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By CHRIS HAVEL
Last week, I predicted the Packers’ first, best option would be to trade out of the 29th pick.
They did. They moved back four spots to the No. 33 selection and acquired a fourth-round pick in the deal.
I also said the defense desperately needed a No. 1 cornerback.
Apparently, Packers GM Ted Thompson agreed. He passed on Wisconsin’s T.J. Watt and other notable edge rushers in order to bolster the secondary first.
Thompson entertained offers Thursday night and up until the start of Friday’s second round for the 33rd (first overall) pick on Day 2. Nothing moved him so he stayed at 33 and selected University of Washington cornerback Kevin King.
King, at 6-3, 200, runs a blazing 4.43 40-yard dash. He also has exceptional ball skills, including a much-played highlight of him making a leaping, one-handed interception in the corner of the end zone.
King should be penciled in as the starting cornerback opposite whoever wins out between Damarious Randall, Quentin Rollins and Davon House.
My best guess is it will be Randall’s job to lose. There was too great a need in Green Bay, given Sam Shields’ departure due to concussion issues, not to select King.
The ugly images of the Packers’ undermanned secondary being shredded on a weekly basis last season were impossible to ignore. Some said the real problem wasn’t the secondary, but the lack of a pass rush.
Others correctly placed the blame on the absence of a pass rush AND a lack of a top, shutdown corner. Clearly, the rush/coverage link is undeniable. The Packers’ pass rush wasn’t where it needed to be and the coverage was inconsistent on the back end.
However, the reality is the Packers’ personnel at edge rusher (Clay Matthews, Nick Perry, Kyler Fackrell, Jayrone Elliott and others) is a much deeper, more accomplished group.
Matthews and Perry are former first-round draft picks. Fackrell was selected in the third round a year ago. The Packers have plenty invested in that group. Now they need to step up.
King shouldn’t be viewed as the secondary’s savior. He has help in safeties Ha Ha Clinton-Dix, Morgan Burnett and second-round pick Josh Jones of North Carolina State.
Jones (6-2, 220) was timed at 4.41 in the 40-yard dash, has good ball skills and is a willing hitter. He and King bring speed and size to a unit that was lacking both.
Before the draft, Randall was the Packers’ fastest defensive back at 4.46. By late Friday night, he had fallen into third place. Jones will compete to play the slot in the nickel package while being groomed to replace Burnett, who is in the final year of his contract.
Doubling down on defense
The Packers doubled down on defense in the third round and again with the first pick in the fourth round.
The need for a pass rusher led the conversation to edge rushers. In fact, there are a variety of ways to generate pass rush, including the addition of a strong, slippery defensive tackle who can create havoc up the middle.
Montravius Adams could be that player. Adams (6-3 ½, 304) was clocked at a ridiculous 4.87 seconds in the 40-yard dash, which is amazing for a player his size. He should be a nice addition to go with Mike Daniels, Kenny Clark and free-agent acquisition Ricky Jean-Francois.
Look for Adams to be on the field in pass rush sub-packages immediately. He’ll also be vying for playing time and a berth in the starting lineup if he’s the real deal.
The Packers then selected Wisconsin linebacker Vince Biegel with the 108th overall pick (the first in round 4). Biegel, a Wisconsin Rapids native, ran a 4.67 40-yard dash (faster than Watt) and did as many reps at 225 (21).
Look at it this way: Would you rather have T.J. Watt or both King and Biegel? The answer should be obvious.
Biegel, a fifth-year senior, is an all-about-football kind of guy. He played left outside linebacker for the Badgers and was highly productive. The Packers surely believe he will bring instant help on special teams and as a situational pass rusher.
On the whole, the Packers’ draft filled severe defensive needs with talented players.
Isn’t that the idea?
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.