Top 10 NFL Draft Prospects Who Fill the Packers' Biggest Need
Let's not pull any punches here. The biggest issue that the Green Bay Packers had last year was the lackluster play of the safeties.
Not one interception among the group. Way too many missed tackles. Multiple blown coverages.
And except for two fumble returns for touchdowns, the unit had no big plays to speak about.
We know now that one of the safeties who was on the field quite a bit in 2013 is no longer on the team. The Packers did not tender an offer to restricted free agent M.D. Jennings, and he ended up signing with the Chicago Bears as a free agent.
Did the porous Chicago secondary just get better or worse?
Besides Jennings, the other starting safety was Morgan Burnett, who was coming off a contract extension he had signed last summer. But like so many players in training camp last year, Burnett hurt his hamstring, and he ended up missing the first three games of the season.
When Burnett came back, he just wasn't as effective as he was in 2012. Burnett has talent, but the Packers need to get him some help at the other safety position.
Maybe it will come in the form of Micah Hyde, who played some safety in college at Iowa and appears to be heading to that position in 2014. Head coach Mike McCarthy thinks Hyde should be on the field more often in some capacity.
The Packers also have Sean Richardson and Chris Banjo on the depth chart at safety.
So far, the Packers have not signed a safety through free agency. They haven't even had one come to visit.
That tells you that the Packers most likely are looking for another safety in the 2014 NFL draft.
I'm going to list the top 10 safeties available for the Packers to draft in this slideshow. Some of you might disagree with me regarding the list of prospects.
For instance, I don't have players like Vinnie Sunseri from Alabama, Kenny Ladler from Vanderbilt or former Wisconsin Badger Dezmen Southward on this list. That doesn't mean that they won't play in the NFL, however. They just aren't in my top 10 prospects at the safety position.
Safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix (Alabama)
Weight: 208 pounds
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix put together some impressive numbers the past two seasons at Alabama. In 2012 and 2013, he had 88 tackles, four tackles for a loss, seven interceptions and 13 passes defended.
At the NFL Scouting Combine, Clinton-Dix didn't do anything that would hurt his draft standing, and he looked very good in field drills.
The former member of the Crimson Tide is very good in coverage but needs to get stronger to excel at the NFL level, especially when defending against the run.
Scout Chris Landry told me that Clinton-Dix is the top-rated safety on his board.
Safety Calvin Pryor (Louisville)
Weight: 207 pounds
Calvin Pryor had an excellent career as a member of the Louisville Cardinals. In three years, Pryor had 218 tackles, 11 tackles for a loss, two sacks, seven interceptions, 18 passes defended, one fumble recovery and nine forced fumbles.
As you can tell by his forced fumbles count, Pryor likes to lay the wood with opposing ball-carriers and is pretty strong as well, as evidenced by his 18 reps on the bench press at the combine.
But Pryor can also be very good in coverage, as proven by his seven interceptions.
NFL Media draft analyst Mike Mayock has Pryor rated as the top safety on his board currently.
Safety Deone Bucannon (Washington State)
Weight: 211 pounds
Like Calvin Pryor, Deone Bucannon from Washington State is a very physical, hard-hitting safety.
In his four-year career as a Cougar, Bucannon had 384 tackles, 13.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, 15 interceptions, 23 passes defended, one fumble recovery and seven forced fumbles.
Although he can play the run effectively, he also has shown good range in coverage.
Bucannon also performed very well at the combine.
Mike Mayock has him rated as the fourth-best safety on his board currently.
Safety Jimmie Ward (Northern Illinois)
Weight: 193 pounds
Jimmie Ward from Northern Illinois has seen his draft stock rise after an impressive week at the Senior Bowl.
In his career with the Huskies, Ward had 319 tackles, six tackles for a loss, two sacks, 11 interceptions (one for a touchdown), 30 passes defended and four forced fumbles.
Like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Ward needs to get stronger, as he had just nine reps on the bench press at the combine.
Mike Mayock has Ward rated as the third-best safety on his board as of now.
Safety Dion Bailey (USC)
Weight: 201 pounds
Dion Bailey from USC is a converted linebacker who played safety in his final season.
In his career as a Trojan, Bailey had 223 tackles, 16.5 tackles for a loss, 3.5 sacks, 11 interceptions, 19 passes defended and three forced fumbles.
Bailey has been a playmaker at both linebacker and safety and always seems to be around the football.
At the combine, his 40-time could have been better.
Safety Terrence Brooks (Florida State)
Weight: 198 pounds
Terrence Brooks had a nice four-year career at Florida State, which culminated with the Seminoles winning the 2013 BCS National Championship.
The career stats for Brooks aren't jaw-dropping, though, as he had 126 tackles, 9.5 tackles for a loss, one sack, five interceptions, 18 passes defended and three forced fumbles.
Brooks raised his draft stock slightly at the combine by running a quick 4.42 time in the 40.
Like Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Jimmie Ward, Brooks needs to get stronger to withstand the rigors of NFL play.
Safety Ed Reynolds (Stanford)
Weight: 207 pounds
Ed Reynolds was one of the key parts of a great Stanford defense over the past couple of seasons.
In his career as a member of the Cardinal, Reynolds had 139 tackles, one tackle for a loss, seven interceptions (three returned for touchdowns) and 13 passes defended.
Reynolds showed great instincts for the ball in 2012 when he had six picks, but he only had one interception in 2013, and that was in the opening game of the season.
Reynolds had an average showing at the combine.
Safety Tre Boston (North Carolina)
Weight: 204 pounds
Tre Boston from North Carolina had an impressive week at the East-West Shrine Game, and you know that caught Ted Thompson's attention.
In his four-year career, Boston had 282 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, 13 interceptions (one for a touchdown), 28 passes defended and three forced fumbles.
Boston played both cornerback and safety in college and showed excellent coverage skills.
The former Tar Heel performed adequately at the combine.
Safety Craig Loston (LSU)
Weight: 217 pounds
Craig Loston from LSU is your typical in-the-box type of safety.
In his four-year career as a Tiger, Loston had 148 tackles, eight tackles for a loss, one sack, six interceptions (one for a touchdown), 10 passes defended, one fumble recovery and one forced fumble.
Loston is instinctive in determining whether a play is a run or a pass.
Loston did not have a real good combine, and like many other safety prospects, he showed that he needs to get stronger to play at the NFL level.
Safety Ahmad Dixon (Baylor)
Weight: 212 pounds
Like Dion Bailey, Ahmad Dixon played both linebacker and safety in college.
In his four-year career at Baylor, Dixon had 288 tackles, 13 tackles for a loss, one sack, four interceptions (one for a touchdown), 15 passes defended, one fumble recovery and two forced fumbles.
Dixon is a physical player who looked pretty good at the Senior Bowl.
The former Bear had an average performance at the combine.