The 2022 NFL Draft is fast approaching and the Green Bay Packers are stocked with two picks in both the first and second rounds. Overall, GM Brian Gutekunst presently has four of the top 59 picks in this year’s draft.
This is the next in a series of articles looking at players the Packers may be interested in selecting at this year’s draft. The only players listed here are realistic possibilities for the Packers to pick at 22 and 28 or if they trade up or down slightly from that spot.
Today we will examine safeties, a position the Packers are set with their starters but are lacking depth. There are questions about the starters beyond 2022 so the team may have to look ahead and develop a potential starter for 2023 and beyond.
Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage are the present starters and they form a solid duo which ranks among the league’s best.
Amos is smart, consistent and rarely out of position. He adds leadership and experience and quietly provides the Packers with quality play at safety. The way his contract is structured, he may not be with the Packers beyond 2022 so his future in Green Bay remains a question.
Savage has been less consistent than Amos but makes some big plays when he is on his game. The former Maryland star is entering the fourth-year of his rookie contract this season. Because he was a first-round pick, the Packers hold a fifth-year option which they can exercise to keep Savage under contract in 2023. Gutekunst has a decision to make regarding that option although it is likely he will pick it up.
Behind Amos and Savage are questions. The Packers did not bring back last year’s third safety, Henry Black. Vernon Scott, Innis Gaines and Shawn Davis are on the roster but none of them have extensive experience in the NFL.
There are several quality safeties that could be available when the Packers pick at 22 and 28. Players on this list are likely to be available at that spot or be available if Gutekunst chooses to trade up 10 or fewer spots to grab that player.
So here is a list of possible safeties the Packers may take in the first round. They are not listed in any particular order:
Kyle Hamilton, Notre Dame
Hamilton is widely considered the top safety available in this year’s draft and is projected to be a top-10 pick. That means if the Packers want to get him, they’ll have to trade up in the first round.
Hamilton has ideal size at the position, standing 6’4” and 220 pounds. He has the ability to play in the box and shut down the interior running game and to play well in coverage and help to limit the production of opposing tight ends and receivers. He also had the potential to cover slot receivers.
The closest thing to a knock against Hamilton is his need to add a little muscle to his frame but he clearly has the potential to be one of the best safeties to come out of the draft in years.
Daxton Hill, Michigan
Hill may be the best cover safety in this year’s draft. The 6’ tall, 191-pound former Michigan star has excellent speed and range and has been timed at sub-4.4 in the 40-yard dash. He is at his best in man coverage. Of course, the Packers play more zone-based and hybrid schemes and zone coverage is not Hill’s strength.
Hill does have experience covering slot receivers in college and could be a good candidate for the “star” position in Joe Barry’s defense.
Hill can also blitz the quarterback, using his speed to shoot through gaps in the offensive line and to get to the quarterback. However, his lack of size means that if a blocker engages him, he’ll struggle to get off the block.
The skills are largely there. Hill is fast, physical and versatile and does a good job of not allowing many yards after the catch if he doesn’t break up a pass.
Jaquan Brisker, Penn State
Brisker is a physical safety who excels in the box. He can stop the run and has enough speed to play man coverage although he sometimes struggles when he needs to backpedal or change directions.
The former Penn State star would be best as a strong safety and would be more than capable of covering tight ends. At 6’1” and 205 pounds, he has good size and can take the physical pounding his body dishes out to opposing players.
His hands need a little work and he doesn’t always come up with potential interceptions, but Brisker will let opposing receivers know they can’t come into his area of the field without paying a price. His speed should allow him to be effective in blitz packages.
Brisker needs some fine tuning but he should be a contributor from day one and has the potential to become a long-time quality starter as strong safety.
Lewis Cine, Georgia
Cine is a very physical safety who can change the emotional chemistry of a defense with his fierce hits. He can both play in the box to stop the run and head back in coverage. At 6’1” and 200 pounds, the Georgia alum has good size and strength and can play both safety positions although he is better suited to strong safety.
He needs some work on his technique when is comes to the angles he takes when covering receivers but that is a nit-picky complaint.
Cine has also played well in big games and was named the defensive MVP of last year’s National Championship Game.
He projects as a borderline first or second round pick and he would be a valuable addition to the Green Bay defense if the Packers add him.
Nick Cross, Maryland
Cross has good size and great speed. At 6’1” and 210 pounds, he can cover a lot of ground on the field and his speed allows him to be solid in coverage. Perhaps Cross’s biggest asset is his ability to line up in different spots on the field and play the hybrid safety/linebacker spot that Mike Pettine loved to utilize.
The Maryland alum is an expert at breaking up passes and has a nose for the ball in the air. He is also a hard hitter and a reliable tackler who can stop the run or the pass.
One area Cross needs to work on is deep coverage. He often lets players get behind him. In college, his pure speed could correct that problem but, in the NFL, he will need to use better technique to prevent receivers from getting behind him on long passes.
Overall, Cross a versatile, hard-hitting safety with a lot of potential. He is projected as a late-first round or early second-round pick by most draft experts.
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