Green Bay Packers fans shouldn’t have been surprised when Atlanta Falcons quarterback Matt Ryan threw for close to 400 yards and Falcons wide receiver Julio Jones had 180 yards receiving in this year’s NFC Championship game against the Packers. The Packers cornerback play struggled all season long. Still, it shouldn’t be expected that the Packers first round draft pick will be spent on a cornerback.
Don’t Expect the Green Bay Packers First Round Pick to be a Cornerback
Now before any of you get your underwear in a bunch over this, let’s be clear. This article isn’t saying the Packers shouldn’t look at drafting a cornerback with their first pick, it is saying that they most likely won’t look at taking one with their first pick.
There isn’t much evidence showing that the Packers don’t need help at the cornerback position. Second year cornerbacks and former first and second round draft choices Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins regressed mightily in their second year as professionals. Both were hampered by injuries, but even when they were healthy, both looked lost and outmatched at times going up against opposing wide receivers. With Randall and Rollins suffering through a season long slump, the Packers best cornerback turned out to be LaDarius Gunter, a former undrafted free agent with great size for a cornerback but questionable speed. Gunter held his own for most of the season and even in the first playoff game, a victory over the New York Giants. But Gunter and his lack of speed were exposed in the Packers win over the Dallas Cowboys and the following week against Jones and the Falcons. Gunter has a place on this roster, but it doesn’t look like it should be in the starting lineup.
The off-season’s signing of cornerback Davon House helps, with House knowing the system and possessing the size and capability to play one of the boundary corner back positions. But still, it doesn’t solve the issue the Packers have had, which is a cornerback who is capable of covering an opposing team’s number one wide receiver. They had that in former cornerback Sam Shields, but he was released this offseason because of a history of concussions. Drafting a cornerback doesn’t guarantee it will solve the cornerback problem. However, the more talented players you bring in, the higher the chance is that you can deal with the issue. But once again, the outlook of spending a first round pick on a cornerback doesn’t look good.
Why? The answer is simple, Packers general manager Ted Thompson has a way of doing things. In his mind, spending another first round pick on a cornerback would be giving up on Randall and Rollins. Thompson spent a first and second round pick on the two corners in the 2015 NFL Draft, picks that Thompson cherishes. Both are entering their third season in the NFL and Thompson has shown in the past that he doesn’t give up on players, especially ones he selected. Call it stubbornness, ego, or stupidity but that is just what Thompson believes in and what he does. He’d rather stumble for a second year in a row with Randall and Rollins rather than bring in a high-priced free agent, or in this case, another first round draft choice.
Thompson has proven during his time as the Packers general manager that he is loyal to his draft picks, even to a fault. Take for example linebacker Carl Bradford, who Thompson selected in the fourth round of the 2014 NFL Draft. Drafted as an outside linebacker out of Arizona State, it didn’t take long for the Packers to see in his first training camp that he didn’t have the size or the speed to play outside linebacker in their 3-4 defensive alignment. Bradford was moved to inside linebacker and made the Packers roster for his rookie season but wasn’t active for any of the Packers games. In 2015, Bradford was cut out of training camp and spent the whole season on the Packers practice squad. In 2016, once again, Bradford was cut and signed to the practice squad. But this time, he was signed to the active roster during the season. While on the active roster, even with the inside linebacker position for the Packers being hit hard by injury, Bradford showed that he didn’t have the instinct or ability to play on a Packers defense that struggled. For what is presumably is the last time, the team released him in December and he signed with the San Francisco 49ers. Bradford’s Packers career best illustrates Thompson’s over the top loyalty/stubbornness/stupidity he has when it comes to one of his own draft picks.
The Packers have holes not only at cornerback but also at outside linebacker, guard, and running back to fill in this year’s draft. Don’t expect Thompson to do anything more in free agency. It was shocking enough to see him sign three free agents who weren’t on the Packers team last year. If the Packers are going to improve their roster, it will once again have to be through the draft. With Thompson having his own draft picks at cornerbacks, again, even with struggling mightily last season, look for him to fill spots at outside linebacker, guard, and running back (in no particular order) before even looking at the prospects at cornerback. Sorry Packers fans, especially the Thompson haters, it is just the way it is. Thompson will always put his own draft picks first, even if it is a mistake.