Certainly, the Green Bay Packers' selection of Arizona State safety Damarious Randall surprised a great many observers. After the selection of Ha Ha Clinton-Dix a year ago, safety seemed to be near the bottom of the team's list of needs.
But general manager Ted Thompson has said repeatedly that need doesn't drive their draft strategy, and while that hasn't always appeared to be the case, there's little doubt that the team thinks highly of Randall. He was chosen above players such as Eddie Goldman, Malcom Brown, Owa Odighizuwa and Randy Gregory, all prospects at positions of greater need.
In a shallow safety class, Randall offers rare range and athleticism. His combine performance -- 4.46 seconds in the 40, 38" in the vertical, 6.83 seconds in 3-cone -- showcased as much. He should be comfortable playing centerfield when the Packers go with a single-high safety look.
At the same time, Randall struggled with tackling while at Arizona State. His size -- 5'11", 196 pounds -- limits his ability to play in the box, though the Packers may avoid utilizing him there.
At first glance, it's difficult to decipher what Randall's role on the defense will be in Year 1. However, where he can contribute immediately is on special teams. While he didn't spend much time returning kicks and punts at Arizona State, Randall served as a wide receiver and returner at the Juco level. With Randall Cobb less likely to participate on special teams following his four-year, $40 million deal, the Packers' 2015 first-round pick could take over his vacated returner responsibilities.
Long term, Randall could replace Morgan Burnett as the starting safety next to Clinton-Dix. However, Thompson's comments Thursday night suggest that Randall's superior athleticism makes him a viable option at cornerback. The Packers do require some additional depth there, as both Tramon Williams and Davon House departed in free agency earlier this offseason.