Heading into the 2010 NFL Draft, one position the Packers will look to improve is cornerback.
The Packers' defense stepped up as a whole in 2010.
Injuries decimated the defensive backfield during the season, with Al Harris, Pat Lee, and Will Blackmon all suffering season-ending injuries.
This left the Packers with no choice but to scrap up whatever was left in the free agency pool and try to make a run in the playoffs. Josh Bell and Trevor Ford did their best in dime situations, but in the end, it's clear improvements must be made.
Age is another concern for the Packers at corner, with their current starters well over 30 years old (Harris is 35 and Charles Woodson is 33). While both are expected to be back next season and playing at a high level, there's only so long before they start to regress and replacements are needed.
Thus far, former second-round pick Pat Lee has not been able to get on the field, as injuries have cut his first two seasons short.
Blackmon has proved to be an above-average kick and punt returner, but he does not offer much on defense.
The verdict is still out on sixth rounder Branden Underwood, but he actually played well all things considered, and could have a future as either a dime corner or a back-up safety in Green Bay.
All is not lost in the defensive backfield for the Packers, as Tramon Williams has asserted himself as one of the premier young corners in the league that no one is talking about. When Harris went down with a torn ACL, Williams stepped up admirably against heavy pressure, considering that the Defensive Player of the Year was on the other side of the field.
A lot will depend on Harris' health and willingness to take a potential pay cut next season, but it looks as though cornerback will be a position to address in the draft. There is not a whole lot of talent in free agency, even if Ted Thompson wanted to look there, and trade rumors for Antonio Cromartie have been just that: rumors.
Lucky for Thompson and the Packers, the 2010 cornerback class is very deep and the Packers are sure to get good value if they decide to go that direction in the draft.
When looking at potential draftees for the Packers at cornerback, just remember bigger is better.
Since Ted Thompson became general manager for the Packers, he has selected four cornerbacks that have averaged a height of just over 6'1''.
Mike Hawkins (6'1"), Will Blackmon (6'0"), Pat Lee (6'0") and Branden Underwood (6'1") all had above average size at the position and this is sure to be a trend that will continue as long as Thompson is heading the draft.
With the Packers' physical style of play at the line of scrimmage and the need for flexibility in Dom Capers' defense, don't expect the Packers to draft anyone under six feet, or 5'11'' at the shortest.
During his tenure in Seattle, Thompson drafted four cornerbacks who averaged over 5'11'', so it's clear that Thompson knows what he is looking for when selecting a cornerback: size.
We saw Ted Thompson move into and up in the first round last season, and while it probably won't happen again, there are two corners worthy of top 15 selections that would look very good in Green Bay's defense.
Leading the way is Joe Haden from Florida, listed at just over 5'11'' and 191 pounds. One of the main reasons Florida's defense was one of the best in the nation was Haden, who covers excellent ground and has great size.
Kareem Jackson, from Alabama, is the other sure-fire first rounder, a 5'11" shutdown corner who struggles some in the run, but plays blanket coverage and should be a great pro. Both of those corners would be nice in theory, but the more realistic options come later in the first round.
Boise State's Kyle Wilson has been shooting up draft boards and now projects as a late first rounder, but height is question as he is listed at just 5'10". He has good size at 190 pounds but, if Thompson sticks to his guns, Wilson probably will not be the pick.
One player to really keep an eye on in the second round is Perrish Cox from Oklahoma State.
At 5'11", Cox has displayed physical play and is also a return specialist who would be a perfect fit in Green Bay. In watching film, Cox resembles Woodson in the way he attacks run plays, stays physical until the very end of the play, and is a good tackler.
He will need to improve his ball skills some, but the potential is there for Cox to be a steal in the second round of the draft.
A nice showing at the Senior Bowl and a projected time in the low 4.4's at the Combine could improve his draft stock but, if he is there in the second, the Packers will take a hard look.
His off-the-field incident of a suspended license is not something that would keep him out of Green Bay.
Other names to keep an eye on include Patrick Robinson, Chris Cook, and Donovan Warren in the second round. Look for Amari Spievey, Dominique Franks, Akwasi Owusu-Ansah, and Brandon Ghee in the third. And sleepers Brian Jackson and David Pinkard could go in the later rounds.
As the draft nears, I will put out more definite rankings (post-Combine).
But for now, all that needs to be known is that there are potentially seven or eight cornerbacks that could be taken in the first two rounds of the draft. Teams are beginning to see what a great lock-down corner can do for a defense (Woodson, Darrelle Revis, etc.) and, with offenses passing more than ever, it makes it that much more important.
Look for Thompson to address that come April.
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