Pair of stud safeties look like first-round fits for Packers

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The Green Bay Packers will bring back Adrian Amos and Darnell Savage at safety in 2022, but a long-term need exists at the position, and a pair of likely first-round picks in the 2022 draft class look like tremendous fits for the Packers.

Daxton Hill of Michigan and Lewis Cine of Georgia could both be in play when the Packers come on the clock at either No. 22 or No. 28 overall later this month.

Both Hill and Cine are young, highly athletic and versatile. Each played a lot of football in a talent-laden defense and grow into legitimate standouts in the secondary. NFL teams likely view Hill and Cine as first-round talents. Both could come off the board in the second half of the round and neither would be a reach.

What’s the Packers’ level of need at safety, and would it make sense to use a first-rounder on the position? As of now, Amos and Savage are going into the final year of their contract, and there’s no obvious third safety on the roster. Only Vernon Scott – who was a healthy scratch for most of last season – is under contract at the position past 2022. The Packers could extend Amos before his contract voids next year, and the guaranteed fifth-year option is possible for Savage, so the need level here is fluid. But Amos turns 29 this month, and Savage is coming off a disappointing third season. Henry Black, who played almost 300 snaps as the third safety last year, wasn’t retained as an exclusive rights free agent.

The Packers view safety as a premium position. They’ve drafted two safeties in the first round since 2014 (Savage, Ha Ha Clinton-Dix) and another (Damarious Randall) who played safety in college. During his first offseason as general manager, Brian Gutekunst signed Amos to a lucrative four-year deal.

Need plus positional value should make safety a first-round option for the Packers.

Hill and Cine look like the top options after Kyle Hamilton, who is likely to go in the top half of the first round.

Hill is 21 and has a Relative Athletic Score of 9.03. He started as a true freshman and ended up playing in all 33 games (23 starts) for Michigan over the last three seasons. While lacking ideal size (only 191 pounds), he ran the 40-yard dash in 4.38 seconds (1.51-second 10-yard split) and finished the three-cone drill in 6.57 seconds and the short shuttle in 4.02 seconds. Hill is an easy and explosive mover who can cover from multiple alignments and defend the run with the physicality of a much bigger player.

Hill’s tape shows a player who will be best used in the slot at the next level and could easily become one of the NFL’s top slot defenders early in his career. He has incredible feet and hips, allowing him to stay in phase against all route types, and an enticing mix of anticipation and ball skills. With an 80″ wingspan, he can disrupt passing lanes and compete at the catch point. The fact that he’s such a willing and capable run defender from the slot (while never missing a game to injury) suggests he’ll be just fine playing in the box at the next level.

The Packers don’t have an obvious slot defender despite rostering three starting-caliber cornerbacks and a safety (Savage) who played a lot in the slot in college. Adding Hill could give the Packers defense another weapon to either throw in the slot full-time or move around as a chess piece. He’s a top-20 talent who could easily be available at No. 22 or 28.

Cine is a different type of safety with a similar profile. He is 22 and has a RAS of 9.92 (with no agility testing). He played in all 39 games for Georgia over the last three seasons, including two starts as a true freshman. Even on a loaded defense filled with NFL talent, he was a full-time starter as a true sophomore and a highly productive star as a true junior.

Cine is 6-2 and 199 pounds, giving him a more traditional safety profile. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.37 seconds, including a blazing fast 10-yard split of 1.45 seconds. He hit 36.5″ in the vertical leap and 11-1 in the broad jump, highlighting his explosive lower-body power.

In 2021, Cine led Georgia in tackles (73) and pass breakups (10). He possesses an intriguing mix of range and play-tracking ability, allowing him to make impact plays on every inch of the field. With a big-hit appetite and ball-magnet skill set, he turned himself into a tone-setting player for a Georgia defense that dominated opponents every week. While Cine might not have the slot defender potential of Hill, he could be a better fit as a deep safety, which could possibly give Savage more opportunities to play near the line of scrimmage or in the slot.

Baylor’s Jalen Pitre could be another option for the Packers, but he’ll turn 23 in June and isn’t quite as athletic as Hill and Cine. His tape can be as exciting as any defensive back prospect in the class one minute and then also far too Josh Jones-like the next, so he comes with some risk.

The Packers clearly like a specific type of player in the first round. Young, super athletic, and playing a premium position of need. Hill and Cine check all the boxes. If Gutekunst identifies a need at safety, the Packers could grab either player in the mid-20s on Thursday night of the 2022 draft.

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