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Wake Forest S Malik Mustapha brings versatility that Packers are searching for

The back end of the Green Bay Packers defense is an area that will require a number of additions this offseason, and as GM Brian Gutekunst goes about filling out the safety and cornerback rooms, versatility will be a cornerstone of doing so.

“It really helps your defense to be multiple and flexible so teams can’t get a bead on what you’re doing,” Gutekunst said via Packers.com. “So, in a perfect world, quite frankly, between the two safeties and the nickel, those three guys almost need to be interchangeable completely.”

Enter Wake Forest safety Malik Mustapha, who can fill that do-it-all role in the Packers’ secondary.

Mustapha played over 1,400 snaps for Wake Forest and was a Swiss army knife, bouncing around the secondary and filling various roles. According to PFF, Mustapha played 747 career snaps line up in the box, 431 as a free safety, and 397 in the slot.

“It’s definitely key,” said Mustapha at the NFL Combine when asked about his versatility, “because this league is a passing league and just being able to be versatile in different spots on the field and being able to impact the game at all levels of the football is definitely important and definitely brings value to my position.”

This past season was Mustapha’s best as he made an impact in all facets of the game. In coverage, he allowed a completion rate of only 51 percent and held opponents to 11.7 yards per catch, while coming away with an interception and three pass breakups.

He was also a reliable tackler, making 78 of his 89 attempts, and a very willing run defender–an element that new defensive coordinator highlighted when discussing the importance of the safety position in his defense. Mustapha’s run defense grade from PFF was the seventh best among all safeties, and he also ranked 15th in run-stops.

“I’m comfortable playing in a lot of spots,” added Mustapha, “simply because my defensive coordinator at Wake Forest put me in those positions to execute at all those levels of the football. So having those experiences at different positions of the football field, allowed me to be the most complete football player I can be.”

At a rocked-up 5-9 and 210 pounds, Mustapha’s aggressiveness and the overall physicality that he brings to the safety position may be what jumps off the screen initially, but he is confident in his athleticism and fluidity to operate in space and in a variety of roles.

“Having the bigger frame that I have,” said Mustapha, “maybe people think that I’m limited in my fluidity and hip movement, and things like that, but in the film, I’ve been able to show range at different spots of the football where I’m able to impact on the ball.

“So I’m able to get them to understand that I’m not a stiff guy; I’m a mobile, versatile football athlete, not just a safety.”

Mustapha – or any rookie, for that matter – won’t be the lone answer for the Packers at safety. This is a position group that Gutekunst is going to have to address in a variety of ways, which potentially includes making a splash in free agency, along with signing a low-cost veteran, and tacking the need in the draft as well.

Gutekunst has shown that when there is a perceived hole on the roster, he will address the need by throwing a lot of resources at it. Along with prioritizing a versatile skill set for the secondary, adding players with the right mentality is important, with there being an emphasis on “play style,” as Gutekunst put it at the Combine, which Mustapha brings to the table in a Bob Sanders-like manner.

“I was hearing player comps about him (Bob Sanders),” said Mustapha, “and obviously playing back in the day he was a hard hitting safety and I take pride in that as well. Just trying to be that enforcer on the field.

“He was someone that just played with his hair on fire and lit it up every chance he got. Definitely appreciative of his game and definitely something I picked up and tried to utilize in my game.”

Story originally appeared on Packers Wire