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The Packers remade their secondary with pure speed in the last three NFL Drafts

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Through the last three drafts, the Packers significantly upgraded the speed on the back end of the defense.

Arizona Cardinals v Green Bay Packers Photo by Dylan Buell/Getty Images

In recent years, the Green Bay Packers have seen their secondary get burned with regularity. After a 5th-place ranking in defensive passing DVOA in 2015, the team followed that up with finishes of 23rd, 27th, and 28th in the past three years.

One plausible reason for these issues is a general lack of speed on the back end of the defense. However, since the 2017 NFL Draft, the Packers have drastically improved the raw straight-line speed of the player most responsible for pass coverage. Prior to that year’s draft, the average 40-yard dash time of the Packers’ cornerbacks was 4.50 seconds. Now, the unit’s average 40 has dropped to just under 4.43, and there are four players who ran 4.40 or under compared to just one before the 2017 draft. At safety, the overall average 40 has dropped slightly as well, from 4.50 to 4.48, but there are two players now running 4.41 or less compared to none prior to the 2017 draft.

Take a look at the numbers below. Here are the recorded 40 times for the current members of the Packers’ secondary:

Cornerbacks (average 40: 4.426)

Jaire Alexander: 4.38
Kevin King: 4.43
Josh Jackson: 4.48
Tramon Williams: 4.57*
Tony Brown: 4.35
Ka’Dar Hollman: 4.37*
Natrell Jamerson: 4.40
Will Redmond: N/A

Safeties (average 40: 4.480)

Adrian Amos: 4.56
Darnell Savage: 4.36
Josh Jones: 4.41
Raven Greene: 4.51*
Tray Matthews: 4.56
Jason Thompson: N/A

Now take a look at the numbers for the players on the roster prior to the 2017 NFL Draft:

Cornerbacks (average 40: 4.498)

Damarious Randall: 4.46
Davon House: 4.44
Quinten Rollins: 4.57
Ladarius Gunter: 4.69
Josh Hawkins: 4.39*
Demetri Goodson: 4.44

Safeties (average 40: 4.502)

Morgan Burnett: 4.51*
Ha Ha Clinton-Dix: 4.50
Kentrell Brice: 4.44
Marwin Evans: 4.47
Jermaine Whitehead: 4.59

* indicates number reported from players’ Pro Day rather than NFL Combine

It’s easy to see that improving team speed became a bit of a focus in 2017. That year, King and Jones were the team’s first two draft picks, both running in the low 4.4s. Jaire Alexander and Josh Jackson were picks in 2018, and both Brown and Jamerson were additions from other teams. Now this season, the team added another pair of sub-4.4 athletes in the draft in Savage and Hollman.

Not only is the overall speed of the units better, but that of the starters in particular has improved, thanks primarily to the team’s high draft picks. In that 2017 offseason, the Packers had just finished up a year that saw Ladarius Gunter and his 4.69 40 time finishing the year as the starter. Now the team has Jaire Alexander and Kevin King in the starting lineup instead. Adrian Amos won’t blow anyone away with his speed, but the pairing of the steadier Amos with terrific athletes in Savage and Jones should prove productive.

While the Packers have always tried to find excellent overall athletes in the NFL Draft, the focus on pure speed is finally becoming razor-sharp. Hopefully that — in combination with a revived pass rush — will prove to be a drastic improvement in the team’s overall success defending the pass in 2019.