Category Archives: Defensive Backs

22

April

Best “Not First Round” Safety Prospects in this Year’s NFL Draft

Florida State Safety Terrence BrooksOK kids it is that time of year again, draft talk is everywhere. Who will be taken number one and who are the top ten picks gets way more play then it should. In fact, I think it has got to the point of being sickening.  We as Packer fans don’t get included in all that TOP ten blather and that is a good thing.

Over the off season a lot of what I hear at my usual hang out TalkinPackers and just about every place else I partake in everything Packers is about the Packers having to fix the middle of the defense, specifically at Safety.  I can’t disagree that safety is a top need. I disagree on the type of safety needed. I have even gone so far as to say that two need to be drafted, both a Free Safety and Strong.

The two highest ranked Safeties are HaHa Clinton-Dix out of Alabama and Calvin Pryor from Louisville. I like Haha, not so much Pryor. I would take Clinton-Dix at #21 but not Pryor. Some of the recent mocks have the Packers taking Jimmy Ward at #21, that would be a reach to me, I just can’t believe that there would not be prospects rated a lot higher at that point in this draft.  I like Ward and you can’t discount ninety five tackles and seven int’s his senior year.

With changes in the passing game in the NFL today you need a FS/CB and SS/FS.   And in Capers defense the ability to play either spot is even more important. You can hide coverage’s, roll the FS to the slot and blitz the slot CB.  To go with that, disguise who is playing SS and who is FS, who drops, who stays in the box. With so many 3, 4 and 5 players running pass routes, coverage ability is a premium.

Clinton-Dix is the safety in this draft that I think can do everything and do it well.  He can play in the box, deep third, deep half and slide over to the slot to cover. Pryor to me is more an in the box guy then coverage. I would even take Ward over Pryor, but as I said neither at #21.

19

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: TE Troy Niklas

Player Information:

Troy Niklas, TE, Notre Dame, 6-6, 270 pounds

Hometown: Fullerton, CA

 

Troy Niklas' physique is so imposing that his teammates have nicknamed him "Hercules."

Troy Niklas’ physique is so imposing that his teammates have nicknamed him “Hercules.”

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.84

Vertical jump: 32″

225 lb. bench: 27 reps

Broad jump: 9’06″

News and Notes:

Began his career at Notre Dame as an outside linebacker and started one game as a freshman. … One of five Notre Dame receivers to tally multiple catches of 25 yards or more in 2012 … Had a career-high six catches for 76 yards and a touchdown in a  41-30 loss at Michigan on Sept. 7, 2013.

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com: Prototypical build for today’s matchup nightmare at tight end. Excellent height, long arms and a well-built frame. Experience on the defensive side of the ball is shown with his physical nature on the field. Uses his height and strength to get open against tight coverage, consistently winning the physical battle with opponents to create space. Good leaping ability, flashing the ability to extend and pluck. Used in a variety of roles for the Irish, including as an inline blocker from both sides, split out wide and even used as an occasional H-back or as a third tackle in pass protection. Secures the football quickly and turns aggressively upfield, dragging would-be tacklers along the way. Good bloodlines. Nephew of Hall of Fame offensive lineman Bruce Matthews.
  • NFL.com:   Work in progress as an in-line blocker — lacks ideal base strength, grip strength and overall body power. Bends at the waist and falls off some blocks. Route running needs refinement. Is still learning to use his frame advantageously — inconsistent traffic player. Lacks elite top-end speed. Average elusiveness and creativity after the catch. Could stand to play with more physicality and become a better finisher

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • This is a highlight reel so don’t forget, it doesn’t show the plays he missed.
  • It is scary how much Niklas resembles Patriots tight end Rob Gronkowski.
  • Does a good job of coming back to the ball.
  • Has developed soft hands after transitioning over from defense.
  • Sheds and can give blocks with ease.
  • Is a little slow getting out of his break, which forces him to post-up his huge frame.

If drafted by the Packers:

15

April

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: CB Justin Gilbert

Justin Gilbert

CB Justin Gilbert

Packers prospect profile:  CB Justin Gilbert

Player Information:

Justin Gilbert,  CB, Oklahoma St.,  6-0, 202 pounds  Hometown: Huntsville, TX

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.37

Vertical jump: 35.5 inches

225 lb. bench: 20 reps

Broad jump: 126 inches

News and Notes:

Second team All-American in 2013. … Averaged 26.8 yards per kickoff return, second all-time at Oklahoma St. … Six kickoff returns for touchdowns in college. … Picked off 12 passes during his career. … Fastest 40-yard dash at the NFL Combine among defensive backs. … One of three finalists for the Jim Thorpe Award given to the nation’s top cornerback. … Appeared in 51 games and started his final 39. … A former track star in Texas.

