CB depth a need for Packers, and 7 listed in Daniel Jeremiah’s first top 50 for 2024 draft prospects

Of interest to Brian Gutekunst and the Green Bay Packers, NFL Network’s Daniel Jeremiah listed seven cornerbacks in his initial top 50 prospect rankings for the 2024 NFL Draft.

6. Terrion Arnold, Alabama
19. Quinyon Mitchell, Toledo\
24. Ennis Rakestraw Jr., Missouri
29. Cooper DeJean, Iowa
30. Nate Wiggins, Clemson
36. Kool-Aid McKinstry, Alabama
42. Kamari Lassiter, Georgia

The current state of the cornerback position for the Packers is a great example of how quickly things can change in the NFL. Just last summer, this appeared to be one of the strengths of this team. Jaire Alexander and Rasul Douglas were going to be on the boundary, with Keisean Nixon in the slot, and Eric Stokes expected to return somewhat soon.

Now, given the pending free agents that the Packers have and how the 2023 season unfolded, taking a cornerback in the first round is very much in play.

Douglas is now in Buffalo after being traded prior to October’s trade deadline. Both Nixon and Corey Ballentine are free agents this offseason. Not that the Packers can’t find upgrades from either of those players defensively, but the depth of this unit is hurt if neither is retained.

This leaves the Packers with Alexander, Stokes, and Carrington Valentine. On paper, that’s a strong trio. However, I’m not sure anyone knows what to expect from Stokes when he is back on the field. After a strong rookie season in 2021, he was having a down year in 2022 prior to his injury, and hardly played at all in 2023.

Also, all three of those players are boundary cornerbacks, which begs the question, who would line up in the slot? As far as depth, there isn’t much in terms of NFL experience, or even enough bodies to get through training camp. Following the season, the Packers signed Zyon Gilbert and Anthony Johnson to futures deals. Both spent time on the practice squad.

What the Packers need more of in 2024 from their cornerbacks is making plays on the ball. No member of the Packers cornerback room this past season finished in the top half of the position group league-wide in forced incompletions. As a defense, the Packers seven interceptions were the second-fewest in football.

In building out the cornerback room for the upcoming season, Gutekunst and the Packers’ scouts can focus in on adding defenders who have shown a ball-hawking mentality, but also a key factor is going to be bringing in the right defensive coordinator, with more of an attacking mindset.

Now, attacking doesn’t mean being overly aggressive and only playing man coverage while pressing the receiver at the line of scrimmage. But the new defensive coordinator has to put these Packers cornerbacks in more consistent positions to have the opportunities to make plays on the ball.

Joe Barry’s style of defense, which relies heavily on shell coverages to keep things in front of the defenders, coupled with his often passive approach, created a lot of space between the pass-catchers and the cornerbacks, making it difficult to attack the ball.

There was also a lack of creativity from a coverage standpoint to cause some confusion for the quarterback and the receivers. Frequently, what you saw from this Packers’ secondary pre-snap is what the opposing quarterback got post-snap.

The Packers hold five picks in the top 100 of the upcoming draft, and cornerback is a premier position, one Gutekunst has targeted two other times in the first round of the draft. As Jeremiah’s rankings reflect, there’s a lot of high-end talent as well.

It’s not a matter of if they add to the cornerback room, but the real question is, how early do they make that pick?

Other positions of need that the Packers have include the offensive line, which had 11 prospects in Jeremiah’s top 50. Wide receiver did as well, but unless a top prospect falls to the Packers, that is not a position that needs to be addressed. Safety is another huge need but Jeremiah didn’t have any from that position group in his top 50.

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire