With his second overall pick as Packers general manager, Ted Thompson hit the jackpot with the selection of safety Nick Collins from little-known Bethune-Cookman in the second round of the 2005 draft.
Collins went on to become a Pro Bowl safety and played a key role in the Packers’ Super Bowl championship run in 2010 before suffering what is believed to be a career-ending neck injury in 2011.
Collins is by far the best defensive back Thompson has selected over the past nine years. But Thompson’s inability to find a suitable replacement since Collins’ injury
has handcuffed the defense in recent seasons.
Thompson is expected to draft a safety in next month’s draft, perhaps as high as the first round. After taking four safeties in his first three drafts, including two with his first four picks in 2005, Thompson has only selected two safeties in the last six years.
In the first of an eight-part series ranking Thompson’s draft picks by position, I assess his crop of safeties, from best to worst.
1-Nick Collins, 2nd round, 2005
He became an immediate starter as a rookie and earned three consecutive Pro Bowl berths in 2008, 2009 and 2010. His interception return for a touchdown in the Super Bowl helped the Packers beat the Steelers. Collins could do it all – he produced big hits and had a nose for the finding the ball. Some argue he was on track for a Hall of Fame career, but we’ll never know after he suffered a freak neck injury in Week 2 of the 2011 season at Carolina and hasn’t played since.
2- Morgan Burnett, third round, 2010
He started four games as a rookie before blowing out his knee, then returned to start every game in 2011 and 2012 and earn a lucrative new contract. But last season was a disappointment with no interceptions and few impact plays, although he was hampered by a void on defense at the other safety spot. The Packers are looking for a bounce-back season out of Burnett.
3-Aaron Rouse, third round, 2007
Considering how high he was picked – No. 89 overall – he was a major disappointment. Rouse started 10 games during two-plus seasons with the Packers but with the exception of a 99-yard interception return for a touchdown in 2008, was never a factor.
4-Tyrone Culver, sixth round, 2006
He played 14 games but never started in his one season with the Packers. He lasted five more seasons with the Miami Dolphins, mostly as a defensive reserve and special teams contributor.
5-Jerron McMillian, fourth round, 2012
He was taken with the 133rd overall selection and the Packers were hoping he would compete for a starting job. But from Year 1 to Year 2 he got worse, not better, and in the middle of his second season the Packers took the unusual step of cutting him.
6-Marviel Underwood, fourth round, 2005
He was taken with the 115th overall pick but lasted just one season in the NFL. He played 16 games as a rookie but his career fizzled, even though there were opportunities for advancement when the Packers used Mark Roman and Marquand Manuel as starters in 2005 and 2006.