverage skills at receiver. He has held the label of “ball hawk” since being drafted by Thompson in 2010, and his performance should only improve next year.

POSITION WEAKNESSES:

Now that Atari Bigby is on his way out the door, the Packers really do not have a “bruiser” at the safety position. Nick Collins’ forte is definitely in coverage, and even Morgan Burnett was picked up for his abilities against opposing receivers rather than running backs. And while Charlie Peprah hasn’t shied away from making a hit, the ferocity isn’t quite there.

If Thompson sees this weakness as a concern, which is doubtful, then he could attempt to address it with the draft or a rookie free agent signing. Otherwise, there’s not a lot of specific weaknesses at the position that would be addressed by adding a player.

POSITION UNCERTAINTIES:

There are very few uncertainties with Green Bay’s safeties. Collins, Peprah, and Burnett are all under contract for at least two more seasons, and none of them are getting to a point where their age or injuries are becoming an impetus for release. Their performance last year was solid, and with Burnett healthy again, the probable loss of Atari Bigby should barely disturb the waters.

The Packers also have two prospects in Anthony Levin and Michael Greco to work out during the offseason.

URGENCY OF NEEDS: Low

Quite frankly, there’s really no need for Thompson to draft or even sign a safety this year. Collins, Peperah, and Burnett more than cover their needs at the position, so even if someone were picked up, they’d probably be relegated mostly to special teams work.

The speculation of Charles Woodson moving to safety also helps to diminish the perceived need. His possible switch to the position from “aging out” as cornerback would push back the urgency of picking up another player in the future. But even then, the rest of the safeties have things well covered.

It’s pretty clear to me that the safeties are probably at the bottom of the list of concerns Ted Thompson and the coaches have right now.

*** For further reading, check out “According to Hobbes: Packers Offseason Primer on the NFL Combine: Safety” by Thomas Hobbes. ***

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Chad Toporski, a Wisconsin native and current Pittsburgh resident, is a writer for AllGreenBayPackers.com. You can follow Chad on twitter at @ChadToporski

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