Packers' picks put Randall, Rollins on notice
GREEN BAY – If you’re Damarious Randall and Quinten Rollins, there’s a chance the NFL draft has been as nerve-wracking for you as it was for Kevin King and Josh Jones, the Green Bay Packers’ newest additions to their secondary.
Just two years ago, general manager Ted Thompson used his first- and second-round picks to select Randall out of Arizona State and Rollins out of Miami (Ohio) in order to fill the spots Charles Woodson and Tramon Williams once held.
Now heading into their third seasons, the Packers are reloading in the secondary almost as though they have nothing to show for those two 2015 picks.
After the 6-3, 198-pound King and the 6-1 ½, 221-pound Jones were selected in the second round with the 33rd and 61st picks overall, it would be hard to conclude the Packers didn’t come into the draft looking to upgrade their secondary.
“One of our goals this year was to try and get faster and I think we got the tallest corner in the draft and a guy that runs really fast (King) and a guy that can make plays on the ball (Jones),” director of football operations Eliot Wolf said. “We’re really excited about it.”
Publicly, Wolf and director of player personnel Brian Gutekunst did not put Randall and Rollins on notice.
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But they just made it a lot harder for them to become starters in the secondary, especially when you consider King’s and Jones’ unusual size-and-speed combination and experience covering wide receivers.
Randall was a safety with a background in baseball in college and Rollins came into the league with just one year of football experience after playing four years of basketball at Miami. The fact neither has been healthy enough or good enough to hold down a regular starting spot speaks volumes.
This draft could be a message to both of them.
"I don't look at it like that,” Gutekunst said. “I think competition's healthy. I think whenever you can have high competition in a group like that, it makes the group better. That's kind of how we see it."
The Packers did lose their shutdown corner, Sam Shields, who was released after a series of concussions made it unlikely he would play again and their jack-of-all-trades, Micah Hyde, to a free-agent deal in Buffalo.
But they signed Davon House, who two years earlier had left the Packers for a nice-sized deal with Jacksonville and was brought in to compete for a starting job.
In a matter of two months they have added three 6-foot or better corners who can help them deal with the likes of Julio Jones should they get into another NFC championship game. It would seem to say the debacle in Atlanta scared Thompson into retooling his coverage unit.
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“"I think it says we're adding another piece to it,” Wolf said. “We expect some improvement with some of our young guys, getting them healthy this year, and we signed Davon House. Adding Kevin (and Jones) will really add some competition to the room."
In addition to Randall, Rollins and Gunter, the Packers have Josh Hawkins, Demetri Goodson and Herb Waters at the corner position and Kentrell Brice and Marwin Evans behind starting safeties Morgan Burnett and Ha Ha Clinton-Dix.
Veterans day: The Packers did not draft a guard to replace T.J. Lang on the first two days, but that wasn’t a surprise given they signed unrestricted free agent Jahri Evans this week.
Evans, a six-time Pro Bowl player and five-time all-pro with the New Orleans Saints, is expected to step right into the right guard spot T.J. Lang vacated when he signed with the Detroit Lions.
However, Gutekunst said signing Evans didn’t change any plans as far as the draft, meaning the Packers weren’t intending to select a guard in the early rounds.
“The exciting thing, I think, for us is you get a six-time Pro Bowler in your locker room and in the O-line meeting room,” Gutekunst said. “I think that goes a long ways despite the fact that he's a really good player.
“I don't think it affects us in the draft, but I think we're really excited to have him on our squad."
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Pac-ing it on: The Packers loaded up on Pac-12 players in the 2016 draft with UCLA’s Kenny Clark, Cal’s Trevor Davis and Stanford’s Blake Martinez and Kyle Murphy.
Then they added King out of Washington.
Asked if Sam Seale, the Packers’ West Coast scout, was running the show now, Wolf joked:
“I don’t know about that. I think he thinks he does. I’m just kidding. That’s just kind of the way it’s fallen. We don’t go out and just say, ‘Hey, we’re going to draft another Pac-12 guy.’ It’s just kind of the way the board speaks to us.”