Mel Kiper 2012 NFL Mock Draft: Green Bay Packers Take S Harrison Smith

Zach Kruse@@zachkruse2Senior Analyst IFebruary 15, 2012

EL PASO, TX - DECEMBER 30:  Safety Harrison Smith #22 celebrates a pass interception with Robert Blanton #12 of the Notre Dame Fighting Irish during play against the Miami Hurricanes at Sun Bowl on December 30, 2010 in El Paso, Texas.  (Photo by Ronald Martinez/Getty Images)
Ronald Martinez/Getty Images

In his second mock draft of the 2012 NFL draft season, ESPN draft guru Mel Kiper has the Green Bay Packers taking Notre Dame safety Harrison Smith with the 28th-overall pick in the first round.

Few mock drafts up to this point have made the first-round connection of Green Bay and Harrison, who failed to intercept a pass during his senior season in South Bend, but did have seven his junior year.

Kiper had this to say about Harrison:

What I like about Smith is his ability to do it all. He's not the world's greatest athlete, but any scout will tell you: At this position, you take the instincts over the athlete 100 out of 100 times. Smith gets great jumps in coverage and will get in passing lanes, but he's also outstanding in run support. You don't lose ground in one area when he's out there.

After a season in which the Packers allowed more passing yards than any team in NFL history, safety could be a position that GM Ted Thompson wants to address. But the overriding factor in that decision will undoubtedly be the health of Nick Collins, who missed the final 14 games of the Packers' season after undergoing a similar surgery as Peyton Manning on his neck.

Collins has said that he'll let the Packers know by March whether or not he can continue his NFL career, which would give the Packers time to find a replacement. Optimism over his return has increased in recent months, however.

If Collins can no longer play, safety would certainly vault into first-round need status. Charlie Peprah took Collins' place in 2011, but made his share of mental and physical mistakes throughout the season. You need not look further than the Packers' divisional round loss to the New York Giants for proof of Peprah's struggles.

At this point, he's more suited in a back-up role than starting. Morgan Burnett is still a young player that Green Bay is counting on to develop into a playmaker at the back end. 

Most mock drafts have given the Packers a pass-rusher in the first round, but Courtney Upshaw, Fletcher Cox, Melvin Ingram, Michael Brockers and Whitney Mercilus were each off the board by the Packers' No. 28 pick.

At some point in the 2012 NFL draft, whether it's in the first round or later, the Packers have to get a pass-rushing prospect in the front seven.

 

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