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Will striking out in free agent cornerback market change Packers’ draft requirements?

Green Bay has established thresholds for corners, but with the team in desperate need of good players, can they afford to stay so picky?

Louisville v Clemson
Jaire Alexander starred at the combine, but falls just outside the height requirement for the Packers.
Photo by Grant Halverson/Getty Images

Maybe we should start calling the front office Green and Goldilocks in the NFL draft. This one is too short. Another one is too slow. This one is just right.

The Green Bay Packers’ front office under Ted Thompson used rigid requirements for certain positions, rarely breaking from form particularly at the top of the draft. At the 2018 Combine, Brian Gutekunst insisted the draft process would remain mostly intact, an intimation the thresholds at the positions would stay.

But he didn’t say so for sure. Although Thompson himself never specifically confirmed the existence of such things, the data, particularly at several positions, speaks for itself. It was on this premise I based my own insistence the Packers go after free agents at the cornerback position.

The draft lacked Packer types, particularly at the top of the class. Josh Jackson, as of this writing, is the only consensus top-50 player to fit all the cutoffs. Denzel Ward likely changes that after Ohio State’s Pro Day. Given the status of the Packers’ roster, the team should be looking to draft at least two corners in the first four rounds, but how can they do that while adhering to their usual athletic profiles?

Here’s a look at the cornerbacks in the top-100 according to NFL Draft Scout and their overall ranking. We’ll include Minkah Fitzpatrick because he may be considered a cornerback by some teams after spending so much time covering in the slot.

7. Minkah Fitzpatrick Alabama
10. Denzel Ward Ohio State
20. Jaire Alexander Louisville
24. Mike Hughes UCF
34. Carlton Davis Auburn
39. Josh Jackson Iowa
46. Isaiah Oliver Colorado
56. Anthony Averett Alabama
71. Donte Jackson LSU
77. Duke Dawson Florida
82. Tony Brown Alabama
97. Kevin Toliver II LSU

That’s 12 players for the Packers to pick from with their first four picks.

They hold pick 101 after the Damarious Randall trade but for the sake of ease, I went with the top 100 players. There’s no corner at 101 so extending the list one pick wouldn’t change it.

Of those 12, only Jackson and Brown fully fit the Green Bay athletic profile. Two players.

Hughes, Alexander, and Donte Jackson are too short (below 5-foot-10 1/2), knocking out two of the top four corners in the draft straight away. Davis’ three-cone at the Auburn pro day (an ugly 7.30) knocks him out.

Oliver and Averett fall just outside the change-of-direction threshold (6.87 three-cone) with times in the 6.9s.

That leaves Fitzpatrick, Ward, Dawson, and Toliver with athletic profiles yet to be completed. Fitzpatrick won’t work out in public between now and the draft so we won’t know for sure if he fits, or if a team like the Packers could even want to play him at corner.

Ward should handle the rest of the testing with relative ease after passing the height threshold (just barely). Dawson already falls right on the height number, so he’d need a solid three-cone at the Florida pro day in a week to be in the mix. Toliver, at 6’2 192, could struggle to get under the agility number as well even if he runs a good 40 time.

Even best case, that leaves six players who fit what the Packers want with Ward and Fitzpatrick likely off the board when Green Bay picks at 14th. What are the odds the Packers will have a chance to call their names on draft day when they’re working off a list four or six players long?

Some players not on the list but who could garner Day 2 attention are Wisconsin’s Nick Nelson and Stanford Quenton Meeks, who could be in the mix as well. Each would fit what the Packers look for assuming Meeks runs sub-4.6 at his pro day later this week.

But those are players who lack the same pedigree and talent as the consensus top players. They could turn into valuable contributors, even starters or stars, but there’s more risk later in the draft. It’s the nature of the process.

Expanding the parameters given the team’s dire situation makes sense. Hughes and Alexander, the latter of whom tested off the charts at the combine, miss the height requirements by under a half an inch. Given the Packers needs in the slot, massaging their requirements to draft players with their type of talent despite their height makes sense.

Someone like Isaiah Oliver boasts freakish wingspan (98th percentile) and arm length (97th), along with 4.5 speed on a 6-foot 201-pound body. Overlooking the fact that he fell just outside the three-cone range to nab an athlete with track star and NFL bloodlines would be a worthwhile deviation from the process.

If beggars can’t be choosers, the Packers are destitute at corner right now, without the ability to be picky when it comes to who they bring in. Lenzy Pipkins and Josh Hawkins have some talent, but Kevin King is the only regular starter on the roster and he’s coming off an inconsistent rookie season ended by a shoulder injury he’s had since college.

The Green Bay secondary, after reportedly also losing Morgan Burnett, simply needs talented players, no matter the shape or size. Expanding their list even just a little could open them up to a much broader swatch of potential impact players.