CORNER BACKS FOR GREEN BAY
by Jerry Gilbert
Last year's signing of free agent Charles Woodson, and the decision this year to extend the contract of Al Harris give the Green Bay Packers a pair of fine cornerbacks. Harris shadows the opponent's best receiver, and Woodson, when allowed to freelance, can provide interceptions. However, either could be injured slightly or permanently on any play in any game. Moreover, given the popularity of the three or more wide receiver offense, every defense needs at least three reliable corners. Last season the nickel back was Patrick Dendy, who works very hard and gives his best, but Dendy does not have the skills to be a top-level cornerback. Finally, because Woodson is best against slot receivers, the player who is needed has to have the physical presence to stand up to a big receiver and the speed to run with anyone. The Packer defense needs one more topflight cornerback.
Fortunately there are a number of players in this draft who could fill that requirement. Unfortunately, none of them looks like perfect based on performance. The Packers will need to select the right man.
The top two corners are Leon Hall 5-11 193 4.39 from Michigan and Darrelle Revis 6-0 204 4.38 from Pittsburgh. Revis is only a junior and may need some time. He is a physical bump and run corner, but his play on the field was not consistent with the 4.38 forty he ran at his pro day. Leon Hall has long been considered a top corner, but he gave up some big plays as a senior, albeit to Ted Ginn and Dwayne Jarrett, but that is the level of receivers he will face every week in the NFL. He was good but not great at the Senior Bowl practices but was the defensive MVP of the game. Either or both could be available at pick 16, but neither is a sure thing. The Packers may prefer to use their first round pick for a player to fill a higher need than nickel cornerback.
Fortunately, there are players with good potential who will be available in later rounds. One of the best may not fall to the middle of the second round, but if he is there, Jonathan Wade 5-10 195 4.36 from Tennessee could be a good fit. Wade did not emerge as a top prospect until his senior season, because he ran track every Spring. However both during the season and in Senior Bowl practices, he showed that he has the quickness to close on a receiver and make a play. His man-to-man coverage during the Senior Bowl week may have been the best of anyone there. Wade is on the short side, and needs to get better against the run, but he is a ready to go nickel corner who can run with the fastest receivers.
Another second round receiver might have been a first round pick after his outstanding junior year at Fresno State, but Marcus McCauley 6-1 203 4.39 had a difficult final season and did not redeem himself at the Senior Bowl. Nevertheless, McCauley is a big physical corner who, before he seemingly lost some confidence, liked play the run and still has the speed to stay with any receiver. He will go fairly high based on prior performance and athleticism, but he is a risky pick.
As a third or fourth round selection, the Packers may consider Michael Coe 6-1 190 4.49 Alabama State. Coe was only a small school performer as a senior having started for Arkansas in 2004 and 2005. Something happened in his relationship with his Arkansas coaches, which, together with the arrival of Chris Houston to compete for his position, caused Coe to drop on the depth chart. He transferred to Alabama State where his father coached, and Coe had an outstanding senior season. He also turned heads at the East West Shrine practices. Coe does not time as fast as some of the others, but he is a prospect.
Also in the third or fourth round, the Packers could select Kenny Scott 6-1 185 4.4 from Georgia Tech. The number one fact to recommend Scott is that he lined up every day in practice against the best wide receiver not in the NFL, Calvin Johnson, and had enough remaining self-esteem to play well on Saturday. A man who prides himself on playing the run, he was among the leading tacklers for Georgia Tech. Blessed with height and extra long arms, Scott could add some weight and become a top-flight bump and run corner, who could defend the tall receivers in the NFC North. He was impressive in the East West Shrine week, and should be ready in year one to play nickel corner.
Another taller corner is Courtney Brown 6-2 200 4.35 Cal Poly, who because of his small school background should be available in Round 4. Although he was invited to the Combine, after Brown ran a 4.32 forty and was way above average in every other drill at his pro day, he began to climb the draft charts. Brown's statistics as a senior were not impressive, because after a junior campaign that included 7 interceptions and 12 pass deflections, opposing offensive coordinators avoided him. He had only one interception in 2006, but he also gave up no touchdowns. If the films show that he is as fast on the field as his timed workouts, Brown could become a very good cornerback for the Packers.
Another fourth to fifth round candidate is one of the four Hampton players who were invited to the Combine. At 6-0 182 4.43, Travarous Bain has excellent size and adequate speed. He also is not limited by his small school experience. Bain left high school as a top 5 defensive back in Florida and signed with Miami where he played special teams and saw some time at cornerback. However, caught in a numbers game on the talented Miami roster, Bain transferred to Hampton where he started every game and was all conference in 2006. One scout called him the best cover corner at the East West Shrine practices.
Because of their size and leaping ability, Kenny Scott and Courtney Brown appear to be excellent prospects for the Green Bay Packers, but the new nickel corner may come from anywhere.