In Day 7 of our Green Bay Packers draft preview, here is a look at the safeties.
Packers depth chart
Morgan Burnett had a solid third season in the league, with his 137 tackles ranking second on the team. He added two interceptions (both against Minnesota on Dec. 2), two forced fumbles, two sacks and 13 passes defensed. He was one of two defenders in the NFL to play every snap and grew by leaps and bounds as the quarterback of the secondary.
The other position is up for grabs. M.D. Jennings started most of the season and had one interception. Rookie Jerron McMillian was a part-time starter and assumed the dime role after Charles Woodson’s injury. He also had one interception.
Packers draft outlook
If you could combine Jennings and McMillian, you might have a top starter. Jennings is tall, can run and generally is in the right position but isn’t strong enough to be a physical presence. McMillian can run and hit but is only 5-foot-11 and struggled recognizing route combinations. The wild card might be Sean Richardson, a big, fast, physical undrafted free agent. The Packers simply need more from their safeties. They didn’t make enough plays and they didn’t make any receivers nervous going over the middle. Can general manager Ted Thompson count on one of those young guys taking a big step forward?
Remember the Packers' draft preference. Like at most positions, they prefer bigger players. McMillian is the only player at the position shorter than 6-foot. Thus, in our rankings, we left out several players who are considered quality prospects.
Strength of draft class
This is an outstanding group of safeties. Perhaps seven or eight could emerge as first-year starters. There’s a pretty stiff drop-off after the first three rounds, though.
Bottom of the first (round)
Texas’ Kenny Vaccaro is the best safety in the class and almost certainly would be in the conversation if he fell to No. 26. Our scouting sources called that scenario highly unlikely, though his 40-yard time from the Combine could scare off some teams. He’s tough, smart and versatile, having played both safety spots as well as cornerback, nickel and dime. One scout thought LSU’s Eric Reid could be in the mix for the Packers, though he’s not universally loved. He’s fast, physical and intelligent, though sometimes plays out of control. LSU’s defensive backs have transitioned well to the NFL, so that works in his favor.
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