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By CHRIS HAVEL
Here’s a look at the top defensive backs that are underclassmen in this draft
The Packers’ Ted Thompson is all about the draft-and-develop philosophy.
He also is keen on selecting draft-eligible underclassmen.
The 2017 NFL Draft includes 96 draft-eligible underclassmen, including 12 of the top 15 prospects according to at least one NFL.com mock draft.
Thompson opened his first draft as the Packers’ GM by selecting underclassman Aaron Rodgers with the 24th pick. He used the 27th pick in the 2016 draft to nab Kenny Clark of UCLA.
In between, players such as 2008 third-round pick Jermichael Finley also were underclassmen drafted fairly high.
So what does this year’s class of draft-eligible underclassmen have to offer Thompson and the Packers especially in the way of defensive backs? Simply put it as a lot to offer.
This Year’s Draft
According to ESPN’s Todd McShay, the top 10 rated defensive backs in 2017 each carries a second-round or higher draft grade. That means the Packers will have to strongly consider acquiring help in the secondary, especially in the first two days.
The Packers intend to give third-year cornerbacks Damarious Randall and Quentin Rollins every opportunity to nail down the starting jobs as bookends. It also appears that the versatile Micah Hyde intends to explore free agency, which means the Packers likely will need to add at least two corners that could go into training camp and compete for playing time and a role.
Here is a look at five possible defensive backs who could be just what the Packers, and Thompson, like in the draft:
Adoree’ Jackson (USC)
The 5-foot-10, 186-pound Jackson showcased his athleticism at the combine with a 4.42 40-yard dash time and an explosive 36-inch vertical leap.
Jackson is a bit shorter than the Packers would prefer, but he possesses the speed and play-making ability they covet. He has to be in the conversation with the 29th pick if he’s still on the board.
Marlon Humphrey (Alabama)
Humphrey helped himself at the combine with a 4.41 40 time and enough strength (10 reps at 225 pounds on the bench press) to be seriously considered in the first round by Thompson and the Packers.
The Packers have had recent good fortune with ‘Bama players such as Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and Eddie Lacy.
Humphrey may be the next Crimson Tide star to join Green Bay. The odds suggest either Jackson or Humphrey could be available at 29 to Green Bay, but probably not both.
Garson Conley (Ohio State)
Conley has nice size (6-0, 195) and speed (4.44 40) plus a 37-inch vertical leap. Conley also did 11 reps at 225 on the bench press. He would be a nice fit to take a nickel cornerback role early while he develops.
Budda Baker (Washington)
The 5-foot-10, 195-pound Baker clocked a 4.45 40 and did 15 reps at 225.
Quincy Wilson (Florida)
Wilson is a big cornerback at 6-foot-1, 211 pounds, who ran an OK 4.54 40 at the combine with 14 reps at 225. He also would be a good candidate to replace Hyde in the defensive scheme.
The bottom line
When all is said and done in the 2017 draft, I expect Thompson and the Packers will have addressed the serious needs on defense. Because the draft is so loaded with defensive backs, it could be that Thompson elects to use the 29th pick on a pass rusher and work to fill holes at cornerback later in the draft.
However, if he chooses to take a defensive back in the first round, my best guess is it’s either Humphrey or Iowa’s Desmond King (5-10, 201) who is a playmaker who happens to hail from a school (Iowa) that has been a Packers pipeline.
If either King or Humphrey becomes a Packers’ draft pick – whether it’s in the first or second round – it would have to be considered a great selection that fills a very pressing need.
Chris Havel is a national best-selling author and his latest book is Lombardi: An Illustrated Life. Havel can be heard Monday through Friday from 4-6 p.m. CDT on WDUZ FM 107.5 The Fan, or on AM-1400, as well as Fan Internet Radio (www.thefan1075.com). Havel also hosts Event USA’s MVP Parties the evening before home games.