Unpacking Future Packers: No. 69, Ohio State S Ronnie Hickman

The Unpacking Future Packers Countdown is a countdown of 100 prospects that could be selected by the Green Bay Packers in the 2023 NFL draft.

It’s no secret that the Green Bay Packers need to upgrade the safety position this offseason. Adrian Amos is set to hit the open market. Former first-round pick Darnell Savage Jr is coming off a disappointing season and is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

A player that could be on Green Bay’s radar as they search for upgrades this offseason is Ronnie Hickman. The Ohio State safety checks in at No. 69 in the Unpacking Future Packers countdown.

Hickman, a New Jersey native recorded 99 tackles, one sack, and two interceptions during the 2021 season. This past season, Hickman recorded 53 tackles, 1.5 tackles for loss, one interception, and seven pass deflections.  

“His tackle production took a huge hit, but I think that is more indicative of the defense improving and him not having to wrap up ball carriers on the backend,” Joshua Keatley, a contributor for BuckeyesWire said. “He still led the team with pass deflections and was the “adjuster” on defense, which means he was tasked with getting everyone lined up. Overall I think this year, he improved in pass coverage and was able to display his high football IQ.”

At 6-0 and 209 pounds, Hickman’s solidly built for the position. Hickman lined up all over for the Buckeyes this past season. He lined up in the box, manned the slot position and he played deep safety. 

“Hickman is extremely active,” Keatley said. “He is always on the hunt and has the quickness and acceleration to make plays all over the field. You want your leader to play with intense energy and he has that.”

Over the past two seasons, Hickman logged over 200-plus snaps in the slot and has the short-area quickness to thrive as a hybrid nickel-safety at the next level. He’s smooth in his backpedal and has loose hips to redirect in space. The New Jersey native has the size, physicality, and fluidity to match up with tight ends or slot receivers. 

Hickman has a high football IQ and shows good route recognition. He closes quickly to break up passes as the ball arrives. A high school wide receiver, Hickman showcases natural hands. According to Pro Football Focus, Hickman gave up just 13 receptions and zero touchdowns in coverage this past season. 

“He rarely takes a false step or wastes movement,” Keatley said. “When he goes, it’s typically to the right spot and his body control helps him deflect more passes than the average safety. Hickman does a great job of sticking with his man, but he does need to work on not losing the ball while it’s in the air. I am not saying he is bad at locating the ball, but this is one of his weaker traits.”

Hickman has an appetite for the physical side of the game. He logged over 700-plus snaps in the box and does a good job of weaving through the trash. When he’s playing away from the line of scrimmage, Hickman runs the alley with fearlessness. 

The Ohio State safety will have to clean up some of his technique as a tackler and he doesn’t always take proper angles to the ball.  According to PFF, he had 26 missed tackles over the past two seasons. 

“I think Hickman shines brightest in the box,” Keatley said. “He has good size to hang in the box with the frame to gain more muscle and he reacts like a linebacker in the run game. He is also great at avoiding blockers.”

Fit with the Packers

The Packers need to add players that play with an edge. Hickman is prone to the occasional missed tackle, but he’s fearless coming downhill and would give Green Bay a versatile, physical presence. 

“He can be a high-level starter in the NFL once he adjusts to the speed of the game,” Keatley said. “Hickman checks all of the boxes physically to be a playmaker at the next level, with the quick hips needed in coverage and the overall athleticism to chase down ball carriers.”

Hickman can play dime-linebacker. He can match up in the slot against wide receivers or tight ends and he can line up at deep safety. That positional versatility will make him an attractive target when the 2023 NFL Draft rolls around. 

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire