New Mexico State University photo
Davon House was an accomplished high school baseball player and has a brother who’s in the Oakland A’s minor-league system.
So it wasn’t a surprise when, shortly after the Green Bay Packers drafted him in the fourth round on Saturday, he was asked if he would consider going back to baseball if football doesn’t work out.
“Um, football’s going to work out,” he said.
If it works out how the Packers hope, the former standout at New Mexico State could cause a shake-up in their secondary.
House has little chance of cracking the top three — not as long as budding star Tramon Williams, veteran and former NFL defensive MVP Charles Woodson and last year’s rookie surprise Sam Shields are healthy — but he could prove to be an upgrade over underachieving former draft picks Pat Lee (second round, 2008) and Brandon Underwood (sixth round, 2009) and combination corner/safety Jarrett Bush.
And as the Packers experienced as recently as Super Bowl XLV, depth at cornerback shouldn’t be scoffed at. Against the Steelers, the Packers lost Woodson to a broken collarbone and Shields missed parts of the game because of a shoulder injury. They got through the game in part because of how well Williams played and in part because Lee and Bush played unexpectedly well. But perhaps House is an upgrade.
“We like his skill set,” Packers defensive coordinator Dom Capers said. “He’s one of those guys that has the height, weight and speed that we look for. As we know and we’ve experienced as late as the Super Bowl, you can’t ever have enough corner-type guys that can go out and cover.”
Much of what Capers likes to do in his 3-4 defense, which includes a healthy amount of nickel (three cornerbacks, two safeties), is predicated on his cornerbacks’ ability to cover in one-on-one situations. The emergence of Williams matched with Woodson’s savvy and Shields’ blazing speed gave the Packers a strong group.
House said he’s an admirer of Williams after beginning to watch him during last season. He likened his ability to how Williams plays the ball. Somewhat under the radar because he played for a 2-10 team in the Western Athletic Conference, the 6-foot-0½ and 200-pound House had 11 interceptions in four years at New Mexico State, where he started every game from the middle of his freshman year.
“I watched him all last year, and what he does is amazing,” House said of Williams. “He’s a ball hawk. That’s what I feel like I am. I’m a ball hawk, too.”
His speed (4.44 in the 40-yard dash at the combine) and strength (only 14 reps on the bench press) aren’t outstanding, and he had a late-season ankle injury that prevented him from participating in the Senior Bowl. It remains to be seen whether he’s physical enough to play slot receivers in addition to being able to cover on the outside.
“I think he has the size where he can play both ways,” Capers said. “I don’t think this is a guy that you can say he can only go outside. I think he’s played outside more. Obviously the guys that we’ve moved inside, and when you play six defensive backs you have two of them, Charles has been our primary guy that we move inside with five defensive backs and we’ve brought in Jarrett Bush and Pat Lee. We like to have guys that give you versatility because we move our guys around so much. If a guy can handle moving around, then his value goes way up.”
Though House was the first defensive player General Manager Ted Thompson selected in this draft, he’s much like the first three picks — tackle Derek Sherrod, receiver Randall Cobb and running back Alex Green — in that he comes to a position not in need of an immediate starter. And even if Shields is Woodson’s eventual replacement, House could give the Packers their nickel corner of the future, something Bush, Lee and Underwood haven’t convinced the Packers they can do.