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Collins' injury has Packers looking hard at safeties

Apr. 4, 2012
 
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The Packers probably will be in the market for a starting safety in this yearís draft, and NationalFootballPost.comís draft scout, Wes Bunting, graded his top 11 safeties into five tiers in a blog post today.

Though there wonít be any official word until next week, coach Mike McCarthy has been suggesting in public comments this offseason that he wants safety Nick Collins to retire after undergoing cervical fusion surgery in his neck last year, regardless of whether Collinsí surgeon gives him the OK to play football again. Collins is scheduled to meet with McCarthy and GM Ted Thompson next week to determine his future with the team.

So assuming Collins doesnít return, the Packers figure to draft a safety, probably with a pick in the first three rounds, with hopes he can push for a starting job as a rookie.

Iím a few days into interviews with scouts for the Press-Gazetteís position-by-position breakdown of the draft will begin Thursday, April 18, so there are a lot of interviews to go before I have a good read on the safeties.

Bunting breaks them into five tiers and at least suggests only one, Alabamaís Mark Barron, is likely to be ready to start as a rookie. Barron figures to get selected in the second half of the draftís first round, and itís unclear whether heíll still be on the board when the Packers select at No. 28 overall. He had double-hernia surgery in the offseason and wasnít able to work out for scouts until last week, so thereís always the chance concerns about his health will push him down the board a few spots.

Among the other safeties available, Notre Dameís Harrison Smith is a highly publicized player who looks like a second- or third-round prospect. Heís big and physical and has decent range, but concerns about his ability to cover man-to-man make it questionable whether a team such as the Packers, who prefer better coverage skills in safeties so defensive coordinator Dom Capers has more flexibility to blitz, would select him.

Another interesting player is Boise State safety George Iloka, who is unusually tall for the position at 6-3 5/8. That size is excellent for matching up with big tight ends and helping double cover the leagueís premier tall receivers, but the Packers surely are scrutinizing his ability to get in and out of breaks in coverage. The last tall safety they drafted, Aaron Rouse in the third round in 2007, ended up being a bust.

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