What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com:  Gilbert changes directions fluidly and has impressive acceleration to handle deep coverage responsibilities against speedy receivers. Gilbert possesses prototypical height and overall frame for the position with broad shoulders and long arms. He extends well to snatch the ball out of the air and times his leap well. Gilbert is a willing tackler, who closes quickly and effectively…Gilbert can be physical and tough in press coverage, but his technique and footwork are inconsistent. He is too grabby in tight coverage, and his contact downfield will easily attract penalties at the next level.
  • NFL.com:  The most talented cover corner in this year’s draft class, Gilbert has size, speed and flexibility to blanket receivers at the next level. Also brings impact ability as a kick returner. Is capable of stepping into the starting lineup from Day One and playing at a high level if he adheres to a professional approach to the craft. Could stand to improve in run support.
  • Ninersnation.com: The tape says he may have a rough rookie year, but has potential to be pretty good. I’m souring on the idea of taking him in the mid-first round, though someone probably will. If he falls to 30, I’m OK with it, but not jumping up and down. In the 2nd I think you’re starting to talk about a real value with what he brings to the table, though there’s likely a fat chance of that happening.

Video:

 

Video Analysis:.

  • His speed is no joke. Appears to be as fast on the field as he was at the NFL Combine.
4

April

Packers Cannot Gamble At Safety

Micah Hyde

The Packers need to finally find a solution at the safety position.  Micah Hyde is one of a few options

The Green Bay Packers have already made some moves in free agency to help bolster their roster and chances in 2014.  The addition of defensive lineman Julius Peppers made big headlines a few weeks back and indicated a shift in the team’s approach to improving on the past few seasons.

With the  addition of Peppers, the Packers Super Bowl odds dropped from 16-1 to 10-1, according to sites like FootballBettingCenter.com.

But will the addition of Peppers really have that much of an impact on this Packers team? With just one playoff victory since winning Super Bowl XLV in 2011, the Packers have lacked that spark and edge that got them over the hump during that incredible run over three years ago.

With Aaron Rodgers and quarterback and a solid stable of receivers, Green Bay has been able to maintain its production on the offensive side of the ball.  The addition of Eddie Lacy last season (NFL Rookie of the year) rounded off the offense and took it a step closer to being more complete.

The defense has been the point of emphasis in looking at the most glaring needs that the Packers have had and continue to have.  In 2011, defensive lineman Cullen Jenkins departed in free agency and the Packers struggled to get consistent production from the defensive line.  Jenkins was replaced by Jarius Wynn, and I use the term “replaced” very loosely there.

The Packers D-line has seen flashes of production since, but not consistently.  The addition of Peppers will hopefully help that unit make more of an impact on Sundays.

Prior to the start of the 2012 season, the Packers lost inside linebacker Desmond Bishop to a season-ending injury and the team released him prior to the start of the 2013 season.  Bishop’s spot has since been replaced by a combination of DJ Smith, who is no longer with the team and was released last offseason, and Brad Jones.

Jones has spurred debates about whether he is the future at inside linebacker, was worth the contract that he received last offseason (three years, $11.75 million), and most importantly,  whether he still has room to turn into the player the Packers need him to be.  That remains to be seen but there have been many rumblings that inside linebacker should be addressed relatively early in this upcoming draft by Green Bay.

21

March

Why Haven’t the Packers Signed S Chris Clemons?

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

Free agent safety Chris Clemons seems like a logical fit for the Packers.

The Packers need a safety. Chris Clemons is a decent safety still on the NFL free agent market. So why haven’t the Packers signed Clemons?

Clemons isn’t a star, but he’d be an immediate upgrade over what the Packers already have. He hasn’t missed a start in two seasons and has 187 tackles, three interceptions and 12 passes defended over that stretch.

He won’t light up receivers over the middle like Earl Thomas, but Clemons has range and can cover. That’s what the Packers need.

If you’e into advanced metrics, Pro Football Focus ranked Clemons as the 19th best safety in the NFL in 2013 and the ninth best safety in pass coverage, one spot behind big-money free agent Jarius Byrd.

Morgan Burnett and M.D. Jennings were ranked as the 63rd and 67th best safeties, respectively. In pass coverage, Burnett came in 58th and Jennings 74th.

So what gives? Clemons seems like the type of player Packers general manager Ted Thompson would bring in. He’s still young, he won’t cost too much, and he’s a solid player.

Perhaps Thompson just doesn’t want to pay a safety again after committing so much money to Burnett. Maybe Clemons has injury concerns we don’t know about. There’s always the possibility of Micah Hyde moving to safety. Or maybe Thompson just wants to do what he always does: bring in someone through the draft.

