Green Bay Packers: Looking at the Top 5 Safeties in the 2014 NFL Draft
There is absolutely no doubt about it. General manager Ted Thompson of the Green Bay Packers has to focus on improving the play at the safety position for the team. That position was the biggest eyesore for the Packers all season long.
First of all, there was Morgan Burnett, who hurt his hamstring in training camp. This was after he received a four-year, $24.75 contract extension earlier in the offseason. The hamstring injury caused Burnett to miss the first three games of the season.
When No. 42 returned, he was up and down all season long with his performance. In fact, Burnett led the team in missed tackles with 17, as noted by Bob McGinn of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, as he handed out individual grades to the players.
Burnett was also involved in multiple blown coverages in the secondary.
But the other safety position was even worse, if you can believe that. M.D. Jennings and Jerron McMillian battled for the starting job in training camp, with Jennings winning the job. That doesn't say much, as the Packers released McMillian later in the season.
Jennings also missed multiple tackles, plus was always late in coverage, as he allowed a team-high 4.5 touchdown passes, as noted by McGinn.
In addition to that, not one safety on the Packers had an interception in 2013. That is a statistic that hasn't occurred in Green Bay in more than 60 years.
When it was all said and done, McGinn gave Burnett a D-plus and Jennings a D-minus.
Needless to say, Thompson and his scouting staff need to find some safety help either through free agency or through the draft. Perhaps both.
In this slideshow, I'm listing the top five safeties in the 2014 NFL draft who Thompson and company should focus on.
1. Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
Weight: 209 pounds
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was named to the 2013 All-SEC First Team (coaches) and the 2013 All-SEC Second Team (media).
For the 2013 season, Clinton-Dix had 52 tackles, two interceptions and six pass breakups. In 2012, Clinton-Dix had 37 tackles, five interceptions, four passes broken up and a forced fumble.
Clinton-Dix could do it all for the Crimson Tide in the secondary, as he was excellent in coverage with great ball skills, plus was a solid tackler.
"Clinton-Dix is the best of the bunch (safeties). He's got really good size. I think he's got good range. I think he's physical and I think he's got the ability to make plays on the ball."
One would think that the Packers would love to have a player like Clinton-Dix on their team in 2014, but he may not be available to the Packers based on their drafting position, according to Landry:
I'm not ready to say who is going to be available and who is not, but certainly if someone like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix was available, the Pack would be really excited. I don't know that he's going to last to their pick (No. 21). Again, it's a little bit early for me to be saying that until we figure out who is in and who is not because there is still some work to be done with that (who will declare for the draft).
2. Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
Weight: 208 pounds
Calvin Pryor was named to the 2013 All-American Athletic Conference First Team (coaches). During the season, Pryor had 69 tackles, three interceptions, four passes defended and two forced fumbles.
In 2012, Pryor was named to the All-Big East Second Team. He had 100 tackles and five forced fumbles. In his freshman year, Pryor had 43 tackles, two interceptions and two forced fumbles.
Pryor is obviously a hard-hitting tackler, based on the nine forced fumbles he has had in his career for the Cardinals.
Pryor also has nice ball skills in coverage, plus can make sure tackles in the open field.
3. Deone Bucannon (Washington State)
Weight: 215 pounds
Deone Bucannon was named to the 2013 Walter Camp Second Team All-American squad, as well as the 2013 All-Pac-12 First Team (coaches).
During the season, Bucannon had 109 tackles, five interceptions, three forced fumbles and one pass broken up. In 2012, he had 106 tackles, four interceptions, four passes broken up and one forced fumble. In 2011, Bucannon had 80 tackles, three interceptions and four passes defended.
As you can see, Bucannon was very consistent, both in his coverage skills and his tackling ability. Those attributes are something that the Packers must have at the safety position next year if they expect to see marked improvement.
4. Dion Bailey (USC)
Weight: 210 pounds
Dion Bailey was named to the 2013 All-Pac-12 Second Team (coaches) as a safety. For the season, Bailey had 58 tackles, 4.5 tackles for a loss, five interceptions and six passes broken up.
In 2012, as a linebacker for the Trojans, Bailey had 80 tackles, 8.5 tackles for a loss, four interceptions and five passed defended. As a freshman, again at linebacker, Bailey had 81 tackles, two interceptions and two sacks.
Bailey is a very smart defender in terms of diagnosing a play. He also knows how to find the football, whether it's a run or pass play.
Very durable as well, as he missed only one game in three seasons at USC.
5. Craig Loston (LSU)
Weight: 209 pounds
Craig Loston received a 2013 Associated Press All-SEC honorable mention. For the season, Loston had 55 tackles, three interceptions and one pass broken up. He also intercepted a pass late in the 2014 Outback Bowl vs. Iowa, in which LSU won 21-14.
In 2012, Loston was named to the All-SEC Second Team. He had 55 tackles, three tackles for a loss, three interceptions and one pass defended.
Loston was a solid tackler, plus defended the ball fairly well in coverage for the Tigers when called upon.
Chris Landry also had a quick take on Loston: "Loston is more of an in-the-box guy. Not as rangy as you like."