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The Green Bay Packers’ need at cornerback entering this offseason is not for a lack of trying.
Over a four-year stretch between 2015 and 2018, the Packers used five first- or second-round picks on the cornerback position, including four picks in the top 50. Of the five, only one – All-Pro Jaire Alexander – is a hit. The others? Well, they represent the reason why cornerback remains a perpetual need in Green Bay.
It would not be shocking if general manager Brian Gutekunst uses another top-50 pick on a cornerback come April.
Four big misses has the position looking ghastly entering the offseason.
Kevin King, the team’s top pick in 2017, is headed for free agency after a disappointing fourth season that was capped off by disastrous performance in the NFC title game. He is likely gone. Josh Jackson, the 45th overall pick in 2018, hasn’t played a meaningful role since his rookie season and is well on his way to bust status, where he’d join 2015 first-round pick Damarious Randall and 2015 second-round pick Quentin Rollins.
Randall picked off 10 passes with the Packers but was eventually traded for a backup quarterback. He’s been on three different teams the last three years. Rollins showed promise early in Green Bay but regressed sharply and has been out of football for over a year.
King was highly productive in 2019, intercepting five passes, but he’s battled injuries throughout his time in Green Bay and has never rose above replacement level as a starter.
Not only do the Packers likely need to find a new starter to play on the perimeter opposite Alexander in 2021, but the starter in the slot looks uncertain as well. Chandon Sullivan looked great as a No. 4 cornerback in 2019 but was overall inconsistent as the defense’s top slot corner in 2020. The position is too important for the Packers not to add some kind of competition, especially considering Sullivan is a restricted free agent.
The Packers tried using Jackson in the slot. He got opportunities to play on the perimeter. Time and time again, the team has shown an unwillingness to play him. He’s been the field for a little over 400 defensive snaps over the last two seasons, with seven healthy scratches and no meaningful contributions.
Cornerback is a premium position, and the Packers have treated it that way during the draft for a long time. The problem is not volume of swings. It’s the volume of misses. This team has to get better at either identifying cornerback talent through the draft process or developing the talent once its in Green Bay. Somewhere, there’s a breakdown happening in the process.
Randall was the 30th pick in 2015. Rollins was 62nd in 2015. King was 33rd in 2017. Jackson was 45th in 2018. That’s a lot of draft capital to see go to waste, especially at one position. The Packers really should have one of the deepest cornerback groups in football. Instead, they’ll have to use more draft capital – or precious salary cap dollars – in another attempt to fix the position over the next few months.