It seems that every mock draft in the last week or two has been projecting the Green Bay Packers to select a safety in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft. In and of itself, this seems like it could be a reasonable projection. However, many of these projections have been predicated on the thinking that safety is the Packers' biggest need in this year's draft, a thought process which Devin challenged a few weeks ago.
However, this idea continues to rear its head among draft analysts, and NFL.com's Elliot Harrison is the latest to say that the position is the team's greatest need this off-season.
Biggest area of need: Safety.
Other spots to address: Running back, defensive line, offensive line, outside linebacker.
Prospects who fit: Eric Reid, S, LSU; Matt Elam, S, Florida; Eddie Lacy, RB, Alabama; Montee Ball, RB, Wisconsin; Brandon Williams, DT, Missouri Southern State.
All in all, the list of needs seems accurate. However, saying that safety is the most crucial of those makes little sense to me. What's doubly fascinating about Harrison's analysis is that he specifically mentions the running game, the defensive line, and the linebackers in his description of the Packers' needs, but does not address why he made safety the top priority.
The running game was a major sticking point last season, especially after Cedric Benson went down against the Indianapolis Colts ... The defensive line boasts a lot of solid draft picks, but no real production. The clearly overrated B.J. Raji has been on the field for too many snaps during portions of his young career ... Landing a player like Brandon Williams in the second round would be helpful. Regarding the linebacker position, the club is relying on the unproven Nick Perry at this point. It's possible the Packers might target a position besides OLB, but there's no question Clay Matthews could use some help.
Nope, no mention of safety in there anywhere (though Harrison did make a Star Trek III analogy in the preceding paragraph that I found mildly amusing). He does call B.J. Raji "clearly overrated", which I take issue with by this point -- personally, it's beginning to seem to me that the tables have turned on Raji due to all the criticism he has received lately and that he's actually more valuable than many people are giving him credit for.
With that said, both Raji's and Ryan Pickett's contracts are up after the 2013 season and the line has received little consistent production from the other defensive end position. That makes the defensive line position the biggest need in my mind, and certainly more so than the strong safety position that has several young and improving players who are under team control for the foreseeable future.
This brings us back to the possibilities of Green Bay drafting a safety in the first round. By no means am I dismissing the idea, but it's the rationale behind it that has me worked up. If a player like Kenny Vaccaro somehow falls to 26, Ted Thompson would be hard-pressed to pass him up. If Ted were to have Jonathan Cyprien rated highly on his board and would find no defensive lineman remaining who he feels are likely to come in and be a starter from day one, then I could understand the pick. However, an analyst simply saying that Charles Woodson's departure and the lack of veteran strong safeties on the roster mean that it is automatically the biggest need on the team is an easy, lazy conclusion to make that suggests that there is little actual analysis going on.