I’ll be interested to see if Clemons to the Packers gains any steam as free agency advances. I’d be surprised if it doesn’t.

——————

Adam Czech is a freelance reporter and a Packers fan living in the Twin Cities. Follow Adam on Twitter. Read more of Adam's writing on the Packers here.

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17

March

How Overpaid Is Sam Shields?

Sam Shields is one happy camper.

Sam Shields is one happy camper.

Ted Thompson likely got done with his top priority this offseason when he resigned cornerback Sam Shields to a 4 year deal worth a total of $39 million.  At the time, reactions were rather mixed; many national writers who don’t cover the Packers specifically probably didn’t know too much about Shields and as a result many were taken aback by the size of the contract.  Few writers even predicted that it would set the pace for free agent signings, and contracts were going to be sizably bigger than previous years; so far this has yet to pan out and likely won’t.

For Packers beat writers, the response was a lot more subdued, while Shields did receive a hefty contract, there were times where Shields was obviously the best cornerback on the team and considering Ted Thompson almost never gets suckered in free agency (mostly because you can’t lose when you don’t play), Packers beat writers just assumed that Thompson likely got good value for a player who had other options.

So how much did the Packers really “overpay” for Shields?  Now that free agency is fully underway, I’ve compiled a list of the top free agent cornerback additions and compared the contracts they received with that the contract Shields received. PFF 3 stands for the 3 year average of that player’s grades from ProFootballFocus while PFF+ is the best season that player recorded in the last 3 years.  Before we start, I’ve intentionally left out perhaps the biggest free agent cornerback, Darrelle Revis, who was recently cut by the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and signed by the New England Patriots 4 hours later with a 1 year $12 million deal with a purported $10 million guaranteed.

My primary reason for leaving Revis out is his contract demands and penchant for holding out are well known and therefore his contracts have always been unusual for a cornerback, starting from holding out as a rookie to get a bigger contract than his draft slot, holding out again with multiple years left on his rookie contract, and of course the bizarre contract he signed with the Buccaneers which netted him $16 million yearly but with 0 guaranteed money.  Simply put every once in a while there is a player that defies convention and logic and teams typically disregard these contracts when trying to establish fair value; Mario Williams, Ndamukong Suh and Tony Romo’s contracts are prime examples of contracts gone awry and not actual market value of a player.

11

March

NFL Draft Prospect Profile: S Deone Bucannon

 

Deone Bucanan

Safety Deone Bucannon (image courtesy of WSU Athletic Communications)

Packers prospect profile:  S  Deone Bucannon

Player Information:

Deone Bucannon,  S  Washington State, 6-1, 211 pounds Hometown: Fairfield, CA

STATS

NFL Combine:

40 time: 4.49

Vertical jump: 36.5″

225 lb. bench: 19 reps

Broad jump: 10’04″

News and Notes:

First team All American and first team all PAC-12 in 2013. . .led PAC-12 in tackles in 2013. . .was a four-year starter and three-year captain in college. . .was a finalist for the Jim Thorpe award (given to top college defensive back in the nation)

 What they’re saying about him: 

  • CBSSports.com: Boasts an imposing build with broad shoulders and a thick, muscled-up top half. Best attribute may be his explosive hitting, unloading on runners and receivers crossing the middle and forcing fumbles. Doesn’t only rely on his big hits to create fumbles, also demonstrating the wherewithal to rip at the ball as he’s making the tackle. Also showed improved range and ball-skills in 2013, recording a career-high six interceptions in 2013 to give him 15 for his career. Has a high, choppy backpedal and is stiff in the hips, limiting his ability to change directions fluidly. Vulnerable to double-moves and ball-carriers with the agility to cutback against the grain. While a big-hitter, too often Bucannon will lunge at ball-carriers, occasionally resulting in some ugly whiffs. Struggles a bit with tunnel vision, focusing strictly on the ball-carrier and losing sight of would-be blockers, who take advantage of his lack of spatial awareness to seal him off from the play.
  • NFL.com:  Reads run and drops downhill quickly. Has an old-school mentality — likes contact and is a physical tackler. Covers kicks and has an ideal mentality for special teams. Average speed — struggles to recover from missteps and will not track anyone down from behind. Some tightness in his hips. Man-coverage limitations (struggles to match with slot receivers). Can be overaggressive and miss tackles. Does not always arrive under control in space. Misjudges angles.

Video:

Video Analysis:

  • This is a highlight reel so don’t forget, it doesn’t show the plays he missed
  • Bucannon plays big, meaning his size is an asset and he  can deliver a blow
  • Gets after the football, both in the air and from the ball carrier.  Play making mentality