Only 3 safeties on The Draft Network’s top 50 big board for Packers

Addressing safety is a must for the Green Bay Packers this offseason. But if their plan is to do so in the draft, only three players from that position group are located inside the top 50 on The Draft Network’s big board, and two of them may not be exactly what the Packers need at the position.

The play from the safety position in 2022 – along with pretty much the rest of the defense – was underwhelming for the Packers. The normally steady and reliable Adrian Amos had what was easily his most inconsistent season since joining the Packers, and he is now scheduled to be a free agent, while Darnell Savage was often at the center of communication breakdowns that led to big plays for the opposing offense. Eventually, he was benched.

In addition to the lackluster play, this is a position group very much lacking depth at the moment as well. Savage is only under contract for 2023, playing on a fifth-year option, and certainly can’t be considered a long-term solution at the position. The only other safeties on the roster are Tariq Carpenter, a primary special teams player during his rookie season, and James Wiggins, who was signed to a futures deal in January.

Adding to this position early on in this year’s draft should certainly be on Brian Gutekunst’s radar; however, at least according to The Draft Network’s big board, there may not be many options to do so, with Jordan Battle, Antonio Johnson, and Brian Branch being the only players in the top 50. Here is a closer look at each of those players.

23. Jordan Battle, Alabama: The 6-1, 206-pound Battle is one of the more experienced players you will see, with over 2,600 career snaps at Alabama over four seasons. The bulk of his snaps have come as a free safety, but he also has experience in the slot and as a box defender. This past season, he allowed 16 receptions on 20 targets but at only 7.7 yards per catch with a pass breakup. Of the three safeties, in terms of need at the safety position, I believe Battle is the best fit.

25. Antonio Johnson, Texas A&M: Johnson, who stands 6-3 and weighs 195 pounds, has had the bulk of his playing time come over the last two seasons, most of which have come from the slot. In his career, Johnson has allowed 71 completions on 101 targets but held pass catchers to just 6.4 yards per catch with one interception and pass breakup. He was also a very active run defender this past season.

30. Brian Branch, Alabama: Like Johnson, the majority of Branch’s snaps have come from the slot, according to PFF. With the Packers having Jaire Alexander, Rasul Douglas, and Eric Stokes, not to mention Savage, while they need safety help, they don’t exactly need another option from the slot, which is why as a free safety, Battle may be the best fit, unless the plan is for Branch or Johnson to be utilized more often as traditional safeties in the NFL. Branch was a stout run defender in 2022, ranking 18th in run-stop rate among safeties, and held opponents to 6.8 yards per catch with six pass breakups and one interception.


Evaluating Packers roster entering 2023 offseason

Now, of course, just because The Draft Network has only three safeties in their top 50 doesn’t mean that things won’t change between today and the draft, or perhaps the Packers will value other players differently, leading to more options. Also, if Green Bay doesn’t land a safety in Rounds 1 or 2, it doesn’t mean they can’t find a contributor later on, but obviously, the odds of doing so decrease.

Other safeties just outside of TDN’s top 50 include JL Skinner from Boise State, Brandon Joseph from Notre Dame, and Christopher Smith from Georgia. The strength of this draft class at the top end is at the tight end, edge rusher, and cornerback positions.

As I wrote recently for Packers Wire, in addition to the draft, adding a safety in free agency makes a lot of sense for Green Bay as well. There is value in having a veteran presence in the locker room and on the practice field, not to mention that after what we saw in 2022, relying heavily on Savage comes with some risks, and even productive rookies are quite inconsistent–just look at the Packers’ 2022 draft class.

Within Joe Barry’s defense, safeties are asked to do a lot, including being a willing and capable presence in the run game with the frequent light boxes that are utilized, along with also having to protect against the big passing play downfield. Again, this is where having additional experience on the roster could help.

With limited spending power in free agency, any free agent signing likely won’t be a flashy signing or a high-impact player, but instead, the goal would be to provide depth and needed stability to the position. Bringing back Rudy Ford is a move that fits these criteria.

As of now, the Packers hold the 15th and 45th overall selections in the 2023 draft. Other positions of need are tight end, edge rusher, wide receiver, and interior defensive lineman.


Stay or go: Predicting the fates of Packers free agents in 2023

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire